Sadly, the game doesn’t have Vegan police, nor some bass battle. But it does have kick-ass-ery.
The movie that took the title of my favourite movie of 2010 belongs to Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I just loved the movie so much. It was imaginative, action-filled, humourous, and just fun. I watched the movie several times, and still have fun watching it. What I remember from it was the tons of video game references, including Zelda, River City Ransom, and so many more. So, it was pretty evident that I was part of the target audience. I never even heard of the comic before the movie came out.
What I also didn’t know until afterwards, was probably not privy to others as well. There’s several scenes where bands play venues, and they have video game references to the band names. One of the bands mentioned, which performed at Lee’s Palace (which is an actual concert hall in Toronto), was called the Clash at Demonhead. And apparently, that’s the name of an NES game. I did not know that before or during watching the movie for the first time. I never even heard of the game until then.
One year later, during my trip to the flea market, I found the game, box and instructions for dirt cheap. I had to take the opportunity and play the game. After all, something this unknown has to either be really good, or really sucky. Isn’t that how it works?
One of the big things, noticing on the box, besides the awesome 80’s art that looks like something from a Heavy Metal comic cover. Is the text.
Professor Plum and his designs for the dreaded, death-dealing doomsday device, DEAD END, are in the clutches of the diabolical LAWBREAKERS – a sinister society dedicated to the destruction of mankind. It’s only a matter of time before the DEAD END device is assembled and the final countdown to global Armageddon begins.
As Sgt. Billy “Big Bang” Blitz – the youngest and gutsiest commando of the Special Assault Brigade for Real Emergencies (S.A.B.R.E.) – your mission is to foil the LAWBREAKERS’ insidious plot. To accomplish your mission, you must find the shortest route to the summit of Demonhead Mountain, where the poor professor is being held prisoner. Rescue the professor, and you save the world from total destruction. But if you fail …
Wait, so Professor Plum made a doomsday device? With Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory with a candlestick? And the bad guys are a group called the Lawbreakers? How clever of a name, huhh? But doesn’t that sound awesome as a plot?
The game plays like your typical side-scoller adventure. You fire a gun at enemies as you jump, swim and run to the opposite side of the screen. He jumps pretty high, almost moon-like jumping, but it’s controllable after a while to get used to. Firing the gun can be annoying sometimes, because there are those flying enemies at the exact altitude where hitting him with the gun is annoyingly hard. There are other guns to use that do other kinds of attacks, but you have to buy them. And once you use one, you have to fire the whole gun before you can go back to the default pistol. There’s no switching from one to another, and that can be bad when you choose the wrong gun for the wrong situation.
Many people have used the word “Metroidvania” to describe it, because of the side-scrolling and large areas to explore. It’s a fair word to describe it. What makes this game unique to Metroid and Castlevania is that the game has a large map, consisting of many paths called routes, and you choose which route to take at each possible intersection. Getting to point A to point B is by way of a side-scrolling mini-adventure. Each route may have something unique, like a character to talk to, a path to a boss, or to a store. You literally have to keep a pad and pencil with you while playing this game to keep track of the objectives and routes to take. It’s a game that teaches and encourages good notes. The other intimidating part of the game is that if you put it away for a while, you won’t remember what you accomplished or not, making the password you have worthless and forcing you to start over.
There’s a store on one of the beaten paths, and it’s hard to get to when you are further into the game. That’s why it gives you an item that let’s you summon the store when you need it. It’s a pretty cool idea, and makes the needed items more accessable. Just make sure you collected enough money to get the good items.
There’s also a casino type area where you can trade in your collected gold, and get cash for it. It’s just a simple 50-50 shell game to get double what the gold is worth, so there’s no strategy, but the payout regardless is much needed when you have the gold to trade.
Along your path, you find a hermit that gives you magic spells to aid you along the way. You only start with one, which makes you into mini, similar to Mario in the newer games, and along the way, you’ll get more, including a transport spell, which is effective. You need to collect the apples along the way to gain the force needed to activate the spells. Wait, you use the force in this game? Can I use my mind to get the light sabre back into my hand while hanging upside down? Oh you were thinking the same thing. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
If you noticed in the last three paragraphs, I use “collect” three times. You collect money, you collect gold, you collect “force” apples . That’s three things you need to collect along your travels. That’s a lot of dropped items to go get when you need to save the world. Eventually money becomes like Zelda Rupees, where you get so much that it becomes abundant. Unless you start over. That’s right, when you restart your game, you lose all money earned, so go on a shopping spree before you get your password, or you’ll lose it all.
The graphics are bright and sharp, and the music is pleasant and catchy. The creatures are odd to say the least, including what looks like a smiling gorilla in a hat, but some of them feel duplicated and just re-skinned. Spawning points for said enemies are odd as well, because they have been known to spawn above chasms and such, so they plummet to their death before they become a threat. The characters look anime based, and the main character gives his collection of wacky faces to make it more entertaining. Bang even makes a whiny face when he’s hit, and even when he hit his head on a ceiling from his jump, which is weird at first glance. Climbing has the weirdest animation I’ve seen in a while, because he jets out his butt while climbing. Who does that? When he dies, it’s where the weird factor goes to nine thousand. His spirit flies upwards, which isn’t out of the ordinary part, it’s the sprite they use when you die. What the hell is he doing when he … I honestly can’t describe it. You have to look at the image to decide.
The health bar is confusing at times. It starts with 4 pips of health, but it seems that sometimes you didn’t take damage, an sometimes you did. You sometimes have to estimate how much damage you’ve taken, and it makes it harder to figure out if you need to use your health inventory at times. What’s also confusing is the apparent missing health from some areas. See, some routes have water to cross, and if you dive into the water, you are taking damage and not realizing it, because he goes underwater when he lands. So, if you are jumping while crossing to shoot at the bad guys, you could be taking more damage than just getting hit by the enemies. There is a way to skip across the water with timed jumping to prevent this, but it leads to uncontrollable situations when enemies show up.
If whoever designed the password system had a face, I would punch it. You have to buy a password every time you want one, which at least the first one’s free. It’s a 30-character alphanumeric password, and the font used can make it confusing which character to enter. When entering the password, the controls feel odd, and sometimes unresponsive, you get a grating sound when you select and going back and forth to correct is tedious. The crazy part of it is when you start up the game, you get the start and password options, like any regular game, but when you die, you get only the continue option. Meaning if you want to enter the password again, you have to physically reset the game.
Overall, the game is fun, and deep, and hard. This game is the very definition of an undiscovered gem, as it’s very underrated. It’s not even available on the Virtual Console, that’s how unknown the game is. If you find a rare copy, latch onto it and give it a whirl, because it’s a great game to try out.