Greetings, retr0pians. Well, after the complete and utter disaster that was Oscar, the thought of reviewing yet another platform game didn’t exactly put me in what you would call a good mood. Oh, and the fact that it’s another Flintstones game doesn’t help either.
You know…I just don’t get it. Was there REALLY that big of a demand for Flintstones games back then? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is a great show and its’ massive success did pave the way for several other prime time animated shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, but still, of all the shows out of the Hanna-Barbera library…why The Flintstones?
Anyways, the game’s plot revolves around Fred and Barney as they are attending a Water Buffalos meeting one night, when they learn that the leader, the Great Poobah, is retiring. However, when they hear that whoever gets to the fabled Treasure of Sierra Madrock will become the new Great Poobah, the race is on to get to the treasure before anyone else does. Throughout the adventure, the duo must contend with all sorts of crazy obstacles, such as gorillas, stampeding herds, and their P’ed off wives. With all that out of the way, can this game offer any sort of improvement over the boring, bland trifle that was the Genesis game, or will it just make me question why the heck we even need Flintstones games in the first place even more? Let’s find out, shall we?
(HEADS UP: Throughout this review, I will be comparing this game to the Genesis one quite a bit.)
THE LOOKS – In my review of the Genesis game, I pointed out that while it did do a good job in capturing the style and essence of the show, it suffered from a major case of unoriginality, with the stages more or less following the typical platformer level cliches, such as the grass level, the water level, the volcano level, the desert level, and so fourth. Suprisingly (and fortunately) this does not carry over here. While the levels still follow some of the themed level cliches, the amount of detail put into the backgrounds and overall look of them not only give it much more depth, but it also helps it do a great job in capturing the basic look and essence of the show. The character sprites, having a rather simplistic and stylized look to them, also help to make the graphics resemble the show. While I wouldn’t say this is the BEST looking SNES game, this is still a major step foward from last time.
THE SOUND – Another major issue I had with the Genesis game was definetely the music. Not only did it feel droning and lazy, it also just got really, REALLY annoying after a while. Just like the graphics, however, they have also significantly upped their standards for the better. In stark contrast from the last game, the sound here is actually really great, with the levels all having catchy, upbeat tunes that go perfectly with their looks and design. There’s also yet another 16-bit remix of the iconic “Meet the Flintstones” theme, and that too is far more superior than the obnoxious cacaphony from last time. Heck, even the sound effects are a lot more bearable this time around! Now all things considered, this is turning out to be a MAJOR improvement from the Genesis game, with the graphics and music taking a huge step foward in quality. However, this game isn’t out of the woods yet, as it still needs to prove that it is competent in one more category, and the most important aspect to any game:
“Hey Fred, remember that one time I beat the crap out of a gorilla?”
THE GAMEPLAY – Without a doubt, the worst part about the Genesis game had to be the gameplay. While the controls were fairly okay, the level design was all over the place, and when it wasn’t, it was just plain boring, and the hit detection was absolute garbage. With that in mind, it was a good thing that I had some pretty low expectations going into this game, otherwise I wouldn’t be surprised by just how much the gameplay has improved along with the visuals and music. For starters, the game shockingly doesn’t play out like a typical platformer, where you go through worlds and select what level you want to play. In fact, it plays out more like a hybrid between a board game and a platform game! Throughout your playthrough, you’ll constantly be switching between Fred and Barney on a map, as they will both roll a dice that will take them to whatever level they have to clear. There are also plenty of shops, minigames, boss fights, and bonus rounds to be found throughout the worlds, which help to spice up the gameplay a bit. You’ll also have to avoid Wilma and Betty, as they’ll drag you back to a particular location on the map. On paper, this is a rather bizarre premise for a game – one that sounds almost impossible to successfully translate into the format of a 16-bit cartridge. And yet, keeping in line on just how many surprises this game has up its’ sleeve, manages to pull through entirely. For starters, the controls are nothing short of fantastic, as they are very smooth and very responsive. The levels themselves as a whole, while brief, are also fantastic, being well-designed, challenging, and overall just fun to play. If I do have at least one complaint, it’s that the dice system, while well implemented, can kind of make the worlds feel like they’re just dragging on, and the amount of things that can hinder your progress don’t help either. But regardless, for a Hanna-Barbera video game, this is seriously impressive.
THE BOTTOM LINE – The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock is a spectacular game, with a unique and refreshing map system, fun gameplay, and a whole lot of things to keep you coming back for more. It’s kind of a shame this game is so obscure as it is, because I’d argue that it’s right up there with DuckTales and Turtles in Time in terms of great licensed video games.