Friday, 25 December 2015

Snes Review 102: The Lawnmower Man.

So it has been a fairly long time since my last SNES review. Some of it is the fact that I got a new job and found myself with less free time than I had before but I guess a big part of it was also because I had review more than 100 games and felt like I had hit some kind of mile stone, it seemed like after reviewing a nice interesting title for review number 100 anything after would be a bit of a step down.  I did consider just letting this whole thing die after all 100 reviews is a lot of reviews and there are other things I wanted to talk about, modern games, the megadrive, politics, philosophy and economics but at the end of the day I said I would review 150 SNES games so I want to review 150 SNES games even if it takes me till this time next year. So here is review 102 and apologies for the long wait.

Now it might have turned up in some of my conversations or in previous blog posts but I am a very big fan of the 1950's Horror comics and beyond that horror in general. This all started with my exposure to several films when young, soon films turned to comics, and comics turned to books and this is how I came to find my self reading the work of several authors including the likes of Richard Matheson and Stephen King. Now days it wouldn't be that huge an issue to find a game being made with the involvement of some kind of horror director or writer but back when I heard that a SNES game was being made based on a film which was apparently based on a sort of horror short which I had read it was actually kind of exciting, sure the very fact it was based on a film should have started my spidey sense tingling but I was less jaded and cynical back then.

The original ''The Lawnmower Man" is a short story which was written by Stephen King and originally published in the May 1975 issue of a US magazine called Cavalier, later it was included in King's 1978 short story collection Night Shift, which is where I found it a good ten years latter. I dont want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it but I will simply say this it is a little tale with connections to sort of mythical beings and has no futuristic science to it. Beyond some kind of weird ZX Spectrum game with an RRP of £3.99 or less I dont really see how back then the idea of this story could make a game, at least not a proper game on a 16bit system.

My excitement died pretty much when I saw The Lawnmower Man the film. Sure the film is named after the Stephen King short story of the same name, but it basically has pretty much sod all to do with it. Again I dont want to spoil something you have yet to experience but I will give a brief idea of what the film is about. The film is about a simple minded gardener and a scientist who decides to experiment on him, using a combination of drugs and Virtual Reality exercises/games. The film had some interesting CGI in it and some decent ideas but overall was a very run of the mill average movie. It was no wonder that it was originally titled Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man, but this ended when King managed to successfully sue the producers and have his name removed on the basis that his story and this film basically had sold all in common.

So on the outside of it a man being trained with VR games doesn't sound like a bad set up for a game does it? Well the reviews for it back in the day were kind of all over the place with some claiming it to be absolutely crap while the odd one praised it like it was some kind of proto Mario 64 but I think the general consensus was that it was an incredibly average game.

The game is basically composed of different parts, there is a platformer, then there is a 3-D first-person flying game with a lot of mode 7 thrown into the mix, but there are also some levels where your flying in a sort of ship or driving along on a futuristic bike where it is basically a horizontal or vertical shooter. The main issue is that the platformer is OK if incredibly pedestrian and average where as the 3D mode 7 heavy stuff rather than being the icing on the cake or the jam to separate the layers and mix things up a little is more like the brussel sprouts you were made to eat as a child if you wanted your Christmas pudding, that is if your Christmas pudding was a only just edible none exciting Christmas pudding. The shooter bits are not to bad but nor are they too good, everything is kind of average but you still feel basically grateful that they tried to break things up and mix genres and elements together to keep you entertained.

If you want to know what the platforming bit is like well imagine a sort of amateur run and gun Contra/Turrican kind of thing, you shoot stuff, you jump around, you pick up bigger and better weapons to shoot even more things with

When you first see the mode seven bits you will be a little impressed and be like ''oh wow something different, this doesn't look bad'' but soon this will turn into ''oh great one of these bloody bits again''. These bits basically involve shooting at wire frame enemies avoiding there shots and trying not to crash into stuff, it could potentially be exciting but you realise all to soon that none of the enemies could hit an elephant with a Rocket launcher, there AI is simply more brain dead than almost any you will have faced before, and lets remember in 1977 the Atari 2600 a machine with only a 1.19mhz processor managed to show competitive functional AI in its tanks in the video game cart known as Combat (one of the first 9 games released for that particular system). . Not much of a gameplay rating here, that's for sure. And also, the enemies, even in the last few levels, have the worst AI ever. If anything will get you in these sort of bits its more walls than enemies. I would have scrapped these bits as novel looking as they are and concentrated on doing my best to ensure the other bits were more enjoyable, but I guess they figured this stuff was what would stand out the best when printed in magazines and is what would sell the game.

The sound is pretty basic even if I find the music strangely funky and appealing in a way I cant quiet understand, the controls are decent, there are no real major major bug bears with this game beyond what I have mentioned but the way it feels when you play it you cant find yourself saying anything kinder than either the generic ''yeah its average'' or ''at least they tried something'' So I think it is pretty clear that I would give this game 5 out of 10. Would I recommend a purchase? Only if you can get it for around £5 and really fancy something you dont already own. I have had this knocking around in my collection so long I have no idea when or where I got it but looking online, looking about you can get a cart for around £5 on Amazon and if you like trying new things then give it a shot you might like it more than I do.

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