Genre: Platformer Developer: Gray Matter Publisher: Flying Edge Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
The Incredible Crash Dummies is a short and quick-moving platformer with a high level of frustration but also some interesting quirks that still fail to raise it above a sea of other mediocre licensed games of the era. Coming from a developer with a less-than-stellar reputation, I didn’t have very high hopes for this being a quality game, but I was willing to give it a chance. It seemed just wacky enough to be fun. The Incredible Crash Dummies was an odd choice for a license, as it was only ever a half-hour animated TV special that was never picked up for syndication. There was also a line of action figures, which must have been fairly popular, as games were ported to five separate systems. The two main dummies, Slim and Slick, work for a scientist named Dr. Zub, who has inadvertently created an evil dummy named Junkman. Junkman kidnaps the doctor and it’s up to Slick to go on an adventure to rescue his boss.
The central gimmick of the game is that whenever your dummy takes a hit, he loses a piece of himself, leg by leg, arm by arm, until he’s only a torso and head hopping around the stage. There are health pickups in the form of screwdrivers, which restore your dummy’s body piece by piece. He can take five hits until he is destroyed, and this makes the game a lot more bearable. It is the only thing that stands out amid the generic nature of everything else here. This is a cute conceit, although in practice it plays out similar to golden rings in the Sonic the Hedgehog games. That’s not the only similarity, as a power-up gives you a super speed boost. You’ll also be rolling, spinning, and bouncing from giant springs while battling robots. This game wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but there are worse games to crib ideas from. Judging from the credits, this game was made by a small developer that only produced a handful of games before folding.
The game consists of four main stages broken up into two sections and a boss fight. In between each stage, there are a few static cutscenes of the two main dummies which are well-drawn if not particularly funny. If this is the level of humor the show was operating on, I’m not in a hurry to seek it out. Expect lots of the most obvious puns about losing your head, giving a hand, etc.
The levels are standard: a parking lot, factory, construction site, and military base before the final boss’s level. Sprinkled in between the main stages are bonus levels where you drive a car and have to jump over obstacles to build up speed before crashing into a wall. The higher your speed and the bigger your crash, the more bonus points. The stage bosses are pretty predictable, although their high hit points means they take a while to take down. The game does not provide you with an HP gauge. The surest tactic is to avoid as many enemies as possible throughout the levels and save up all your ammunition for the boss fights, which then become a breeze. All stages have a time limit, but given the overall speed of the game, rarely will it become an issue.
Controls are what make or break games like this and sad to say, these can only be described as janky. Your dummy clomps around at a fast clip, which does you no favors in avoiding the scores of enemies in your way. Jumping can be a chore when your dummy slips and slides upon landing. The initial levels are flat and easy, but the difficulty ramps up upon the second level. Your dummy’s hit box seems quite large and there are a plethora of cheap enemies – some with insane speed, some who pop out of the floor, some who seem to be unkillable, and some who are placed where they are impossible to avoid. Your dummy is armed with a limited supply of wrenches which are placed sporadically throughout the level, but the way he awkwardly throws them sometimes misses enemies directly in front of you. They also run out quickly, leaving your only other defense the tried-and-true jumping on the enemy’s head, which leaves you open to the wonky hit detection.
Overall, the music is generally nice and catchy and the standard buzzy, distorted riffs match the industrial feel of the levels. However, the sound effects are atrocious and quite annoying to listen to. The spinning saws in the construction zone level are particularly grating to the ears and there’s a shrill squeak every time you hit the pause button. Who thought that was a good idea? The audio department should have spent more time making the game more pleasant to listen to.
I can’t recommend going out of your way to seek this out, but as a quick and cheap budget title, you could do far worse with your time than play The Incredible Crash Dummies. Even accounting for a few deaths, you’ll be seeing the end credits after forty minutes tops. It’s an obscure game based on a now-obscure toy, but it’s not a complete waste of time.
SCORE: 4 out of 10