Thursday, August 17, 2017

Amiga Review: 'Suburban Commando' (1993)

I mean, it only took them two years to make it after the movie left theaters ... surely, that means it will be polished to perfection, right?


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

One of these days, I'm going to hold the first ever Hulk Hogan Film Festival. Of course, we'd open with No Holds Barred and close with Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, but the really good stuff would be in the middle. We're talking Mr. Nanny, we're talking Assault on Devil's Island, we're talking The Ultimate Weapon, and you better goddamn believe we're talking Suburban Commando, the movie that - more so than body slamming Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 screaming fans at the Pontiac Silverdome - made Hulk Hogan a household name.

As great a movie Suburban Commando may have been - have you seen the Nostalgia Critic's glowing praise of it? - I always wondered why nobody gave it the old vidya game treatment. I mean, it has all the elements that a great 16-bit action game make: huge musclebound retards, death laser shootouts in shopping malls, freeze guns, Christopher Lloyd trying to fuck Shelly Duvall - I mean, that's a perfect recipe for a Genesis top down shooter if I've ever heard one. 

Alas, somebody out there DID make a Suburban Commando video game, but it wasn't on any of the home consoles or portables normal people back in the 1990s actually owned. Instead, it was released on DOS, the Amiga and - for whatever reason - the Commodore goddamn-motherfuckin 64, even though it was 1993. Clearly, the C64 version looks and presumably plays like a load of ass, and the DOS version looks the best and presumptively plays the best, which makes the oft-forgotten Amiga our middle ground candidate for a play-through. Untainted by the allure of pristine visuals or soured by aesthetics that look like a chihuahua ate a six pack of Crayolas and shit all over an Etch-a-Sketch, this Amiga iteration ought to allow us to focus exclusively on the pros and cons of Suburban Commando's core gameplay, and by golly, nothing less than the most nuanced, objective video game journalism out there is acceptable for my readersSo how about we boot this sucker up and start walloping asses, why don't we? Yeah - I didn't think you'd have much to protest about there.

Before the game begins proper, you are asked if you would like to tweak the settings, including the option to increase or decrease the difficulty level (and chuckles a plenty at "Macho" being one of your choices.) After you are done fiddle-faddling around with that shit, we hop straight into the first stage, which is clearly a re-skinned version of some kind of SHMUP the developers were previously working on (or maybe even got to retail) before getting the much coveted Suburban Commando license.

First off, the control set-up here is super-weird. To shoot, all you have to do is hit the space bar, but to move up and down, instead of using the up and down arrows on your keypad you have to use the Q and A buttons, and if you want to move left or right, you have to hit O and P. I honestly have no idea why any programmer would do something that retarded, but I guess you can circumvent the hardships by plugging in a joystick. And since we're ROM-ing this bitch like there's no tomorrow, you can always hot key that fucker to play like something that isn't a pure chunk of shit, so what's the point in complaining? Still, I can only imagine how confused this must've made the people who bought this game when it was first released - all eight of those poor assholes must've been furious

So there isn't a whole lot to say about the first part of the game. It's no M.U.S.H.A. or Batsugan, but it's nonetheless a fairly competent little Gradius clone, but after that shit's over and done with, it's time for Suck City, population: this game. The chibi-style graphics and pastel backgrounds aren't really a turn-off, but fuck almighty are the controls a bigger pain in the ass than getting sodomized by Giant Gonzalez. You still have to use Q to jump and A to duck, which makes platforming pretty much goddamn impossible. While you do have a "block" defensive maneuver, at this point in the game your only offensive attack is this shitty little punching animation and a jump kick that doesn't do Jack Shit. Even better, the hit detection doesn't even register half the time, and you often spend up to ten seconds totally invisible (but not invincible) after every enemy touch.

Whatchu gonna' do when Hulkamania throws your ass up against a wall over and over again, bruther?

Gameplay-wise, it conceptually feels similar to Metroid and Mega Man, except with 2,000 percent more you screaming "fuck this shit" every time you have to jump on a moving platform. The idea is to collect all these bombs and then plant them at strategic points on a spaceship. Oh, and there's no map system whatsoever, so you just have to run around all over the place until you a.) find all the explosives and b.) figure out all the places you're supposed to blow up. Along the way you'll get shot in the face by robots and cartoon guys in space helmets, periodically hopping on bed springs so you can collect hot dog power-ups. Eventually, you'll enter a chamber and go toe-to-toe with a really fat version of The Flash for the game's first boss battle, and holy shit, is it next to impossible. Pretty much the only tactic that works is to crouch, kick him in the shin once, then run all the way to the other side of the room, hop over him and repeat until he's dead. Apparently there's some kind of body slam move you can do if you get close enough to him, but the odds of that working are about 1 percent compared to you getting punched upside the head 15 times in a row, so it's probably best to not tempt fate. 

The third stage takes place in a pretty big cityscape, and it's pretty funny because you get to run around kicking random black people in the ass for no discernible reason whatsoever, just like the REAL Hulk Hogan probably wants to do in real life. Anyway, it's another Metroid maze here, and even shittier, you have to find secret passages in about a million different walls to locate the keys you need to complete the level. Granted, it won't take you too long to figure out what's what and where's where, but still, that kind of game design is just unforgivably lazy. I guess now is a good time to let you know there's also about 437 different objects you can collect while running around like a constipated goose, including stars, empty jars and bananas. Even now, I have no idea WHAT any of these items do, except maybe raise your high score, even though nobody has given a fuck about achieving the highest score in anything except mass shooting fatalities since at least 1987. 

After dicking around long enough you'll find the other side of daylight again and try to climb up a roller coaster (please, do note if you fall down, this unstoppable tumbleweed animation will roll you backwards half a stage, so, uh try not to do that, I guess.) Interestingly, you'll soon be assailed by numerous alien bounty hunters while you are dodging roller coaster carts (which is sans passengers, because like fuck the designers were going to put that much effort into it), and sure enough, they all look like super-deformed version of The Undertaker. There's also this one enemy type that's a bald dude carrying a baseball bat, but methinks that wasn't an homage to one "Stone Cold" pro 'rasslin character ... or was it?

Fuck, this stage is long. Eventually you'll find yourself underground again, and now we have these god awful moving platform sections where you have to keep jumping up and down to float across the screen. Invariably, this will result in your character moving forward but not the platform, which means environmental damage (in the form of a jolly spike up the keister) is practically unavoidable. This culminates with yet another boss fist-fight, this time against an Undertaker doppelganger whose bright orange britches and slightly Cro-Magnon features make him a dead ringer for Chris Benoit back when he had that bushy ass mullet o' his. He jumps around like a motherfucker, so the best strategy here is to get in close and keep mashing the space bar until you're able to pick him up and throw him. Whatever you do, don't try that lame-ass jump kick, because not only will it not connect, it's guaranteed to leave you open to one from the boss that will. And no, before you ask, there aren't any in-game voice samples of the Taker sounding like Meatwad from Aqua Teen, so tough tits, hombre. 

Level four is another platforming maze, this time inside an "incomplete skyscraper," which is somehow still equipped with giant springs, alien relics impossibly suspended in mid-air and about 100 pulsating, traffic-cone shaped spikes that are constantly trying to wiggle their way inside your anal orifices (note: bottoms will love this part.) I hate to be so nondescript, but it's basically just more of the same. The same enemies, the same invisible wall passageways, the same chunks of cheese and ice cream cones enigmatically positioned 100 feet in the air. But now there are sentient cement mixers that spit concrete globs at you, so don't you DARE say the developers were phoning it in. Also: you gotta love those broken drain pipes ... such a subtle nod to the Super Mario Bros. franchise, no? The stage (and by proxy, the entire game) concludes with one more round of end-boss fisticuffs, this time against General Suitor, who - much to the jubilation of everybody who's seen Suburban Commando - does indeed turn into a Swamp Thing ripoff during our virtual dual to the death. There's no real strategy here; you'll just have to bounce around the enclosure getting whatever shots you can in while avoiding Suitor's long range swiping attacks. Perhaps now is a good time to let our readers know that you CAN jump on enemies' heads, SMB style, so maybe that approach will lead you to the Amiga glory land? Not that your reward for taking down that Predator wannabe motherfucker is in any way, shape or form worth it - after beating him, all you get is a purple screen of text saying Ramsey is headed back to outer space, while Hulk Hogan leans against the words looking like he either did a fat bump of the Colombian booger sugar or Koko B. Ware just yanked out his ding dong - or hell, maybe both at the same time.

The motherfucker wouldn't job to Kamala or King Kong Bundy, so what makes you think he'll just roll over for the Creature from the Black Lagoon?

I know I don't say this often, but this game sucks a large, muscular, extra-veiny penis. Granted, it ain't as bad as that one DOS game starring the fucking Domino's Pizza Noid, but it's still one of the worst licensed games I've ever played in my life ... and remember, I once played a Doug game on the GBC and The Evil Dead on the Commodore motherfucking 64, so I definitely know what I'm talkin' 'bout here. 

Sure, maybe the Suburban Commando license wouldn't have lent itself to a superlative, Gunstar Heroes or Super Metroid-type experience, but it certainly could have been as good as stuff like True Lies or Demolition Man on the Genesis. Then again, that this game was released more than two years after the movie it was based on left theaters probably should've been our first clue that it was utter rot. Strangely enough, the British firm that made the game - Alternative Software - is still in business, releasing retail rugby games on the PS4 and what appears to be Disney-licensed applications on mobile platforms (that is, if there website splash page is to be believed, anyway.) If the name Alternative Software sounds somewhat familiar (and honestly, it shouldn't), it might be because they were the geniuses behind Postman Pat, a game that was probably really popular with British autists back in the day. On a somewhat historical note, this was apparently one of the few pieces of software published under the video game arm of New Line Cinema, which - unless somebody out there has more details than I do - included a grand total of this game (although Fangoria did say a Jason Goes to Hell game was in development for the Sega CD, so that could've also been one of their pet projects, I assume.)

Needless to say, a movie with as much easily-translatable video game potential as Suburban Commando deserved a much better treatment than this half-assed platformer. I have played the DOS version, but despite its improved visuals, I assure you the core gameplay isn't that much better, and is just as big a wasted opportunity as this iteration. I mean, it's Hulk Hogan running around shooting the alien mafia with ice cube lasers, how do you fuck that up without purposefully trying to? Even as a guy who gets off on unearthing, playing and deconstructing old, obscure media for a sometimes paying audience, I couldn't find any legitimate reason for anyone to sink an afternoon of their life in this game like I did. The controls are terrible, the gameplay is basic as fuck and it does absolutely nothing unique or noteworthy with the license - hell, they could've shaved off the mullet of the player's avatar and marketed it as totally original I.P. and I don't think anyone would've been the wiser. Yes, the novelty of the title might pique your curiosity, but take it from somebody who literally does this to supplement his weekend deep dish pizza addiction for a living ... there's absolutely nothing here worth going out of your way for, and you'd be much better off doing practically anything else with your precious free-time. You know - like rewatching Suburban Commando, or if you're truly hardcore, Santa with Muscles or Thunder in Paradise, parts one, two and three.

SPECIAL HAPPY GOOD TIME BONUS AWESOME EXTRA ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL!


The Thunder in Paradise Super Nintendo game that ALMOST happened!

Speaking of Thunder in Paradise, that straight-to-video B-action series turned straight to Saturday-at-noon syndicated cheese-fest inspired a video game of its own, a quasi-FMV title on the CD-i, which at last estimate, was owned by four people in all of human history. That game was eventually ported over to DOS, and believe it or not people have not only played it, but posted entire playthroughs on the YouTubes, for you to watch whenever you feel like not doing Jack Shit at work for awhile. 

As it turns out, however, that wasn't the ONLY Thunder in Paradise video game out there. At one point, there WAS a game based on the franchise slated for the SNES, and we have the old ass Electronic Gaming Monthly scans to prove it! 

As the screens above indicate, the game would've been a multi-perspective, genre-fluid action title a'la Ultimate Stuntman and The Adventures of Bayou Billy. Judging from the screencaps, among other activities you would've been jetting around in the eponymous Thunder in Paradise speedboat and shooting the shit out of things, running right to left shooting the shit out of things and shooting the shit out of things from a helicopter's eye view. Now, I can't confirm or disconfirm it, but as evident by the dual life bars, it looks like the game would've had a co-op mode, with the second player presumably playing Hulk's on-screen best bud Bru. Depending on how faithful it was to the license, we can only hope the prototype also included a stage where you have to fight shape-shifting voodoo zombies and a climactic boss fight against a genetically engineered super soldier version of Sting (the WCW 'rassler, obviously, not the singer from The Police.) Man, how come nobody remembers a show that was THAT fuckin' dope, let alone talk about in the same reverent tones as lesser fare like Baywatch and Knight Rider

Anyhoo, for those of you wondering why this little piggy never made it to market, I'd venture to guess it's because the developer, Software Toolworks (the masterminds behind Mario's Time Machine and that one college football game on the SNES that sucked) were acquired by Mindscape in 1994, and I'm pretty sure by then Thunder in Paradise had already been cancelled and the company reckoned there was no point in pursuing the title no more. There's an offchance the game could've been reskinned, but judging from the looks of Mindscape's post-'94 offerings, methinks they just let what remained of TIP go to waste. Granted, the game probably wouldn't have turned out as awesome as something like Mercs, but it's not like the Super Nintendo would've been hurt by a completed-and-zipped-to-retail cartridge based upon the exploits of Randolph J. "Hurricane" Spencer and pals. I mean, fuck, we already got shitty games based on Eek! The Cat and Home Improvement, and how much worse could a brainless kill-fest starring the Hulkster have been in 16-bit form?

Alas, not even a halfway playable .ROM exists of Thunder in Paradise. What a pity - that thing would've made for, well, probably just a weekend rental, but still ...

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