Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 32nd
Junction is a sliding block style puzzle game in which you navigate a ball through a series of checkpoints to complete a level. Each tile has a track on it, and the challenge comes from moving the correct tiles into place to form a continuous track before the ball hits a dead end. It’s sort of hard to describe, but anyone who played the original Bioshock will probably notice that it’s pretty similar to the hacking minigame.
This game also encourages you to use pyramids as ramps. I’m fairly confident that one day archaeologists will discover that the true purpose of the pyramids in Egypt was for doing kickass jumps, and all the bodies buried underneath the pyramids weren’t pharaohs, just people who were bad at landing.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Junction before. Before doing this project, Stryker and I hadn’t either. Puzzle games don’t get much buzz to begin with, and prior to Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, the mere existence of Genesis games was considered more of a theory than a proven scientific fact – scientists had the data to show that they must exist, but nobody had ever actually seen one.
That’s ok though, because you really only need to know a couple of things about Junction. First of all, it finished higher than any other puzzle game on our Top 50. I’m pretty rusty on the rules of logic they taught us back in 8th grade math class, but if I remember correctly, that proves it was our favorite puzzle game for the Genesis. If not, let me just come out and say it: Junction is our favorite puzzle game for the Genesis. It’s fun, it’s unique, and it tests your dexterity almost as much as your brain. Maybe it’s a little surprising that a genre that managed to get so many games into the Top 50 (six out of the 50 were puzzle games – and if you can’t figure out what percent that is, we’re not going to help you), couldn’t manage to crack the Top 30, but I guess puzzle games are like Big East teams in college basketball – a lot of them get into the tournament, but none of them get very far. Also, is that even remotely true? I don’t really follow college basketball. I just know they have a big tournament that Duke seems to win every year.
Anyway, Junction’s story is told to us through a quick intro scene, which we’ve summed up here:
Basically, a weird googly eyed robot armadillo is juggling apples, when a giant claw picks him up, and drops him into a hole. Then you roll a ball through a maze… for some reason. Now to be fair, this picture leaves out one key scene in which the robo-dillo gets turned into a giant red ball after falling through the hole. So we can assume that red ball you were navigating through the maze could be him. See? Now it makes perfect sense.
Or does it? This narrative never touches on why there was a robot armadillo in the first place, why it juggles apples, or what the purpose of picking it up and dropping it into a hole was. In fact, Junction’s underlying theme seems to be incoherency. There’s a lot in this game that doesn’t seem to make sense, such as backgrounds that include bubbling tar pits and the Wright brother’s plane, or its never again mentioned armadillo based storyline. Just as an example, the high score screen features a picture of a fighter jet in the background, in spite of the fact the game has absolutely nothing to do with fighter jets:
Why would they do that? Our first guess was that this game was made by Micronet, who had made some flight simulators previously, so maybe they just recycled a high score screen from another game, or even accidently switched them or something. Who knows? There could be a flight sim out there with a high score screen showing a juggling robo-dillo (which, by the way, is a word we need to be VERY careful about spelling correctly), much to the confusion of ace pilots everywhere. That theory holds up right until you get to the options screen and see this:
Yeah, we’re pretty sure Micronet didn’t make any games about windsurfing. And should you lose, you’re treated to this screen:
Apparently the consequences for not navigating the ball through the maze successfully are that you die in the desert. What this has to do with the juggling robotic armadillo we saw earlier, I have absolutely no idea. This is actually only one of a number of Game Over screens, by the way. None of the others make any more sense though, including the one showing Stonehenge getting hit by massive lightning bolts.
In a way, I kind of dig this approach. Let’s assume that none of the people working on Junction were actually crazy. If that’s the case, then everything else seems like some kind of rebellion, as if they knew if they made the game fun enough they could get away with anything. I like to think the whole thing is a giant rebuke to the prevailing logic that every game needs a story and some interesting backgrounds if you want people to actually buy it.
Sadly, though, it appears they might have been wrong. Not many people did buy Junction, and even now demand isn’t very high. As far as I know, it hasn’t been included in any compilations or been made available for download. This creates sort of a weird situation where copies of it are kind of hard to come by, but are also dirt cheap when you do find one. After a little bit of searching, we found our copy (this was one of the few Stryker didn’t have already) at one of the bigger used game stores in the area for $3, and I’ve seen a few selling online for similar prices. Those are cartridge only – complete copies are harder to find, but still should be available for $10 or less. Highly recommended at that price.