keskiviikko 8. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - X-Men | PC | 1989

GENRE(S): Action / Adventure / Puzzle
DEVELOPER(S): Paragon Software
PUBLISHER(S): Paragon Software

The first game I reviewed within the confines of this series of Marvel reviews was an old DOS game called The Amazing Spider-Man - by no means a great, revolutionary game, but surprisingly decent and moreover, a different game, more of a puzzle game than a straightforward action game or a run-of-the-mill platformer. It was made by Paragon Software - a closer look at the company reveals a whole series of Marvel games, of which the aforementioned game was actually the last, and also one of the last games before the company was bought out by MicroProse. Among those games was a pair of X-Men games, formally labelled X-Men and X-Men II, but better known as X-Men: Madness in Murderworld and X-Men: Fall of the Mutants, respectively. While the latter followed a comic book storyline, this first DOS game was an original story, one that Marvel endorsed to the point of including a limited edition comic book, serving as a prequel to the game's events, in the game package. Just like The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men isn't from the most typical end of superhero games either, as it crosses point 'n' click with arcade action. Now I didn't rightly know what I was heading into here, but I knew it had to be better than what I just suffered through on the NES. I WANTED it to be better.

Love killercoaster

The X-Men's arch nemesis Magneto has joined forces with the evil genius Arcade, kidnapped Professor X and taken him to Arcade's backyard in the twisted theme park known as Murderworld. A team comprised of the X-Men's finest - Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler - bust through the gates to save their leader and mentor, to be greeted by a legion of Sentinels, other formidable enemies and brain-twisting puzzles requiring the skills of each and every one of them. (Keep that in mind, 'cause that is one of the game's greatest downfalls.)

Fresh off the worst game I've ever played - thus far - I bumped into a game commonly referred to as X-Men: Madness in Murderworld, a curious little DOS game from the late 80's, around the same time that beastly abomination commonly referred to as The Uncanny X-Men (why can't they have just ONE title?) was unleashed on the NES. Now these games have one huge difference: the NES game's got Marvel's brand name on it, but apparently it wasn't officially recognized by Marvel. This game, on the other hand, was not only recognized by Marvel, but they slapped a comic book exclusively available with the purchase of this game, on its side. These days, collector's editions of games are very common, and you can buy a lot of those - depending on the game - on eBay for a few bucks, still sealed and CiB. Those days, there were no collector's editions of anything, and rarely games that had something else for an extra incentive. Now I highly doubt you'll find a sealed copy of this game anywhere, but there are CiB's on eBay, and they sell for 20-40 bucks. Just a tip for all you true Marvelites out there, this one's a true collector's item. ...But is it any good? Now that's the true question. Marvel's efforts to promote the game already promise us a better game than that NES game with its circuits welded out of crap.

The first example of a simple, but cool puzzle.
The game is extremely tough to get to work properly on a modern PC. It seems that even if you use the same a/v and control settings every time, it doesn't guarantee proper functionality. A mouse apparently never worked with the game even though there's a constant need for one, and getting the joystick controls to properly respond to a basic joypad is a pain in the ass. So, the keyboard's pretty much the only choice here, I'm afraid. The space bar is the most useful key here, as it works as the confirmation button, as well as the tool to toggle through the different functions on the bottom of the screen. You'll have to try them all out to figure out what each one does, the icons are pretty vague. They're easy to learn. Just very painful to use. Literally. Carpals do not like this game. However, the toughest part ain't the adventuring and puzzle solving. That might even be fun, since you have to think a little about each mutant's special talent, and how they would help in certain situations. This brings forth another problem, but let's talk about the absolutely toughest part first.

Which is, non-surprisingly, combat. It's clumsy, actually hitting the enemies is random at best, and if you think duking it out with your everyday Sentinel is hard, try hitting rats. Yeah, this is one of those games in which any small vermin can kill you just as easily as a Sentinel or a boss. They're actually the easier enemies to fight, seriously. Hell, even spikes falling from the ceiling do less damage to you than a rat running back and forth at your feet does in half a second. It's absolutely ridiculous. If you ultimately fail at this game, don't feel too bad about yourself. I know exactly why you fail - the combat is just that poor. If it isn't the combat, it's something else. Here goes.

Wolverine looks like Wolverine, and he also
moves like Wolverine. It's Wolverine!
So like I said, when it comes to the puzzles, you need each and every mutant's talent. For example, in the very beginning of the game, there's an impenetrable adamantium cage with an important key in it. Now is there a member of the group who could get that key? Yes, there is: Nightcrawler. So I use his mutant power to get in and out of the cage with key in hand in a second. Wow, dude. This is how X-Men games should be made. At that point, even though my wrists were screaming murder (already), I knew this game had potential. Then, the dying began... when you run out of X-Men, the game is over. Even that's not the worst problem. You simply cannot make progress if a certain member of your group dies. If I had started out with Nightcrawler, and he would've succumbed in the hands of the first Sentinel, I wouldn't have made it past the second screen. There's a save system, sure, but saving the game after just one member of your group has died is a risk - a risk you absolutely have to take all the time if you want to have the slightest chance of beating this game. "Close, close, close... oh fuck, RATS!"

No, the game isn't very entertaining in the long run, but once again, I must commend it for its substantial difference from the stereotypical superhero game. It's got a good, if not brilliant concept, and with better design, it could've even been so much as revolutionary, especially in a time when licensed games on consoles very rarely gave us half of what we wanted. A badly designed and literally painful game, but an interesting one nonetheless. And yes, better than the NES game.

+ Authentic X-Men feel, and a good story
+ The puzzle/adventure part is a neat concept

- Poor execution of good ideas, all over - the worst being that you might blow your chances of beating the game by losing just one character
- Bad controls, terrible combat in particular

< 5.5 >

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