Author: John Legendoffzelda
Ocean’s video game adaptation of Cool World is the sensation of the original film multiplied by ten. Back in the summer of 1992, the movie was received as a frustrating disappointment – an incoherent, down-and-dirty Who Framed Roger Rabbit variation that wasn’t funny or even that dirty. (The amateurish mixing of live-action and animation didn’t help). It sank the career of its director Ralph Bakshi, when it should have instead at least resuscitated the vulgar prankster genius he showed in his famed early 70s work. The Super Nintendo adaptation, in its own entire context, creates a similar kind of disappointment and frustration: the realization that the game is profoundly inept, an action title that shows off many problems and supposed obstacles to hide the fact that it has a huge lack of any action. This game is underdeveloped in the extreme.
As Jack Deebs, the protagonist of the film and the only playable character, you start the game by falling into Cool World. There’s actually a decent Mode 7 re-creation of that very shot from the film. But then he lands, and the player is plopped into a sublimely confusing opening screen; a small portion of city, where there are some brown circles that bounce up and down and a group of tiny policemen ready to latch onto Jack at random times, but not one indication of what the player is supposed to do. Well, it turns out the bouncing brown things are nickels, which are a currency of the game, and to pick them up they have to be punched, and to punch the player must find a power-up that’s on one side of the screen. The nickels are used to get into the club at the other side of town, but first Jack has to get a book to enter the library, to grab the flower bouquet, to bribe the bouncer, to get past the door, to buy a cappuccino-resembling soda, to talk to Holli Would, where she hints at what he has to do next.
There’s a pattern here in this mind-numbing chain of events: this game is nothing more than one drawn-out fetch quest. After talking to Holli, Jack has to get the set of car keys, to drive the bumper car, to reach the saccharine Candy Land, to pick up candy, to enter the Malt Shop, to find the present, and on and on in a threadbare series of events that are meant to pass as the game’s content. Some of these events are allowed to happen out of order, but the real way the game gets around this limitation is that old, cheap practice of making everything needlessly difficult. There are limited amounts of nickels and candy pieces in the whole game, and several ways to lose them; whether spending them to repeat a failed task like carrying a soda, having them stolen from you, or being forced to pay bail with them when the policemen slow Jack down and arrest him. Enemies are abound that can kill Jack before the player even knows it, and the sloppy controls hardly give Jack a chance; he turns slowly, he has a poor jump arc, and any sort of hit will send him reeling backwards. This could have been passable if the jump and attack buttons didn’t feel reversed; anyone playing this after a standard platformer would likely be perplexed that the B button doesn’t let him jump.
Nowhere is the reeling backwards more of a problem than when he has to climb ledges, as most of the A.I. will home in on his position and some of them can’t even be eliminated. Then there are the driving sections, where the player careens nearly out of control into obstacles that damage the car and can repeatedly fall off of the screen because they couldn’t or didn’t jump between gaps correctly. During the random moments where Jack is zipped out of Cool World to Las Vegas and has to use his pen to collect the tiny doodles that are running amok, the action comes down to standing in one spot and hoping for some good timing. With the abundance of rote gameplay and absurd challenges here, there’s really no incentive for putting that spike on top of the Ocean Hotel.
This game seems to be made with what is supposed to be “attitude”, except it instead comes closer to apathy. For a game populated with cartoon characters, it looks positively dreary; the humans (Noids) are made of muddy pixels, the cartoons (Doodles) are flat and nondescript and the flashing lights of Vegas – the only interesting visual anywhere – counter-intuitively make real-life look more vibrant and interesting than the darned cartoon world. The music is too dull to merit description, however much harp and electric organ they contain. As it turns out, this entire game was created by four people, which may be enough for any other game; but here it seems as if all of them were disinterested enough with this project to design it this badly, and to even include a text box that says, and I quote: “Holli has become real and gone over to your world where she might damage the whole interworld matrix or something”.
“Or something”, indeed.
Cool World was an embarrassment for Paramount Pictures, and it continues to embarrass as a video game. It’s exceedingly short content would label this as a rental, but that’s an inaccuracy; an ideal rental game is one to pick up, play for three days, and gauge how interested you are in buying a permanent copy. This is a negative kind of rental game: you pick it up, finish it in three days if you’re lucky, and disgustedly give it back to Blockbuster to never rent again. From there, it’ll likely stay on the store shelf, next to the unrented videotape copies of the movie where it belongs.
One out of five stars.
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