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Gargoyles

Genre: Action Developer: Buena Vista Interactive Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1995

Gamers today love to ridicule license-based games; and with good reason. Games based on major intellectual properties outside of gaming seem to get the “rush” treatment as of late. Look no further than the recent Spider-Man 3 for all major consoles. Rather than allowing its developers time to flesh out and polish the experience, Activision released the game early, to coincide with the movie premier. Games like these often leave a sour taste in the mouths of gamers, not only hurting the franchise, but hurting the perception of licensed gaming as a whole. But things weren’t always this way. Sure, terrible games have been around since the dawn of time, but the Sega Genesis was blessed with some of the best licensed games ever released. Gargoyles is a good example of this.

Gargoyles, the animated series, represented a change in Disney. The show was more “adult” than company’s regular programming, featuring mature and complex story lines not normally present in series produced by the House of Mouse. Though I wasn’t a fan at the time of its original airing (I found the show to be a little boring), I’ve come to appreciate the attempt Disney made with Gargoyles to grow with its fans. Even more, I appreciate the great amount of effort put into the Genesis game.

Being a Genesis fan, I’ve come to expect great things from Disney-licensed games. Utilizing some amazing development teams, Disney’s top games of the era, of any era for that matter, all resided on the Genesis. Games like Aladdin and Mickey Mania were bona fied classics; would Gargoyles be able to live up to their lofty standards? Well, yes and no. The game retains much of the charm and polish of other games in the Disney line, yet contains its fair share of flaws.

Gargoyles centers on Goliath, a gargoyle (obviously) from the year 994, cursed by Vikings to remain set in stone until his Castle rises above the clouds. Fast forward to 1994, the castle is gone, and Goliath now sits atop a high-rise Manhattan building. Because he now resides above the clouds, Goliath is able to wake at night, and fight injustice throughout New York! I know it sounds cheesy and far-fetched…  because it is, but it sort of works. Norse mythology and modern day New York definitely make an interesting mix.

Though Gargoyles does little to innovate, it is a solid action-platformer. The two most important aspects of the game are combat and exploration. Exploring each of the games five stages, each of which is very different from the last – is well conceived and fun. Throughout the game, you’ll be required to figure out how to progress to each new screen. You’ll have to break through walls, scale tall structures (which often requires precise jumping), and trigger weight-sensitive door-openers (think Prince of Persia). A couple of areas in the game had me scratching my head, wondering what to do next. This little bit of challenge really made progressing through each stage all the more enjoyable. My only complaint is that it’s a bit disappointing that we are only treated to five stages.

Unlike exploration, combat isn’t nearly as enjoyable of an experience. Goliath has several moves at his disposal: he can slash an enemy, throw an enemy, and pounce on an enemy; however, poor collision detection requires that you stand right on top of your enemy in order to land slashes. Adding to the frustration is the fact that your attacks do not stop your enemy from counter-attacking. This means that if you want to doll out damage by slashing or throwing your enemy, you WILL lose health. Things become especially irritating when fighting bosses. The only way to remedy this issue is by simply pouncing on all enemies. What, in theory, could’ve been a game with many combat options becomes a one-trick pony. Couple this issue with cheap enemy A.I. and you’ll get some controller-throwing moments. I have to stress that this is far and away the game’s biggest shortcoming. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but it definitely limits the fun.

Gargoyle’s strongest point is easily its visuals. The game features well-animated sprites, a good variety in colorful environments, and great parallax effects. Characters and areas look exactly like they do in the cartoon, quite an accomplishment. Due in part to the game being a late entry into the Genesis library, Buena Vista Interactive was able to make great use of the system’s color palette. Fans of the show will appreciate the excellent translation of the dark and moody Gargoyles atmosphere. Neat graphical effects and extra frames of animation all point towards a great effort on the developers, rather than a quick cash-in usually associated with licensed games. Gargoyles is an excellent representation of Disney-licensed games on the Genesis.

While not quite as impressive as the visuals, the audio presented in Gargoyles does a nice enough job of adding to the overall game experience. The soundtrack is filled with gothic music that borrows from the television show, and the sound effects are exactly what you’d expect from a solid action-platformer. Nothing is likely to stay with you once finishing the game, but everything lends itself to the overall presentation. Again, it’s a job well done by Buena Vista Interactive.

I had high expectations going into this game, and for the most part, I walked away satisfied. When all is said and done, Gargoyles can be great fun, if not a bit lacking. The game is yet another fine license-based game for the Genesis, with solid action-platforming gameplay. It is unable to reach “classic” status due to some combat frustrations and short play time, yet it’s great for a couple hours of fun. If you can find the game cheap – not a difficult task – you should absolutely add the game to your Genesis collection.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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