Rocket Knight Adventures

Brad: One thing that has consistently been a source of shame for me over the last 20 years is that I don’t really know how to do the Humpty Dance.  This was particularly frustrating because about a third of the song is dedicated solely to giving you instructions on how to do it.  Worse yet, the other two thirds were mostly about how awesome the dance itself was, which only served to make me want to master it more.  This, I assumed, would be the key to me becoming able to get busy in a Burger King bathroom.  But even with the prospect of unlimited lavatory sex in fast food restaurants hovering just out of reach, I still couldn’t get the hang of it.  If you pay attention to some of the lines from the song though, it’s not hard to figure out what the problem is.  For example:

It’s supposed to look like a fit or a convulsion

You look like MC Hammer on crack, Humpty

No two people will do it the same / You got it down when you appear to be in pain

Think about that – the “no two people will do it the same” part is pretty much an acknowledgment that there really isn’t a Humpty Dance at all – notice he’s not saying no two people will do it exactly the same, it’s more like nobody is doing the same thing at all.  Just do whatever you want and call it the Humpty-Hump.  The rest of the descriptions make it sound like you just get on the dance floor and start spazzing out, then once people begin holding you down and trying to keep you from swallowing your own tongue, you’re doing it right.  It’s supposed to look like a convulsion?  I was under the impression that how you dance is supposed to be an indication of how you are in bed – I heard that in a Will Smith movie, so it must be true.  If that’s the case, then the Humpty Dance seems like a trick to scare all the women away from you and into the arms of the non-Humpty Dancing members of the Digital Underground.  So yeah, thanks Humpty, but I didn’t really need instructions on how to dance like a white person.  Kinda knew that one already.

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In Brad’s mind, this has something to do with the Humpty Dance.

The point is, the Humpty Dance actually isn’t a very good dance at all.  You just think it is because throughout the song he keeps telling you how great it is.  What the hell does this have to do with Rocket Knight Adventures?  Well, it’s the same idea – I had never played RKA before doing this project, but I assumed it was good, because everyone kept telling me it was.  And when I first started playing it, I already believed them.  But after a while I came to realize that it really wasn’t anything special.  That’s not to say that its bad, just kind of average, and the sequel does pretty much everything better.

Stryker: We’re not very big on sequels here, so for more than one entry from the same series to make the Top 100, both have to really amazing.  And that’s just for normal games.  For two games starring an opossum knight with rocket powered armor to make the list… well, science has not advanced enough yet to be able to calculate just how awesome both of those games would have to be.  We’ll drop this one and grant a Seal of Quality to its successor.

Mr. Do!: This game kinda sucked, but I will always remember it for helping me discover that there’s a Wikipedia category for “Fictional opossums”.

Dark Castle

One of the really nice things about being a big, successful publisher like Electronic Arts is the opportunities it gives you for cross-promotion.Every copy of Madden or Road Rash you sell can be packaged with a small catalog full of ads for your other games.People will look at it and think, “Hey, I liked NHL ’94, and I liked Might and Magic; so I bet I’d like Dark Castle, too.”The downside to this approach is that it can cost you customers in the long run because once they actually play Dark Castle, those people will probably become become Amish just to make sure they never have to play a Genesis again.

Dark Castle began its life as a Mac game in 1986, and at the time it seemed like a dazzling technical achievement. You know what else seemed like pretty impressive technology back then? Trapper Keepers. So… yeah. Anyway, EA later converted to the Genesis and released in 1991.It was mildly popular on the Mac, but considering that most of the other “games” available for the Mac in the mid ‘80s were either about munching numbers or ill-fated trips to Oregon, Dark Castle’s relative popularity may have been just a bit misleading. Electronic Arts had some good fortune converting PC games to the Genesis, but most of those games, like Populous and Starflight, were pretty unique compared to the rest of the Genny’s library. Dark Castle was a horribly designed platformer with God-awful control. The Genesis had like a million of those, and the other ones usually at least had a movie license.

In the game, you play as Prince Duncan and attempt to navigate the titular fortress in order to face the Black Knight.Being a spectacular dumbass, you endeavor to do this armed only with a bag of rocks, with the plan to obtain a magic shield and fireball spell during your explorations of the castle.Sure, it’s only a Dark Castle, filled with traps, monsters and your worst enemy.Why not take your time and make a few extra stops to pick up all your equipment after you get there?

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Mr. Mullet ponders whether to try his luck in the mystery rooms, or just take the middle door to Burger King.


As silly as that plotline is, story is really a small part of any Genesis game, and DC’s most significant flaws lie elsewhere.The biggest problem is control.And level design.And graphics.And sound.

The castle is broken down into 4 areas, creatively named Shield, Fireball, Black Knight and Trouble.Each area is then broken out into 3 or 4 stages that you must progress through.Except that you probably never will, because this is one of the most unfair games you’ll ever come across.Each stage contains multiple enemies that can kill you instantly by touching you, and your only defense is to throw rocks at them, which are difficult to aim.Rather than simply pressing the direction you wish to throw the rock, moving up or down makes clockwise-counterclockwise adjustments to your arm’s angle, and pressing the button throws a rock.Killing each enemy requires a fair amount of trial and error, which would be fine if all your enemies were asleep or didn’t move around much.It doesn’t work as well when they are kind of fast and trying to kill you.Also, your arm remains pointed at whatever angle it was last aimed, which not only makes the game harder, but also looks ridiculous.

If you throw a rock at a high flying enemy, you’ll probably spend the rest of the stage holding your arm up as though you were carrying the imaginary torch in the opening ceremonies of the Crazy People Olympics.

And should you run out of rocks, you’re really in trouble.There are plenty of extra bags of rocks lying around, but I never figured out how to pick them up.My best guess is that they forgot that button when they converted the game over to the Genesis (the only copies of the game I could find were cartridge only, apparently not too many collectors felt the need to preserve Dark Castle’s instructions or original box for posterity).Of course, that’s the least of the game’s control problems.Walking off even the most minuscule edge (including ones so small you don’t always see them right away) will cause your character to fall down and become stunned for several seconds, which almost always means getting eaten by bats.You can jump, but you have no control over how far, so every time you press the button your character launches himself like a world class track and field champion.This means that you’ll have to find to exact right spot to jump from or risk leaping way past your intended target, to almost certain death either from falling or from landing on some enemy.There have been games that were successful despite putting similar control limitations on your characters (think Jumpman or Pitfall!), but those games accommodated for it by allowing you a little bit of leeway.With it’s brutal controls and unforgiving level designs, Dark Castle is basically handing you a jumbo crayon and asking you to paint the Mona Lisa.