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: Donkey Kong Country (1994, SNES)

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(THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS WHAT WILL MOST LIKELY BE A CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ON WHAT IS OTHERWISE A POSITIVELY-RECEIVED GAME. WITH THAT SAID, CARRY ON.)

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So…Donkey Kong Country. What can I say about it that practically every single human being on the planet Earth hasn’t said about it already? Revolving around the titular character from the 1980 smash hit and his new sidekick Diddy Kong as they travel throughout their island to reclaim their stolen Banana hoard from a group of rowdy reptiles who go by the name of the Kremlings, this 1994 platform title not only had an essential role in making Nintendo the eventual victor during their war with Sega, but also truly kicked off the career of its’ developer, Rareware. Needless to say, this is a title that is beloved by retro gamers everywhere…except for me, that is.

Yes, I know that this will more than likely come off as a shock to my viewers, but I just have to come out and say it: I don’t like Donkey Kong Country. Now, does that mean that I have a problem if you like it? Not at all. If you enjoy something, enjoy something. Don’t let people who try to make you feel bad for liking something that they don’t get into your head. Getting back on topic, what exactly is my problem with this game? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS: I’d just like to say that while I don’t find this game to be all that great, I still think that there are at least two things that it exceeded at, the visuals being one of them. During its’ release, the main thing that made DKC so successful and popular as it was can be summed up in three words: pre-rendered graphics. Essentially, it’s when you take footage of 3D-modeled characters from another engine and make certain tweaks to them so they can be compatible for whatever system the game is for. While there were some games that played around with the concept of 3D visuals before, there wasn’t one that ran with them as much as this game did. The backgrounds, character sprites, and the general level aesthetics, while they might seem a bit dated to some, are nothing short of pure beauty. In fact, they’re so good that they could easily be mistaken for a PS1 game if seen from a far distance, and I’m serious. Each world has a major sense of attention to detail, most of them taking place in usual island/jungle settings but still managing to be different from the last, which really helps to give the game a somewhat unique tone that no other game before it had. The character sprites are fantastic, as they all have their own unique look and design to them, with the sheer amount of variety of the Kremlings’ designs being a shining example. In short, the visuals most certainly deserve the reputation that they have.

THE SOUND: Like the visuals, the sound is one of the game’s two major highlights. If there was one word that could perfectly sum the tracks up, it would have to the “atmospheric”. Each and every one of them helps to set the mood and tone of each and every level, which helps in making them feel slightly less like chores to go through. On the other hand, the sound effects have a larger amount of depth and variation than most other games at the time, which kind of makes them stick out above the rest, though that’s not a bad thing. What IS bad however, is right around the corner…

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THE GAMEPLAY: I’m not sure if I can describe my feelings towards the gameplay without making it sound confusing as all hell, but I’ll do the best that I can. First off, I’d like to get the three things that I like about it out of the way. First off, the controls are, for the most part, pretty solid. They might be a bit of a hassle to get used to at first, but after a while you’ll get the hang of it. Second, there are the best part of the gameplay, the Animal Buddies. Essentially, think of Yoshi from Super Mario World, but instead of having just a Yoshi that eats enemies, manages to float in the air for a few seconds, and in some cases spits fire when swallowing a certain one, there’s a whole bunch of them that differ from one another in some way or form. Thirdly, there’s Cranky Kong. Not only are his pessimistic ramblings both hilarious and fun to listen to, they actually kind of have a bit of a truthful side to them as well, when you consider the vast amount of soulless F2P games and cookie-cutter titles that try WAY too hard to be “gritty” and “mature”. Now, with those out of the way, let’s get to what stinks. The level design, in my honest opinion, just feels very tired and monotonous. It’s not like Earthworm Jim where you go through all of these crazy worlds with imaginative set-pieces designed around them while blasting the crap out of your enemies, it’s not like Sonic where you zoom and platform your way through stages with little care in the world, it’s not like Puggsy where you really have to utilize a slow, methodical thought process, it’s not even like Superfrog where it’s like a really well-thought-out platforming scavenger hunt, it’s just…DKC. When you take out some of the more noteworthy stuff like the Animal Buddies and the 3D visuals, there really isn’t much substance to be found, at least in my eyes. Plus, there’s the fact that about FOUR of the boss fights are carbon copies of two different bosses! I don’t know about you, but to me, that is just lazy and uncreative. Speaking of “monotony”, I really do mean it. Aside from the differences in the world themes like I said above, the level design doesn’t have that kind of variation that they do. There are times in which the levels can get downright boring due to how little they offer, and even then they’re not really that exciting most of the time. As someone who has a major soft spot for platformers, I can’t help but to find the gameplay in this to be very underwhelming.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Donkey Kong Country is a game that played an essential role in the industry, and I can respect it for that. However, like Pac-Man 2, it’s one of those games that just isn’t for me, and while I have no problems whatsoever with those who love it, I won’t be going out of my way to come back to it any time soon.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING: C+

REVIEW: Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures (1994, SNES)

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For some odd reason, Namco is wildly persistent on re-inventing Pac-Man to make him “relevant” and “hip” for a new generation. Whether be through giving him the Mario 64/Sonic Adventure treatment, pairing him up with Adam Sandler, or making him say this, they’ve tried literally everything. And today, we’ll be taking a look at one of the more obscure attempts – one that dates all the way back to the early-to-mid 90’s, to be exact, in Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.

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Released in 1994 for the Genesis and the Super Nintendo, the game’s plot revolves around none other than that dot-munching ghost-chomping yellow sphere, as he embarks on a series of epic quests, which consist of:

-Getting milk for his baby daughter

-Picking a flower

-Retrieving his son’s stolen guitar

-Finding out why the Ghosts have stolen all of the locals’ bubblegum

….okay, so these quests are anything but “epic”. That can’t possibly be an indication of the quality of this game, can it? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS: I’d like to say that for something that’s based around one of the most visually simplistic arcade games ever made, the graphics are quite pleasing. Unlike most other games at the time, the graphics have a more sophisticated nature, eschewing fantastical wacky worlds and just going with towns, neighborhoods, and the like. Granted, while everyday locations might not seem exactly fit for a video game, it’s nice to see something that goes for this kind of approach. On the other hand, most of the character sprites by themselves are good, but for a Pac-Man game, there’s something about them that just rubs me the wrong way. I guess they were trying to go for a Roger Rabbit-esque style in which there’s cartoon characters living amongst humans, but the reason why it worked in that film is because it was live-action. When you bring it into a 2D environment like this game, it kind of goes against what the concept was trying to convey in the first place. Still, it does it a lot better than Sonic 06, that’s for sure.

THE SOUND: Going along rather fittingly with the graphics, the music has a more quaint aesthetic to it when compared to other games at the time. While there are some moments where they can be kind of annoying, the tracks as a whole are actually fairly well-composed and even a bit hummable. Of course, they’re no masterpieces, but they still manage to get the job done in a nicely fashion.

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THE GAMEPLAY: I would just like to say that in concept, the gameplay isn’t bad by any means. Essentially, it wants to be a hybrid of a Saturday morning cartoon and a video game, where you have to watch a character as they go through several locations while making sure they don’t land themselves in any shenanigans in the process. While it does sound like something that could be as entertaining as it is interesting, it also sounds like something than can be screwed up pretty badly if not done right, and unfortunately it falls into the latter. The main problem with the gameplay is that it’s just so boring. Most of the time, you’re just guiding Pac-Man around trying to keep him out of trouble, but due to how uncooperative he can be, it just becomes mind-numbingly frustrating and tedious! Oh, and I’m not joking when I say “uncooperative”. At times, it’s so difficult trying to keep him focused or out of a mood that it kind of becomes something of a lost cause. While there are some segments that break the pace of the game (as seen on the cover, there’s a segment in which you take control of a hang-glider), they aren’t very fun and are more of a hassle than anything.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Though it does have good intentions, Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures ends up falling flat in the long run, making for one frustrating and boring experience. I can see why this game has its’ fans, but it really just isn’t for me.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING: C- 

REVIEW: Mega Man X (1993, SNES)

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In the late 80’s to early-to-mid 90’s, the Japanese video game company Capcom had built a major reputation for itself as one of the leading and most respectable third-party developers for the NES and SNES, releasing several classic titles such as their line of games based off of Disney Afternoon shows, Street Fighter II, Bionic Commando, and of course, Mega Man!

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Having made his grand debut in the self-titled 1987 NES game (which I actually covered six months back as of this writing) which was then followed up by several sequels, the blue bomber was shaping up to be a legit alternative to Mario. However, after a certain hedgehog took the world by storm, the blue bomber was in danger of falling behind, and Capcom had to do something about it. If it was going to take on the next generation of systems, the series needed a fresh, new approach in terms of both design and aesthetics. As a result of all this, Mega Man X was born.

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Released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo, the game takes place long after the events of the original series of games and revolves around the titular X, the successor to the original Mega Man, who must traverse the world with the assistance of the aligned Maverick Hunters and the noble Zero in order to put a stop to the despicable Mavericks and their plot for human extinction. Can this game still hold up after all these years, or as it aged as gracefully as a rusted robot? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS – One thing that immediately sets this game apart from previous Mega Man installments is its’ art style, and how. What was once a whimsical and colorful take on a future where machines and humans mostly lived in harmony has since then undergone what I’d like to call “Dragon Ball Z Syndrome”. What is “Dragon Ball Z Syndrome”, you may ask? Well, it’s when a series that starts off with a more family-friendly style suddenly takes a major U-turn in tone right out of nowhere and becomes much more darker. Dragon Ball Z (the anime that I named this symptom after), Jak 2, and this game are great examples of this. However, that’s not to say that this choice in style is bad, as this game is quite possibly one of the greatest-looking ones of the entire 16-bit era. Starting off with the backgrounds, they are simply amazing. As this was the franchise’s first venture beyond the comfortability of 8-bits, it was given that the visuals would up their ante, something that is proven by just how much attention to detail that is emphasized by them. Sting Chameleon’s and Chill Penguin’s stages are particularly gorgeous.  As for the character sprites, the more advanced hardware has also benefited them, as they have a bit more detail and more refined proportions than in the NES games. Speaking of the character sprites, they too have undergone a more mature injection, as their designs are more reminiscent of “Dragon Ball Z” than of “Astro Boy”. Needless to say, this is the SNES’ graphical capabilities at one of their finest hours.

THE SOUND – If there’s one thing that I think is worth noting about these games, it would have to be the fact that the soundtracks get progressively better and better with each new installment. And if you ask me, it might just be one of the most “Mega Man-y” soundtracks of the entirety of the franchise! Composed by the five man-band of Yuko Takehara, Makoto Tomozawa, Yuki Iwai, Toshihiko Horiyama, and Setsuo Yamamoto, the music really helps to set the “hardcore” mood of the game and suits the feel of each and every stage. The soundtrack relies on a wide variety of instruments, though the guitar is one that you can expect to hear a lot throughout your playthrough. Each character also has their own respective theme tune, each of which are all represented by a different style of music; Zero’s guitar-heavy theme tune is only a mere example of this. Like the visuals, the soundtrack is one of the greatest to ever be featured on a SNES game.

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Zero defending X from Vile. 

THE GAMEPLAY – When it all boils down, the gameplay is pretty much the standard Mega Man formula: You choose a level in any order you want, go around running, jumping, and shooting at things until you get to the end, where you have to fight the boss of that stage and get their ability. However, because it’s now in a more advanced format, Capcom decided to up their ante and build upon it, and boy did they succeed. Starting off with the controls, they’re some of the most tight and snappy that I’ve seen in a run-and-gun platformer. Although there are times where they might feel a bit off per say, these moments are very, very sparse and don’t drag the game down. The level design is also great, as it’s built around several interesting setpieces, and you’ll also be engaging in more varied gameplay styles. Throughout the game, you’ll also get several VERY useful upgrades throughout the form of capsules that are scattered throughout the stages, which also helps to spice things up a bit. Ultimately, all of these things manage to come together to make up what is in my eyes one of the greatest platformers of its’ time.

THE BOTTOM LINE – Although I wouldn’t call myself a Mega Man fanatic, I still enjoy the games and what they have to offer. Mega Man X on the other hand, I don’t just enjoy it. I freaking LOVE IT. The level design is brilliant, the music is catchy as all hell, the gameplay is addictive, and it’s all-around a really really fun game. This is definitely a must-play for platform enthusiasts and Mega Man fans.

THE RETR0PIA RATING – 9/10