Genre: Action Developer: Tenny Weeny Games Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1 Released: 1994
Marvel’s mutant poster child has had some dubious appearances in video game cartridge form. LJN was behind Wolverine’s solo outing and his appearance with his fellow X-Men on the two abysmal NES titles, while he also managed to appear in two great side-scrolling X-Men games for the Genesis. Somewhere in the middle of all that falls Wolverine: Adamantium Rage, which finds the clawed mutant trying to piece together elements of his mysterious past while facing a handful of his own arch-villains in the process. The end result here however is something that may find you pulling your own hair out in frustration and possibly disgust, so strap yourselves in folks, we’ve got yet another severely lacking character-licensed game from the folks at Acclaim.
The game picks up with Wolverine punching, slashing, and brawling his way through various multi-tiered stages, all of which typically end with a boss fight. Such a setup is pretty much standard in the world of video games regardless of the era, but how Wolverine: Adamantium Rage presents this is nothing short of patience-draining. The stages themselves are victims of sloppy level design, leading to constant backtracking and nigh-impossible jumps to make as well. I’ve heard some refer to this game as being a bit Metroid-ish in terms of level design, but while Nintendo’s long running franchise has always been challenging, no Metroid game I’ve ever played has come close to being as frustrating as Wolverine is. Also take note that this is possibly the only time the words Metroid and Acclaim have ever been used in the same discussion. It won’t ever happen again.
If the overly sloppy and frustrating stage design isn’t enough, Wolverine is a pretty tough game to boot. You don’t have much in terms of health since enemies can drain you pretty quickly, yet they usually take a few good hits from your adamantium claws to go down for good. You can heal yourself however by chilling out for a bit, but you can’t afford to sit and wait to get back to a hundred percent health for long though considering you’re on a time limit too. That’s right folks, forget about taking a breather to let your health recharge, you’ve got to get this level beat, and you’ve got to do it right now, you can’t afford to mess around. This also kind of kills any ideas of exploring the various levels, not like you’d really want to though, considering that you’d be lucky to navigate yourself through any given stage without having to do any excessive amount of backtracking. There’s occasional puzzle-solving to do too but combined with the cruddy level design it makes the game feel much less like the action platformer that one would think it would be when looking at the game’s case.
Graphically speaking the game doesn’t look too bad. The animation style is very similar to Acclaim’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which would be released the following year, and features somewhat similar platforming and jumping mechanics, i.e. annoying and practically broken. The boss villain selection isn’t bad either considering that Wolverine only has so many solo villains to pick from. The ones you’d expect to see like Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike are here, as are others like Cyber and Elsie-Dee, the latter of whom appears and kills Wolverine whenever the time limit expires. The boss battles themselves are very, very hard. In fact, I often feel like my hitting them is having no effect at all on them, but when they hit Wolverine, he loses nearly a quarter of his health.
Moreover, why is Wolverine presented here as being so incredibly weak? Anyone who’s ever read an X-Men comic, watched an X-Men cartoon, or seen any of the movies knows that Wolverine is not someone to be taken lightly in terms of combat. Here he just comes off as close to a weak little wimp. His attacks look cool, but that doesn’t help when you’re constantly getting your butt handed to you.
To close things out here, Wolverine: Adamantium Rage certainly isn’t the worst game to star or feature Marvel’s merry mutant. While it looks pretty good on the surface, its design flaws are what kills the game from being anything close to as enjoyable as it could and should have been. There’s nothing wrong with a good challenge, but what Wolverine offers is so cheap and unforgiving that you’ll probably toss your controller, system, and cartridge against the wall in frustration before you even attempt to take on the game’s first boss. If you want a video game that treats Wolverine right, you’d better look elsewhere, because this sure isn’t it.
SCORE: 3 out of 10