Dick Tracy

Back when we we’re doing a Top 100 list, Dick Tracy presented a bit of a dilemma for us.  On one hand, it’s more fun than the 600 or so games we had already eliminated.  On the other hand, we seem to be the only people who think so, and given the intense hatred that so many gamers harbor toward this game, its inclusion on our Top 100 List could have undermined the credibility of our entire project.  See, on any given website, 75% of the readership is made up of people who don’t actually care for the site itself, but are merely scanning it for evidence to prove their theory that the website’s writers are asshats.  And on a video game related website, that number jumps up to about 99%.  So keeping around a game so universally loathed, especially when we’ve rejected a good number of more popular ones already, is basically just inviting people to say “Hey, they crossed Vectorman off their list and kept Dick Tracy!  These guys are asshats!”  Not that people aren’t willing to read a videogame website written by a bunch of asshats, but Gamespot already has that niche filled.

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That might have something to do with the fact that you preemptively shot every single person you saw last stage.

Now that we’ve decided to do a Top 50 list instead, that crisis has been averted.  Dick Tracy will share the same fate as so many games that came before it, having it’s Sega Seal of Quality revoked and being lumped into that big unranked grouping of games that weren’t good enough to make the cut.  On the plus side, this should spare us from the ire of our readers who, for reasons we cannot comprehend, keep insisting that Out of This World and Ecco the Dolphin are good games deserving of finishing ahead of DT.  On the down side, it means that Dick Tracy – one of the system’s most pretty-good-but-not-really-great games – can essentially be considered the equal of crap like American Gladiators or Shadow of the Beast.  I’m pretty sure this sort of mentality is precisely why communism failed.

Although it came out around the same time as the Disney movie, Dick Tracy the Genesis game seems to have little relation to Dick Tracy the film.  Then again, I haven’t seen the movie since I was in sixth grade, so I could be wrong.  Does it really matter?  Is there anyone reading this right now who would base their decision whether or not to like Dick Tracy on how closely it resembles the movie?  This whole paragraph suddenly seems pointless.

Anyway, Dick Tracy has decided to put a stop to the rampant crime in the city, and this time he’s not fucking around.  In the world of Dick Tracy, a civilian is just a criminal who hasn’t tried to kill you yet.  You begin the game by shooting three unarmed men outside the police station, and then gunning down two more in the background that appear to be running for cover.  It’s hard to imagine what someone would make of this if it was the first video game they’d ever been exposed to.  Experienced gamers already know that people approaching you from the right side of the screen are always bad guys, but to the casual observer, you’d probably look like you’re a cold-blooded killer on a rampage.

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What, isn’t this you you get around?

And deep down, I think that’s what stands out the most about Dick Tracy.  Sure, the gameplay is pretty good.  And yes, the way the game adds a pseudo-3rd dimension to the typical run-and-gun gameplay by allowing to to shoot at enemies in the background is a nice feature that surprisingly didn’t get “borrowed” by too many other games.  So it’s unique in that regard.  But really, it all comes down to one thing with this game – walking down the street in broad daylight and shooting everyone you see before they even have a chance to threaten you.  Let’s just assume they were all criminals.

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Trampoline Terror

Editor’s Note: Earlier in the project, we rounded up 5 really weird games and decided that the best one would get a spot on the Top 100.  Now that we’re only doing a Top 50, all bets are off.

Brad: Can we just go ahead and say that a game about a gymnast walking around on spaceships made of trampolines in order to step on their self-destruct buttons probably isn’t the best Genesis game ever made?  Do we really need to go into much further analysis than that?  Discussing this game feels like writing a preseason forecast for the Pittsburgh Pirates – you know they don’t have a chance in hell of winning anything, so lets just cross them off right away and move on to the real contenders.

Stryker: Who puts all the self-destruct buttons on the outside of the ship?  That seems like it’s just asking for trouble.

Brad: Honestly, I think building a spaceship with ANY self-destruct button is just asking for trouble.  I can’t think of a single good reason for having one in the first place.

Stryker: That’s true.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “Boy, it’s a good thing we had that self-destruct button.”

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Not too many other games can claim to have… this.

Brad: No, it’s usually more like “Holy crap!  I almost accidentally pushed the self-destruct button.  Who’s bright idea was it to put it in the middle of the control panel?  Maybe we should put some tape over it or something.”

Stryker: “Man, somebody should really put those things on the OUTSIDE of the ship where nobody will push them by mistake.”

Brad: Honestly, if you did find yourself in situations where people were in need of a self-destruct button, you’d probably want to re-examine your lifestyle.  I think it’s safe to say you’re doing something wrong.

Stryker: For example, piloting a spaceship made out of trampolines.

Brad: Especially if the planet you’re attacking has a world-class gymnast to protect them.  His name is even Trampoline Terror – that’s how afraid of him trampolines are.

Stryker: Which is  some terrible planning right there.  If they had done a bit more research, they might have found out about him ahead of time and attacked with a different kind of ship.  Maybe one made out of waffles or something.

Brad: A waffle ship?  That wouldn’t have made any sense at all.

Stryker: What the hell were we thinking when were going put this game in the Top 100?  Were we just in a really good mood that day?

Brad: Well, it’s certainly original.  And when 90% of the games on a system star either John Madden or Sonic, that counts for something.

Stryker: Even so, I think this was the biggest reason why we changed our mind and decided to make a Top 50 list instead.

The Flintstones

Brad: Let me start off by saying that, despite whatever flaws it may have, this game is still about 100 times more fun than anything based off of The Flintstones has any right to be.  Of course, that’s really just damning it with faint praise.  Who the hell thought it was a good idea to make a game about the Flintstones?  In 1993?  Whatever appeal, humor, or relevance the show might have had when it originally aired – and there really wasn’t that much to begin with – surely must have eroded in the 30 years since.  Even as a little kid, ten years before the game came out, I knew The Flintstones was awful.

Just an ordinary day in Bedro… GAAAH! What the fuck is that thing!?!?

We’re talking about a cartoon so utterly craptastic that it needed a laugh track to tell kids which parts are supposed to be funny.  You know how easy it is to get kids to laugh?  All you need is a funny hat or something shiny.  About the only thing kids ever liked about the Flintstones were the Flintstones vitamins.  Think about this – how bad does a cartoon have to be before it’s actually more effective at getting kids to take vitamins than it is at entertaining them?  Or maybe the show was supposed to be appealing to adults.  That might make a little more sense – it’s hard to imagine kids laughing at  jokes about Fred and Barney hating their jobs or being members of the water buffaloes, or even vaguely understanding those concepts at all.  On the other hand, any adult with enough brain cells to rub together would probably have realized that they were basically watching a cartoon version of The Honeymooners set in the stone age and with all the funny parts and casual references to domestic violence taken out.  I mean, did Fred ever once threaten to punch Wilma in the face?  At least that would have been something you don’t see in many other kid’s cartoons.

I think the Flintstones helps explain the popularity of Transformers, GI Joe, and Thundercats a couple of decades later.  It’s not that we really enjoyed watching what were essentially thinly veiled toy commercials that much, it’s just that compared to the Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby Doo, and all the other crap Hanna-Barbara had been putting out since the 60s, the cartoons of the 80s were masterpieces.  Armies that fight epic battles every day and never suffer a casualty?  That’s still way better than the same tired joke about mastodon shower heads over and over.

But anyway, we’re here to discuss the game, not complain about the show it was based on.  The game is surprisingly good.  I say “surprisingly” because after playing games based on Tom & Jerry, Scooby Doo, and Garfield, my expectations for games that were derived from cartoons are pretty low.  But unlike most of those disasters, The Flintstones has solid control, respectable levels designs, and basic gameplay that’s pretty solid.  It probably didn’t hurt that Taito, an experienced game company with several hits under their belt and a track record that dates back to before I was born, was behind this game.  Most licensed games look like the people who made it blew 99% of their budget on obtaining the license and then split the remaining 1% between programming the game and drawing the cover art.  This game appears to have a more equitable distribution of resources.  So I guess that’s one advantage to making  a game about the Flintstones – inexpensive licensing.

Oh, a water level.  Thank GOD.

The problem is that although it’s a well made game, it never strays far enough away from all the typical platform game stuff we’ve seen a million times before.  This is strictly by-the-numbers game design with everything you’ve seen in millions of other games just like it.  It literally takes all of one level before we end up in the all-too-familiar underwater stage that we’ve seen in seemingly every game like this since the original super Mario Bros.  And although I never made it that far, I’m just going to go ahead and assume there was an ice level.  Does that seem like a pretty safe bet?  This is a game that desperately needed something original to make it worth playing, and a Flintstones license is absolutely, positively not the answer.  In fact, that’s pretty much the exact opposite of the right answer.

For what it’s worth though, the game actually does a decent job of staying close to the show.  Little touches, like Fred shortening Barney’s name to “Barn” are the kinds of minor details that most of games based on cartoons miss, but the Flintstones nails.  Speaking of nailing things, Fred is obviously hot for Betty, as evidenced by the cutscenes in which Wilma asks him to do things, and he gets all whiny, but whenever Betty asks him to do something dangerous, he’s off in a heartbeat.  Yabba dabba do and all that.  This wasn’t actually part of the show, but is a (probably unintentional) nod to the overwhelming popular opinion that Betty was hotter than Wilma.  Honestly, that’s really a win by default, though – it’s not that Betty was hot, it’s that Wilma was hideous.  Remember the ol’ redhead rule?  You know, “Almost all redheads are super hot”?  Well, Wilma is the reason why they had to put that “almost” in there.

Stryker: I was never a big fan of the show, but I did always appreciate Cocoa Pebbles cereal as a kid.  They’re tiny, so you can fit a ton of them in one bowl and the thin flake means more surface area. More surface area means more chocolate for me.  Sure, it’s basically just fish food dipped in chocolate, but until I became old enough to make my own distasterous meal choices, this was the best way to trick my parents into letting me eat candy bars for breakfast.

Master of Monsters

Brad: I think its safe to say that nobody plays strategy games for the graphics, but there is a minimum requirement of functionality.  When I play Warlords, I can tell my infantry apart from my cavalry because my infantry looks like a little guy, and my cavalry looks like a little guy on a horse.  In Master of Monsters, all my units just sort of look like red blobs.  This slows things down, as now I have to select every one of them to figure out what they are, and what they’re attacking.  But at least I can tell what they are eventually – the same can’t be said of terrain.  Are those red lines supposed to be a mountain, or a lava pool, or just a really big pizza that someone left laying around?  I need to know, because different landscapes can have a variety of effects on my units.

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Our yellow Pegasus takes on one of the blue blobs… whichever one is the dragon.

Of course, since the game never makes the information about terrain effects readily available, I guess it’s a moot point, anyway.  I’ll just assume it’s a mountain, move my red blob there, and hope that my red blob gets a bonus from fighting on what might be a mountain.  I don’t mind this complete lack of necessary info – it’s not like I’m trying to plan a war or anything.

We gave Master of Monsters the nod over a lot of other hex-based strategy games in the Genesis library largely because it was one of a few that we could understand without taking a college-level course in it first.  A lot of the resource management aspects are simplified, but in a good way that streamlines the game and allows you to focus on tactics.  But understanding the game conceptually, and actually being able to figure out what’s going on are two different things.  And MoM withholds the info that we need to be able to do both.

You could try to track down a copy of the fairly rare Master of Monsters, checking out eBay, going to used game stores and flea markets, and probably spend about $20 to buy a copy, which may or may not still have a functional battery for saving your game.  Or you could download the game I mentioned a two paragraphs ago, Warlords, which is in the same genre but vastly superior, off of an abandonware site and play it on the very PC you’re using to read this.  For free.  Your choice.  I know it may not seem fair to compare a PC game to a Genesis title, but believe me when I tell you that the things that make Warlords so much better have almost everything to do with design and little to do with platform.

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Lazy-ass summoners.  Why don’t you ever fight your own battles for once?

Stryker: This game’s decent, but I’d be lying if I said that my fondest memory of it wasn’t when some guy came into my store and traded it in for a few bucks.  And that ended up being the copy that went into my personal collection, so its not like I even got to enjoy a 900% markup on it or anything.  So basically my favorite thing about Master of Monsters is that I saved about $17 on it.  I guess that’s something.

Mr. Do!: Rare games are rare for a reason – nobody bought them.  Sometimes there’s a good explanation as to why.

Mega Bomberman

Brad: First of all, let’s start right with the title screen, which describes the single player mode as the “Normal Mode”, which I guess is the developer’s attempt at a joke.  Playing any Bomberman game for the single player is like drinking Natural Light for the taste – it just doesn’t happen.  You drink Natty Light because it’s the cheapest way to get drunk, and since everyone involved in the process – from the people who make it to the people who drink it – knows that, little thought or effort put towards the non-“cheap source of alcohol” aspects of the product.

Now if there was any truth in advertising, Natty Light’s ads would prominently feature the slogan “Get wasted for $2.99!”  However, this probably seems a bit unsavory for society at large, so they tend to shy away from publicly promoting this aspect of the product.  Instead, the focus is simply to make you aware of the product – you’ll figure the rest out on your own pretty quick.  One could speculate that the same logic applies to Mega Bomberman’s title screen.  A game doesn’t want to come right out and say that its only redeeming feature is the multiplayer mode (even Gears of War still features a single-player campaign), so it calls the single player game the “Normal Mode”.  Not to worry – 5 seconds after starting it, anyone who didn’t already know better will run screaming back to the title screen to decide to check out that “Battle Mode” after all.

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Photographic evidence that Bomberman does, in fact, have a single player game.  There, now you don’t have to endure it for yourself.

So people really only play Mega Bomberman for the multiplayer.  That’s fine… in 1994.  But these days, its kind of hard to convince a couple of buddies to come over for a wild night of pounding inexpensive beer and playing Bomberman on the Sega Genesis.  Sure, more people play games now than ever, but Genesis enthusiasts are getting fewer and farther between.  Your friends are going to want to play Rock Band, or Tekken, or Halo, or at the very least, a newer version of Bomberman.

So yeah, Mega Bomberman is fun.  But it’s fun in kind of the same kind of impractical way that playing sandlot baseball or hunting whales is fun.  There just aren’t enough people around who still like doing it to be able to really pull it off anymore.

Stryker: Mega Bomberman’s simplified gameplay makes it easy for people to pick up and play – which is essential for a party game like this – but it’s also very limiting.  As a result, probably about 90% of the games are decided less by skillful play than by the players screwing up and walking into bomb blasts.  It’s sort of anti-climatic to play a game where the object is basically to try to avoid fucking up longer than the other guy.