Genre: Platformer Developer: NuFX Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1992
I’ll have to admit that Taz-Mania was one of my favorite shows after school each day. The show was pretty popular for a long time, and was the talk of my school friends, so we naturally talked about the Taz-Mania games on the Genesis. I didn’t have a Genesis early on, and hearing about the game made me want to play it all the more. I finally did when I spent the night at a buddy’s house and really enjoyed it.
I mention all of this because I also had pretty limited access to a Game Gear back then and really didn’t get to see many of the games released on it at all. The portable’s track record was to receive dumbed-down or poorer versions of popular Genesis and later Saturn games, so needless to say the track record wasn’t very great when it came to ports. When I started collecting for the Game Gear, Taz-Mania was one of the first games I picked up for it, since I liked and completed the Genesis game and I wanted this one to keep the fun going. I ended giving up on it pretty early on, with only finishing a few stages. I packed it up in dismay after it didn’t convey the fun of Sega’s console release. It wouldn’t be until years later in 2009 that I decided to start playing my Game Gear pretty heavily. It was only by putting a wholehearted effort to finish many of the games that I never made it through that I was finally able to complete this game.
If you didn’t figure it out, limited console or not, NuFX’s effort for this port of Taz-Mania is a halfhearted one that does nothing to capture the spirit of the show or even provide gamers some good gameplay. Aside from a few stage themes and the story, the game is pretty different from its Genesis cousin. Taz is still after the giant egg at the end and has to make it through nine short-but-tedious stages. The problem is that the gameplay has suffered greatly during the transition to the Game Gear. This is one of those games that makes you want to pull your hair out early on, you don’t get to an actual free-roaming platform stage until stage six, making a majority of the first stages gimmicky and confusing. For instance, stage one has you trying to outrun a moving bomb which is faster than you unless you spin, but your spin depletes your health so you constantly have to stop to eat food to keep your health up. The mine carts return here as well, as a few auto-scrolling stages, including an extremely tough iceberg stage where you’re sliding through the whole thing trying to make precise jumps. It’s the worst part of the game, and the stage most won’t pass unless you’re extremely patient like I had to be.
You finally get to fight the one and only boss in stage five, and then you finally get a few generic platforming stages before having to avoid that infamous bird to get to the egg in the last stage. The game is actually pretty easy, aside from the fifth and ninth stages, but it’s always annoying and tedious to play through. The gameplay is poor at best; your spin drains health within seconds and makes you invincible to enemies but won’t kill them. The jumping is the worst part, since it has quite possibly the most sluggish, unresponsive, and inaccurate jumping mechanics in a game I’ve played in a long time. You have to jump straight up, and then at the peak of your jump you have to move Taz to get him to jump right or he’ll just make small uncontrollable jumps that will usually get him killed. He only gets five lives and no continues, which will get used up very quickly. Some jumps can only be made by spinning in the air to reach certain heights, making it all the more hair-pulling to get him through each stage. When the bird is chasing you in the last stage, you are bound to take at least some damage due to the improper jumping mechanics. The collision detection is also questionable at times, and it adds to the already large list of problems. You really have to learn the poor controls early on to stand a chance in the later levels, so it’s a crap shoot as to whether it’s worth playing or not.
Surprisingly, the graphics are the one area that works right in this game. Taz has plenty of animation and is well-colored, and the backgrounds also look nice and do look pretty similar to the Genesis version. Unfortunately, the sound effects are weak. There are no sounds for Taz’s spin or his jumps, and most of the enemies don’t make any sounds either and the ones that are there are pretty plain. It’s one thing that really gives the game a feel of being slightly incomplete and really makes the minimal music all the more hollow-sounding.
So yeah, there it is. Taz-Mania is just another example of an underwhelming Game Gear port of a good console game, something that’s all too prevalent on Sega’s little handheld. Nearly every area of the game feels rushed and incomplete, and this would be a better game if a little more time had been spent on the fine tuning. Sadly, it’s cases like these that dragged the handheld down and gave it a gimp from the get go. Don’t play Taz-Mania unless you have to play every game out there; it’s just not worth it.
SCORE: 4 out of 10