Boogerman Revisited

There’s a frequently tossed-around saying that we’ve all got to start somewhere…and needless to say, I picked quite the game to start off this whole shebang.

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On January 17th, 2016, I published my second article and my first ever review, which was centered around the 1994 side-scrolling platform game, Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure, released for the SNES and the Genesis. Developed at the peak of the “absurdist humor/gross-out” craze generated by the likes of Ren & Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead, and Earthworm Jim (which actually has quite a lot in common with this game, which I’ll explain later on during the review), the story revolves around Snotty Ragsdale as he must travel throughout Dimension X-Crement (get it, because it’s seven letters away from excrement which is another word for poop…yeah, don’t expect the comedy gold to end there) under the guise of his superhero alter ego, Boogerman, in order to retrieve a power source to a machine built to stop pollution, encountering several foes and obstacles along the way. Like I said, it was a pretty bizarre choice for the game to really get this going to where I am now. And looking back on the original review, I can say that from a personal perspective, it… hasn’t really aged that well. Of course, that’s probably because of how my writing style has generally evolved throughout all this time, but I didn’t exactly elaborate on certain points very well. However, with that in mind, I’ve decided to take a crack at remaking my original review to paint a better picture for hypothetical interested newcomers. With that said, does Boogerman manage to hold up after all this time, or was it just a relic of the 90’s that’s better off staying as such? Well, if you’ve read the original review you already know that answer, but for curiosity’s sake, let’s say that I don’t. Anyways, let’s find out, shall we?

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THE LOOKS

Make no mistake – this is a game that is gross, and one that is more than certainly loud and proud about that fact. Throughout your playthrough, you’re be greeted a nonstop barrage of visual gags revolving around bodily fluids and functions, and good god do they utilize them at every chance that they get. For example, as I’ve stated in the original review, the second world of the game, aptly named The Pits, features such lovely details such as wax oozing out of ears. And if that wasn’t enough, in order to get to bonus areas (which are sewers, because of course they are), you’ve got to flush yourself down a toilet. And if THAT wasn’t enough, the checkpoints are represented by outhouses (yes, in case you don’t know, those are a thing). And if THAT wasn’t enough, there are parts in which you have to get sucked up by a nose to get to one place to the other. And if THAT wasn’t enough – yeah, by now the main problem here is pretty transparent: it all generally reeks (no pun intended) of desperation. With that said, are the visuals outright terrible? Not really – even if the gross-out aspect can get tiresome after a while, the amount of detail that’s put into the backgrounds is pretty admirable and the character animations are very smooth and fluent. It’s just a shame that they’re going into a game that, again, is running partially on a gimmick that wears out its’ welcome.

THE SOUND

If there’s one thing that I can say this game truly gets right, it would have to be the sound, no doubts about it. For something built upon the foundation of a superhero who battles evil with bodily functions, the music honestly has no right to be as good as it is, offering some very catchy tunes that make a fine use of bass. Oh, and how could I leave out the fact that this might just be the first video game in history to prominently feature digitized burps and farts? Man, this might be more of an iconic landmark in the industry than I think it is…

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THE GAMEPLAY

This is where the aforementioned Earthworm Jim comparisons emerge. Both games feature an unconventional protagonist, a satarical and humorous style (though EWJ is based around absurd humor rather than just gross-out humor), and even some similar level design ideas, notably setpieces based around the theme of a level. However, while EWJ and its’ sequel (especially the latter) knew how to keep shaking things up to keep the player’s attention, this doesn’t really make an effort to keep things from eventually turning stale. As stated in the original review, each world has a total of four levels, each one increasingly more tedious than the last, which just gives off the overall feeling that the game is dragging on and on, refusing to end. The bosses can also be somewhat fustrating, as they’re significantly faster in comparison to Boogerman’s rather limited attacks, which primarily consist of snot-flinging, burping, and farting, which is not helped by the fact that it’s a bit of a challenge to pin down their patterns. There are also a fair amount of leaps of faith, a flaw that I personally believe a 2D platformer should NEVER suffer from. While it’s not Bubsy-levels of unpleasentness, this certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the big-name platformers by any means.

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the end of the day, while Boogerman admittedly has some good things going for it, it’s not enough to save from becoming a blandly-designed platformer that tries way too hard to be funny. If you’re a huge fan of character-driven platformers, I suppose you might find some enjoyment out of it, but other than that, there’s nothing really worth sticking around for.

C-

BONUS QUESTION: If merchandise of my characters was hypothetically made (shirts, plush dolls, cups, etc.), would you buy it?

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REVIEW: Earthworm Jim (1994, Genesis)

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Though not quite on the level of universal popularity, Doug TenNapel is regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists of the modern age. While he has a wide range of creations, such as the Nickelodeon cartoon Catscratch and the computer adventure game The Neverhood as well as its’ side-scrolling platforming follow-up Skullmonkeys, his most recognizable one would most certainly have to be none other than Earthworm Jim. 

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Developed by Shiny Entertainment and published by Playmates Interactive in the US and Virgin Interactive in Europe and released in 1994 for the Genesis, the SNES, the Game Boy, the Game Gear, and the Master System, with ports for the GBA, Sega CD, and PC quickly following as well as a sequel, two spin-offs, and a television series, the game’s ridiculously surreal plot revolves around an earthworm named Jim, who embarks on an epic quest to save the aptly-named Princess-What’s-Her-Name, while also preventing the grotesque Queen Slug-For-A-Butt’s hostile takeover of the universe. Does the earthworm’s debut still hold up after all these years, or was his popularity nothing more than a spur-of-the-moment trend? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS – If there’s one thing that everyone can pretty much agree on, it’s that this game just looks BEAUTIFUL. Starting off with the character sprites, they have a short of Tex Avery/Bob Clampett look to them (heck, Tex Avery himself is mentioned in the games’ credits), something that is most definitely clear-cut in their varied, interesting, wonderfully bizarre, and in some cases grotesque designs and their smooth and even impressive animations. On the other hand, you have the wonderfully varied and detailed backgrounds of the levels, from the green-skied New Junk City, the fiery pits of Heck, and a group of connected underwater tubes, all coming together to give the game a rather unique atmosphere to it that no other 16-bit game before it had – not even Sonic!

THE SOUND – Helping to add to the game’s unique atmosphere is the music. Composed by musician Tommy Tallarico, each track truly brings each stage to life, whether it be the ironically soothing elevator music for Heck, the fast-paced banjo music for the Andy Asteroids segments, or the bass-heavy New Junk City. The sound effects are also some of the most top-notch I’ve ever heard in ANY 16-bit game, as they truly give off the feeling as if you’re playing an actual cartoon. Though the Sega CD version (or as it’s officially referred to, the Special Edition) is technically better, I’d say that the Genesis version of the soundtrack is the second-best, with the SNES in third place.

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THE GAMEPLAY – On paper, the gameplay doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table, being your typical side-scrolling run and gun a la Mega Man/Contra. However, what really matters is how they pulled it off, and my lord did they do it spectacularly. Starting off with the level design, it’s what truly sets it apart from other run and gun games before it. Not only does it compensate the style, but it also adds in mechanics and set pieces appropriate to each stage. A great example of this would be in New Junk City, where you have to bounce on rubber tires in order to get to a higher place. As for the controls, they’re tight and responsive, making the stages and the wide variety of guns and blasters fun to navigate through and use. However, there’s one little elephant in the room that must be addressed, and that is the difficulty. A lot of people tend to criticize the game for it, but honestly, I don’t think that it’s as brutally impossible as some claim. Unlike games like Bubsy and The Lion King, the difficulty doesn’t really frustrate me as much as it motivates me to see where and what I did wrong so I can master each stage. In short, think of it as a “trial and error” short of thing.

THE BOTTOM LINE – Earthworm Jim is one of the greatest games of the entire 16-bit era, with a goofy and amusing sense of humor, addictive gameplay, and an incredible soundtrack. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s itching for something truly out of the box in almost every way imaginable.

THE RETR0PIA RATING – 9/10