Retro Gaming Review #2: The Family-Sized Tiny Toon Adventures Edition
by Scrooge McSuck
- After what I felt was a good starting point with pairing off familiar or similar titles into one column, I figured I would keep it up for the time being until I run out of ideas. In this weeks installment, I will be looking back at one of my childhood favorites, the Tiny Toons. These little buggers, under the thoughtful dollars and production of Steven Speilberg, were all over the place throughout the early 90's. On top of a highly successful television show, a featured length movie was produced, and toys were licensed out to whoever wanted a chance to jump on board the money train. Excuse me for about 10-minutes while I play with my Tiny Toon racers, courtesy of McDonald's Happy Meals circa 1991.
[time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future...]
Okay, I'm back, and better than ever. Anywho, last week I established an idea to review, more often than not, a trio of games. In this edition, I will be expanding that into a whopping FIVE games, just because of the range of consoles and video game categories these titles fall under. That's like getting 40% more free! Now, I know I'm a big fan of Tiny Toons, but I will not be swayed into giving good reviews for inferior products. Note: All five games featured in this review are in my personal collection of video games. I'm just sorry I'm missing TTA 2 for the NES, as I feel it's one of those that stands out on it's own, but at the same time, it's not that big of a deal, so why am I complaining in the first place?
Game #1: Tiny Toon Adventures
North American Release Date: December 1991
Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Much like many games from the NES era, the game itself doesn't really tell you what the hell is the point and why you're playing in the first place. A quick flip through the Instruction Manual gives us a pretty lame story about how Montana Max had kidnapped Babs Bunny, and something about Buster Bunny winning some sort of an award at the Acme Loo Film Festival™. I don't know, it doesn't make much sense, but whatever. Anyway, this is your basic side-scroller, as you control Buster for the majority of your adventure, but during each level, you have the option of selecting a secondary-partner to help you out. Your choices from the Level 1 start-up screen includes Plucky Duck, who has the ability to fly short distances, Dizzy Devil, who can spin like a Tornado and crash through things, and Furrball, who is useful for scaling walls and stuff.
Level 1 is titled "Field of Screams", and here you'll be fighting mostly Roderick Rats and Danforth Drake's, with Arnold the Pitbull making a cameo appearance tossing dumbells at you. From there, you enter what looks like a hanuted mansion, although graphically wise, it's more like a crummy version of Bowser's Castle in Super Mario Bros. 3. New enemies introduced include a floating pumpkin and some ghosts that remind me of the episode where Babs was wondering where the classic "female" cartoon characters were, and the shrouded vault keeper ends up being one. For Level 1, the sub-boss ends up being Elmyra Duff (Fudd backwards, as she was originally based on Elmer's character), and the only way to beat her is to avoid her until the exit door appears. The secondary boss ends up being Dr. Gene Splicer, the evil scientist that created a monster with the heart of a ballerina.
Level 2 is titled "Motion Ocean", and seems to take on an obvious Tropical Island theme, with angry crabs and guppies being your basic enemy in the first stage. With all the swimming to do in stage two, Plucky is clearly the best choice for secondary character, since being a duck gives him a stronger ability to swim than, say, a rabbit, or a cat. Much like in Level 1, Elmyra will be the "boss" of Stage 2, and this time you have to out-run her once the door appears, but this should be simple enough, still. Stage three takes things to a Pirate Ship, and I don't seem to remember one of those in the show, but whatever. You'll have a lot of angry pirates to deal with. The final stage boss is Captain Claw.
From there, you have Level Three (Sure Weird Forest), which features Fido (a Wolfman creature) as your final boss, Level Four (Boomtown), which takes on a garbage dump theme, a natural level to select Furrball in, and features a Giant Ape as the boss. Level Five takes you to Wackyland, home of everyone's favorite whatever since Gonzo the Great, Gogo Dodo. While there's no true boss fight here, you'll encounter many Wackyland characters featured in the cartoon, including Pen Pal, Private Eye, Pay Dirt, and the ever appropriately named "Football." This will all lead you to the last level, Montana's Mansion. You will need all the keys you've collected to advance deep into the level, deep enough to take on Max in the final battle of Tiny toon supremacy. Once defeated, you've rescued Babs and everything is okay.
In a nice little addition, there's a bonus level if you finish stages with enough carrots to be totaled at a multiple of 11 (22, 33, 44...). Duck Vader's spaceship invades, and you must defeat him and his goons. If you lose, no big deal, you don't lose a life, but if you defeat him, you'll get three extra lives, and considering the difficulty of some of these levels, you'll want as many 1-ups as you can collect.
Anyway, onto the technical points of the game. Graphically speaking, everything appears as it should. While the backgrounds are just mediocre, all the character sprites are detailed and look exactly as they should, and there's no glitching when the screen is filled with multiple enemies, much like a lot of the old NES games have a problem with. Since this is the NES, there's not much music, but from what's here, it's fine. The Tiny Toon theme is obvious from the first note you hear, and all the levels have appropriate music to go with. Can't really complain about the controls, either, although sometimes you'll get too comfortable with the controls and jump right into an enemy standing on a ledge above your character.
As a side scroller, you don't feel invincible (you have a one-hit life, unless you collect a heart), but you don't feel completely over-matched with odd enemies with unfair fighting tactics and a lack of attacking ability. You basically just have to jump on everything to defeat it, except for things like crabs with pointed shells, but that should be obvious. All the boss fights come down to evasive tactics and just good timing when it comes to jumps. My one complaint with the boss' though, is the selection of a few random characters that weren't regulars in the cartoon. Personally, I don't remember the pirate, and Fido only vageuly comes to mind. It would've been nice for more familiarity and inclusion of more of the "regular" cast of characters.
Overall, I would say this was a good game for all ages, as it's incredibly easy to pick up (it's a side scroller, after all), isn't too difficult, nor too easy, and just looks like something that would be fun to play through. And on that note, we're done with Chapter 1 of the Tiny Toon Reviews. We're only one game in, with four more to go, but will this one hold up as the best Tiny Toons game, or will it be outshined by something on a newer generation console? Probably yes, but you never know.
Game #2: Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!
North American Release Date: February 1993
Console: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The first entry in the Super NES era. "Buster Busts Loose!" doesn't seem to have much of a plot, either. You're introduced to the game by Babs and Buster, but something is up, and it's your job as Buster, to make things right. This becomes the theme for all six levels featured in the game. Instead of each Level being broken down into three stages, this time around, each level is just one on it's own, but the length of levels is far greater than that from the first game released on the NES (with the exception of one, but we'll get to that in a second).
Level one takes place at Acme Looniversity. Common enemies here, like in the first level of the NES game, are Roderick Rat's, with some weird looking crabs thrown in to mix things up. Mid-level, you have to beat up on Arnold for a key to advance deeper into the level, and your boss fight is with Dizzy Devil, who you must feed until he's ready to explode... or in his case, become satisifed and less agitated. I should note, if you play the game on a lesser difficulty setting, you will instantly skip all the boss fights, so if you're one of those kinds of players, I wish you a swift kick in the ass for your troubles.
Level two seems to take place on the set of a Western Movie. You'll come across all sorts of enemies here, including a cowboy'ed up version of Wile E. Coyote. Deep into the level, things move to a train, where the difficulty seems to jump from about a Level 2 to a Level 9 3/4, and one false move or mistep will keep your frustrated for a long, long time. Once you manage to make it inside the train, you have to fight the goon that tried to capture all of the Wackyland characters for his freak-show circus, and once that's done with, it's time for you and Montana Max to try and escape the runaway train on a trolley. It's the most action packed scene I've seen in such a video game for it's time.
Level three takes us through another Spooky Mansion. On top of floating ghosts and the two-headed Frankenstein creature we're familiar with from a specific episode, we've got a rare cameo of that horrifying Count BloodCount. The final boss is the returning Dr. Gene Splicer and his mutant that he controls with some sort of high-tech machine. Once you free the monster from his brain-controled dome prison, everything will be alright from now on... or so we think!
Level four isn't so much of a level, as it's a Football game. It's down to the last possession, and Acme Looniversity has control of the ball. You have to score a touchdown to win, either by passing or rushing the ball. As long as you make the necessary yardage (10 yards equals a first down, after four downs, you lose), this should be no trouble. It's all just a matter of timely guessing wether to duck a high tackle attempt, or jump over a sliding version. Once the victory is complete, and the orgy at the night's rave party has left everyone scratching themselves from the various diseases passed on from unproctected sex, it's back to the real levels...
Such as Level Five, where you play the Tiny Toon version of Kid Icarus, javing to jump up on clouds, to the tippy-tippy-top of the screen, until you've completed the level. Possibly the second most difficult level of the game, because of having to adapt to the vertical scaling rather than the progression of levels of merely going from left-to-right (and vice versa, in some cases). And then, we come to Level Six, a.k.a The Star Wars Level, where you'll have your final encounter with Duck Vader. Another tough level, but after the Train scene, nothing can stop you now!
On top of all the "true" levels of the game, in between each level you'll play a game of roulette, and get to play through an assortment of mini-games designed to give you extra lives. There are a total of five to play through, and most often, you'll get to play each one once. These mini-games include Tiny Toon themed versions of Bingo, a maze that has you rescueing characters from the clutches of Elmyra, a Guess-Their-Weight game, a form of Junction starring Hampton, and "squash", which seems like a one-player version of Tennis. All the game have their own charm and add some depth to a game that seems a little light at times.
As much as I complimented the NES game earlier in the review, this one manages to succeed in every category. The graphics are large, brite, full of energy, and very detailed, making one feel like you're actually watching the cartoon. The music once again is accurate for each level, and sounds a lot better, of course thanks to the improved technology. Again, can't complain about the controls, because everything works as it should, and there's no real point of frustration where you'll blame unresponsive controls for your lack of success.
My one complaint, and this is very minor, would have to be the difficulty level. It's very rare for a second level of a children's game to feature such a tough, extensive scene that requires a perfect performance. Common enemies aren't incredibly smart, but hazzards have become more frequent, and the boss fights have become a bit more tougher than "jump over character and hit them", thanks to additional skills added to each character you have to encounter. Not a real complaint, but I did like the feature from the first game where you could swap out with another minor character, depending on what special ability you needed. However, since this game doesn't require tactics like that, there's no need for it, and so adding it wouldn't mean much other than throwing a few more characters in just for the hell of it.
Game #3: Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure
North American Release Date: 1993
Console: Sega Genesis
For the first time in the reviews, I am breaking away from the Nintendo controlled market and have jumped ship to the Sega Genesis. Buster's Hidden Treasure basically follows in the foot-steps of the original NES game, as you have a World Map, and this time, you can control which levels you want to go to. Think of it, as I said earlier, as a bastardized version of Super Mario Bros. 3, except without those lame ass Warp Whistles that NOBODY WANTED!
Anyway, the story is here is your basic "got to come up with some sort of bullshit" plot. Buster discovers a treasure map, Montana Max wants it, so he hires Dr. Gene Splicer to kidnap all of Buster's friends, and use his special machine of doom to control their minds, much like his little big mutant wolf dog thing. And from there, you must start your journey, for the road is long...
The second you start playing, the in-game design feels so much like Sonic the Hedgehog, with a lot of "booster" buttons to jump on for added height, as well as the ability to run super-fast at all times, and lots and lots of free space to run through to build up for the speed, as well. Completions of scenes is illustrated by Gogo Dodo opening a warp hole for you, or at least that's what I think it is.
Much like in most side-scrollers, the first world is basically a "open land/grass lands" back-drop, but with much improved graphics since the last time we've seen it in a Tiny Toons game. As expected, Dr. Splicer is abundant throughout the game, making his first appearance merely three levels into the first "world", controlling Dizzy Devil. As usual, characters you'll encounter during these early stages include the Rat and Fido, but also some weird mutant plant throwing tomatoes, as well as bats that look familiar, but I just can't name. Even though it's the first level, you'll come across a wide range of stage designs, from straight scrollers, to mazes involving large trees, and the Sonic-esque annoyance of having to dash through things, only to discover a lot of retractable spikes that can kill you with one touch. Once you come to the end of the first level, you'll have your second boss battle, this time with Calamitie Coyote.
From there, it's onto the caves, where fire and brimstone becomes our next obstacles to overcome. These levels require more patience than earlier, mainly because of the deadly platform jumps, but there not so difficult you'll want to bang your head against the wall until the sweet ooze comes pouring out. Anyway, our next boss battle brings us to Plucky Duck, who isn't much of a threat. Things start to get a little odd with level choices. Next, once we leave the Lava Pits, we get out to the Lake, and eventually, a Pirate Ship, where you must combat with Montana Max. But wait... this game isn't over yet (although at this point, I'm tired on these games, and stop). It's time to head over to the Ice Planet of Hoth. These might be the most frustrating levels, and for the obvious reasons. Precise jumps and ice platforms = a lot of nasty slides into bottomless pits. I've never beaten the game, but I remember the last level involving Elmyra, and it being hard as hell. Looking up online, there's apparantly a robot boss that follows her, but that doesn't make much sense.
Much like the SNES game, the graphics and audio are top notch for their time. Everything looks and sounds just like it should. I do question the type of game Genesis decided to make here, though. Outside of the Tiny Toon characters, it felt a hell of a lot more like a cheap Sonic the Hedgehog game. At least the SNES Tiny Toons had some unique features to keep things more original. Here, it's just beat a level, move to the next level on the map, and repeat for about 36 more times. Now, I'm not saying this wasn't a good game, but it just felt very cheap to me. If you have both systems and wanted a Tiny Toons game, I would easily recommend Buster Busts Loose over this one 100 times out of 100.
Game #4: Tiny Toon Adventures: Acme All-Stars
North American Release Date: 1994
Console: Sega Genesis
Finally, we've got something new. After countless games featuring the cast of Tiny Toons in what were almost entirely side-scrollers, we've ventured into the realm of a "what the hell was everyone smoking when they came up with this one" idea. Now as much as I love Tiny Toons, I never, in my wildest dreams, would've thought it up to create a sports game with them. Yes, Tiny Toons playing basketball and soccer (and a few other crappy mini-games that no one cares about).
The main portion of the game is played in "Story Mode", where you basically alternate playing games of Basketball and Soccer as the main group of Buster, Babs, Plucky, and Hamton, with the occasional mini game. Also, there are five different "venues" to play in, from a normal stadium, to a western setting, forest setting, downtown, and Monty's Playroom, and all of them have their own unique booby traps. In fact, Monty's Playroom is the most gimmicked, as in Soccer, you score, but then play a game of roulette to find out if you scored between 0 or 3 goals on the play.
Because the nature of the game is so unique, I will play an entire game of each, and break down each game with detailed thoughts for each, as if any of them will play any different from each other. Sorry that I'm not willing to play 5 games of basketball in Tiny Toon land, but even I am human to that kind of suffering. YOUR roster of Tiny Toon characters to choose from are... Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, Hamton, Furrball, Fifi (the female skunk version of Pepi LePew), Dizzy Devil, Montana Max, Elmyra, Calamity Coyote, Little Beeper (Road Runner Jr.), Shirley The Loon (based on a well known psychic), and of course, Plucky Duck. Randomly selecting we have our game of basketball set up...
Scrooge's McSuckers (Babs Bunny, Plucky Duck, Shirley The Loon) vs. Computers Crappers (Little Beeper, Calamity Coyote, Buster Bunny)
First thing I noticed, is that each character has an energy bar that allows them to pull of a signature move. For example, Plucky will start flying, and anvils will drop on him, shooting the ball towards the hoop on contact. Buster has exceptional speed, and Shirley the Loon floats through the air. The controls are a little shakey to start with, but once you get comfortably with things, everything should be fine. No real major skills needed to play, as A-button is for shooting, B-button for passing, and C-button is for special moves. Each quarter lasts 3-minutes, with a 24-second shot clock for each possession (these times can be altered in the options menu)
First quarter highlights: Buster opened a can of whoop-tushy on the McSuckers, scoring 10 of the Crappers 14 points, while each McSucker managed to score one basket each, despite failed attempts at special moves and a lacking defense. (14-7 Crappers)
Second Quarter Highlights: The McSuckers came out a team on a mission, errupting on offense and playing a much tigher defense, allowing only three field goals the entire quarter, and managing to take a two-point lead into the halftime show, performed by Babs, Fifi, Shirley, and Elmyra. (22-20, McSuckers)
Third Quarter Highlights: The McSuckers continued to dominate the floor, demonstrating a knack for the full court press, forcing turnovers, and some nifty offensive attacks. Babs errupted for 8 of the teams 16 points, while Plucky added in a couple of baskets from beyond the arc' to increase the McSucker's lead into double digits heading into the final quarter. (38-26 McSuckers)
Fourth Quarter Highlights: The Crappers were not going to be denied, opening the quarter on a 10-0 run, thanks to some fine shooting from Buster and Calamity. Despite Plucky and Babs extending the lead with bac-to-back three-pointers, the Crappers managed to tie it up with 3-seconds left on the clock on a break-away scoring from Calamity Coyote. (44-44 tie)
OverTime: The McSuckers came out fast, with a 7-0 run, but the Crappers brought it to within 1 at one point. Down by 3 and with 18 seconds left, the Crappers failed to score on a three-point attempt, giving the Mcsuckers are hard fought victory in overtime, by the score of 55-52. The final scoring totals of the game:
Babs Bunny: 33 points, Plucky Duck: 16 points (4 three-pointers), Shirley The Loon: 6 points
Buster Bunny: 24 points, Little Beeper (16 points), Calamity Coyote: 12 points
Now for a game of Soccer...
I'm playing as Furrball, Montana Max, Dizzy Devil, and Elmyra (the Goaltender) against the team of Fifi, Shirley the Loon, Calamity Coyote, and Hamton (Goaltender). We'll play in Montana Max's Playroom for shits and giggles. Special attacks are REALLY helpful in Soccer, as they are your best chance at scoring, and at the least, knock the goalkeeper senseless, allowing a rebound attack on what is basically an empty net. Again, we've got a 3:00 minute clock for halves, but the clock moves in half-speed, so it's really 6:00.
Furrball paced the McSuckers with two early goals, totally for three points. Shirley cut the lead briefly, before Dizzy extended the lead back to two heading into halftime. Down a score of 4-3, the Crappers scored two goals, but were denied points thanks to the trickery of Max's Mansion, forcing them to try and score a third time to simply tie the game. It was too late though, as Dizzy scored unexpectedly to extend the lead to 5-3, and the McSuckers managed to hold on to the victory, not because they were the better team, but because the game was rigged.
Obstacle Course: You play as Buster against Hamton, Plucky, and Babs. You basically run through an obstacle course, avoding shit, and picking up speed boosters and such to jump to the front of the pack. Whoever has the best time after three laps is the winner. There are also mini-games for bowling and a Whack-a-Mole subbing Montana Max in for any Mole's you might think you would be whacking with your mallets. Fun little time killers, but I'm burned out from the previous games.
Overall, an enjoyable game. While not the most realistic games you'll play with soccer and basketball, the game stays pretty true to them, and the computer puts up a decent enough challenge so you don't feel lie you're going to win every time. The character designs are great, as usual, and each level design is unique and has it's own feel to it. The music can get repetetive, since the same track for each level plays in a constant loop, but you do get your assortment of whistles and horns to signal out-of-bounds and end of quarters. As much fun as I've had playing through, I can imagine sitting through Story Mode and playing game after game without feeling a little bored. I think there's a password option, but still, there's not that much depth to the game to keep it fresh over the course of hours of gameplay. As a final say, a good game with something that not a lot of games had to offer at the time, but nothing much more than a time waster.
Game #5: Tiny Toon Adventures: The Great Beanstalk
Developer: TGI Studios and NewKidCo
North American Release Date: October 27th, 1998
We've finally hit the bottom of the barrel. Despite Tiny Toons not airing new episodes for a good 6-years at this point, and it's syndication run being down to the end of the line, the Tiny Toons franchise was revived for a bunch of crappy educational or younger child games with no difficulty and little skill requirements. You'll also notice that famed developers Konami have been dropped from the Tiny Toons series, and now we have some crappy studios I've never heard of. You're probably wondering how the hell I got this game then, because surely even I had some standards for video game playing. The simple answer... parents. Despite being 13-years old, I guess my mom thought I was still playing Where's Waldo or something, and got me this game probably because it had Tiny Toons on the cover of the case. Here's the jist of the game, courtesy of the instruction manual...
"You are about to get whisked away on the wackiest adventure that ever tickled your funny bone! This totally out-of-control fairy tale plops you smack in the middle of fast-paced action. You and your pals BUSTER BUNNY and PLUCKY DUCK, face non-stop fun as you seek out treasures that have been snatched by the Giant. BABS BUNNY'S kooky clues help you navigate the zany twists and turns.
This irreverent, interactive odyssey will have the whole family in stictches with the original character voices from the "Steven Speilberg Presents TINY TOON ADVENTURES" hit television series. If you think you could stalk a more entertaining game, you don't know beans!"
Well, that explains a whole lot, doesn't it? You're supposed to navigate Plucky and Buster through nine fairy tale adventures to earn keys to unlock the Giant's Castle and retrieve the chicken that lays the golden egg, a bag full of gold, and magical glying golden harp. You'll be guided on your adventure with the help of Babs Bunny, who knows everything, and thus could've beat the game before the game even begins, if you really think about it.
Before you get excited thinking "this sounds like a great game", think again. I couldn't imagine a 5-year old having trouble playing this game, as it follows the Point-and-Click engine. You enter a "level" and it's just a bunch of animations, depending on who or what you click on, hoping you've chosen the right thing that Babs hinted at from the start of the "level". And you don't do this for one level, you do it for NINE. Yes, the level does change its clues to keep it fresh, but there's nothing here to come back to, even after playing through half of the game.
Game worlds include Little Red Riding Hood Land, Mother Hubbard's Kitchen, The Three Bears Bedroom, Beat-nick Lounge, The Great Wall, The Street Corner, The Boat Dock, and in the Peas Porridge Diner. I don't know why they needed to include a bunch of fairy tales to make TINY TOONS more exciting, but whatever. Every level plays the same. You enter it, you get a vague hint at what you're looking for, then you click on everything you want to, hoping to figure out the clue, or just watch the animations and enjoy them for a few seconds.
Graphically, I can't complain, I guess, but games like these had been released on the PC for years before hand (I remember a kick-ass Magic School Bus PC game with superior graphics that I played at least three years earlier). Sound effects are minimal, but at least the voices in the game sound pretty good. As noted earlier, there's NO difficulty, and even though you could beat the game in a half-an-hour, there's a password function if you decide to quit, but want to go back for more punishment. Controls are non-factor as well, as the only "playing" is traveling from level to level on a stage that has a few hazzards, but nothing else. If you manage to die getting to a level, you really must suck at these games. Overall, a game meant for young children who needed something to keep them occupied for an hour.
Final Final Thoughts: Other than the flying disc of crap at the end, all four remaining games range from either good to excellent, in my mind. With the limitations of the NES when putting it in a difficult position to be compared with newer generation systems, it's hard to really go back and find good games that aren't titled "Legend of Zelda" or "Super Mario Bros.", but Tiny Toons stands up still today as a fun side-scroller. Buster Busts Loose and Buster's Hidden Treasure, while different in the long run, both came out at the same time, both play differently, but aren't so far from each other that it tarnishes either's connections to the Tiny Toon universe (although BHT steals a LOT of Sonic style level design during earlier stages). Then finally, we have Acme All-stars, a fun little romp where you play a variety of sports games with your favorite characters. No doubt, if you ever come across these games, they'll probably all cost you under $5 on eBay or any other used trading websites, and I'd recommend picking up all the Tiny Toon games you can from before the PS1 era (as well as the horrible GBA games release in following years).