No, not a gem. Not that shiny.
Recently, I was blessed with the gift of a Sega Genesis emulator/system combo thingey. It came with 80 games pre-loaded and the ability to play cartridges, so naturally I went online and purchased several games from my childhood, and I thought I’d share my experience with one particular game today. It’s a game that I loved as a kid and holds some great nostalgic value for me. That game is Taz-Mania.
Yes, the 16-bit platformer starring Taz the Tasmanian Devil, of Looney Tunes fame. When I bought this guy, I gotta admit that I was pretty nervous. While I’ve played and enjoyed some games from my childhood over the years, I knew that this one probably was not going to hold up as well as some of the more popular titles. I suspected it was no Donkey Kong Country or Sonic 2, and I gotta say, those suspicions were completely founded.
It’s true, this is not a great game. Right off the bat, the controls are clunky, and simply getting Taz to land where you want him to land is a bit of a chore. It lacks the precision of Super Mario and the smoothness of Sonic the Hedgehog. I want to say that it was almost a deliberate choice by the developer, as Taz is meant to be more brutish than your average protagonist, screaming and spinning and blowing his way through life rather than using any amount of finesse (Dude will literally just eat a bomb if you walk up to one, hurting himself in the process like a big dumb moron), but I suspect that it was simply poor design.
Speaking of design, the platforming in this game can be a bit of a nightmare. Many times you will be forced to make a blind jump from one platform into an abyss simply hoping against hope that there’s something out there to land on. It’s not any amount of skill, it’s just blind faith that there’s a platform to catch you. How is that an acceptable design? It’s not even like the game shoots you over there and you have no control, or that the game hints that there’s something to land on, you just sort of have to be like: “Oh, I can’t see anything over there at all, I guess I’ll just jump and see if I plummet to my death.”
But even with control and level design problems, you can tackle most of the platforming sections without much trouble and the game throws enough lives at you that even if you have to sacrifice a few on blind jumps you usually will be able to continue without much problem.
Until you get to this motherfucker right here:
This is the level that defeated me when I played recently. It is such a son of a bitch that I had to walk away and haven’t been back since. So you’re riding this minecart and you have to raise the cart up to avoid obstacles and you have to speed up or slow down to take jumps that are longer or shorter. Sounds simple, right?
“Eat shit and die!” says the game.
The cart moves at such a speed in this area that you have almost no time to react to anything. You literally have to play and die and play and die until you have the damn thing memorized. And even once you do, there is a jump that is so balls-achingly difficult you could crap. You take this jump and as soon as you land, in the split second of a hummingbird’s fart after your wheels touch the ground, you have to raise the cart up to avoid an obstacle. I was able to do it…once, maybe, as a child (I do remember beating the game, so I must have been able to), but as a grown-ass man I have been unsuccessful thus far. It is the most cunty-dickhead-fuckshit challenge and I spit on the designer’s mother’s grave. I mean, watch this shit:
Like, what the fuck, man?
But I digress. This game really isn’t all that terrible. I promise. I know I’ve been crapping all over it, but it’s really pretty fun once you get the hang of the clunky controls. You’ll enjoy spinning through hordes of spear-wielding mice, eating hot peppers that give you flame breath, and plowing down Tasmanian Devil-eating plants. But God help you when you get to that minecart level. Holy hell whoever designed that level is a true monster. I’ll do another post or an edit to this one if I ever conquer that Hitler-esque jump, but until that day I spit vitriol and venom on that level and all who had a hand in creating it.
But again, not a bad game. Well, a sort-of bad game. With some fun parts. I had fun. Until I didn’t. I don’t know. I don’t even care anymore. Fuckin’ minecarts… Worth a play. It’s definitely not a gem, but it is a shiny rock.