Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Inspector Gadget (SNES)

Inspector Gadget SNES title screen
Developer:AIM|Release Date:1993|Systems:Super Nintendo

This week on Super Adventures I'm finally taking a look at this Inspector Gadget game like I was asked to.

It's obviously based on that famous 80s cartoon about the inspector who has gadgets. You know, the one where his dog and niece do all the work while he stumbles through danger like a cyborg version of Inspector Clouseau... I think. To be honest I haven't seen the series since I was in its target age demographic so I'm way fuzzy on the details, but I can at least remember that the girl's called Penny and his dog's Brian. Or is that 'Family Guy' I'm thinking of?

'Inspector Gadget' was actually the very first animated series to be presented in stereo and... oh hang on I'm looking at the cartoon's Wikipedia page here, just give me a second.

Okay here's some video game trivia for you: this is the third Inspector Gadget game released, it only came out on the SNES, and it doesn't start with the proper cartoon theme tune! Plus it was apparently developed by a company called AIM and published by Hudson Soft. AIM aren't very well known (to me anyway, I'm sure Iron Man's fought them a few times), but they've already had a couple of their games onto my site: SWAT Kats, which was based on another cartoon, and Fausseté Amour, which probably wasn't.



Oh no, Penny's being chased by a henchmen and there's some other guy with a beard hiding in a bin, watching them. Watching and doing nothing.

BRAIN! The dog's called Brain, not Brian. You can see how I got them mixed up though.

Penny makes it sound like she wants the dog to run off and get help while she tries to stay one step ahead of Dr. Claw, but... she's got a henchman's arm around her and Dr. Claw's sitting right there, so I'm thinking she's pretty much caught at this point.

Now I get to see Gadget reading the message explaining all that stuff I already know while the comedy music works to dissolve my soul. It apparently never even occurred to the developers that people might not want to sit through this torture as it's entirely unskippable.

... still going huh?

Nice kitchen he's got here by the way, plenty of space. The place is tall enough that he could install a floor halfway up and turn the top half into an extra bedroom or something. Though he'd have to replace those giant sized kitchen appliances first. If Gadget walked off into the background he'd actually barely be tall enough to see the top of that cooker. He'd need to stand on a chair just to grab his toast... or use a gadget I guess.


EVENTUALLY.


I wonder why they've called the game Änspector Gadget at the top...

Wait, has this finished now, am I actually done with it? Awesome let's see the game then.

Oh c'mon start already! Nice car though, I've always liked the Gadgetmobile. I don't even know if it's called that, it's been so long that my memories may all be lies.

Wait wait wait! I just realised something.

The guy in the bin earlier was the Chief, spying on Penny and doing absolutely nothing to save her! What a bastard.


STAGE 1-1 (LIKE IT JUST SAID ABOVE THE CAR).


Alright I've finally hit gameplay. Turns out that the game is a platformer, huge shock. And look, trees on the first level! This is more of a graveyard than a forest level though so I'll give them a pass.

I'm currently standing in the purple rain in a cemetery outside of a haunted English castle. I have one plunger, 20 hats, 3 players and 299 time. Well, less now. I'll just go collect those 'glove on a stick' tokens and leap the tiny chasm then.

And I immediately run into a wall.

Hmm. I thought for sure I'd be able to latch onto those rings in the background but it doesn't seem like my boxing glove has a grab feature.

Well I'm entirely stuck here, might as well turn the game off and go play something out of my Steam library instead. Or maybe my GOG library! Or Uplay, Origin... only joking about the Uplay.

Hang on, I've figured it out. My plungers can be fired into the wall to form temporary platforms! Also I can switch gadgets with L and R for those times I'd rather use one of my other tricks. Like... whatever those blue rotor blades give me for instance.

Damn, I only made a few steps along before walking right into a mallet. Hang on, where'd my clothes fly off to? No one wants to see a cherished childhood idol running around in damp underwear!

The game's gone pulled a Super Ghouls'n Ghosts on me, using my clothing layers as hitpoints; though now that I think about it Fausseté Amour did the same thing as well. AIM were all about nude player characters in 1993 I guess.

A few daring leaps later in defiance of an angry storm and I've reached the end of the level. Though now I want to collect that spinning token. It might be blank and gadgetless, but it's gold and it's spinning around and I want it.

Turns out my daring leaps weren't really that death defying after all as I was able to safely drop beneath the broken bridge and reach the spinny thing through a cave.

Turns out that the spinny thing was actually a teleporter leading to the clown zone. Don’t remember that ever happening in the cartoon. But then again I couldn’t even remember the dog’s name so I’m not exactly an authority on the subject.

By the way check out that weird-ass inconsistent scrolling. I have to get right up to the edge of the screen to start the camera moving, but once it's in motion it slides across to give me enough space to see what's coming. Not sure what I'm going to do with these 34 extra hats, but a new coat's always appreciated and one of the hats was an 1UP in disguise.

I jumped on the bounce pad, reappeared back on stage 1 and almost immediately threw the extra life away by slipping down a hole trying to use those rings to get back up onto the bridge. Didn’t quite occur to me that I could just punch the blocks out above where the teleporter had been and simply jump out. At least now I’ve learned that there’s no mid-level checkpoints and getting killed kicks you right back to the start of the stage.

Before I fell I also learned that pulling down makes secret blocks flash, like this! Punch them once and they become visible, open them up and you get a hat (or something better). So basically it's a lot like Team Fortress 2.


STAGE 1-2.


I've found a second bonus teleporter right at the start of the next level, but I'm having a little trouble getting through to it. Don’t you just love repeatedly jumping up and down trying to get your attacks to connect with a block? First I'm a little too high, then a little too low, then a little too high...

I eventually smashed them all to pieces and grabbed the tokens hiding within (everything in this graveyard is haunted by collectables), but the bonus room turned out to be more or less the same as the last one. Still, more hats are always good... probably. In real life collecting a hundred hats means a future filled with storage problems and long nights on eBay, but in a video game it means that you're a god! Or maybe it'll give me an extra life, I don't actually know.


SOON.


So now Inspector Gadget is hovering over some giant stunned dog balloons in his stripy boxers by using the rotor blades that just folded out of his hollow head. He's supposed to be using handles to steer, but he's actually swimming.

What's really weird though, is that it doesn't seem to be making the number at the top go down when I use the gadget. It'd be nice if I really did have infinite uses of every power, but that's not typically how these things work, especially when there's numbers all over the screen.


STAGE 1-3.


Well I pretty much walked into that. Again.

In Fausseté Amour getting hit once leaves the player in their underwear, getting hit twice leaves them naked and dead. In this though I've been spared seeing Gadget's naked ass; instead he floats down the screen with an 'I don't know why this is happening either' expression.

The place is so Castlevania looking I feel like I should be using a whip, but I'm stuck with my spring-loaded punches. Actually I'm not! I just remembered that I can switch to arrows and attack henchmen from a distance! It's great to have options, but this is starting to remind me of Chaos in the Windy City and how bored I got with cycling weapons in that game. It'd be so much faster if I could hold down X and press up to select rotors, right to select arrows, down to select bombs etc. Damn now I suddenly feel like playing Super Smash Bros. for some reason.

Okay, that bomb launcher's worth definitely cycling weapons for. I can even hold on to the bomb for a little while to burn up some of the fuse and shorten the timer. And best of all, it doesn't cost anything to use either!

Hang on, what just happened to my hat counter? It flickers between 91 and 88 in that GIF, but I'm not doing anything but... oh, it's the ammo supply for my skills isn't it? Throwing a bomb costs 3 hats, so I've got 29 shots left. That's a little less than infinite.

D'oh.

I think I knew in my heart that something bad was going to happen when I stepped on that thing, I just assumed the game would give me a second to react. You don't instantly punish a player for not knowing how your level works, you give them a moment to get out of the mess they've gotten themselves in!


STAGE 1 BOSS.


Hey it's the fake arm chair from the cartoon's opening and... oh, it's just here to turn the lights on. Slowly.

No no, you just take however long as you need to light those candles, I'm sure there isn't anything more interesting I could be doing right now.

It may sound like I'm whining about nothing here, but that's because I've just had a premonition of the future, involving me losing this fight and having to sit through this every time I want to retry.

Oh shit, what's the room doing? WHAT IS THIS?

Okay that is actually a cool effect and henchmen falling out of the walls is a nice touch (except for when they land on me). The room keeps doing this for the whole fight, but actual fighting part seems pretty straightforward. I just have to dodge the flames and falling goons and hit the chandelier a few times. I should use my head though and try firing off arrows instead of... my head.

It took me a couple of tries but I eventually knocked its lights out and that apparently solved the ghost problem. It didn't solve the Penny problem though as she isn't even here! We came all the way to England for nothing!

Oh come on, not again.

I can live with the princess being in another clock tower, but not another one of these briefing interludes! All he does is s-l-o-w-l-y read a note, then throw it in his boss's face just before it explodes. For fuck's sake Chief, just tell him the mission with your mouth, save your eyebrows and save us all some time!

...

Just noticed he's got windows on three sides of his kitchen, that's pretty unusual.

...

Huh, look at the size of the pins holding the message up. A typical pin is around 9mm long, so that must mean the paper is approximately A2 poster sized and... man what am I even talking about? Next I'll be nitpicking about that teapot being too small to fit the Chief inside. Look what this game's driven me to!


STAGE 2-1.


Alright, the next level is a slippery slidey ice world... except without any slipping around. Gadget doesn't really 'do' momentum. He's not going to 'do' this level either at this rate, as behind that snowman is a dead end in the form of a solid wall of ice.

You might wonder why I'm showing this bit of the level instead of the wall, but look over on the left. That bit of ice doesn't have a shadow under it, meaning that it's my way out of here! I wish I could say I figured this out myself, but truth is I triggered it accidentally after 40 seconds of bombing scenery.

I... didn't really expect the designers to put a bottomless pit right underneath the falling bit of ice.


STAGE 2-2.


Huh, how did I not make that? I know his jump is fairly rubbish but even he can clear a gap that small. Oh hang on, there's wind on this stage and it's blowing in the opposite direction!

They've resisted the urge to make the snowy platforms slidey but it's still not a sure thing I'm going to end up going where I want to in this blizzard. I keep falling short or overshooting ledges, and that's a bit awkward as I'm climbing up on this level and if I slip...

... I could end up falling for a while.

At least there's no falling damage. Plus it seems that the hat hook doesn't use my limited hat supply so I can keep doing this over and over until I get it right or go mad trying. Though I am using up my limited time supply.

Seems like the developers couldn't find enough space in memory to have separate sprites for characters facing the other way, so these nefarious Einsteins are patrolling the skies in tiny 'DAM' copters. They did get the rotor blades spinning though, regardless of what my GIF above would have you believe. I cut out a whole bunch of frames to get the filesize down but I didn't realise any of them were going to be important until now.


TWO LIVES LATER.


Aww screw it, I'm just going to use my plunger platforms and climb up to the top this way. It doesn't seem to use up my hats and it'll probably even be faster than using ledges.

So you can add 'multiple paths through the levels' to the list of features.


STAGE 2-3.


It's the old 'enemy explodes into pieces that can kill you' trick! And I thought I was being sensible by keeping my distance and using arrows. Check out the delay on my bow by the way, you can almost count to two before in the time between hitting the button and seeing it fire.

I was actually doomed to begin with really, as it seems that the timer isn't reset between levels! I would've never made it to the top in 111 seconds, but getting killed has given me my full five minutes back.

Oh, the wheels turn and shove you off when you land on them? Well that's just awesome.

This is another level with the exit at the top, so falling isn't instant death, but it does mean a long climb back up. Over and over again.

Stop sliding off the wheel already you... augmented bastard!

I tried using my grappling hand on those hooks on the left but that was a dead end. There's just no getting around this. UNLESS... I grapple back up there and hover across with the helicopter hat!

Oh shit, I just realised I've wasted a minute on this so far and there's only 50 seconds left. Go Gadget, go!


42 SECONDS LATER.


MADE IT WITH 4 SECONDS ON THE CLOCK! (And stumbled across an extra life along the way). Would've been nice if I could've pulled a 'Goldfinger' and ended on 007, but I'm not exactly the most competent agent.

Fortunately the next stage is a boss fight so it'll reset the timer for me. Wait, no, I don't want another boss fight! I hate boss fights!


STAGE 2 BOSS.


Well I ballsed that one up. Fortunately I restart at the beginning at the boss fight instead of the beginning of the whole world, at least while my lives last.

Turns out that there's a trick to beating him though: run to the far left, get as high up as you can, and shoot him with arrows until he drops the chain. Then shoot him with arrows until he's dead. I had to switch sides a couple of times, dodging the pendulum without falling into the pit, but I got him in the end.


STAGE 3-2, A WHILE LATER.


Well that wasn't exactly fair, I didn't have room on the boat to dodge the cardboard native's darts! You pretty much have to know in advance to ignore the creepy fish and stay at the front here or else you're screwed.

What's going on with that flying fish anyway? It looks like it's charging its attack then shooting something out of its mouth.

It was firing its skeleton out? Okay that's pretty hardcore. How much does a fish have to hate a guy to leap 12 feet out of the water and spit its own skull at him?

That was my last life, so I finally get to see the continue screen! There's no sign that I've got a limited number of them, but no sign of a password either. Also like Super Mario Bros. 3 it turns out that this is all just a play acted out by the characters! Maybe.

It's be cool if the continues restarted me at the beginning of the level I failed at, but that's what lives do, so I've sent way back to the start of stage 3-1 instead. Great.


STAGE 3 BOSS, SOME TIME LATER.


I actually decided to quit entirely and replay the game from the start to store up some lives, and you can see how well that plan went. Well I did manage to keep 5 stashed away before the start of this boss fight but they lasted seconds against this guy and his spinning spiked orbs. I've even run out of hat power, cutting off my weapons, and I can't find any way to get more.

Another problem is that I have to pull off tricky jumps to get around while I'm fighting the guy, and they're not Gadget's strong point. Half the time I ended up cornered on a lower branch. I was having a bit of luck with my red assault rotor blades, but no ammo means no more special attacks, so... I'm struggling.

And there goes my final life again. Do I want to replay the last two levels all over again with even less lives to give the boss another shot? I'm thinking... no. 


CONCLUSION


Inspector Gadget looks and sounds like your average platformer, but after playing it for an hour it's become clear to me that it really is an average platformer. It's fairly well made, fairly generic and most of the time it's been fair so far, but I'm not feeling any desire to stick with it. Part of the reason for that is the continue system; a game has to be a lot more addictive than this to get me to replay two or three levels every time I wipe out in a boss fight.

The game's not a tedious collect 'em up at least and the levels are the opposite of maze-like while still giving some room to explore. I suppose the gadgets add some novelty to it but they're so awkward to switch between that I left arrows selected and rarely used something else unless I had to.

You couldn't call it a long game and someone more skilled and patient than me could be done with it in a couple of hours (I checked YouTube). But if you're not that skilled expect to run out of time, replay multiple stages multiple times over, and really start feeling the lack of passwords, level select, world map, or any other system to let you walk away and come back later.

Though as far as cartoon tie-ins go I've played far worse than this. If you're after a retro SNES platformer to play and you're already bored of all the good ones it might be worth a look. It's likely a better use of your time than watching the Matthew Broderick movie at least. Or the French Stewart one.


Thanks for reading all or some of my words about yet another game you likely don't much care about! Why not repay me for all my hard work by sharing your thoughts about the game and your feelings about my writing in the comment box below? (Or with money.)

8 comments:

  1. Yai!! You reviewed the "inspector Gadget" SNES game!!! You're awesome, Ray!!

    Inspector Gadget is my childhood hero! I don't care much for any of the spinoffs, remakes, sequels or reboots, yet I am a really, really big fan of the original 1983 series. So much of a big fan, in fact, that I must be proof of how natural imprint applies to humans too: how else could an adult woman enjoy that cartoon so darn much if her brain didn't get hardwired for it after exposure during childhood?

    I didn't actually play this SNES game when I was a kid, however. I got it only one or two years ago, after I had gotten to think "inspector Gadget would make a great videogame, has nobody ever tried to make one?". Then I got the feeling that, out of all attempts to produce a videogame cash-in about my favorite cyborg detective, the SNES one would be the more decent.

    And, hey - maybe it's because when it comes to cartoon tie-ins I always expect the worst, but I think this game's enjoyable if you like the cartoon. In fact, as someone who actually knows the first series quite well, I can say my one big disappointment is that he seems to only and always use the hat, as if he didn't have other gadgets. AIM might know a lot about their nemesis Iron Man but surely didn't research enough Gadget's technology, because why would the inspector take a lantern out of his hat when he has a torch on his middle finger? And why would he shoot arrows from his hat when he has a laser gun on his index finger? And what about the rocket rollerblades on his feet!

    As for that bottom comment you made in your review, c'mon, Ray.... reading about games I would never have even heard about is one of the reasons I love this site! (Incidentally, is there a way to make a donation without PayPal?)

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    1. If they'd given him more abilities then they'd have needed boot and finger counters too and things would've gotten even more complicated!

      Also the PayPal donation screen should let you donate with a credit card or bank account instead if you click 'Continue' near the middle of the page. Using that method also gives you the fun of filling in a dozen text boxes!

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  2. 1993? That's a little late for a tie-in, although I suppose it took them twenty years to make a game of The Thing.

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    1. Plus you've got The Flintstones, the Jetsons and Yogi Bear all getting SNES games the year after. I guess they were still getting good ratings in repeats (and Inspector Gadget actually had a TV movie in December '92).

      Also I can think of another video game tie-in that's more inexplicable: The Warriors video game came out 26 years after the movie! How did that even happen? Plus Alien Isolation is a sequel to a 35 year old film that mimics its art direction exactly, though it's no big mystery how that one got made.

      Oh, plus From Russia With Love, which came out 42 years after the film and stars the same actor!

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    2. You could argue that The Warriors does make sense in that the film is more or less a scrolling beat-em-up, it's just that it came out years before the genre was invented. If anything, it's proof that time travel is real. Or something.

      From Russia With Love though, there's no explaining that one.

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    3. There was also the Gilligan's Island NES game from 1990, which to this day remains my pick for most inexplicable licensed title.

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    4. The 1990 Capcom arcade / NES adaptions of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strip from 1905 probably trumps them all.

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  3. :D The most disturbing moment in this game is...last fight with Dr Claw, Why?
    I dont say anything but trust me :P no one expect this just like Spanish Inquisition

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