Shove It! …The Warehouse Game

Grade:  B

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 38th

Publisher:  Dreamworks/NCS

Year:  1990

Genre:  Character Assassination

We usually like to start these reviews off by discussing the game in question’s storyline, but in the case of Shove It!, we’re really not going to be able to discuss its story in great detail since it’s a game about shoving crates around a warehouse (as an aside, I really hate it when games use punctuation in their titles – it absolutely wrecks havoc with the grammar checker… and rightfully so, I suppose.  It’s not like there are well-established rules for the use of apostrophies when indicating possesion by something with a name ending in an exclamation point).  There’s not much you can do to turn that into an epic tale – it’s not like the fate of the world rests on your ability to shove a crate across the room – and to the game’s credit it doesn’t really try.  This is a game about a regular guy, doing a regular job, with the relatively low stakes of getting in trouble with his boss if he does it poorly.  What are the rewards?  The game never really says, but the title screen implies cars and women might be involved:

Not unlike hip-hop, actually.

Hmm, that guy looks vaguely familiar, doesn’t he?  Mustache, dark hair, blue overalls, red cap… where have I seen this before?  Oh, that’s right:

Mario.  Nintendo’s mascot and almost certainly the most famous video game character in the world at the time this game out.

Now it could be all a coincidence.  The developers might have just been creating a character based on blue-collar stereotypes, and came up with this eerily similar guy.  And they did change his job from plumber to warehouse worker.  So that’s something.  Even so, it’s hard to look at that guy and not think he looks like Mario.  And it’s hard to imagine there was someone in the industry didn’t know what a Mario was.  At some point there had to be a conscious realization that they were essentially “borrowing” another company’s most popular character.

So let’s take this to its logical conclusion – if you buy into my crazy theory that the people who made this game knew perfectly well what they were doing, it starts to seem like a pretty blatant attempt at character assassination.

See, by creating a version of Mario that’s grounded in the real world, he suddenly becomes a lot less glamourous, and a lot more like that guy you know who spends all his time drinking at the bowling alley and won’t shut up about the ’86 Giants.  Let’s consider the differences:

Mario Mr. Shove It!
Lives in The Mushroom Kingdom Staten Island
Social Peers The ruling monarchy His softball team
Current Occupation Rescuing Princesses Shoving crates
Ride A turbocharged Go Kart, or sometimes a dinosaur A 1988 Ford Mustang that he says is “totally boss”
Gambles on Which treasure chests contain extra lives Football games
Refers to significant other as: “Princess”, since she is, you know, an actual Princess “Princess” (sacastically) or “My old lady”
Leisure activities Tennis, Golf Gettin’ wasted!

Oh sure, we’re basing our knowledge of Mr. Shove It! almost entirely on how he looks, but don’t tell me you don’t have a cousin or neighbor who looks just like him, and he isn’t exactly as we just described.

The object of this level is apprently to make the area look less like a swastika.

As for the game itself, Shove It! is a clever little puzzle game.  The object is to shove crates around a warehouse until they have been moved into designated areas.  Crates can only be pushed, never pulled, so it’s important to plan your moves carefully.  Screw things up and you could end up with a crate trapped against a wall that can no longer be moved, forcing you to restart the level.  Really screw things up and you’ll block all the exits, causing our little Mario impostor to become trapped in the warehouse for eternity, never to listen to his beloved Bob Seger cassettes ever again.  This is why warehouse worker frequently appears near the top of “Most Dangerous Occupation” lists, right behind commercial fisherman and Iranian Nuclear Scientist.  Or at least they would be if, like in the game, most warehouses were designed like mazes and didn’t have forklifts.  Though as someone who worked in a warehouse for a brief period, I can tell you that adding forklifts wouldn’t make these warehouses any safer.  It would just turn the game into something more like Frogger – Forklift drivers are crazy.

Anyway, Shove It! is a fun little game.  There are smart level designs, and like all great puzzle games, it has a gameplay concept that is easy to understand but quite challenging to actually do.  You always have to think a few moves ahead, and it’s amazing how seemingly insignificant moves at the beginning of the level can have a big impact on the final outcome.  Kind of like chess, if all the pieces were being moved around by a guy who describes things he likes as “cherry”.

In fact, his license plates actually say “CHERRY”, as in “Man, this Mustang is fucking cherry!”

To my knowledge, nobody has ever included Shove It! in any kind of retro collection, or put it up on Xbox Live or PSN.  And being one of the earlier games for the Genesis, it is slightly harder to find than, say, Sonic 2.  Even so, we were able to find copies both online and at a couple of used games stores, usually for only a few dollars. At that price, we definitely recommend a purchase.

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