On Today’s Edition Of “Things That Shouldn’t Exist”…

Y’know, given how vocal Mr. Dahl was about how he hated the 1977 film, I could only imagine how he’d feel about this if he was still with us – that is, if he’d even allow this to get past the concept phase.

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NOW PLAYING: The Lego Batman Movie (2017, Warner Bros.)

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It’s safe to say that when The Lego Movie was released back in Feburary of 2014, nobody was expecting it to become the mass phenonemon that it did. With its’ satirical yet innovative take on the “chosen one” plotline, great characters, and superb humor and animation, it set Warner Bros. on the map to become the newest contendor in the Pixar/Dreamworks/Blue Sky/Illumination competition. Of course, seeing as how the film’s take on Batman and other DC Comics characters were seen as one of the highlights, one of the next logical steps would be to make a spin-off starring said take on them. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

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I’ll admit that when I first heard about The Lego Batman Movie‘s announcement, I was unsure about what to make of this. Granted, that’s not to say that I thought it was going to suck, but the fact that this along with the sequel to The Lego Movie and Ninjago were on the horizon so early made me wonder if Warner Bros. was counting their chickens a bit too early. Fortunately, when I went to go see it the other day, I was proven 100% wrong.

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It’s a bit difficult to find a good place to start in terms of what this film gets right, but the most logical one would have to be the story. Some time after the events of The Lego Movie, billionare Bruce Wayne continues to protect Gotham City from all sorts of scum and villany under the guise of his alter ego, Batman. After thwarting a scheme by The Joker to blow Gotham to shmithereens (but not before fighting practically HIS ENTIRE ROGUES GALLERY, including some that haven’t even appeared in a Batman film before now and even some that aren’t even that well-known), he unwittingly adopts an orphan by the name of Dick Grayson while attending a gala in honor of Commisioner Gordon, who is retiring, and his daughter, Barbara, who is stepping in to take his place as the city’s police commisioner. However, when Joker and the villains crash the gala and openly surrender themselves, Batman suspects that something is afoot, leading him and Dick (now under the alter-ego of Robin) to investigate what the Crown Prince of Crime is truly up to, leading to a series of events that threatens to unravel Gotham City as they know it. Despite being fairly straightforward, it’s told suprisingly well, having many interesting twists and turns with a good balance of comedy and immensely heartfelt moments to boot, with prominent focuses on Joker’s quest to get Batman to care about him, and Batman’s scepticism of becoming part of another family in the fear that he’ll lose them like his parents on that fateful night. Speaking of which, the comedy is great. No joke (and no pun intended either), you’ll find yourself laughing quite often throughout the runtime. Take my word for it.

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Another element worthy of praise is the animation – like its’ predecessor, you can tell that a vast amount of attention to detail has gone into making it resemble actual Lego bricks, from the tiny scratches, textures of fabric on the capes of some characters, and overall sense of scale that can be felt. And then there’s (ironically enough, considering this is a Batman film) the sheer vibrancy of everything. I’m not exaggerating – along with Trolls, this has got to be one of the most vivid animation features I’ve seen in quite some time, with various locations managing to have their own recongizable palette. Despite this, it never gets to a point where it really goes overboard, which helps to keep it at a concrete level.

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One thing that I’ve especially noticed is the amount of references to not only previous incarnations of the Batman mythos, but the DC Universe as a whole. In addition to the previously-mentioned opening fight scene, there’s a scene in which Alfred tells Batman about his various phases shown in the form of all of his live-action theatrical features up until this one (including the 1966 film based on the Adam West series), as well as nods to some of the more obscure characters in the DC Universe. And that’s not even mentioning the latter half, which has to be seen to be believed.

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Like it’s predecessor, The Lego Batman Movie is a gloriously frenetic and heartfelt romp that’s sure to keep you glued to your seats. If you’re in the mood for more superhero films that don’t take themselves too seriously or just looking for some all-out fun, this is the film for you. With that said, BRING ON NINJAGO!

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SYSTEM SMACK-DOWN: Animaniacs (SNES/Genesis/Game Boy)

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Back when they actually gave two craps about the industry, Konami were one of the most beloved developers/publishers of the classic age, with a resume of titles such as Metal Gear, Contra, and Rocket Knight Adventures. However, like many other video game corporations, they also had their fair share of licensed games, some of them good, and others being throughly mediocre. And seeing as how I already covered a few games by them in the past, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at yet another one, that of which being a game based off of the most beloved cartoons to ever come out of the nineties, Animaniacs.

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Seeing as how I’ve already covered a fair share of licensed Konami titles, some good, and some bad, how does this one stack up? Let’s find out, shall we?

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ROUND ONE: THE LOOKS

In what seems to be a running gag whenever I do a Konami game in these articles, the SNES version offers the best translation of the show’s style into a video game format. Not only is the spritework of the characters 100% spot-on, but the backgrounds are delightfully varied and vibrant, offering one of the most lively games to ever come out on the SNES. The Genesis and Game Boy versions, while still good-looking, don’t exactly manage to hold a candle. Despite some smoother and arguably more detailed animations and backgrounds, they kind of lack the charm of the SNES version. So, I’ll be crowning the SNES as the victor.

ROUND TWO: THE SOUND

While the SNES may have won with great success in the previous round, that doesn’t mean it’ll carry over to the other ones. And in this case, the Genesis version easily has the best sound. Don’t get me wrong, the SNES version still has a good amount of decently catchy tunes, but none that I would really classify as “memorable”. The Genesis version on the other hand takes those verbs with profound grace, being pure ear candy in every sense of the word, with the music fitting each and every stage that you’ll find yourself in. Heck, in some cases they even mix up tunes from the show! As for the Game Boy version’s soundtrack, it’s alright, though it’s more or less a downgraded edition of the one from the Genesis. With that said, the GENESIS wins this one.

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ROUND THREE: THE GAMEPLAY

After a temporary victory by the Genesis, the SNES has managed to come back with a vengeance. Getting the Genesis and Game Boy versions out of the way, they can best be summed up as dull, mediocre platformers that don’t really bring anything new to the table. While the controls are fine, the relentless tediousness of the level design really brings them both down, ESPECIALLY in the Game Boy version. Now as for the SNES version, it’s sort of a challenge to really describe the way that it plays. The best way that I can, however, is something of an isometric side-scrolling platformer with a few arcade elements thrown in for good measure. There’s simply way too many things to praise here; the tight controls, the sheer amount of variety between levels, the scale of the aforementioned levels, the balance between the platforming and arcade elements, the fast pacing, practically everything was given to people who really wanted to give it their all. If there is one little quibble that I have, it would have to be the fact that in order to free one of the captive Warner Siblings, you have to play this rather obnoxious mini-game. Still, without question, the SNES is the champion.

THE RETR0PIA RANKINGS:

SNES: A-

GENESIS: C-

GAME BOY: D

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AND VICTORY GOES TO…THE SNES VERSION!

Looney Tunes Games

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The Looney Tunes are a group of characters that honestly don’t need any sort of introduction, mainly because of the legendary impact they’ve had on not just animation, but media as a whole. For over 80 years and counting, they’ve entertained and enchanted people of all ages, as well as having helped to establish many of the tropes and rules that we see in comedy today. Needless to say, they’re the very definition of the word “timeless”, and have only gotten better with age. Like many beloved properties, branching out into other mediums are pretty much bound to happen, and as such, video games started coming out…followed by the countless therapy sessions.

If you think that Warner Bros. has tried desperately to “reinvent” the Looney Tunes “for a new generation”, they’ve had even worse luck trying to make a successful video game out of them! And considering some of my past experiences with licensed games, that’s saying a lot. So, get ready to wish that you were watching Space Jam instead, as we take a look at Looney Tunes Games.

To start things off, we’ll be taking a look at a game starring the fastest mouse in all Mexico, with Speedy Gonzales in Los Gatos Bandidos for the Super Nintendo. 

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This game’s premise revolves around…well, Speedy Gonzales, who must embark on a quest throughout Mexico to save his rodent brethren from the clutches (or in this case, claws) of a group of cat bandits led by Sylvester the Cat. Now, Speedy isn’t a character who’s on the level of popularity of Bugs or Daffy, but even that’s not a good enough excuse for how bad and boring this game is! For starters, aside from a few differences here and there, it’s a direct rip-off of Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m not joking: you run in a certain direction and increasingly gain speed as you do so – just like Sonic! You go down slopes and hills – JUST LIKE SONIC! You bounce off of springs and collect stuff – JUST LIKE – well, you get the idea.  I know that Speedy is a fast character (I mean, his frickin’ name is an adjective revolving around quickness), but seriously, Acclaim? Is that really as far as your imagination can go? Look at Superfrog – it might feel like a clone of the blue blur’s classic adventures at times, but it also built upon the formula of them and even added in some ideas and mechanics of its’ own to provide the player with a fun experience as well as an engaging challenge. This game on the other hand, does not. Add in some iffy controls, bland music, and levels that can be a chore to navigate, and you’ve got yourself one seriously unimpressive action-platformer.

Next up, we’ll be going from 16-bits to 8-bits, as we take a look at Daffy Duck in Hollywood for the Sega Master System.

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This game’s premise revolves around Daffy Duck, as he must make his way throughout several worlds based off of film genres in order to retrieve Yosemite Sam’s stolen film sets (try saying that five times fast). Seeing as how this game was developed for a console that’s a bit more simplistic in the SNES in terms of technology, how does it fare on its’ own? Well…it’s slightly better than Los Gatos Bandidos, but not by much. The level design is a lot more traditional this time around, which also means that it’s a lot less derivative as well. The controls are also much better this time around, feeling more refined and a lot less loose. However, in terms of compliments, that’s all I got, because this game really isn’t that great. While the levels aren’t painfully boring to navigate, they can still get rather confusing and repetitive at times, which ultimately ends up dragging down the experience. The only legitimate highlight here is the music, which isn’t great by any means but is still nice to listen to.

Next up, we’ll be going from consoles to handhelds, in The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle for the Game Boy.

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This game’s premise revolves around none other than that wascally wabbit, Bugs Bunny, as he must make his way throughout the titular castle all while avoiding several foes. This game is actually quite different from the last two, in the sense that it’s more of a arcade-esque puzzle game rather than a platformer. Seeing as how the puzzle genre is a rather simple one, you’d expect that this game would be pretty fun and decent. However, they couldn’t even get THAT right. For starters, the graphics are just lazy, even for the Game Boy! Not only are they way too simplistic, but they also resort to constantly recycling the character sprites. Second, the gameplay is boring as all hell. Basically, every single stage goes like this: Go through doors, avoid the enemies, collect carrots. Go through doors, avoid the enemies, collect carrots. Go through doors, avoid the enemies, collect carrots – AAAGH, THE MONOTONY!!! MAKE IT STOP!!! In a way, it’s kind of like Hotel Mario (another terrible puzzle game), minus all the door closing. Lastly, this game isn’t hard. At all. If anything, it might just be the easiest game I’ve played yet. While you do have to avoid the enemies, it still doesn’t provide that much of a challenge, and it gets even more easy when you kill all of them using the power-ups, because by then all you have to do is just go through doors and collect carrots! And the most baffling part about this is that this game got four sequels, all of which are blatant carbon copies of one another! Ugh, let’s move on to another game before I fall asleep out of boredom.

Alright, one more game before we wrap things up. Let’s take a look at Taz-Mania for the Sega Genesis.

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This game is particularly interesting in the sense that it was developed at a time where Taz was actually more popular than Bugs or Daffy at the time, as he was making the rounds in all sorts of merchandise, including a Saturday morning cartoon of his very own that this game is named after. Seeing as how all of the previous games were pretty lackluster, you’d think that this game would at least be a tad bit decent… unfortunately, that’d be giving it far too much credit, ’cause not only is this game bad, it’s also one of the worst Looney Tunes games OF ALL TIME.  First off, the sound is probably some of the worst that I’ve ever heard in a 16-bit game, or maybe even the worst ever! Aside from the ear-piercing title screen, some of it barely even counts as actual music, as what you’ll mostly be hearing throughout your playthrough is a complete and utter mish-mash of sound effects, faint music, and random instruments. Next, Taz’s controls are loose beyond possible description, and they get even worse whenever you end up in quicksand or if you use the spin attack. Thirdly, the gameplay itself is just MISERABLE. In fact, it might just rival Oscar in terms of crappiness. Not only does it offer nothing new or interesting in terms of design or mechanics, it’s also yet another case of cheap difficulty, and probably the most severe one that I’ve come across yet. Most of the time, you don’t know whether or not the jump you’ll make will result in you falling to your doom or landing safely on a platform. Because of this, the levels can be extremely unpredictable in terms of design. And lastly, the theme of the cartoon is nowhere to be found. I mean, you got the license, so what’s preventing you from putting the theme in? I mean, Rocky & Bullwinkle for the NES had the theme song…well, a malformed, abominable rendition of it, but still! Either way, this game blows.

Well, there’s a look at some of the Looney Tunes games. I know that there are several more, but it’ll probably be a while until I get around to covering them. Perhaps in the future I’ll make a sequel to this article, but for now…I ain’t risking my sanity.