Genre: Platformer Developer: High Score/Realtime Associates Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1 Released: 1994
Does rare necessarily mean good? Some games fetch high prices because they are desired by other people to the point that it increases their prices. Other games are rare because they had a limited run or were only available in certain regions or at certain times. Additionally, some games it seems, are rare simply because they were never noticed and faded away into obscurity. Sometimes, these games are real gems that are waiting for the determined (or lucky) gamer to chance across them. Unfortunately, most of the time they are rare because they simply weren’t that good.
But I digress. Here we have one such rare game, Normy’s Beach Babe-O-Rama. Designed by the creator of the Making It comic strip, with the assistance of Realtime Associates, it is taken from the characters and setting of the aforementioned strip about life around the beach. Making It has been around since 1985 and online since 1994. It’s never been excessively huge as far as I know, as there haven’t been animated cartoons or large amounts of exposure of it, but the cartoons themselves are rather funny. Given to the gaming masses in 1994 by Electronic Arts of all people, the gaming world was exposed to creator Keith’s world and all its quirks.
Normy’s Beach Babe-O-Rama puts you in control of Normy on his quest to save his beach goddesses (each of them epitomizing one of the great elements of being on the beach: sunshine, surf music, warm sand, clean air, big waves and snow cones) who were abducted by aliens. Along the way, he’ll have to prevent the beach from being turned into a toxic waste dump. Normy is defined as “cool,” and he sure doesn’t need convincing of it himself as he confidently strolls throughout the levels, regardless of the peril ahead.
Oddly enough, enemies CAN’T be jumped on and have to be defeated with a weapon, which you don’t start with at the beginning of each part of the levels. However, they aren’t hard to come across, and each level has a short range punching hammer and the ranged weapon, which is always better. Normy must be a Sonic fan as he’s stolen his speed, although he can only do it in short bursts, and a meter in the bottom left hand of the screen tells you just how much “oomph” your running has left before it has to recharge. Sadly, that speed doesn’t really help as, like its hero, this game is very slow and doesn’t reward your trailblazing through it. Constantly using the speed will often result in you plummeting off a cliff to your death or slamming right into enemies.
Speaking of enemies, the ones you will meet will be as varied as the places you fight, and each world has its own unique foes for you to pit your wits against. For example, the first level will have you fighting dinosaurs and cavemen, while later on you’ll be battling black knights who have a tendency to lose their limbs before they die, and even politicians by the end of the game. It’s a nice change from fighting the same enemies over and over, and each type has its own kind of humor and personality, which gives the game an injection of much-needed life. The only problem with the enemies is that they are brutal. While their A.I. is less then impressive, when you are hit you only have a fraction of a second of invincibility before you can be hit again, meaning you’ll get hit time and time again by the same enemy if you get too close, especially if you are stuck with the hammer. It adds a layer of difficulty that really shouldn’t be there, and it seems as if it is making the game harder to compensate for the lack of other challenges.
Bosses, on the other hand, are anything but a joke and it’s terribly easy to figure out their patterns of attack. You’ll suffer hit after hit from the goons in the level, but you’ll kill the bosses without losing a life, even if you haven’t met them before. And that of course, is considering that the environment doesn’t slay you. It can be very cheap at times, which is the only real reason that this game isn’t a walk in the park. Jumping from vines and ropes is a fine art and one slip up tends to mean instant death. Lava saps away your health like a madman and at many points you’ll go darting off edges and into bottomless pits, of which this game has plenty.
The graphics lean towards the cartoon side of things and it shows, especially if you’re read any of the Making It cartoons. The maker’s hand is apparent all the way through it, and the game authentically replicates the style and feel of the cartoons. Normy is as he appears in the strips, and he has retained his cool attitude. All the settings are cartoon inspired, and nothing is to be taken seriously. All of this would be very impressive graphically, but you have to remember what came out the year before this did, Aladdin, which was beautiful and faithful to the film. It makes Normy’s Beach Babe-O-Rama look rough and crude in comparison. The sprites here don’t flow as smoothly as other platformers of the time do, and it only adds to making this game look like it isn’t taxing the system’s capabilities (which, in all fairness, it probably isn’t). The game is bright and colorful, but it retains the rough lines and edges that a cartoon would. While this makes it true to the strip, most players haven’t have even heard of it, and so to them, it simply makes things look basic compared to other offerings.
The music, sadly, is also weak. It seems it was made to sound laid back and relaxing, but it does such a good job . It makes it seem like the audio itself doesn’t really care. It sticks to a single tune that appears to be re-composed and changed for almost every level. The tune itself is only really that catchy when you first hear it. By the third level though, you aren’t even noticing it’s there. The soundtrack isn’t powerful, and it doesn’t catch your attention, which is a shame, as it could have really strengthened the game and detracted from its slow pace.
So what makes the game good? To me, it’s the character. There are many little things that are added to give it that fresh and unique feeling, which is one thing that the game does manage to pull off. Even though it has very generic gameplay elements, the way it is done graphically and the style really make it stand out. Rowing down a river in the ancient temple in the far past and then having your canoe destroyed by a boat of tourists made me grin. Moreover, the references to Monty Python with the black knights that just won’t die make me chuckle. You’ll laugh when you first see a dinosaur eat one of the hapless cavemen. So many small quirks and little additions that are obviously from the creator of Making It himself make it seem like nobody was taking the game seriously when they made it. And you know what? I think that was exactly what they had planned all along. The game isn’t MEANT to be taken seriously. It’s not a sci-fi, alien blasting, save-the-world action fest, nor is it a monster-filled, fantasy arcade romp. It’s a dude in sandals saving beach babes from the foes of coolness. It doesn’t have to try to be cool, in its own opinion it already is.
How you’ll perceive Normy’s Beach Babe-O-Rama depends on what you expect from it. If you look at it from the rarity side of things (this thing is a R3 in the U.S. on Digital Press, but a whooping R7 in Europe!), you might end up disappointed if you paid a lot of money for a game that just doesn’t impress like Aladdin, Dynamite Headdy and other such classics do. However if, like Normy himself, you catch it for a pittance, or you simply play it to chill out and have some fun, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much fun this strangely average romp into the world of Making It is.
SCORE: 5 out of 10