Space Harrier II

Space Harrier II is the kind of thing that might end up in one of your nightmares if you stayed up too late playing After Burner (and if there’s a less worthwhile reason to forgo sleeping, I’ve yet to hear it).The game plays more of less like After Burner – it’s a thrid-person shooter in which enemies come straight at you and you have to either shoot or dodge them.Only instead of a fighter jet, you’re playing a a guy in skintight red pants who appears to be armed with one of those icing bags that people use to decorate cakes.

Things actually get weirder from there.Your guy runs along the ground (he can run pretty damn fast, too), but press up on the control pad, and he spontaneously breaks into flight.Except he doesn’t have any kind of means of flying – no wings or jetpack or anything like that.And to make things even weirder, there’s almost no animation at all once he gets airborne, even as he moves up and down and from left to right.He just sort levitates around the screen with his icing bag still tucked securely under his arm, like some kind of half-crazed, cake decorating magician.

Space Harrier II in all its glorious insanity.

Adding to the surrealness of the experience are the landscapes.Every level is a sparsely populated area with a grid pattern on the ground (presumably to help give the player a sense of perspective).Depending on the level, trees, buildings or columns will occasionally appear, and while some areas do get kind of crowded, there’s never enough of them that they don’t look oddly solitary and out of place, especially considering how fast you appear to be going.Every level is like running across, or floating past, the desolated remains of some ruined city that was inexplicably built on top of a giant checkerboard.

And then there are the enemies.As you are hauling ass across these checkered wastelands, stuff flies at you which you have to shoot with your frosting bag.It’s pretty much anything goes with the enemies- Giant dragons, empty suits of armor, 3-headed turtles…The basic rule governing what got into to game seemed to be “Do we know how to draw that?”, and if the answer was yes, then they put it in.And that probably wasn’t even a hard and fast rule, as evidenced by the inclusion of whatever the hell this was supposed to be:

Yeah, um… your guess is as good as mine.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a trip down insanity lane, and the fact that the game makes absolutely no effort to explain any of this makes me think that to somebody, somewhere, this all makes perfect sense, rather than just being weird for the sake of being weird.However, aside from the strangeness, the game is still basically just After Burner with the difficulty cranked up.And that means that all the stuff we didn’t like about After Burner – limited, repetitive gameplay, crummy controls, and your own character blocking your view of what you’re supposed to be aiming at – are present here, too.Except now you’ll probably die a lot sooner.And while that might be a welcome reprieve from actually playing it, we’d still rather just pass on this one entirely.

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