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

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?


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