Friday, March 1, 2013

VGR Taz-Mania (Mega Drive)

And here's the other Taz game from Sega!
This time, it's the Mega Drive version.

VGR: Taz-Mania 
From Recreational Brainware/Sega
Played on Mega Drive
Also available on Game Gear & Master System

Type Sidescrolling
Year 1992

During the early 90s, animal characters became quite common in the entertainment industry, mascots were everywhere apparently and the whole fad went big.
While at the same time there was a big boom in the animation, thanks to the likes of Warner Bros' Animation's Silver Age and the renewed success of Disney films.
It was the perfect time for bringing Looney Tunes into video games obviously.
And the graphics were finally catching up enough to retranslate that universe in pixels.

While Sunsoft handled the games on Nintendo systems, Sega developed their own separate titles internally.

Here is the 16-bit version of Taz-Mania.
A game based on the sitcom of the same name revolving around Taz, The Tasmanian Devil.

The story is the same across all game consoles.

You play as Taz.
One day, Taz' dad (Hugh Tazmanian Devil!) was talking about a legendary giant bird that was able to lay giant eggs.
If they could land their hands on one of those, surely they could feed big Tazmanian Devils like 'em for over a year, ha!
But it's just a legend....
The story goes that those mystical birds should nest on an island nearby, in the "Lost Valley".

So of course, Taz went ahead, on the hunt for those birds.
Just to make himself one giant omelet and thus begins the quest for the giant eggs!

In his quest Taz will face dangerous carnivore plants, The Bushrats, various monsters and other exotic Tasmanian creatures.

Yes. Up to this point on the surface it's all very much the same game - as well as the same review.
But where the differences appear are on the game itself.

The Mega Drive version was developed by by Recreational Brainware with some help from Sega of America.
It's about what you'd expect from a sidescrolling platformer.
Taz can run, jump and attack.
His main attack is his famous"whirlwind attack", his spin attack.
The spin here works unlike in its Master System counterpart (which was closer to Crash Bandicoot's over there).
Basically you just keep a button press and will spin infinitively - but beware! He goes really, really fast and it's really easy to lose control of this devil and run to certain death.
There's several items around to help you such as more lives and an invincibility.
Taz can also eat stuff with another button. You earn back some health by eating food or small enemies. And you can also get a "fire roar" by eating spicy stuff.
But avoid bombs or thrown them at enemies!

The game is about ~16 levels long.
You see the various usual tropes from these kind of games from that time, and then some.
Taz will have to explore a desert, a jungle, a car factory(??), a mine and finally ancient ruins to find this darned egg.

The game has several boss fights here and there.
Usually they're familiar faces from the cartoon but don't expect much familiarity.
Seriously you fight Bull and Axl they are driving a red around you need to stomp several times?

You see, the thing is as great as the game looks like - it's a very colorful exemplar 16-bit game - it looks nothing like its animated series namesake.
The game as a very odd weird feel to it, almost "creepy".
The enemies count amongst them some cartoon regulars such as those Bushrats you'll see plenty around.
But also carnivorous plants.
And rock-monsters.
And facehuggers(?!).
And realistic penguins.
And.. huh, something it doesn't match much the rest of the cartoony artstyle of the game.
Like some pixels have been taken out of another unrelated game that was scrapped at the same time.

Taz visits a very random car factory?
And the cars are giant there (compared to Taz' size), and the doors of the factory are ridiculously small. And it's building mechas/robots? Why? Are those elements that were recycled from some unrelated project?

The game also tries to "expand" its durability by throwing more and more frustrating segments and recycled stuff as you go along.
Were there trying to make up a reason to replay it/play longer?
You go back to some previously explored levels once or twice (another jungle level later on?).
You get the exact carbon copy of an earlier stage as penultimate stage?
The mine cart ride is also insanely difficult. It just goes way too fast and illogical enough to throw you off for cheap deaths.
The rapid river sounds like a fun idea, you know, jumping around tree logs "Frogger style". But without a shadow underneath his feet, and with a 2D-gameplay for a sidescrolling view only it's really difficult to make it out alive in one try....

The music is pretty good but also kind of unusual for this kind of game.
The score was composed by Mark Steven Miller and Jim Hedges.
It's sort of "interactive", and probably the only example I have of a musical soundtrack depending on the gameplay. Enemies got their own cues, jumping, spinning, etc. triggers other cues. It all depends on what is going on the screen.
It makes moments kinda cartoonysh (great!), but other times more chaotic when spider-thingies are jumping on and out of the screen.

Overall, it's a good game. Really.
Really off putting at first.
I remember being almost terrified by some of it as a kid.
I'm not kidding!

It looks and sounds like a pretty weird experience, some unrelated non-cartoony game where Taz has been thrown in it, random.

The memories probably embellished it, I remember thinking this was a fan-tas-tic game and really difficult.
But I finished it easy now, years later.
I found the game to be really short and the bosses ridiculously simple.
Only some very tricky levels will require all the lives and continues you might get to that point to overcome them.

I already reviewed the Master System version. It's basically the same idea, but done better, even it is way shorter!
On the Game Gear it's pretty similar in the overall design, gameplay and presentation. But also different, its own smaller handheld version.
It is mostly the same intact experience.
With a unique level design. It plays the same but the layouts are original to the GG.
The levels do follow the 16-bit version a lot more. While adding all new original segments with different gameplay such as a snowboarding segment, a flying stage,...
Other than that it's quite close in the general tone, idea and music & sound departement. 

The game proved enough popular at the time and sold quite well.
As do most Looney Tunes games anyways.
It was followed by a sequel 2 years later, titled Taz in Escape from Mars, this time closer to Looney Tunes cartoon in spirit.
I give it:
2 / 3 Bruces!

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