keskiviikko 8. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - The Uncanny X-Men | NES | 1988

GENRE(S): Action

Here's a franchise name which many of you might've been looking forward to since I started this marathon... although the games necessarily are not. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, the X-Men are the most famous, consistent and popular out of Marvel's three big superhero groups. Although much of their success has depended on one particular character in the group - who has also been the lead star in most serials, movies and games revolving around the group, and had a few of his very own serials, movies and games to boot - the X-Men have also been so persistently popular due to them being outcasts, constantly shunned by society for being different, and still doing everything they can to protect it. 1988 brought us the first X-Men video game - a co-op, top-down, destroy-all action game before the time of Smash T.V.. Sounds quite innovative. Then again, it was published by LJN - and made by an independent developer who didn't want his name associated with the final product. Promising, wouldn't you say? You don't know the half of it. The Uncanny X-Men, Marvel's X-Men, just X-Men, whatever you want to call it, is not just a bad game. It's an all-out failure. A sad, miserable failure.

Mom, someone vomited on my monitor

Magneto's on a rampage, and it's up to six of the X-Men - Cyclops, Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and of course, Wolverine - to put an end to his and his henchmen's terrible plot... whichever that may be.

If Fallout was done in the 80's... it would've
looked a hell of a lot better than this.
Three years, five months - I've seen a lot of shit, you've seen a lot of shit. I've written a lot of shit, you've read a lot of shit. From Attack of the Killer Tomatoes to Donkey Kong Jr. Math to Home Alone to my ever-favourite scapegoat (or scapecat?) Bubsy - even if the first game's no longer on the Bottom 40. Make that notion and I'll re-review the game. I dare you. Last September, I was at somewhat of a loss, even though the cause was basically pleasant - Top 60 got a new king. Now I'm at a loss, and the cause definitely ain't pleasant - Bottom 40 gets a new king. My word, this game is horrible. And I'll tell you why. I'll tell you a whole bulk of why. In just a moment.

I must admit I didn't know a lot about the X-Men before seeing the first movie. I just knew Wolverine, and Hugh Jackman's brilliant performance which already captivated me when the trailers popped out was the definite highlight of the movie - but the movie presented me with a whole bulk of other characters who were legend in this franchise, but I hadn't really paid attention to them. Suddenly I was fascinated by the unique overall theme of the comic book I had never really noticed before. The X-Men's potential was endless. Sadly that potential went to waste in the rest of the movie series - although First Class was quite good, even (nearly) without Wolverine. I tried watching the animated series they made in the early 90's, but I found it somewhat boring and perhaps, I don't know, too "cheery", for its own good. The comic books were good, but I needed something a bit more fleshed out. So I turned to the games. I must admit that in time, I did find a couple of decent ones, but most X-Men games I ever played were once again good potential gone to waste, carried by the strength of an always solid lead character in Wolverine. Then I got familiar with the first X-Men game ever made - and it doesn't even have good potential on its side. It's horrible from the very first moment you SLAP IT IN. Caps on purpose. Stick around for the purpose.

I was just telling my girl - who's really not that interested in such details but she's overjoyed whenever I'm really enthusiastic about something - how Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the few games she likes and knows by name, was such a phenomenal game in its time, how it squeezed every ounce of strength out of the NES in 1988, sacrificing nothing but a save system to make an everlasting impression of being at the very least five years ahead of its time. What does that have to do with this game, you ask? X-Men was also released in 1988, or 1989, depending on which source of information you choose to believe, but regardless, at the same time as Super Mario Bros. 3 or after it. And they couldn't have done ANY better?! The game looks like a fucking dumpster fire, and the pain this horrible music causes to your ears makes going to get your gums scraped sound like a brilliant random way to spend your day.

AAaaaaAAGHHH, my eyes!!! And no, that
ain't TMNT's Bebop in a vibrant palette of
cum, shit and piss. That's Storm. Yeah.
Audiovisual properties aside - how can I set them aside, just look at those shots?! - the game is still one awful mess. OK, so first you choose a mutant. That's not enough, though, you have to choose two of them. That's right, even if you're going at it alone, you'll have to suffer another character with less than functional A.I.. There are five different levels for you to choose from. Now I have no fucking clue how to beat the level labelled "Practice", nor do I have any desire to go out of my way to find out, but apparently it is a real level, with a boss. To me, it's just waves upon waves of enemies, with the most annoying tune in the whole game playing in the background and giving me the headache of a century, and having total invincibility. OK, so how do I get out of this mess? Resetting - no other choice. Well, let's do that. On to the real thing. Maybe it's better than this. Or maybe I should just stop now.

My choices for Player 1 and Retarded Asshole are Wolverine and Cyclops, and the level, well, let's take the first one. For his very first stunt, Cyclops runs straight into an obstacle and dies. Well, how quaint! After figuring I do not have to use Wolverine's very short-ranged, not to mention weird melee attack at all, or any other attack at that, to make progress, I find myself just running through the level, past the enemies. That's not as easy as it might first seem, either. The enemies spawn endlessly, and they're very likely to horde up and trap you in a corner, where your only escape is to step on spikes and die instantly. Actually, you don't even have to think that much, because the game doesn't make dangerous obstacles too clear for you. Bump into a wall and you might die. No health bar, nothing of the sort - so it's pretty much up to the game to decide when it's time to go. Use too much special attacks - which aren't needed - and you die. Dying has been more entertaining. And it has been explained a whole lot better.

Well, after both your characters are dead, you move on to the next pair of your choice - so basically, you have three lives to survive this nauseating chaos. I move on to Iceman and Colossus. At least Iceman doesn't run straight to his death like Cyclops did - he just disappears, after I go down a flight of stairs into another screen. Vanishes, into thin air. Nothing surprises me anymore... I said nothing, so it's not a big surprise that after I go back up, I'm pushed by a couple of whatever-those-black-boobs are, against a wall, and die. Last up, Nightcrawler and Storm. This is a good time to mention the power-ups. Admittedly, I would have no idea what they're supposed to do without outside help. Invincibility is at least presented more than a bit vaguely in practice. So is the "S" icon which is at least supposed to stop time. Health-restoring power-ups? Didn't I just say there's nothing even remotely reminiscent of a health bar?! The one I wanted to tell you about is the magnet, which renders your character immobile for a short time. Now I know this is supposed to reflect on the main villain here, but how come is every character regardless whether they have an ounce of metal in their bodies or not, rendered immobile by that shit? How come it shows up every two seconds to make your life hell amidst regular power-ups? You simply don't have time to take your pick between power-ups. Oh well, let's not question logic here. Let's just play this stupid game. Oh, look, Nightcrawler isn't affected by the magnet in any way. ...WHAT?!

Now this literally, seriously looks like a level in
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Then again,
every shitty NES game has that green
subterranean level.
Soon, I realize that I can actually switch between my two characters at any time. That helps a little to keep the A.I. from killing itself two seconds into the game, but only postpones the inevitable. After a couple of similar scenarios, I'm giving in. But, let's suppose I'm not. The game is still firmly SLAPPED IN the NES. I beat all the levels, including the Practice level which I still can't make heads or tails of in reality, and get ready to face Magneto. All that pain and suffering can't be for nothing. But, nothing's happening. You're still in the level select screen. Well, hope you paid attention after each level, 'cause the end of each level gave you a bit of cryptic code. Try that out. Nothing? Well... shut down the console, take the cartridge out, and check the missing piece of the code from the label. It's there with the legal stuff, at the bottom - the bottom which you won't be able to see without taking the cartridge out if you're playing on a standard NES. Put the cartridge back in, put the power back on, and do it all over again, you X-Men fan you. No? Well, return to the part when you shut down the console and took the cartridge out. Take your shotgun, go to the nearest junkyard, flip the cartridge into the air and blow it to kingdom come. Go home, and play something else. Like Super Mario Bros. 3.

This game is so thoroughly bad and horribly designed, that even if I wanted the most definitive NES collection out of any man or woman alive, I wouldn't stink up my shelf with this piece of absolute shit. LJN outdid themselves here, truly - and after many years of joking about them, always giving them that small benefit of a doubt behind all those prejudiced puns, I must say they've truly deserved their reputation as the shittiest video game publisher ever. It can't get any worse than this. X-Men at the very least can't get any worse than this.

+ Please, no

- The whole code thing mandatory to access the final level is definitely the most ridiculous "interactive" stunt I've ever heard of
- The rest, you can read above - there's simply nothing right with this game; even Wolverine's a crappy character to use

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