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.

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