Monday, June 10, 2013

VGR Taz in Escape from Mars

And finally, here's the fourth Taz game, and a direct sequel to the Megadrive episode!

VGR: Taz in Escape from Mars aka Escape from Mars Starring Taz
From HeadGames/Sega of America
Played on Mega Drive
Also available on Master System & Game Gear 

Type Sidescrolling
Year 1994

Back in the early 1990s, cartoon animal characters were huge in the entertainment industry, mascots were everywhere. It was during that same time that animation went through a revival of sorts, thanks to the likes of Warner Bros' Animation's Silver Age and the renewed success of Disney films.

It was the perfect time to bring Looney Tunes back, and welcome them to the world of video games. What with the graphics finally catching up enough to retranslate cartoons in pixel art.

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

Escape from Mars was the last 16-bit game based around The Tasmanian Devil. If the previous ones were really loosely based on the 90s sitcom-cartoon show Taz-Mania, Escape completely ditches the license to try being is own thing.

So. What's it about?

Escape from Mars follows everyone's favorite fictional Tasmanian devil who has to, well, escape from Mars.

To be fair.. It's not that simple exactly.

One day as Taz was minding his own business, Taz was captured by Marvin the Martian who brought him to his Martian Zoo. You see, Taz was the last missing "rare" specimen he was missing in his intergalactic collection.

Now you have to help Taz escape back to his planet, but it won't be that easy!

There are 6 worlds, each about ~2-3 acts plus a boss fight at the end.

After battling your way through Mars and facing several other creatures in their cages, Taz will send himself on the nearby asteroid called "Moleworld". But the path is still quite long and will take you after that from Planet X, and momentarily back on Earth on the wrong place in Mexico where you will face Bugs Bunny classic Toro the bull. After a wrong turn to Australia, Taz will end up in Transylvania, in an Haunted Castle where he will face an evil scientist and Gossamer in a laboratory. And finally, it's back to Mars for a final confrontation, at Marvin's house and back home after that!


There game could just as well been titled "Journey back to Tasmania"! But you do end up escaping from Mars. Twice.

The game plays exactly like the previous Megadrive Taz-mania title. More or less, with the exception of a few new little gimmicks depending on the situation.

Taz can still spin like the devil he is. The unlimited spin power is a welcome addition. And jump as previously. Sadly the growl animation was lost in the process (aww... why!? the A button* is not even used!)

This time however each level will bring its own little new concepts to the table to shake things up all the time. And it's up to the player to catch the little details, try new things, adapt himself to the situation and reach the new platforms that way.

For exemple Taz can jump down smaller platformers while holding down some times. His spin attack can give him a sort of wall-bounce ability like out of a pinball depending on the walls if they're close enough. You can even spin your way along walls and the ceiling. Flip switches to activate some things. Dig through the ground while spinning. Flying momentarily while carrying umbrella-like objects. Etc. There's always a new ability to find and understand on your own, which often comes back as the next act's main gimmick. It's a very simple yet clever way to introduce new gameplay elements.

Returning "powers" from the past game come back. Taz can spit rocks and breath flames after eating some special items.

Speaking of which Taz has an health bar in this game. And as before, you can take several hits and simply eat some food to replenish your health. But be careful! Avoid bombs and the many dynamites lying around!

Taz in Escape from Mars was developed by HeadGames, the makers behind the cult famous Pink Goes to Hollywood or the most obscure Sonic title ever, Wacky Worlds Creativity Studio.

The game is full of various Looney Tunes cameos and little animations and details that make this game that much closer to old Merry Melodies cartoon shorts (rather than the Taz-mania show or the random abstract backgrounds from the previous game - facehuggers and cubic monsters anyone?). It simply looks great. The cartoony art style finally capture the Looney Tunes feel right down to the animations and design.

There's little cameos from Yosemite Sam and even Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner!

The bosses are quite challenging this time compared to the generic easy foes from the past games. Such as the previously mentioned Bull and also Marvin's dog K-9!

The levels are use and quite non-linear. They often require backtracking a lot to some secret switch or hidden door before reaching the Exit-sign.

Afterwards, Taz will hop himself onto an ACME box crate onto the next level.

Overall, it's a fantastic title!

Easily the best Taz game out of all these 4 classic games. 

The cartoonish look is great. Simply oustanding, colorful and fitting.

The levels are long and quite challenging. There's usually always a check point after some rather difficult bits so try to survive that long to save your progress. 

It's a much better game than the previous episode. Fun, with lots of action and closer to the Looney Tunes more so than any past game combined (well, personally I'm rather fond of the Master System episode). 

The gameplay finally found its right balance between the speed and the platforming, with the welcomed little new additions to the gameplay.

Taz in Escape from Mars was also ported to the Game Gear in a fairly similar adaptation. It's mostly the same overall game (with new details such as Daffy Duck!). There also was a Master System port by TecToy port, exclusive to Brazil. (and based on the GG iteration)
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Bruces!

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