|Developer:||Sega Technical Institute|||||Release Date:||1995|||||Systems:||Genesis/Mega Drive, GBA, Windows|
This week on Super Adventures, I'm playing a game that was requested roughly... I'm guessing four years ago. I got to it eventually, that's the important thing.
I don't know why I've been putting off playing Comix Zone for so long, but I'm thinking the fact that it's bastard hard might have something to do with it. I didn't want to start it up, get my ass kicked, and quit on the first level. Not for this game, it's far too pretty for that.
The game was ported across to systems like PC and GBA, then later emulated on others, but it's mainly known as being Mega Drive/Genesis game released towards the end of its days. The concept actually came from an Amiga demo video from 1992 called "Joe Pencil Trapped in the Comix Zone", but Amiga owners never got to play the final game! An Amiga version would've bombed in '95 though, and the Mega Drive didn't exactly rake in the cash either. I guess it was just bad timing, releasing such a two dimensional game at the point where everyone was going crazy over polygons.
Though this is interesting: the game's letting me map the block button to moves like 'Shoulder Smash', 'Scissor Kick', and 'Macho Yell' instead. But as much as I'd like the game to handle blocking for me, I want to know how it plays with the default settings first.
There's also a jukebox option here, which is good as I love the game's grunge soundtrack. It's some of the best music I've heard in a Mega Drive game, rivalling The Ooze (which makes sense as it's by the same guy, Howard Drossin). But the trouble with The Ooze is that the instruments sound like crap, and Comix Zone uses the same GEMS sound driver so... well I've heard healthier noises coming out of the console. Here have a YouTube link to the entire Comix Zone soundtrack to give you something to listen to while you read.
Actually it probably wasn't all that sudden, as his desk has changed between screens. The lamp's now clamped to the side instead of the top, a tray of art supplies has appeared, and the can of Soda's vanished. I only noticed because I was worried his drink had spilled all over his work and I was looking for it.
It's my site's fault really, I've been living in the 90s so long that I'm starting to look like it.
Anyhow this unnamed villain leaps out, explains his sinister plan to kill his creator so that he can become real, and then throws him into unfinished comic page. So there's a bit of a Cool World/Monkeybone/Last Action Hero thing going on here.
Toonstruck, though Sketch Turner has become as illustrated as anything else in this world. Plus I've figured out why he has to do his comics at night; it's because he spends his days either in the gym or doing extreme rollerblading. He does not look like a starving artist.
Either way, he definitely hasn't spent much time working on his dialogue.
Sketch: "Alissa, I'm not your super-hero!"So it turns out that Sketch is the Chosen One and he's... got a job to do. Right, I suppose I'll pick up those items then.
Alissa: "Just relax! Let's not waste any time... you have a job to do."
Sketch: "A job? What are you talking about??"
Alissa: "That's all for now -- I'll be in touch."
Sketch: "This is crazy !@#!!"
I guess the boundaries of this reality are too tough to be breached by a puny bomb, so maybe I'll just try walking forwards into the ruins of Newer York like the arrow says.
It's crazy to think that this is running on the same console that once had Altered Beast as its pack-in game.
|Altered Beast (Mega Drive/Genesis)|
There's only one attack button, but I can press different directions when I hit it to pull off different moves. Plus there's special attacks I can activate by... I don't actually know, but they're there. I've got a separate jump button, but otherwise the combat actually feels more like a fighting game, as I'm locked to the one plane, wailing on a single opponent in a small arena.
The guy's actually pretty good for a comic artist though!
Man, that falling animation is so perfect that the animator must have been working from a reference. I'm picturing them filming a friend slamming their face onto a mat over and over until they got it right.
Hey, I've still got that medicine bottle item with me. The game's not exactly throwing extra health my way so I'm hesitant to use it so soon, but I'm also hesitant to lose so I'm downing the thing and getting my half my life bar back.
These green enemies are a bit more agile than the guy I met earlier, with the ability to hook onto pipes and teleport, but they're still only fighting me one at a time. Plus they take a while to kill, and it doesn't help when my arch-nemesis on the outside is pulling a Bugs Bunny and pencilling in reinforcements.
I decided to take my revenge on the barrels by kicking them, but that cost me health too! This is one of the few games that takes into account what happens when soft skin meets sharp metal, and I don't like it. Especially seeing as I have to punch my way through a metal grate to get out of this room.
I love how the screen's always shaking as I'm knocking enemies into the sides, it feels like I'm inflicting some serious hurt on them. So it's a bit disappointing when they get right back up and I have to start hitting them again.
Also it's a cruel trick they pull right after this, putting a flying enemy above a hole, so I have to keep jumping up to hit him, then pulling back again.
Wow I literally only got that Sketch Turner pun just now. Beautiful effect though.
Also that's a really well behaved rat. He's been sitting there perfectly still this whole time, diligently keeping the bottom left corner of the paper down.
It's his own fault really for giving his villain the power to step into the real world, and doing it in a lightning storm as well! It's such a newbie mistake.
Wait, that's it? I don't get any continues? I don't get any lives? I expected the game to have a tough but fair level of challenge, but nope it's just a dick. Well screw that then!
But before I stop, I promised someone that if I played Comix Zone I'd take a look at the Game Boy Advance version, so I'm going to do that.
|Game Boy Advance|
Also that guy needs to sort his nails out.
|Game Boy Advance|
Two new options are standing out to me here: 'Continue' and 'Multiplayer'. The multiplayer apparently lets you battle it out with a friend against the clock, which requires a second copy of the game and a friend who's interested. That continue option's a lot more interesting to me though, as it lets you pick up on the stage you left off with full health instead of restarting at the beginning every time. So the GBA game's considerably more possible to beat.
|Game Boy Advance|
Plus I solved the mystery of the fans this time! Roadkill's a cunning rodent and likes to activate switches when he finds them. All I need to do is deploy him nearby and pick him up when he's done. It's just a shame he takes up one of my precious item slots.
Roadkill can also find items hidden in the level and if he ever does I'll let you know.
|Game Boy Advance|
|Game Boy Advance|
Anyway I got surrounded and overwhelmed, and soon found myself sent back to the start of the stage again. Well as overwhelmed as you can get when there's only two enemies on screen. I gave the stage a few it a few more tries, but unless I spontaneously get good this is as far as I go for now.
Comix Zone is one of the prettiest, slickest, most 90s games you can find on the Mega Drive, and the only real flaw I came across during gameplay is the fact that it doesn't want to be played.
It's got the style, challenge and length of an arcade game, but what's missing are the continues. Arcade games are designed to sucker you into putting more money in to keep it going, while this on the other hand is designed to make it impossible to finish in one rental. It kicks you back to square one any chance it gets, so you have to memorise where the items are hidden and figure out the optimal way through all the obstacles through trial and error.
Of course that's not necessarily a bad thing, as games like Hotline Miami are all about coming back again and again to try different approaches and fine tune your plan. But you can see how many hits the enemies take in this; replaying old fights soon becomes a tedious grind, and the shortage of health items means that you're accumulating wounds whenever you make a mistake. It's just not a 'one more try' kind of game for me.
Actually there's one other flaw that's just come to mind. When you think of the most famous games in this genre like Streets of Rage, Golden Axe etc. they've all got one thing in common: co-op. Who wants to play through a game like this alone? I mean Roadkill's a great sidekick, but it's not really the same.
Though one thing I am going to be playing more of is the soundtrack, because I love these tunes. They're a bit harsh coming out of the Mega Drive's sound chip, but the composer thought of that and in Europe the game came with a bonus CD containing six songs he recorded properly with guitars and a singer and everything. And you can listen to them with this handy YouTube link! In North America it came with a CD full of heavy rock from bands like Danzig and Jesus and Mary Chain instead, which might be good too! I dunno.
I would say that anyone who finds 16-bit art appealing, and likes walking to the right and hitting things should give Comix Zone a look if you can, as it's a beautiful game in motion and pretty fun to play. Just don't expect to see much of it unless you're persistent enough to spend hours mastering a half-hour game.
(For the Japanese version.)