Genre: Platformer Developer: Sega Multimedia Studio Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1995
I’ve been really enjoying my switched focus now to predominately writing Sega CD reviews. There are just so many obscure and forgotten games for it that I haven’t played yet, so just discovering them for all their hits and misses has been quite a lot of fun. A couple of months ago I came back into contact with an old friend of mine, and I decided to buy most of his collection, part of which included his binder of about a hundred Sega CD games. Though I’ve heard of most of all of the Sega CD library, I still haven’t played that much of it yet, and the entire binder was disc-only games with no manuals or inserts. I literally had to start trying games and got to enjoy the surprise that each one presented, good or bad.
I started out playing a few common and well-known games, but then I saw a copy of Wild Woody. I had heard of it but didn’t know much about it at all, not even what kind of game it was. I actually thought it was going to be some strange puzzle game or graphic adventure. What I got was one of the crummiest platform games I’ve had the displeasure of playing at least in the last several months.
Wild Woody starts out with a FMV intro of its totally cheese-tastic story. A rare artifact collector finds a rare totem and leaves it on his desk. He leaves, and then his cat commences to knock it over, breaking its faces apart where they then come alive and hop into separate pictures on the wall. The main totem realizes the carnage that they will cause and says he needs a hero. He then looks around and sees a pencil named Woody who he magically animates – WILD WOODY! Woody reassures the totem that he’s more than up to the task of recapturing all of the totem heads that have created worlds out of each of the portraits, and off he hops into the pirate-themed world to start on his adventure.
Before I go any further in this review I have to talk about the completely ridiculous FMV scenes in this game. They are pretty grainy and muddy too but are thankfully full-screen. The voice acting for Woody is some of the highest strung and gaudy I have ever heard for a video game character ever. He loves shouting “WILD WOODY!” way too much, and he is just all around obnoxious and annoying. The cut scenes also have several sexual innuendos too, which I was surprised to hear in a game released at that time, the most blatant one coming when you finish one of the bosses whose name is Lug Nuts. When Woody places him back in his place, the totem exclaims “amazing Woody, you’ve got Lug Nuts.” Woody then replies “well, thanks but no need to get personal.”
I can forgive the game’s ridiculous FMV scenes, but the gameplay crashes this game before it even gets a chance to get going. Wild Woody obviously borrows heavily from Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure and Earthworm Jim in that you basically have to navigate through several large and open stages like in those games. At the end of each two-stage world you fight the boss.
Since Woody is a pencil, his main attack is to erase enemies out of existence. When you jump on an enemy he will rub his butt/eraser on them until they disappear. He can also erase floors and walls where he again rubs his butt on those. Yeah, it does look pretty awkward and borderline sexual. Woody collects power-ups in the form of sketches, and he can draw them with the A button and create special attacks or other abilities, most of which are useless, causing me to rarely use them. After the second stage of each world there a boss fight, most of them being pretty unique and one of the few fun parts of the game. Each boss is themed after the world it’s in, and they look pretty interesting to say the least. Stage two is probably my favorite; you fight what seems to be a Zeus carving in the side of Mount Olympus. Each boss has a specific gem or glowing spot on their head or body that you simply have to jump on several times until they die. The final boss of the game took me several tries to figure out since you can’t attack him, and the way to finish him is pretty odd.
All five of the worlds each contain a bonus stage that is accessed by collecting hidden puzzle pieces that you have to scour each world’s first stage to find. There are eight pieces in each stage, and they are way more work than they are worth to track down. On top of that the game never shows you how many pieces you’ve found, leaving you to keep track of them on your own. The bonus stages themselves are nothing special; they are very similar to the 3D style of Sonic CD’s, except you’re running through a maze trying to collect items. All you can find in each one is two power-ups and an extra life, so spending forever in each stage trying to access them is just not worth it.
The things that just kill this game are the controls and handling. Woody is almost impossible to control accurately; he is very sluggish, jerky and just plain unresponsive. When you jump he is also very jerky, and the screen just jerks around and doesn’t scroll properly, which is endlessly frustrating and nauseating. The collision detection is also about as poor as it gets. You could waste an entire life just trying to kill a single enemy because there are times when the game just refuses to register that you’re attacking and hit an enemy. For a game made by Sega itself, this is just inexcusable. It’s also far too easy to get lost in several stages or just erase one wrong floor and get stuck or fall through a floor and have to backtrack to the beginning of the level to find a way back through the stage. World two is the biggest culprit of this flaw.
The graphics don’t even try to look good or stand out and quite honestly, they look like a TurboGrafx-16 game at best, not at all like a late release Sega CD game like you’d think it should. The backgrounds seem to repeat an awful lot, and there’s not much variety. All of the character sprites are very minimal in detail and are really gaudy and too bright and just don’t look like there was much time spent designing them. Only the bosses show any detail and stand out, making me think that’s the only thing the programmers spent any time on at all.
If there was one saving grace for this game, it would have to be the soundtrack. Honestly, it’s really good but easy to miss its brilliance while actually playing the game. I went and listened to the soundtrack on YouTube separately and really enjoyed its alterna-rock themed music which is composed by Ron Thal a.k.a. Bumblefoot of Guns N’ Roses fame. It’s quite possibly the most bizarre and spastic video game score I’ve heard this side of Terry Taylor’s Neverhood/Skullmonkeys soundtrack. It’s just a shame that Ron’s work couldn’t have been used for a better or more well-known game besides this.
Many may not know it but Wild Woody, being released in 1995, was the U.S. Sega CD’s swan song, and since the game reviewed and sold so poorly it didn’t take long to find its way into retail bargain bins (where it rightfully belonged, if you asked me) and it was largely forgotten. Nowadays, it seems to have gained almost cult status among Sega CD collectors for its soundtrack and ridiculous and over-the-top premises. It’s also infamous for a dirty little Easter Egg called the “dirty mermaid,” where you can actually see a topless mermaid.
As it stands, Wild Woody has a lot of good ideas going for it, but it just suffers from pathetically lazy execution. It’s still a mystery as to why this game got released at all because Sega had to have higher standards than this back then. Anyway, this game is not worth the time unless you’re a collector. Don’t even buy or play it to listen to the soundtrack because you can listen to it on YouTube much easier and for free. In other words, I’m telling you to pass on this stinker of a game!
SCORE: 2 out of 10