Genre: Platformer Developer: Imagineering Publisher: Absolute Entertainment Players: 1 Released: 1993
It’s become a lot harder for me to bring great and original content out to Sega-16 lately. It seems that I only get busier and busier in real life and the list of games that I’m able to review seems to grow smaller each week. I have been wanting to submit a new review for a while now but was unsure of just what game to choose as it seems like there’s a lot of stinkers left to cover. I was at a local game store and saw The Adventures Of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends for sale for a whole five bucks. I knew that it’s a fairly uncommon game to find and that I need to get over my writing hiatus, so I picked the game up knowing full well that it’s terrible, as I’d spent time prior with the SNES version. The games are largely identical, and the Genesis version didn’t surprise as far as just how bad it is. I knew we needed this game covered, and that most other writers on the site would be very afraid of this game, so I armed myself with a Game Genie and some Whiskey and decided to sit down with this game after a long and rough day at work. I am quite convinced that this was the wrong game to attempt after a such a long day at work, but I’ll digress and save that story for another day and get on with the review.
ARBF is a platform game, if you haven’t figured it out by looking at the screen shots already (I know you all browse the screen shots and final score before reading the actual review), and it’s a really bad platformer at that. In the programmers’ defense they at least tried to follow the theme and feel of the original cartoon to the best of their abilities, and it shows. Bad game aside, it still has at least a small amount of charm to it. The game starts out with one of the longest intros in a 16-bit game outside of an RPG; it’s really too long, actually, and made me want to skip it, but for this review’s sake I stuck with it. It has Boris and Natasha stealing three rare items from the museum and has our heroes set out to reclaim them.
The title screen presents four different options. You can start the gameplay with two different mini-games or go to the options and change the controls, which I recommend you do. The default setting is one of the most lame I’ve seen in a video game. It sets A as jump, B as your projectile and C as your attack. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the hang of such an awkward control scheme. The two mini-games are very simple, and if you complete them you earn an extra life for the main game. The first game has you trying to defeat a dragon that’s breathing fire at you, and you have to pick up gum and blow bubbles to hit it in the mouth three times to defeat it. The other mini-game has you riding a horse down a railroad track dodging obstacles while trying to outrun a train. This mini-game is very reminiscent of the first stage in Back To The Future Part III but not nearly as hard. It’s sad to say, but these two mini-games are probably the most fun you’ll have during the entire game. After you complete each world and find the stolen item, it takes you back to the options menu. You can replay one of the mini-games, which I recommend you do, as this may be one of the hardest games released on the Sega Genesis and maybe all of 16-bit in general.
As you start the main game you’ll realize that this title isn’t afraid of making fun of itself. The characters know they’re in a video game, and both narrator and characters liberally break the fourth wall. If you see the game through to the end you’ll get to see it shamelessly plug the Game Boy version, and they even admit that it’s a shameless plug. It’s also probably the one and only time ever on a Sega console where there’s advertising for a Nintendo-made system.
You start the first stage out on the snowy Grimalayas just to realize that there’s no snow, and your goal is simply just to make it through the levels until you reach the boss and defeat it and recover the stolen item. You play the first several stages as Bullwinkle and the game throws you into the fire right off of the bat. This game is seriously hard, one of the hardest on the Genesis period! Each enemy can be killed either by headbutting/twirling or shooting nuts at them, but you have to figure out which is the proper way to defeat each one. You’ll soon realize that it’s better to avoid most enemies rather than attacking them, or you’ll lose lives pretty quickly and have only three continues. You also have to go out of your way to collect nuts, which are far and away your best form of attack, and you’ll have a hard time getting anywhere without them. The situation is made worse by the fact that they are sparsely spread out, and if you die you lose all that you’ve collected and have to find more all the while avoiding the enemies. This is definitely one title where patience and proceeding cautiously really pays off.
The game is needlessly hard early on because the characters are very big, which makes avoiding enemies all the harder. Also, the levels can be pretty long on top of that. Scene 1-2 is needlessly frustrating as the second half is nothing but an endurance run of having to maneuver small moving platforms that are sometimes hard to see and are very hard to land on due to your size. If you play on you’ll find a trial-and-error-based mine cart stage that’s three areas long and very reminiscent of the mine cart stages of Taz-Mania. A later stage has you plodding through a pirate ship that feels like it will never end and is full of dead ends that takes forever to finish. You’ll backtrack a lot, trying to find the right path and this will leave you feeling like you’re traveling in circles. One notable stage in the last level has you climbing a vertical shaft while hopping back and forth on skulls while avoiding skeleton hands coming out of the walls. It’s similar to that dreaded final stage in the NES version of Tiny Toon Adventures.
The graphics are nothing spectacular but get the job done here. They are definitely not up to the quality and standards of a game released in 1993. They are also a little too bright for the look of the cartoon, and though they convey the theme of the show, the look just seems off for some reason. My other complaint is that Rocky and Bullwinkle actually look decent and have a fair amount of detail, but most other enemies look pretty plain and generic, as though the graphic artists didn’t spend nearly as much time with them. Even Boris and Natasha don’t look as good as Rocky and Bullwinkle.
The music is quirky and bizarre and fits the theme of the cartoon, sounding like something you’d hear in the early ’60s. However, it also feels generic and is nothing I’d want to listen to outside of the game. It isn’t even very memorable during the gameplay. The sound effects are more of the same but don’t fare as well as the music. Many enemies don’t have sound effects at all, and the others that are there are pretty generic. I have to complain about the sound effect when you take damage, as it’s quite possibly one of the most annoying that I’ve ever heard. It honestly sounds like the end of period horn in an NBA basketball game. Yeah, it’s really that annoying, and it’s not even an issue of the programmers not being able to get the most out of the Genesis sound chip, as it sounds almost identical for the SNES. Apparently, the programmers wanted to specifically use that sound effect. Why?
Despite its other problems, ARBF’s biggest setback comes from the overly generic gameplay. Sure, it tries to throw some variety at you, but it doesn’t do anything that a hundred platformers did before on the Genesis alone. Everything feels like a cheap cash in on a license and nothing more. The difficulty doesn’t help it out either. It’s far from broken and is a game that is playable for the extremely patient types, but it has a few very large control problems and real flaws, the worst being its incredibly unbalanced design. To add insult to injury, after you finish a few stages the game thinks you’re doing too well and says you had it too easy and should have increased the difficulty. RIGHT!
So now that you’ve put up with this review for so long, you’re probably asking me to get to the point, and I will. Without a Game Genie I wouldn’t have the patience to sit through this terrible game. I’ve managed to get about halfway through without using it and lost patience, as the game is really poorly-made and unremarkable. It has the feel of a very amateurishly programmed title, not something programmed by fame ex-Activision alumni Dan Kitchen. That being said, don’t waste your time with this game, as it only has a poorly thought out ending and offers a lot of hair pulling frustration. I have heard many comments stating that this is the worst game they’ve ever played, but I can’t say the same. That’s not in its defense, mind you, as I’ve played far worse even on the Genesis. Hello Great Waldo Search and Ka-Ge-Ki: Fists Of Steel. Heck, I’ll pass my greetings down to Supreme Warrior too. That all being said, just leave this game alone. It’s another dud that’s not worth anyone’s time at all.
SCORE: 3 out of 10