Master System Reviews

Taz-Mania (Master System)

Genre: Platform Developer: Technical Wave: Publisher: Sega Europe/Tec Toy Players: 1 Released: 1992

Here is yet another game that I’ve owned for some years, and one I’m ashamed to admit to never have played until now. I’ve played almost every other version of Taz-Mania in the past, be it Genesis, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, and even the terrible Sega Game Gear version. I don’t know what it is, but I finally decided I needed a night to slow down, not worry about everything else in life, and just enjoy some 8-bit goodness.

I remember some past conversations about the different Taz-Mania games and how they are all different, and some even mentioned that the Sega Master System version was not a good version. I guess listening to others left me in a mindset that I didn’t want to play yet another letdown of a Taz-Mania game. I did like the Genesis port but hated the Game Gear one, so I was just never in the mood for another gaming chore.

I popped this guy in on my s-video-modded system and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered. This turned out to be a really fun playthrough, despite being easy and short. It gave me the feeling of being a carefree kid for the two hours it lasted.

This is another unique incarnation of Taz-Mania, and while following the same general theme of the Genesis and Game Gear versions, it still manages to stand on its own and feel unique. I also really love the fact that they made this feel like an 8-bit game through and through. It doesn’t feel like they tried to force a 16-bit game into an 8-bit console; something the Game Gear port suffered severely from.

This time around the game feels like a European platformer; possibly like the Smurfs or something by U.S. Gold or like Ubisoft’s early platformers though they had no hand in it. There’s not much story this time, just some quick text dialogues in the beginning of the game and before each stage. One knock against Taz-Mania is that there’s no way you will have time to read the dialogue before each stage, some of them are several sentences long, and they disappear in literally about three seconds apiece. It’s a minor flaw but still an oversight on the programmers’ behalf.

The game is divided into five levels with two stages and a boss encounter each and they are over before you can imagine. The whole affair is pretty short and it’s also pretty easy. I beat two levels and turned it off for work and then came back to in that evening and finished it with little effort. I only died around ten total times on my first playthrough, and it maybe took me an hour and a half, tops.

Taz’s jumps and movement work pretty well here but still are floaty and slippery. Unfortunately, no programmer on any game featuring the little devil could ever get the controls perfect for his high speed. You jump pretty high and have pretty good control over your movement, and you can spin to get more air and cover more distance, but this can lead to slippery deaths on small platforms. Taz has his signature spin, and it works really well, but there is a meter this time around which depletes after a few seconds and has to recharge (it only takes about two seconds or so itself). This works pretty well and keeps you from spamming it and cheesing the game. Many of the typical items are back. Taz can accidentally eat bombs that hurt him and there’s chicken for health and stars for invincibility (eating bombs still hurts him though) and an overabundance of 1-up icons everywhere (probably three to five per level). Most of the typical bosses make an appearance as well and are all pretty easy for the most part; just dodge their projectiles and spin into them for damage. I ended up defeating most of them on the first try.

I actually really like the graphics here. They are so charming and really capture the feel of the cartoon. They somehow seem to have a more abstract look to them compared to the other versions of the game. The best way to describe the visuals is that they look like they were inspired more by the 1950s cartoon shorts whereas the other versions of the game look like they were inspired by the ’90s cartoon – a really cool vibe if you ask me. Taz is the best looking of the characters and sprites and is well animated, if a little stiff at times. He also has an odd color scheme and is more brown, almost gray instead of brown and fawn like the cartoon. There are also some gray-colored enemies later in the game that look like they were ripped from a black and white cartoon. It’s hard to describe but they don’t look bad, just odd. The audio also works about as well as it can with the minimal quality of the PSG sound. It does seem to fit the theme of things and is often a bit too upbeat and hyper. Despite not being something I’d listen to outside of playing, it all seems to work well within the confines of the game.

If there is any major flaw in the game, it would have to be that this port is still not exempt from the infamous blind jumps found in the other Taz-Manias and so many other titles of that era. Also, I have to mention the overabundance of 1-ups based on score and hidden in the stages. They’re nothing that you won’t be able to memorize after only a few attempts.

Taz-Mania is never going to be a game for hardcore retro gamers or platform fans, but what’s here is pretty fun. This is such an easy game to recommend to someone who just wants to kick back, let loose, and enjoy a relaxing retro gaming romp when they want to kill a few hours without taxing their brain too much. It has quite a bit of charm and just enough challenge to keep me interested for a complete playthrough.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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