torstai 27. helmikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Wolverine: Adamantium Rage | SNES | 1994

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: November 1994

The X-Men debuted on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the end of 1994... however, this "debut" of the mutant supergroup once again placed the bulk of the group in less than a cameo capacity, and cast the spotlight on its most popular member - Wolverine, a few years off his solo debut on the NES. Two very different versions of the same draft were made. The Sega Genesis version was developed by Teeny Weeny Games and published by Acclaim; this balanced action game was fairly well-received by Marvel fans, who praised the storyline and presentation, but heavily criticized the gameplay. The SNES version was an unforgiving, do-or-die type of beat 'em up. It was developed by Bits and published by LJN. Now why would I waste time on looking for a game that could actually be at least interesting (on a console that's not really one of my favourites), when I've got an almost guaranteed wet turd soiling my hands right here (on a console which ironically is my favourite console of all time)? Then again, you might remember that not all 16-bit LJN/Marvel collaborations were that bad...

One of us is going down, and it might as well be this game

In a classic set-up not presented too well in this SNES version of the game, Logan finally catches a hint of his mysterious past and travels to Canada alone to investigate the Weapon X project which turned him from a simple mutant of flesh and bone into the unstoppable adamantium-infused beast he is.

Left: 11 out of 15?! I've already beaten the crap
out of  something like one hundred and
eleven dudes in this level. Something stinks.
Wolverine's origin story is Marvel's equivalent to DC's Batman's; no matter how often they tell it, no matter how slightly it changes, they always come up with a way to make it interesting in any format. It's been known to happen in video game development among other mediums - as proven by the Arkham series, and in this context, you know a review of the video game adaptation of X-Men Origins: Wolverine is bound to pop up sooner or later. Storywise, the Genesis version of Wolverine: Adamantium Rage was well received, 'cause it told the story well and stayed true to it. What we have here is half the story... probably, since I've never personally experienced the Genesis game, this is all through the ever-so-trusty grapevine. Might correct that sometime later, but for some way beyond ironic reason, I chose to review the SNES game, avoiding taking on any extras at this stage of the Marvel marathon. Perhaps 'cause I thought it wouldn't be that different, and it's available on a console that is more familiar and comfortable to me. Aaaaand, when I was an undemanding child who thought Wolverine was cool even though he didn't know much about the X-Men comics, the game looked awesome. My favourite magazine only covered Nintendo games back at that time, so I never even really knew there was a whole different "version" of the game available, one that maybe wasn't all about the looks.

The SNES game lives by its looks. Even though the storytelling and presentation are off, the graphics are basically really good, but as you make progress - if you can - you'll very soon figure that the reason that the sprites look so fluid might very well be that the cutscenes are so minimal, and the whole game consists of copied and pasted level and enemy design.

The game starts at the Weapon X lab, and although this is the easiest level in the game, it's probably the most exemplar of all the things wrong with Wolverine: Adamantium Rage. OK, so Elsie-Dee's supposed to work as the time limit - if you stick around for too long, say, "cheat" by standing in a safe spot to let your health regenerate in peace (one of the first games with spontaneous regeneration, by the way), Elsie-Dee's supposed to sneak up on you and kill you dead. However, that does not happen at least in this version of the game, or on the normal difficulty level. I've waited around for ages for it to happen just to see how, and how fast it plays out, but it doesn't happen at all. So whenever you find yourself in a pinch, just backtrack to the safest spot - usually the entry point - and take five. There, a tip. It makes the game a little easier, none the more interesting though. There's the game's greatest challenge, right there: maintaining interest. It takes you way too long just to skewer through this first non-sensical maze of copy and paste.

Yes, those most certainly are ninjas with
Your primary task in each level is to get rid of a set number of enemies before you're allowed to continue. There are straightforward levels in which getting to the goal is fairly simple and easy - just plow through everyone you see - but in these maze-like levels it's a bit more complicated. You won't be able to sink the counter by just slashing through endlessly spawning armies of cybernetic soldiers, you have to run around the level and bash all sorts of enemies to crap to - maybe - see the number go down. There's no indication whatsoever who you should go after, it's just trial upon trial. When you finally get rid of all the enemies in the first lab, the exit that's been in plain sight all that time will finally open, and on the other side awaits... another identical lab. With less enemies to kill, though. After you're done with them, you need to seek out the master computer, a really high-tech looking apparatus which they probably used in Vietnam... after smashing the computer to bits, you have 30 seconds to make it to another exit. Another lab? No, a password, which works as your checkpoint. A little about the passwords later, but let it be known right now that not only is it a password, but indeed a checkpoint. Whenever you choose "Start Game" from now on, right up until you power off the console, you will start from this point. That's kinda cool, considering there are no continues. After that, you'll have to deal with the first boss, Destroyer, who's pretty easy to maim to death assuming you're at 100% in the beginning. Then Logan travels to Japan and the rest of the game opens up to offer some different experiences than what you just suffered through... but again, none the more interesting.

I know you've waited for this, so I'll just say it: the controls are shit, but a different variety of shit than what you're accustomed to in these games. They're completely non-sensical, over-sensitive, and pretty much impossible to master, since just one tiny press of the digital pad, in any direction, can change a simple move completely. Wolverine's running speed varies all the time, I guess it has something to do with repeated clicks into a direction but in this sort of game, it inevitably feels completely random. If you're going for a standing jump straight up, one wrong press and you might be diving head first into the pit next to you instead - no bottomless ones to my recollection, though. When it comes to aerial attacks, what you do with the digital pad doesn't matter all that much, it's Wolverine himself who decides whether he's going to execute that attack you just told him to or just jump straight into the enemy's line of fire as if to say "end my suffering". You could say that the best way to survive this game is to avoid moving whenever you're fighting. It's impossible, of course; in the later levels, you're bombarded from every direction - at all times.

Maybe they won't see me if I run across this
table here.
Let's just skip right to the passwords. The passwords are portraits of different X-Men characters. With the positive issue of the checkpoints out of the way, what about when you shut the system down? Is a casual player supposed to have a photogenic memory? Since most of these characters don't appear in the game, is he supposed to know these guys by name? Is he supposed to shine at drawing? In other words, how in the hell are you supposed to write these passwords down for later use? Personally, I do know these guys, nearly all of 'em are well known to any who's half of a Marvel buff, but the player might be what I was back when this game came out: a ten-year old kid who wanted to play this game because Wolverine was in it and Wolverine was cool, but ultimately I didn't know shit about the X-Men. I didn't even know who Professor X, Storm or Nightcrawler were. Cyclops and Beast were probably the only other X-Men characters I knew back at that time besides Logan. I probably would've had to write the passwords down like this: "the blue guy who's not Beast, the crazy lady with white hair, the bald guy, Geordi La Forge". Yup, I watched The Next Generation as much as the next kid. Think about it: I knew more about Star Trek than about the X-Men.

In all seriousness, Wolverine: Adamantium Rage is one of LJN's better games, as it does at least have its moments; you just need to survive several extremely boring levels and endure some terrible controls to get to experience those few brief moments of clarity. Like I said, I might take on the Genesis version someday - not within this marathon's limits, though - and judging by the reviews that actually focus on gameplay rather than presentation, it's not good, but at least a whole different game and well-presented Marvel Comics by-product.

+ Wolverine...
+ ...In nice colours
+ Nice cavalcade of Marvel Universe characters rarely seen in games
+ Moderately good music
+ The password system's function as a checkpoint system as well...

- ...However, the password system's function as an actual password system sucks
- The controls are terrible
- The level design is boring and totally uninspired/uninspiring; the maze-like levels with their cryptic progress criteria are the worst
- Good story told bad

< 6.1 >

maanantai 24. helmikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Beyond: Two Souls | PS3 | 2013

GENRE(S): Interactive drama / Action
RELEASED: October 8, 2013
DEVELOPER(S): Quantic Dream
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment

The Parisian David Cage (born David De Gruttola) founded Quantic Dream in 1997. The studio's big break came with a 2005 cult game called Fahrenheit (a.k.a. The Indigo Prophecy), an interactive drama which developed according to the player's decisions. Five years later, Quantic Dream hit the jackpot with an intricate murder mystery entitled Heavy Rain, which followed the same basic rules as Fahrenheit and sported life-like graphics, seamless dynamics and an amazing effort to appeal to one's emotions. There were four playable characters, any or all of whom could die if you made one mistake, or if they survived that mistake, chances were that their lives were ruined forever because you fucked up, or didn't care. Or was going for a specific Trophy. Or whatever. Whichever their fate was, it was PERMANENT. There was no coming back for that character. If they all died, you had beaten the game... but not in the most graceful way, I'm afraid. Heavy Rain made you feel bad... and it felt good. It was such an amazing experience, and it still is, in case you're wondering and haven't taken that first step, so amazing that it went on to win several awards from under the noses of the most obvious big wigs of the business, leaving the whole world to wonder what was so damn great about a playable movie. Then they tried it, they loved it, and they stuck around for seconds. In the summer of 2012, David Cage finally announced the long-anticipated next chapter in Quantic Dream's amazing tales - a supernatural thriller called Beyond: Two Souls, which was to star the equally amazing pairing of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. This ambitious and extremely well advertised product was to be the most amazing thing ever seen on the PS3, and it did have everything going for it just fine. Now I wanna know...

...Have you ever seen the "Rain"?

Ellen Page : Jodie Holmes
Willem Dafoe : Nathan Dawkins
Eric Winter : Ryan Clayton
Kadeem Hardison : Cole Freeman
Robert Burns : Philip Holmes / Possessed Scientist
Nancy Tate : Susan Holmes
David Coburn : Stan / Nicky
Maud Laedermann : Tuesday
David Gasman : Officer Sherman
Caroline Wolfson : Jodie Holmes (Age 9)

Sometimes you've got to take a look into the
mirror and ask yourself: "why am I this damn
perfect...?" (I'm well aware she's into girls.)
Jodie Holmes has lived an interesting, yet miserable life. Ever since she was a small child, she's been hounded by entities from another dimension beyond life and death. However, she has a guardian, another one of those same entities, named Aiden. It is mostly because of him Jodie's still alive and he's also the source of her remarkable psychic powers, but the downside to having him along is, that he goes to amazing, primal extremes in protecting Jodie from any slight threat and usually ends up destroying everything around her without the ability to think how his actions affect Jodie, and her social status at the very least. After spending most of her childhood and teenage years in heavily-guarded isolation from the outside world, Jodie is approached by the CIA and hired as a special agent. Something goes very wrong during her tenure in the CIA and Jodie ends up on the run from the law in a world that she isn't ready for, and which sure is not ready for her, or her "special friend".

Might as well get the obvious issue out of the way first. The moment I heard something about this game besides its name, which was that (the FAN-TASTIC) Ellen Page stars as a girl with psychic powers who has a spirit watching her back and gets in trouble, not just with the cops but the whole damn government, I decided I'd do my absolute best to not compare this game to Heavy Rain once it came out. It might be a very similar game in terms of gameplay, but thematically and I'm sure, emotionally, so different that there's no point in comparing it to what was, I'd rather see it for what it is. Then I read the first reviews... contrary to just about all my expectations, the game was seriously put down. TRASHED. For everything they did with it. But, again, almost every negative comment about the game was followed by what went something like "Heavy Rain was so much better." OK, after two or three similar total ratings I decided I was going to wait 'til the price came down, but I never had any doubts about wanting this game. Those comments about how much better Heavy Rain was, didn't do shit to my conviction, and though the critics did mention a lot of plausible details that annoyed them, it still seemed like the worst thing about Beyond: Two Souls was that it's no Heavy Rain. It sure as hell isn't, that's true. In no sense. But it is an amazingly performed interactive film, with a (mostly) exciting story. That's what I expected from it, nothing more.

Weird science.
However, what I realized after the game, was that I needed more, and that I needed another Heavy Rain, as much as the thought appalled me. And after I restarted the game, I realized that there was not much more to it. There are no sudden deaths here; things do stir if you make a wrong move, and events do present themselves differently if you decide to approach a certain situation differently, but the core end result is the same for Jodie. You're not playing as Jodie, Nathan, Ryan AND Cole, you're playing as JUST Jodie and her spiritual companion Aiden. This is Jodie's story, and you're not in as much control as you'd like or expect to. You're about to die, Aiden comes along and saves your ass at the last moment. If you get caught, you get a chance to escape without a time limit. There's no fear for your character's well-being involved, whatsoever. Sure, people die - you don't. Accidents happen - you survive. It's not any kind of a game anymore, it's a movie that just goes on, no matter what the hell you do. OK, so at least at one point of the game Jodie contemplates killing herself. You're given the choice in classic Heavy Rain fashion, with those shaky "Yes"/"No" button prompts swirling across the screen while Jodie prepares, but drag your dramatic decision out for too long and the game chooses "No" for you. Press "Yes" immediately when you get the chance, Jodie backs out anyway through one loophole or another. Again, no ending 'til the game says so... the "game". If you thought Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead were playable movies (I remember when Metal Gear Solid 4 got heat for being considered one, oh how the tides turn), take a gander at Beyond: Two Souls. I think "playable" is a strong term here... you can take part in it, all right? Fair enough?

We're through talking about Beyond: Two Souls the game, although I do have a couple of things I want to mention later. For now, let's just talk about Beyond: Two Souls, the movie. As such, it is amazing. Especially if you make all the right (read: sensical) choices, you're in for one of the best ending sequences in video game history. Too bad it takes too long to present itself; Beyond: Two Souls is a really long journey, and for the wrong reason of certain scenes being dragged on for way too long. You're stuck in a wide open area with the closest - and perhaps only - hotspot quarter of a mile away, and you'll not only have to deal with the distance, you might have to deal with bad controls. There are so many different schematics for movement, you see; all chapters in the game are different, and you'll be playing as Jodie in several different points of her life. Which reminds me, some people have also been thrown off by the unchronological order of events, but trust me, at least one of the endings offers a solid explanation to it, and besides, certain plot elements are best left unknown 'til towards the end. Anyway, if the needlessly stretched out sequences, and perhaps the world itself, were trimmed a little, you would easily be able to see that Beyond: Two Souls is one of the most awesome stories ever told in a media product marketed as a game. It's also the one thing that Beyond: Two Souls does better than Heavy Rain; sure, the story has some weak spots, and for a while it seems like we're never going to know what Aiden's purpose is, like they forgot all about him halfway through the script. However, the revelation does finally come, and it's stunning. During the ending sequence, I forgot all about how mediocre Beyond: Two Souls was as a game. I put the controller down for applause. It is a masterful movie. Yet, once again, in Heavy Rain you could restart the game from a certain chapter which might've changed everything, including everything that happened in the ending. I'm not replaying one single chapter just to get a different ending - they're way too lengthy and boring to play for that. This opus has got to be one of the most conflicted things I've ever seen, and I know now I'm not going to reach any sort of conclusion talking about it. I'll just mention some things before I (try to) nail down a ranking.

No official boob this time around. Semi-officials
are placed on the net for you stubborn bastards.
The game follows Jodie's life from infant to age 24, Ellen Page's age during the development of the game. There are two time periods under extensive focus; when Jodie was taken away from her parents and placed in the care of the kind doctor Nathan Dawkins (a psychologist and expert of paranormal events, played brilliantly by none other than Willem Dafoe), and the couple of years she spent on the run from the CIA. In the present day, as seen in the very beginning of the game, Jodie is in a neutral state from which we can't really determine her situation or surroundings. Through the shallow decisions we make throughout the game and the theme for the ending we choose with the press of a button, the intro sort of replays, now by our chosen rules. It's kinda cool. Anyway, like I said it's been much criticized (for nothing), that the scenes play out in an unchronological order. First of all, I like it as a dramatic decision - and secondly, the game absolutely needs those changes in pace. Which is proven by the turning point, the one when the game finally sets on one straight track and leads to the present day. It's weak and dull, but once again the ending is worth the pain.

There's very little need to even go into the graphics and sound. This game was made to drive all other games of the seventh generation off the table, tied together in a neat kamikaze bundle. That, it does - the makers learned a lot about the pros and cons of motion capture and video game cinematics during the three years down, and the game is a huge step up from Heavy Rain, which was (and is, even this far into the eighth generation) already one of the greatest-looking games of the high-definition era. The two lead actors are billed on the box of the game for a reason; they're not just voicing their characters, and the bonus material is really interesting to watch, as they really do act all these scenes, there's no CGI or outsourced stunt work involved. It's amazing, and of course, great voiceover work comes with it - and here we're talking about one of Heavy Rain's weaknesses. It's a definite step up, although there are some inconsistencies which stick out like sore thumbs for an extremely demanding listener, such as the pronounciation of "Aiden". Half of the amazing soundtrack's written by Norman Corbeil of Heavy Rain fame, who died of pancreatic cancer (a disease painfully familiar to me) during the development of the game and passed the torch to Lorne Balfe, most known for his work on the most recent Assassin's Creed games. No inconsistencies there - it's full-on blockbuster material all the way.

She has something Snake didn't...
Most of the game (let's just call it that, we know the truth) is played in casual Heavy Rain fashion. You can interact with different objects with the right analog stick; there are no specifics for direction, movement or its speed this time around, though. There are just a few extra button presses from time to time, and very few QTE's. It's like a simplified version of the already extremely simple Heavy Rain. However, in turn we get direct combat and stealth action. Heavy Rain had a few combat scenes (to potentially kill off a main character at the worst possible moment in the worst possible way), but they were largely based on QTE. The combat in Beyond: Two Souls is different; when an enemy attacks, the screen goes to a brief moment of slow motion, during which you have to watch the direction of Jodie's movement and move the right analog stick accordingly. It's a pretty cool system in theory, but that direction is sometimes extremely hard to determine, since it can be any part of Jodie's body visible on the screen which you have to follow. For example, she might be completely still otherwise, but her shoulder moves slightly and you need to match that. No matter, though - if you get your ass kicked, you always have Aiden. Never leave home without him - as if you had a choice.

During almost any controllable scene, and even a few choice cutscenes, you can switch to Aiden's perspective, and you can also play a two-player game with your friend playing Aiden (doesn't sound very interesting if you ask me). Aiden can travel as far from Jodie as the game contextually allows him to, and he can make the story even more interesting than it already is on a few choice occasions, leading to some semblance of replay value. For example, while the 9-year old Jodie is sleeping, getting her nightmares monitored, you can actually switch to Aiden and go to the next room, where the doctors are sharing their views on the poor girl's condition. You can wreak havoc as much as the game allows you to by breaking electrical equipment, simply throwing objects around like a regular poltergeist, and even attack people that you think deserve it; one of my favourite scenes in the game allowed me to grab Jodie's bastard of a dad by the throat and choke him all the way to the very threshold of hell. What made the scene even more powerful was a Trophy associated with it! That guy was made to be hated. Just as Jodie and Aiden were made to be loved; even if Aiden is formless, he has more personality (disorders) than any average video game character.

Aiden is also key when it comes to the few stealth missions. He can distract enemies by producing noises, strangle certain enemies and even possess certain enemies to kill their comrades. Why not all of them, there's no real explanation for that, I'm afraid. If and when Jodie is fatally wounded, he can concentrate his energy to heal the wound on the spot. He also allows Jodie to examine dead bodies and certain items' relevance to the mission at hand by channeling a flashback straight into her brain. Finally, when you just fly around as Aiden, especially during scenes in which his presence is otherwise irrelevant, you might bump into these hidden dots of spiritual light. Tampering with those unlocks bonuses to the main menu, just like managing certain hidden criteria in Heavy Rain unlocked some bonuses between missions. At least the video documentaries are really quite interesting, you should keep an eye out for those bonuses.

The game takes those breaks into everyday
niceties, such as what to cook for an important date.
The Trophies are of the exact same nature as Heavy Rain's; the problem is that Beyond: Two Souls is a much less replayable experience. OK, so Heavy Rain had a few Trophies tied to each chapter in the game, and they didn't unlock before the ending of the chapter, regardless of the point you nailed the criteria in. But, the chapters in Heavy Rain were also very brief, and they were fun to replay because of that, over and over again on the hunt for those one or two trinkets. In Beyond: Two Souls, one chapter might seriously last for hours, and just like in Heavy Rain, the Trophies always unlock during the loading sequence between that chapter and the next one. Hunting for Trophies is not a valid reason to play Beyond: Two Souls; I quit the second playthrough somewhere at the third or fourth chapter, whereas Heavy Rain, well I'm playing it right now. I have beaten it eight times, and I'm missing TWO Trophies. I'm still on a very eager hunt for those, even if the game has long since given me all it has to give. I have beaten Beyond: Two Souls only once, and that's perfectly enough until I'm ready to experience the movie again. So, I'm definitely replaying the game eventually, just not for the reason I would expect from this type of media.

You can get better GAMES of the same genre for better prices. Heavy Rain goes for pennies nowadays, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are cheap considering their emotional charges especially if you're paying chapter by chapter. However, if you're content with a MOVIE that looks and sounds amazing, and features stellar performances by a couple of A-list actors and a few that are sooner or later joining that very same list, and still one of the greatest stories ever experienced in this format, Beyond: Two Souls is a keeper even at its current price.

+ The best visuals of the generation
+ Mostly magnificent story - with a great ending for once! - and fabulous characters...
+ ...With even more fabulous performances by the actors...

- ...All of it somewhat dragged down by pacing from hell
- Personal choices that ironically don't directly concern your character, or the ending all that much either since you can rethink a lot of things then and there; immortality makes you care less for what happens and how the story progresses
- Although features such as Trophies, decision-making (as shallow as it often is) and Aiden's free-roaming presence help a little, there's no escaping the fact that the game lacks a considerable amount of replay value in comparison to Quantic Dream's previous effort

< 7.0 >

perjantai 7. helmikuuta 2014

REVIEW - Wolverine | NES | 1991

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
DEVELOPER(S): Software Creations

As popular as the X-Men are as a group, take away this guy and you've got a bunch of throwaways who probably would have never made through their first decade. Wolverine - or Logan - is the driving force of the X-Men franchise; an ultra-violent, alcoholic, seemingly immortal powerhouse with severe trust issues and total lack of social discretion... and huge, razor-like claws he can summon at will whenever the going gets too tough. Wolverine has starred as the lead character in every X-Men movie; they couldn't even pass on a Wolverine cameo in the prequel X-Men: First Class which didn't actually involve him in any way. There he was for about ten seconds, played by Hugh Jackman as always, and he made the most out of those few seconds. In addition, he had an origin movie of his own, and one more movie based on a 1982 limited series comic book. Likewise, he has starred in most X-Men games, been involved in most Marvel all-star games, and had a few games of his own, including a few based on his 2009 origin movie. This NES game was the first of its kind in that last category, and I doubt there was much in the developers' minds beyond making a game that bore Wolverine's fine name. Like a real story, or playability. Just the potential, the monetary potential at that. In its defense, I must say Wolverine is better than The Uncanny X-Men. Seeing who produced it, though, reveals the ugly truth behind that compliment.

Keep those claws where we can't see 'em

Logan's been stranded on a desert island after a bad night on the town, it seems. He soon figures out he's been captured by Sabretooth and Magneto, and has to fight his way through nine different trials that put his supernatural being to its limits.

In short, Logan's the man. He was at the very least one of the first in a long line of superheroes to break the mold of the stereotypical superhero; he didn't really care for other people's wellbeing before joining the X-Men and finding a responsible cause to go with his great powers. Someone was getting robbed on the street, he tried his best to avoid the situation, but if they got in HIS face, he cleaned house, to be followed by praises he only found awkward and most likely told whoever he just reluctantly "saved" to go fuck themselves in lack of better social skills and wordsmanship. Even with the X-Men, most of his personality and liking to alcohol and hot women remained intact, so he made for a great polar opposite for every other lead mutant in the franchise, who were practically raised by Professor X, who even as the man with the calmest demeanor in the world has difficulties putting up with Logan's reckless and violent antics. Logan's love/hate relationship with life is one of the keys to his great success and popularity. Whenever there's an X-Men game, we expect to see Wolverine on some sort of personal vendetta. Especially when the game itself is named Wolverine. Capcom was making absolutely fantastic licensed games at the time. Konami was making even better ones. They would've been great nominees for making this game, and both of them did go on to make Marvel games sooner or later. In the end, we got a game that utterly lacked a real story, made it really difficult to enjoy the main character's finest traits, and was conceived by practically decent developers who however were working under the conditions of the shittiest publishers in the business, who were also responsible for The Uncanny X-Men, (possibly) the worst game ever made. Case closed... nearly.

Mega Man vs. Wolverine: Air Man's Revenge.
You see, compared to The Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine hits you like a masterpiece. In every possible way. It's honestly fun to play for a while, just because it is so much better by every measure. You can honestly play it for as long as two minutes before you start to see how much it sucks, every measure, EXCEPT for the music, which is actually really good, quality stuff, might even be some of the best music I've heard in an NES game produced by LJN Toys. I had to look it up, and I found that the music's composed by Geoff Follin (brother of the more famous Tim Follin) whose resume is bloodstained with several licensed games, including the already reviewed T2: Judgment Day (the NES version) and Batman Forever, several versions of that dumb-and-dumber video game adaptation of The Incredible Crash Dummies, and finally, one of the most bashed Marvel games of all time, Silver Surfer, which is coming around soon enough. Good work, bad employers. I know how it feels. The graphics are also pretty good, considering this is an LJN game where even the largest sprites have usual difficulties to look at least normal.

The gameplay's where the fun stops, once again - but! The controls are slightly delayed, but overall quite good, except for the swimming controls. Due to the delay, it's impossible to regain control right away after falling into water, meaning you usually sink like a brick and usually right on top of enemy traps in the bottom. There's no period of invincibility on your back after you take a hit, instead you take constant damage until you can get the fuck away from traps. Even enemy projectiles do the same sort of constant damage as long as they are, sometimes vertically, passing through Wolverine's body. The level design reeks at the very least when it comes to enemy placements. Narrow platforms are melee attackers' favourite spots, and whenever you're trick jumping on platforms on top of utter emptiness, you can be damn sure to bump into a LOT of flying bastards who you don't even have a chance to hit, and whose projectiles you have nearly just as little chance to dodge. Level 3's trial is based on traps, a lot of which are utterly impossible to survive without losing some of your precious health. I guess you were supposed to be able to dodge some pendulums falling on you in a narrow hallway by crawling under them, but it isn't possible. It's so close to possible, however, that I think the developers made a bit of an architectural mistake there.

Now how in the blue hell did you get in here?
The game is unforgivingly hard and many have compared it to Silver Surfer in that sense - I can tell you right now, though, even if the Silver Surfer review is still to come, that it's nowhere near Silver Surfer when it comes to difficulty in any form. There are only nine levels, they can be beaten in just a few minutes each, and every time you die, you are taken to the nearest solid platform to respawn - be warned, though, you only have six lives to spare before it's game over, and enemy placements alone make it so hard to merely survive these levels. I quickly figured out a sure-fire way to survive the game with somewhat better odds, though. You're not going to like it.

Before I tell you what it is, let's talk a bit about the power-ups. Beer is called Power Potion. That's it about the power-ups, I just had to mention that 'cause I found it hilarious. What separates "Power Potion" from the more usual hamburgers - once again, but they kinda fit for once - is that it also regenerates your Berzerker meter. The Berzerker meter is filled whenever you get a long enough winning streak over enemies without taking any damage (yeah, I know: "YOU WISH!"), after which Logan goes into a totally uncontrollable kill 'em all mode, during which he also regenerates all his health. Could be a fun gameplay element, if it wasn't so impossible to achieve, and if you could somehow trigger it yourself. Also, there are hidden pathways in some levels, where your fellow X-Men await and offer you some sort of a permanent perk for the rest of the game. Let's not question the logic how they've found you and why they won't just haul your ass out of there... all right? Let's instead question the logic why mandatory perks such as Jubilee's underwater breathing ability have to be made secrets for you to find, sometimes very illogical ones, and not perks you automatically gain after making a certain amount of progress. Psylocke's Havok-summoning device (don't ask, looks like a remote control) is even noted in the HUD from the start, and while it isn't that hard to find - it's in Level 2 - the "secret" to getting to that "hidden" doorway well out of your jump's reach is behind some illogica maxima (I made that up just now, turned out pretty good).

Water ain't good.
Finally, here's my - and your - favourite part: to survive the game a little better, stop using the claws. I know how it sounds like, but it must be done. Using Wolverine's claws to go with his fists doesn't deal that much more damage to enemies, the claws retract automatically after you take a certain amount of hits, and finally, it's the claws themselves that deal damage to you! No bullshit; every time you hit an enemy with your claws out, you lose health. It's the same thing as in most beat 'em ups, you know, where you get a kinda penalty from using a special attack. The thing is, this ain't no special attack! It's not an act of desperation! It's what Wolverine does, God damn it! Where would Wolverine be without his claws? They're a part of him, they're iconic, and these bastards throw around penalties for using them. The game was made nine years before the first movie, and a year before the animated series which brought the X-Men to wider attention, but just reading one half of any X-Men comic book would've helped the developers to realize that the claws are Wolverine's thing. He is called WOLVERINE. As in an animal with sharp claws. Fuck! ...I'm sorry, what I meant to say was: FUCK!

It's illogical, impossible, uncomfortable, the design reeks, and the presentation ain't all that good, but considering the quality of the last X-Men game on the NES, Wolverine was most definitely a step into a better direction... and, somewhat ironically, the second and last X-Men game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The 16-bit era gave us some cult titles, let's see what pranks time has pulled on those games.

+ Decent graphics and genuinely good music
+ It's Wolverine...

- ...Without claws; the claws are there, but they only do harm
- Crappy level design
- The game is near-impossible to beat, let alone master, due to all the wrong reasons
- Illogica maxima (had to say that again... and I'll have to write it down)

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