Monday, July 30, 2018

2018 Southern Fried Gaming Expo BLOWOUT! (Part One — The Video Games!)

Part one of our special two-part coverage of Atlanta's best — well, only, really — old-school gaming convention!


By: Jimbo X

I've been covering the Southern Fried Gaming Expo (formerly the Southern Fried Gameroom Expo ... I honestly can't remember when they changed the namesake) in Atlanta for the last four years, and even in this, my jaded years as a gamer/smart ass internet blogger, it's still one of the few seasonal events that I get genuinely excited about each and every year. And really, how could I? It's an opportunity to spend an entire afternoon playing old-ass arcade and pinball games, with the occasional opportunity to shoot the shit with Billy Mitchell and that dude from The Last Starfighter. Simply put, it would be a sin to miss out on something so majestic, wouldn't it?

To be fair, though, this year something felt a little, I don't know, off. Maybe it's the fact that there were probably twice as many people there as there was last year (thus, making it damned near impossible to get your mitts on certain high-demand coin-ops) or maybe it was the lack of older retro games and pinball units (which have since been supplanted by a ton of newer pinball and video units, largely based on properties like Iron Maiden and The Walking Dead that I honestly couldn't give less of a fuck about.) Up until now, the SFGE has felt like a celebration of the old guard, but in 2018, it felt ... well, like something you'd expect to see in 2018, complete with PS4 tournaments and a bunch of shitty indie developers hawking their crappy shovelware games and, of course, proud feminist "gamers" bitching and belly-aching about the yearly pinball tournament being "segregated" along gender lines. Granted, there was still enough authentic retro appeal to keep it worth the admission price, but take heed, organizers; if you don't find a way to curb the blowback of modernity and keep things focused on ACTUAL old-school gaming, it's only a matter of time until this beloved rite of summer, sadly, goes the way of Drive-Invasion. Hey — don't say I didn't warn you people. 

As always, considering the staggering amount of stuff going on at the show, this year I've yet again had to break up my coverage into two separate articles. This first one will focus on the video game/ephemeral aspects of the show, while part two will focus solely on the silverball side of the equation. But yeah, that's enough idle chatter for now. Howzabout we start getting our hands on some well-worn joysticks, motherfuckers?


Buster Bros!

One of Capcom's less heralded early '90s coin-ops, Buster Bros. is a game that's pretty much its own genre. Like Bubble Bobble, it's a single-screen kill-em-up, but it certainly employs a novel hook (literally.) You see, there are these giant bubbles (take that Taito!) you have to shoot with a grappling hook. You shoot them all and you get to move on to the next stage — so yeah, we're talking some really elementary stuff right here. Except the gameplay is complicated because of two things: one, you can ONLY shoot vertically (and after that, there's a considerable half-second recoil delay before you can fire again) AND every time you pop one of the bubbles, they halve into smaller, faster bouncing bubbles and if they touch you, you're fucking deader than Nikolai Volkoff.


Of course, this was a slightly modified unit, as apparent by these snazzy after-market glowing buttons and joysticks. I know a lot of hardcore arcade purists are really turned off by shit like this, but personally, I don't have a problem with it. I mean, it's not like the dude who owns this cabinet defaced an original, mint Super Street Fighter II unit or anything like that. And as you will see, those aftermarket parts actually kinda' complemented a "defect" with the hardware itself.


I can't recall the technical term for this discoloration (and I'm also too lazy to look it up on Google at the moment), but it's a pretty common occurrence with older CRT screens. Back in my day, the solution was to drag a magnet across the screen, which would help wipe away most of the rainbow swirl pattern. But apparently the dude who owns this cabinet just gave up after a few swipes, thus the giant, spectral green and purple smudges everywhere. Still, I reckon it gives an otherwise unremarkable title a little bit of charm and character. I mean, if you're going to play a game as frustrating as Buster Bros., you might as well play it with everything looking like the cover of a fucking vaporwave album.


Crime Fighters!

Look, I know this game sucks, but man, is that headboard display something or what? I just love the poor man's Roddy Piper on the right, all casually knocking a motherfucker out and whatnot. Oh, and you eagle-eyed readers may have realized all those shirtless dudes in Zubaz apparel around the video monitor are actually holdovers from another Konami game, the utterly forgettable arcade 'rasslin game The Main Event


As this bitchin' player terminal indicates, up to four people can get involved in the cyber-vigilantism. Also, I love how the word "Crime" is stylized in an unmistakable hip-hop graffiti font, which sorta implies this game is subconsciously about beating the shit out of young black people from crime-ridden, impoverished neighborhoods, just 'cause.


That said, the game itself is pretty ho-hum. Certainly, this ain't no Turtles in Time we're dealing with here, despite Konami's pedigree for excellent four-player brawl-a-thons. The controls are stiff and the combat system — which is limited to rudimentary punching and kicking attacks — is far too basic. Even the visuals and character design is rather uninspired, making this one nothing more than a half-assed attempt at replicating the success of Final Fight. We'll give it a few points for arousing some 1980s action move nostalgia, but beyond that there's really not a whole lot to experience here at all.


NBA Jam!

This is undoubtedly one of the 10 most important arcade games of the 1990s, and easily the most influential sports game of the decade, period. As important as the game is, culturally, to video gaming, a lot of people tend to forget that it's also a damned good arcade basketball experience, which, almost 30 years later, is every bit as fun to pick up and play now as it was in the heyday of Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley.


While pretty much everybody agrees that the follow-up Tournament Edition was a vastly superior game, it's not like the gulf between T.E. and the original game is as vast as, say, the chasm between Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl. It's still an instantly enjoyable, instantly accessible experience, and it's a lot more strategic in nature than most people want to give it credit for. Arch Rivals, this shit ain't — you've actually got to be able to play halfway solid D in this one if you want to beat even the shittiest teams in the game (and for the record, I still say the Mavericks are worse than the Clippers.)


Something I totally forgot replaying this cabinet was the fact the stand-up was a four-player game. For whatever reason, I could've sworn this was two-player only, and for the life of me I just can't recall ever seeing four people on this unit at the same time — which, surely, is something you'd think I would've noticed, considering how ubiquitously popular NBA Jam was back in the day. Hell, maybe it's early onset dementia ... or possibly the Mandela effect in action? 


Kickman!

My favorite thing about the expo is definitely getting a chance to get my hands on games that not only have I never seen in-person before, but never even heard of before. Well, we can safely add Midway's Kickman to the list of old-school obscurities the SFGE added to my gaming lexicon.


Now, considering the game only employs a trackball and one button, you'd think it'd be a pretty simple, straightforward experience. Well, this is certainly a far more intricate game than you'd assume, since it incorporates gameplay components of Arkanoid, Space Invaders and even Pac-Attack ... all at the same time. 


The core mechanics of the game are deceptively simply. You roll a clown wearing a World War I pointy-hat back and forth across the screen, popping balloons that fall from the sky. But then the designers throw a curveball at you and start dropping Pac-Mans into the mix, and from there you have to sandwich two of the buggers in-between three like-colored balloons to make them vanish. Keep in mind, you have to do this while also juggling all the other unlike-hued balloons that keep falling from the sky. Needless to say — this one is infinitely more challenging than it looks.


Zoar!

According to legend, this is one of the rarest arcade games ever made. In reality, it's hardly anything more than a mild reworking of Data East's previous SHMUP Mission-X, albeit with some mildly churched up visuals.


This is one of those shooters were it's half straight-forward, traditional SHMUP shooting and half "bombing raid" SHMUP, where you have to time and target enemies beneath you that you can't destroy with a direct line of fire. Honestly, I've never been a big fan of SHMUP variations of the like, and frankly, Zoar didn't do a whole hell of a lot to convert me.


I mean, I wouldn't call Zoar a "bag game," per se, but it certainly feels underwhelming compared to its contemporaries. As one of the earlier entries in the vertically-scrolling SHMUP genre, it definitely has some value as a historical object, but gameplay-wise? There's absolutely nothing here you haven't already experience before ... and executed better.


High School Graffiti Mikie!

All I can say is holy goddamn fucking shit, how am I *just now* learning about this game? This is easily one of the most awe-inspiring video games I've ever played, and less than 30 seconds in I was literally standing there with my mouth agape at what I was witnessing. That, I assure you, isn't hyperbole — this Konami offering really did stun me THAT much.


A good 20 years before Bully, this game was celebrating juvenile delinquency in all its virtual glory. In the very first stage of the game, you're objective is to run around a classroom, ass bumping students to death and headbutting your teacher in the testicles until he doubles over in anguish. And from there, it gets even weirder.


In the second stage you have to run around a locker room headbutting glass cases while avoiding a janitor who for all the tea in China looks like he's trying to rape you. In the third level you run around a room avoiding a chef who throws fried chicken at you. And in stage four, you amble into a dance studio and headbutt fat women until they all just lay there in a big pile of concussed adipose tissue while "Twist and Shout" plays in the background. From there, the same four levels seem to repeat ad infinitum, but like fuck I'm going to complain about that. Considering how hard it is to find this one as a workable ROM, being able to play a PHYSICAL version of the game out in the wild is nothing short of a once in a lifetime miracle. 


Mystic Marathon!

But then again, there are some old-ass arcade relics that you've never heard of for a reason. Count Williams' Mystic Marathon as a forgotten coin-op that, in all honesty, deserved to be forgotten.


Before we get into the gameplay, I will give Williams some dap, though, for the super colorful coin-op artwork. A lot of video game companies didn't even fucking bother painting their player terminals, so seeing something this vibrant and detailed is certainly a welcome change of pace from the north. But yeah, about that gameplay, though ...


There's no way around it — this game just plain sucks. The controls are really clunky and unresponsive, which is actually a pretty amazing feat considering it employs just one button. As the name implies, the whole point of the game is to sprint from left to right, avoiding obstacles, and doing your damnedest to come in first place. Of course, with such clumsy maneuvering and a deluge of obstacles and enemies that are pretty much impossible to avoid, the odds of you even finishing the first level are about as likely as Demi Lovato passing her next urine test. Obviously this was supposed to be something along the lines of The Smurfs Olympics or some such mess, but licensed elves are not nothing would've saved a game this unwieldy from forever being relegated to the halls of coin-op mediocrity.


Fire Escape!

OK, so technically, this isn't a video game in the traditional sense, but it's still too kitschy to not write about. And you have to figure there aren't that many photos of something this obscure out there in Internet-land, so if nothing else, it's certainly gotta' do something to boost my Google indexing rankings.


More of a pachinko variation than Pac-Man, the object of the game is to use those metal valves there to, basically, flex this TV antenna-shaped metal contraption so you can send a silver ball into these slots at the bottom of the screen (err ... diorama.) So yeah, it's barely a step up, technologically, from that old video game store where you dropped a quarter in a bucket of blue gel and hoped to land in the "free video rental" slot, but for aesthetics alone you have to give whoever made this one some well deserved dap.


I'd be remiss if I didn't note the 500,000 point "bird's nest" near the top of the board. After fiddling around with the game for about 10 minutes, I've deduced that it's mechanically impossible to get the ball in there considering the curvature of the metal paddles, the weight of the ball and the space between the right-most "paddle" and the bull's eye. But hey, what fun is an old-school, ticket-dispensing arcade game if you can actually, you know, beat it and stuff?


Domino Man!

Shit, how video game character design has changed over the years. As evident by the headboard placard of Domino Man, back in the early 1980s you didn't need to put some 350-pound musclebound space marine or some half-nekkid warrior chick on the side of a cabinet to get it inside arcades — hell, you could just spend five minutes drawing some fat, old bald dude with a mustache and they'd say "eh, good enough for a commission paycheck, I guess."


Unsurprisingly, the gameplay here is pretty simplistic. It's your job to set up a bunch of dominoes (which the player performs by simply walking up to a dot on the screen) and the idea of the title is to get all your dominoes set up along that demarcated path before either a swarm of bees or this really big greaser dude in a leather jacket bumps them down. Also, there's an anthropomorphic clock running around the screen, too, because sometimes, subtlety is for pussies. 


This is pretty much the definition of  mediocre early '80s arcade game. The visuals and audio are fine, and the gameplay — while pretty decent — is ultimately nothing too innovative or engrossing. It's fun in short spurts, I guess, but overall, it's a fairly forgettable game. Thankfully, they put this one right next to a Kung Fu machine, so at least I didn't have to trek too far to play something that was actually worth squandering 20 or so minutes on.


Cheyenne!

This game came out in 1984, but it looks and feels like it could've come out in 1974. And I don't mean that as criticism ... this game is pure, no-frills, sheer arcade shooting fun, providing the sort of instantly gratifying mechanical amusement that's about as close as the form can get to technically timeless as I can fathom.


For starters, the actual gun peripheral is pretty impressive. I'm not quite sure what that thing was made out of, but it certainly wasn't lightweight plastic. The gun actually felt pretty heavy (10 pounds, maybe) and it even had a little bit of a kickback to it. You definitely felt the force on this peripheral, which is something you really can't say about all of the light guns that came out 1990 onward.


So yeah, graphically, the game is pretty crummy-looking, but gameplay-wise it's actually pretty fun. It's essentially a feature-length escort mission, where you have to shoot all the bad cowboys and Injuns before they pop a cap in the wagon-driver's ass (and yes, you can shoot the bullets out of mid-air, if you have to.) All in all, the action here is quite intense, and the precision on the light gun is astonishingly well-calibrated considering the supremely outdated hardware. It may not be a genre-defining classic, but there's no denying Cheyenne is a very well-made — and strangely addictive — coin-op experience for the lifetime NRA member in all of us.


Death Race!

Speaking of works from Exidy, imagine my surprise to see Death Race ... the great grand-daddy of all controversial video games ... as a playable amenity on this year's show floor. Believe it or not, this thing was condemned by authorities as far up the ladder as the National Safety Council, who feared it would inspire children to steal their parents' cars and run over the elderly for the LULZ.


Be forewarned, though, this is not the most comfortable game to play. Not because it contains graphic imagery or anything like that, but because the control set-up is so clunky. While the wheel peripheral does give you (theoretical) 360 degree movement, you still have to use that manual transmission clutch to move your car vertically or horizontally. And holy hell, is that aged-assed thing PHYSICALLY hard to shift back and forth, like the bottom part of the control knob is caught up in some gears or something. Some games, you have to wrestle with the controls; ironically enough, in Death Race, you have to wrestle them to the proverbial death.


The gameplay itself is very simple. Featuring a bright two-color black and white palette, it's your job to control that race car (which looks more like a deformed horse than an automobile) and run over all of the "elves" who pop up on screen. And because people back in the day had to take shit hyper-literal or not at all, of course the game terrain is littered with crosses and crucifixes, you know, to maintain that whole death motif. Ultimately, Death Race is an important title in the history of arcade games, but it's not exactly a stellar game in and of itself. Like the work of 2 Live Crew, it's significant for the controversy it wrought, but beyond that? There's hardly anything here noteworthy whatsoever


Bucky O'Hare!

One of the rarer Konami beat-em-ups, Bucky O'Hare is a coin-op I've heard about for years and years but never seen in the flesh (err, circuits?) until this year's expo. And in my humblest of opinions, this one DEFINITELY lived up to all the hype I've been hearing about for what seems like a decade now.


Don't let these shitty photos fool you, this game looks phenomenal. Indeed, this has some of the best animation I've seen in a Konami arcade game, and it HAS to have the absolute best audio I've ever heard in a Konami brawler. Like The Simpsons and Turtles in Time (and to a much lesser extent, the aforementioned Crime Fighters) it's also  four-player game, which is actually pretty cool because each of the characters does seem to play differently, complete with different weights and gaits. 


I don't know the first thing about the Bucky O'Hare license (although that one NES game was pretty boss), and I have only the vaguest recollections of the old cartoon. Outside of the titular character, I have no idea who any of the other characters are supposed to be, but that's not really a negative, since it's pretty fun to try out these weird ass robot and duck avatars and learn their idiosyncratic kinks as you go along. The most awesome thing about this particular coin-op, though, has to be the central gameplay. You know how earlier, I called this one a beat-em-up? Well, that's actually kind of a misnomer, since you don't punch or kick anything, but rather blast the shit out of them with ray guns and stuff. I guess the closest thing to compare this game to is Sunset Riders, only WAY more frenetic and frantic, with way better presentation and WAY more explosions going on. This is a downright beautiful game, and one I'd recommend going out of your way to experience — it doesn't matter if you can't tell Bucky O'Hare from Madilyn O'Hair, it's nonetheless a top-notch, unique coin-op experience that deserves far more recognition and celebration.


Oh, and they had home console games on parade, too, including ths one vendor who was hawking such rarities as Little Samson on the NES and The Amazing Spider-Man: Web of Fire on the 32X. I didn't see a price tag on either game, so I think it's pretty safe to assume whatever price this guy was asking for, it was probably something outright preposterous.


I gotta' admit, I came pretty close to snatching up this copy of StarTropics, which is easily my all-time favorite video game box art ever. Alas, the copy didn't come with the original instruction manual (nor that one letter you were supposed to dunk in water to figure out the infamous "747" code), so that's one $20 bill this particular vendor just lost out on.


And, as always, there was plenty of non-video game related stuff on sale, if you really had a thing for oddball kitsch and ephemeral junk. For example, I have seen the same dude trying to sell this same Corono standee for the last four years, and each year it seems like all he does is knock off one dollar and call it good enough. In a way, Mrs. Cardboard Blue Bikini And Too Much Lipgloss is almost like SFGE's unofficial mascot at this point; odds are, you'll be seeing her at 2019's expo too.


...and speaking of longstanding SFGE kitsch, yep, those same vendors rolled out the SAME Donald Trump board game they've been trying to sell since 2015. I suppose the element of time naturally increases the value of the set year over year, but that's kind of the Catch 22, isn't it? Each year, the game gets more expensive, thus ensuring people are also less likely to purchase it. A little bit of advice to whoever's selling this thing: if I were you, I'd skip the retro game convention and take this one to the next pro-Trump rally in town. Not only would I guarantee you a sell, I'd be gobsmacked if you netted anything less than $200 from the MAGA faithful.


The "novelty" games were out in full force, too. You already saw the world's largest Donkey Kong unit, now feast your eyes on this special edition version of Space Invaders that allows players to go all kinds of Tron on a huge-ass Lite-Brite screen. To me, the spectacle didn't look much like Space Invaders at all, but I guess that's kind of the point; you really think you're going to capture the imaginations of Generation ADD with stuff that doesn't look like a molly trip?


And since retro video game festivals are essentially proxy otaku celebrations by default, naturally you had a lot of vendors hawking "authentic" Japanese comestibles, like canned coffee and those bottles of seltzer with the glass rock in them that you usually get at Thai restaurants. Yeah, it's not much, but you never know — next year, they might bring us some Halloween-flavored Pepsi, or hell, maybe even a Double Down Dog, if we're truly fortunate.


And before we wrap up part one of the whirlwind recap, a special word about this guy. One of the marquee events of SFGE 2018 was a Tecmo Super Bowl tournament, which this fellow right here ultimately ended up winning. I only bring him up because of one thing, and one thing only: holy shit, did this dude reek of weed worse than any person I've ever smelled in a public event that wasn't a concert. Indeed, the stench was so strong that he HAD to have been high while he was actually playing in the tourney; whether or not that should result in his disqualification like it would in the real NFL, I'll let the Internet juries deduce for themselves.


Well, that's all I've got for part uno, kids. Stick around for the far more pinball-centric second chapter, because that sumbitch is just LOADED with content, including some of the damned weirdest things I've ever seen in a public forum before (and considering last year gave us the infamous "Loli-mobile," trust me, that's saying bunches.)

But as I was mentioning earlier, despite some cool finds here and there, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed by the lack of "new" games at the show. Granted, I don't expect anybody to be wheeling out 38-year-old versions of Shark Jaws or anything like that, but it just seems like this year there was less dedicated arcade game space and much more space afforded to the peripheral shit, like vendors and console games. 

Maybe it was just an off-year, but I really hope there's a renewed emphasis on arcade coin-ops at next year's show. Yeah, the pro wrestling and musical events and cosplay contests are cool and all, but that's not supposed to be the anchor of the expo. I'd much prefer an overall smaller expo if it meant less superfluous stuff and more of the thing I'm there to experience, but considering the huge turn-out the show is generating each year, I wouldn't hedge my bets on there ever being a return to form on that one.

Still, I've got my fingers crossed that at 2019's SFGE, there's be a whole lot more game and a whole lot less everything else. Besides, we can get that all-purpose geekdom literally everywhere else in Atlanta — but this remains my only opportunity of the year to play the arcade version of Narc in-person.

All I can say is don't forget your roots, organizers ... don't you dare forget 'em.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

M.C. Hammer Had His Own Tiger Electronics Handheld LCD Game

Is this game 2 legit 2 quit ... or just plain shit?


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

In many ways, M.C. Hammer and Tiger Electronics are mirror representations of early 1990s pop culture. For one thing, around 1991, both were ubiquitous Kindergarten-America constructs, with those battery-sucking handheld units virtually inescapable in the school cafeteria and “2 Legit 2 Quit” an absolute guarantee every bus ride home. Secondly, they were kinda inverted marketing strategies: the Tiger Electronics were a basic form to which any number of pop cultural properties could be affixed, whereas M.C. Hammer was a basic form from which any number of pop cultural derivations could be culled — action figures, dolls, cartoons, soda commercials, music videos for The Addams Family, you name it. And thirdly, both “acts” were all about the superficial; despite their ritzy, glossy exteriors, the products presented by both brands were largely underwhelming, technically disappointing, boringly repetitive and woefully unsophisticated imitations of other pop cultural installation that actually conveyed a sense of nuance, artistic merit and consumer worth.

Considering how popular Hammer was, I always wondered how come he never had his own video game, a’la Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. So imagine my surprise when I found out the two icons of early ‘90s commercial shallowness merged into a singularity as a M.C. Hammer-branded Tiger Electronics handheld game.

I genuinely have no idea how this one passed me by. While Hammer’s popularity was very short-lived, you’d think I would’ve seen at least one stray copy in the value bin at K.B. Toys in 1993 or something. But no, here I am 27 years after the fact having my mind blown through the power of Internet Archive emulation. Even better? Those consummate archivists even managed to scan in the original instructional manual for the game, which, as you will soon see, is actually 20 times more enjoyable than playing the “game” itself.

Look,I know we’re dealing with some VERY low-hanging fruit here. Of course those Tiger Electronics games sucked — we all know that. But at least this M.C. Hammer-branded game managed to suck in a totally unique way, offering a decidedly busted gameplay mechanic that, had it actually been fine-tuned and polished a bit, COULD have made it one of the pioneering efforts of rhythm action gaming. But as is, it’s still weird enough to merit at least a half hour of squandered free time, and lo and behold, here are the “highlights” of my recent playthrough.

Remember: the white race is counting on you, home boy.

I'm not going to bullshit you folks, there is not much to talk about here. You've got three game modes to tinker around with; the self-explanatory practice mode, the "creative" mode (which is really just an extended tutorial, except without the actual tutorial) and the main "challenge" mode, in which you assume the role of a young white dude who, for reasons that are never truly explained, is now engaged in a life-or-death dance-off against M.C. Hammer.

The gameplay is simple — as in, "don't give that kid any sharp scissors and make sure that glue cap is on TIGHT because he might try to drink it" simple. Basically, you just watch M.C. Hammer's sprite bust a move, then you have about five seconds to beat his score. This goes on for a couple of rounds, and if you manage to outdo Hammer like, five or six times, you win. Except you or anybody else on planet Earth will NEVER win, because the controls on this game are so fucking horrid that the CPU is pretty much guaranteed a win by default 9 times out of 10. Oh, you might mess up and win one or two rounds, but rest assured you'll NEVER win three games in a row, almost as if it such a provision was built into the game code itself. They invisible judges will just GIVE Hammer a better score than you, and there isn't shit you can do about it, honky ... deal with it.

Which brings us to the "gameplay," which, I know is really stretching the definition of the term. The thing is, this is actually one of he better handling Tiger Electronics games out there, in the fact you a least feel like you know what you're doing half the time. I mean, you're still never 100 percent confident the buttons you press will do anything on time, but compared to stuff like Altered Beast and Swamp Thing, this shit is almost a work of digital Baroque art.

So, you have eight directional buttons to press, all of which produce a certain dance move. For example, pushing one button makes you shake your ass to the left, another makes you shake your ass to he right, another makes you jump in the air and somehow magically remain in the air while kicking your legs like you're having an epileptic seizure. Truth be told, this isn't a 100 percent horrible system, and if the hardware were a little more refined and the — for lack of a better term — "combat system" a bit more nuanced, I could totally see this making for an entertaining, proto-rhythm action Game Boy game or something.

And if you hit up, down, left, A and B at the same time, you can unleash Hammer's special "emergency bankruptcy liquidation" attack!

Now, according to the instruction manual, there appears to be quite a number of different dance moves you can break out. In a way, it's almost like U Can't Touch This works like a fighting game, right down to the ridiculously complex button press combinations necessary to break out the really big maneuvers. Hell, for all we know, if you punch enough arrow-pad in a certain sequence, you might actually be able to shoot a fireball, or mayhap even pull off a fatality. Now wouldn't THAT be some shit to see in a Tiger handheld game, eh?

You see that GIF up top? Well folks, that is the game. There are no extra levels, no change in background dancers, no costume upgrades, no nothing. What you see is EXACTLY what you get, and — again, you gotta' remember, we're talking comparatively here — it's not AS BAD as you'd expect. Of course, you will get bored with the thing in 20 minutes, but it almost, almost has a "real" gameplay engine and, yeah, you'll probably get more mileage out of this one than you would Tiger's handheld Apollo 13 or Batman Forever games. This game sucks, no doubt, but for a Tiger Electronics offering, it's probably one of the less sucky in their pantheon. Yeah, it's light praise, I know, but if you've ever played shit like Swamp Thing or Double Dragon, you'd KNOW that even light praise is something to be at least partially enthusiastic about. Again ... comparatively.

So yeah, this game is pretty much everything you expected it to be, perhaps executed mildly better than anticipated. Considering Hammer's pop cultural permeation, I still have a hard time believing somebody out there didn't give him a proper action-platformer, and that this is the only official M.C. Hammer appearance in video game form still surprises the ever-loving shit out of me.

...and yeah, that's about all I can say about this game. Fuck, the fact I got this many words out of the thing is a miracle in and of itself. Like I said earlier, you can play the game anytime you want on Internet Archive, and if you hit up enough flea markets, you'll probably encounter it in physical form at one point or another. And who knows? Maybe Harmony Korine will finally get around to making a film adaptation of A Crack Up At The Race Riots and it'll get its own video game tie-in; personally, I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be an action-strategy hybrid a'la North and South and General Chaos, because how the hell else would you play a video game about a race war being kicked off by Vanilla Ice and M.C. Hammer?