Tag Archives: cartoons

FGC #393 Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion XL

CARTOONS!To every game, turn turn turn, there is a season, turn turn turn…

Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion was originally a 2011 release for the Nintendo 3DS, and then resurfaced six months later as Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion XL, a slightly expanded version intended for consoles. At its core, CN:PTE is a Smash Bros clone starring the heroes and heroines of various Cartoon Network shows.

And that was everyone’s initial problem: CN:PTE is a lousy copy of Smash Bros.

First of all, “copy of Smash Bros” does not just mean this is a generic four person mascot fight ‘em up with some weird new feature wedged in there; no, this is just straight up Smash Bros. More specifically, it’s Smash Bros. Brawl, as the trophy assists of that title have been adapted to include random Cartoon Network stars like Numbah 362 and Cheese, the most annoying imaginary friend ever. Other than that “change”, this is just Smash Bros, with death being based on falling off the screen, and damage being accumulated through an increasing percentage meter. And, let’s face it, this is a brazen and fairly insane route to take for a game that was clearly intended for systems with better options. We were still three years away from Super Smash Bros. 4 3DS, but the Wii had hosted Brawl for years, and who didn’t own a Wii? My mother owns a Wii! There are better options for Smash times, because, without a doubt, this is a dreadful smash clone. All of the characters control in a very “floaty” manner, a number of the special moves seem like excuses for suicide (forward + special is yet another dash move that will toss you off a cliff, yay!), and, while we’re examining every little flaw, most of these characters do not naturally lend themselves to a moveset. Get emIf a videogame neophyte chooses Charizard, the humongous, flaming dragon, our featured noob can still make a pretty good guess at what the special button is going to do (fire-breath seems like a lock). You might get a similar reaction out of CN’s scythe-wielding Grim Reaper, but Billy and Mandy? Or Dexter? Or Flapjack? Did that kid ever actually fight anything in his franchise?

Which brings us to the next big issue: the roster is unerringly confusing. You’ve got representatives from Johnny Bravo, Codename: Kids Next Door, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Powerpuff Girls, and even Chowder. Want to know what all those shows have in common? They were all cancelled before the release of this game! And it’s not just a matter of “maybe the game was delayed a month or two”, no, the last PPG episode was in 2005, so we’re looking at a title that was released two years after the 10th Anniversary Special. And just go ahead and rub the salt in the Samurai Jack and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack wounds. I don’t care if Jack eventually came back! That cancellation is still raw! It’s understandable to toss in a few “old” characters for posterity’s sake (Johnny Bravo should always be remembered), but this is less “Ice Climbers are here” and more “The latest Smash Bros will exclusively star Urban Champion and Excite Biker”. In fact, if you really comb the roster, you’ll find that the only franchise that was still in production during 2011 was Ben 10… Which is likely why they made him the star of story mode.

BARFSo maybe the story mode is worthwhile? Nope! It’s got the same dreadful physics as the rest of the game, and, give or take a side adventure or two involving lasers, it’s just a mediocre beat ‘em up where you don’t even have to beat ‘em up half the time. And there’s a minecart section! And, God, it somehow has an even worse physics engine than every other part of the game. It’s like the design team wanted to see just how repellant one over-merchandized bit of merchandise could be. Maybe the game tastes bad, too? I didn’t test that, but I haven’t licked any of my discs in a while, might be worth a check.

But one thing about story mode does stand out. Even if the gameplay is atrocious, even if the levels are more tedious than shouting about clowns coming to destroy us all, and even if you’re forced into playing as Ben 10 far too often; even with all that, there is something magical happening. The plot of PTE is simple: a dude has decided he’s going to watch some Cartoon Network, but his remote control has gone maliciously haywire, and is attempting to corrupt and otherwise damage the fine programs you’d find on the best cartoon channel around. Nothing too complicated there… Except the “narrator” watching TV is George Lowe. George Lowe, best known as the voice of Tad Ghostal aka Space Ghost, host of Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Cartoon Planet. And, well, that’s enough to get my attention.

WeeeeeeCartoon Network’s programs, and the cartoon characters featured in this game, are not my childhood. My local cable package didn’t even receive Cartoon Network until I was old enough to be embarrassed by watching such a thing. And, even before that, it wasn’t like CN had that much original programming. Ultimately, I had already ruined a good two proms before I ever caught sight of Courage the Cowardly Dog. But, despite my advanced age (almost ready for college!), I did watch Cartoon Network. I watched “Adult Swim” before it was Adult Swim. I watched a pile of Cartoon Network shows, old and new, basically because, well, what else was on? Some people watch The Real World or game shows, I watched Criss Cross Crisis reruns until my eyes bled. It wasn’t like I was a dedicated fan or something, it was simply what I flipped to when I had nothing better to do. And, particularly during my college years, it seemed like I had a lot of time for such vegetative watching. Doing some horrible calculus homework? May as well watch Johnny Bravo while I’m at it.

And I’m well aware that I fetishize my own childhood, but it came as something of a surprise to me that I’m also a sucker for nostalgia that originated a mere decade (and change) ago. Who knew that Space Ghost would immediately up my engagement levels by about 1000%? And the rest of the cast! They may have been “retired” by the time the game premiered, but now, years later, it’s like revisiting old friends. I never really cared for Kids Next Door or Chowder, but seeing them again, after all this time, it’s… refreshing. It does my heart good. These characters and shows may be off the air now, and their home network may be a completely different animal, but this disc-based time capsule of a long forgotten epoch has healed this old man’s broken heart.

GET IT!?In any objective way, Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion is not a good game. In 2011, it was a disappointment (you’ve had Finn the Human on the air for nearly two years, guys! And could you put more than ten minutes into filing the numbers off Smash Bros?), and in 2018, it should be a disappointment again. But, somehow, divorced from its original eon and system (I am technically playing this on the WiiU), it’s engaging. And, even more than that, it’s fun. It might just be nostalgia for a bygone era, but, dammit, it works.

Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion, your time has finally come.

FGC #393 Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion XL

  • System: Nintendo 3DS for the original version, and then XL hit on Wii, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. Sorry, the Vita wasn’t quite available yet.
  • Number of players: As a Smash clone, the answer must be four.
  • Missed Opportunities: Some complained that, while “old” Cartoon Network shows were being featured anyway, there should have been Courage the Cowardly Dog and Ed, Edd, and Eddy on the roster. However, while Courage had a great show, he is maybe not the most suited to a fighting environment. And, as for Ed, Edd, and Eddy? Nobody ever liked that show, so I can understand why it wasn’t included.
  • Hey, I liked Ed, Edd, and Eddy! No. No I assure you, you did not.
  • Other Complaints: It appears all of the items exist exclusively to be picked up and thrown. There isn’t a super mushroom or Franklin Badge or any other doodads that do anything more interesting than “is a projectile”. Considering the wealth of “items” available in various CN shows, that is a major disappointment.
  • Favorite Featured Cartoon Network Show: I still have a hard time believing there was ever a cartoon that featured a Caribbean Grim Reaper palling around with a megalomaniacal girl and her marginally brain dead sidekick. And sometimes they went to Hogwarts! But it had Weird Al! As a squid! Just do yourself a favor and watch The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.
  • Favorite Assist Toon: For reasons that were never succinctly explained, Dracula in the Billy and Mandy Universe is a 70’s Disco Fiend…
    Get down!

    And that’s the best thing that ever happened.
  • Samurai Back: One of the stages is Samurai Jack’s home kingdom prior to Aku’s attack. Man, it really has to sting to finally make it home only for it to be a two minute fight against Captain Planet.
  • An End: The narrator is never seen, but, in response to losing his (evil) remote control, “Narrator” comments that he should find a lava monster to pull one lever to change channels. So, yes, this entire game is Space Ghost: Coast to Coast: Origins. Go get yourself a Moltar, Thad!
  • Did you know? Dexter’s Laboratory and Johnny Bravo were the first two Cartoon Cartoons back in 1996 and 1997, respectively. This was followed by Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel. If you’re curious about why you’ve never heard of those latter two shows, there’s a reason.
  • Would I play again: Honestly? Exclusively for the nostalgia, I just might. I know I’m not the only nerd around here with his head stuck in the past, and I do have four controllers…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Young Justice Legacy for the Playstation 3! Time for some… justice? Of the… young kind? I guess! Please look forward to it!

The power of ponytails

FGC #317 Press Your Luck 2010 Edition

Should I be shouting this?You ever try to trace down the exact origins of your own quirks?

I’m a big videogame nerd (thanks for reading entry #317 in a series about videogames I done played), but I’m also into other nerdy pursuits. Comic books? All over that. Anime? That’s a big duh. And that somehow translates into an unending love for animation in all its forms, too. “Anime” is its own genre with its own set of tropes, but I will gladly watch most anything that is even the slightest bit animated. Do we consider this “Western Animation”? Or just call it Looney Tunes? Doesn’t matter, as I’ll watch everything from God, the Devil and Bob to Son of Zorn before I watch a single episode of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve been watching The Simpsons for three decades, but I drop SNL the minute TV Funhouse doesn’t show up. I like cartoons.

And, since about five years ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I like cartoons. Why did this quest start five years ago? Well, because there was a hurricane of some repute, and my mother decided to hole up at my place to weather the incoming storm. I don’t have cable, so when I asked my dear mother what she wanted to watch (as the likes of Netflix requires premeditated viewing habits), her response was a curt, “Just as long as it isn’t a cartoon.” Needless to say, I was offended. This woman comes into my house to watch my television, and she has the audacity to claim that I watch… what is the implication here?… that animation is somehow low brow? Not as good as “real” TV? Look, my-so-called-mother, I realize watching that marathon of Digimon Frontier may not have been your cup of tea, but no need to denigrate an entire medium because you were not entertained by Ranamon’s antics. I watched Bob’s Burgers, too! That’s for adults! I think!

LOSERBut, yes, after I managed to calm down and narrowly resist kicking my mother out of my house and into a deadly hurricane, I began to assess my media consumption. And it appears that mother is always right; I do watch a lot of cartoons! And, while we’re at it, let’s admit that the live action shows I do watch are pretty close to cartoons, too. Is there really that much separating CW’s The Flash from Cartoon Network’s Justice League? Is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s description as “a live action cartoon” that far off base? I’ll even admit that Riverdale is pretty much an anime, complete with a bland male protagonist that seems to have a harem of attractive and varied ladies (and they even found an excuse to get those ladies into swimsuits by the third episode!). Even when I’m not watching cartoons, I’m still watching cartoons, and I’d like a decent explanation for why.

And, sorry readers, I got nothing. Maybe it was an overexposure to Voltron, maybe I just really liked Ghostbusters as a kid, but I can’t tell you where this all started. I just… like cartoons. That’s it.

But, when I think about it, I can tell you my earliest “maybe I have a problem” memory.

My grandparents owned a guest house in a shore community, all of a block from the beach. I always lived one town over from said grandparents, and my parents, like many parents before them, often needed a break, so I wound up at the grandparents for the afternoon. This worked out well for all parties, as my parents could go do adult stuff (side note: I’m an only child, so they clearly never did anything interesting), I could maybe convince my grandfather to take me to a boardwalk arcade, and my grandmother had a fierce maternal instinct, so, for some reason, she liked babysitting. My mother was an only child, but she is still quick to recall tales from her childhood of my grandmother effectively adopting other young family members for months at a time while their parents “relaxed”. I guess my grandmother just had the “grandma gene” activated at a young age. Whatever the case, everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, and I wound up staying with my grandparents at least once a week (assuming it wasn’t winter, when they had a tendency to flee to Florida. Hey, everybody needs a break).

Excellent...But while this arrangement worked out rather well when I was all of three, things started to get more dicey when I hit the later years (like when I was old and mature enough to enter kindergarten). At a certain point in your life, you realize that you must be entertained at all times, and just sitting on the floor staring out the window is no longer going to cut it. And, when your current caretaker is also running an entire guest house business and attempting to keep you diverted… well, it’s time to turn on the TV. Which could have worked… if it wasn’t the mid-to-late 80’s, when the average person had all of twelve channels, and all of them were running reruns of Mr. Ed. Sweet, beautiful cartoons might be on in the morning, but this was a time before even The Disney Afternoon, so, unless Grandpa got the VCR working again, I was stuck with stupid, lame adult programming.

But there was one show my grandmother and I could watch together with no objections from either side: Press Your Luck.

Press Your Luck is basically a game show for stupid people. Uh, to be clear, I’m saying the contestants are dumb, not the people watching it. Those contestants, though? What a bunch of morons. Basically, whereas any other game show at the time (the 80’s) was generally skill based (even if that skill was just “know the price of beans”), the hook of Press Your Luck was that all your correctly answered questions earned you “spins” on the “board”… so basically you got another shiny quarter for the slot machine. About 10% of the game was proving your worth with ridiculous questions, and the other 90% was praying to CBS that you didn’t land on the square that would bankrupt you instantly, the Whammy.

But, oh man, that Whammy. That was why I watched.

WHAMMYI suppose in an effort to differentiate Press Your Luck from Wheel of Fortune, the Whammy was an animated, red “gremlin” that would appear and “destroy” the player’s earnings. And no two Whammies were alike! Okay, that’s a complete lie, but there were something like 50 different Whammies, and it was unlikely you’d see too many repeats in a week’s time. Some Whammies used giant cartoon bombs, some Whammies acted out little skits, and some Whammies imitated The Beatles for reasons that were never clear. They were basically five second Chuck Jones skits, and they were glorious. Well, to a five year old at least.

But that’s all it took to bridge the generational gap between my grandmother and I. On one side of the aisle, you’ve got a woman that literally grew up on a farm, a devoted Christian woman of many decades watching a show that is half trivia and half live gambling. On the other side, you’ve got a tiny child that just lives for every time that silly little red guy pops up on the screen. And, for a half hour, everyone is happy.

So maybe I have no idea where my love of cartoons originates. And maybe I’ll never know. But I do know that sometimes that love of cartoons allows for generations to be crossed, fun to be had, and for hearts to be as one… while watching Press Your Luck.

Look, this is my blog, not a Hallmark card. Screw it, I’m gonna go watch some more Adventure Time.

FGC #317 Press Your Luck 2010 Edition

  • System: Nintendo Wii for this review that has absolutely nothing to do with the game. Also available for the DS, PS3, and various idevices.
  • Number of Players: Three. Not coincidentally like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Look, it’s Press Your Luck. It’s 10% trivia and 90%… pressing your luck. Huh. Just got that. What’s important here is that some of the questions are written for the legally brain dead…


    And I’m not even sure this next one is accurate!


    But I don’t know enough about moose to say for certain.

  • Climb the ladder: While the game seems to be built for multiplayer, there are apparently twenty different “levels” to this adventure. Each “game” takes way too long as is, though, so be glad I ever got up to Level 3.
  • Press Your Facts: In researching this article, I was shocked to find that Press Your Luck only filmed episodes from 1983-1986. That can’t be right! But, then again, they apparently recorded 758 episodes during those three seasons…. And that’s probably accurate.
  • Did you know? Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp animated the Whammies. Those two knuckleheads would go on to be responsible for a lot of animated nonsense in the 80s and 90s, and were the creators behind Eek! the Cat. And, additional fun fact, if you think Eek! The Cat is bad, I will fight you.
  • Would I play again: In memory of my dear, departed grandmother…. No. This is not a fun game. There are better experiences available on… every other system. Ever.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy Fractured Furry Tales for the Atari Jaguar! Seriously!? I have six Jaguar games, and four Bubsy games, and somehow ROB managed to choose three of each? I don’t like those odds. Oh well, what could go wrong? Please look forward to it!

Clap along
Yes, all according to plan…

FGC #152 Earthworm Jim

Sing itOne weird side effect of the Fustian Gaming Challenge has been revisiting classic videogames from a critical perspective and seeing a wildly different game from my memory. I often claim that, despite playing videogames for years upon years, it wasn’t until about Final Fantasy 13 that I started experiencing this medium with a more inquisitive eye. Yes, obviously, I always played videogames with a general sense of “is this good/bad?” But, more often than not, I didn’t really consider the component pieces, and simply made the snap judgment of “eh, I like it” on nothing more than a play through or two. Videogames are videogames, man, why overthink it?

Ah, how I envy the thinking of those bygone days.

I’m not sure I like Earthworm Jim. And, what’s more, I’m not certain I ever liked Earthworm Jim.

Alright, I suppose I should start with separating the game from the character. I unequivocally like Earthworm Jim the earthworm. Back in the day, EWJ the Animated Series was my favorite cartoon next to Freakazoid (and I think they aired next to each other, too). It was a series made for my Dadaist sense of humor that wasn’t being sated anywhere else in 90’s movies and television (alright, maybe Stunt DAWGS… anyone remember that show?). Earthworm Jim trying to save his beloved Princess Whatshername from Psy-Crow and then battling Evil the Cat over a snowglobe was somehow right up my alley, and I vaguely blame Monty Python for the whole experience. I owned all the action figures (this seems to come up in a lot of articles…), and, by the time I was in high school, I would stick a Bob the Malevolent Goldfish on my desk during midterms whenever I thought I was particularly in need of luck. To this day, the phrase “fur-bearing trout” is somehow still a part of my lexicon.

And I want to say that I enjoyed the Earthworm Jim videogame. Maybe? I know I didn’t own Earthworm Jim, because (infamously… in only my own memory) my mother did not buy me the game for Christmas. Winner!She got me a magnetic poetry set instead. I realize it is inherently childish and petty to hold such a choice against her twenty years later… but, Jesus, what kid wants a magnetic poetry set? Where are random words ever going to get me!? Argh! … Er-hem… uh, anyway, yeah, I didn’t own Earthworm Jim until my 20’s, so I know I only ever played the game as a rental back when it was relevant. But I also had subscriptions to Nintendo Power and Gamepro (and probably just bought EGM), and, for what I recall as approximately 12,000 years, there was a lot of magazine coverage of EWJ. I might not have played the game very much, but I knew all the key players well before they hit Saturday Morning, and, yeah, when compared to the likes of boring heroes like Aladdin or Batman, EWJ appeared to be a revelation… albeit a revelation I could only enjoy from afar. Did you see all those interviews with Dave Perry? That guy is speaking my language!

So when I decided to replay Earthworm Jim (well, technically the robot decided), I picked up the controller with a song in my heart (“Through the soil he did crawl…”) and a smile on my face. This ain’t no not-trying-at-all Zool or best-left-forgotten Rampage Through Time, this is Earthworm Jim, dammit! This is going to be exciting!

And… it wasn’t any fun.

Earthworm Jim has some good points. The animation? Superb. The hero? Just oozing personality from every pore (do worms have pores? I should look into that). And, as ever, I like an ambitious failure more than a repeated rote rehash (shhh Mega Man games, I don’t mean you), so I appreciate the sheer volume of interesting ideas flung into what could otherwise be a pretty basic 2-D action game. There’s a lot here to like!

But… then there’s everything else.

First, and most disappointingly of all, there isn’t much in EWJ to separate it from its 16-bit contemporaries on the “humor” front. Beyond the headlining character, if you divorce the game from the Play it Loud era of gaming mags and cartoon spin-offs, there isn’t a lot of inherent humor in the game itself. Psy-Crow is a great foil for EWJ in the auxiliary materials, but in the game world he’s practically as Clayfighteranonymous as the UFOs in that Heathcliff game. The Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt is pretty much only funny based on her name, and I want to say that lengthy title does not actually appear during the game. Sure, this was the age of instruction manuals (remember those?), but without that additional bit of material, the whole experience comes off less genuinely funny and more “Nintendo lol random” like Claymates.

But, alright, humor is subjective, and we’ll always have a launching cow, so let’s move on to the actual gameplay. What do we have there? Well, we’ve got a lot of ideas that wind up smacking together the worst of old games design and new (new for ’94, at least).

From the old column we have limited lives and continues, which, alright, fair enough, we have to curbstomp the rental industry, so let’s make the game as annoying to play as possible. But that combines really poorly with the deluge of new gameplay quirks that are seemingly randomly introduced along the way. Platforming, cool, nothing exciting here… and then you’re controlling a jet-powered fishbowl? And there’s a rapidly descending oxygen meter while you’re trying to figure out the controls? Oh, sorry, you died, try again… assuming you haven’t wasted your lives elsewhere, because then you’re restarting the entire game from scratch. See also: being stripped of the super suit at the start of a tense boss battle, bungee jumping, and (my personal favorite screw job) those damn race levels. Couple this all with some unexpected, “unfair” enemy hits and bottomless pits (and, oh yeah, a final level that may as well be one giant spike pit), and you’ve got 16-bit graphics on a Battletoads experience.

But don’t worry, EWJ has plenty of modern conveniences! First and most obviously, “graphics” was put far ahead of the “proper platforming” bullet point on the priority list, so expect to be confused by stages with erratic layouts and confusing “is that platform in the ARGHforeground or background” challenges. Oh, and seemingly at the behest of his awesome animations, EWJ kinda controls like a dump truck, with all the jumping finesse that implies. Level 3 introduces mechanics that seem very similar to modern “stealth” gameplay, and another stage is a straight up escort mission. Add one FMV-based quick time event level, and we’d have literally every convention I never want to see in a 2-D game ever again.

This… does not make for a happy Goggle Bob.

But, in a weird way, it’s impossible to separate the myth from the man (worm). We’ll never know what a Clinton Presidency would look like without the shadow of his infidelity, and we’ll never know what Roman Polanski’s filmography would look like without the knowledge of his insidious off-camera inclinations Technically, these events didn’t impact these men’s professional output one iota… except when the stories became so big as to overtake everything. We see the same pattern over and over again with stars of all mediums, and I rather loathe the fact that I literally cannot immediately name a female musician that isn’t, in some way, known for her physical body as well as or more than her musical body. It may be a personal failing, but I cannot listen to a Britney Spears song without then considering her rise and fall and re-rise to guest-star on Jane the Virgin, and that should have absolutely no impact on my ears being engaged by If U Seek Amy.

So, maybe being a star occasionally has its benefits. My memory isn’t that great, so I’ll probably forget about this article in time (I once imagined that writing a thousand or so words on a videogame would be enough to permanently lodge the experience in my brain, but I recently was reminded of at least one article that caused me to respond, “I wrote that?”), and my brain will drift back to its default state of believing in Earthworm Jim. No, the game isn’t that great, but thanks to an adoring gaming press and ancillary promotions, I’m always going to fondly remember the worm that rockets through the sky. Earthworm Jim might not be that great, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Earthworm Jim.

He is such a groovy guy.

FGC #152 Earthworm Jim

  • System: Technically, I own and played the Sega Genesis version for this review. EWJ is also available for (take a breath) Super Nintendo, Sega CD, Gameboy, Game Gear, PC, Gameboy Advance, and the Wii.
  • Snot my problemNumber of players: Sorry, there’s only one super suit in the universe. Professor Monkey-for-a-Head didn’t build another.
  • Port-o-Call: There are so many different versions of this game that I don’t even know where to begin. What’s really important is that many a playground fight was started over whether the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo version was superior. I want to say that the SNES version is better, if only because that allows for the Sega CD version to then usurp that title. It’s like Pokémon.
  • Big Damn Cheater: One other reason this game was widely regarded as good may have been how easy it was to key in the right code and skip a level or have permanent invincibility. I don’t think I know anyone that actually played Level 3 from start to finish…
  • Just play the gig, man: If it wasn’t such an annoying level (that is to say, any level in EWJ) What the Heck would have possibly the best, most appropriate background music for its console generation. As it is, though, it’s hard to notice the clever “musical joke” while you’re fighting lawyers to survive.
  • Favorite Level: As rough as it can be on your lives count, I rather enjoy snot bungee jumping, and I advocate for such an event to occur during the Olympics.
  • An end: Oh, and another old school twist: you may be insulted for choosing the “wrong” difficulty level. Have I mentioned before how much I despise game developers chastising players for not playing on the most sadistic difficulty levels? Pet peeve if there ever was one.
  • Did you know? There was a rather infamous commercial for EWJ featuring an old lady telling bedtime stories and eating earthworms. They weren’t real earthworms, but people freaked out all the same, and the commercial got pulled from select areas. This is your daily reminder that 90’s commercials for videogames were hella weird.
  • Would I play again: It’s probably for the best that I don’t…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Soulcalibur 3! A new tale of swords and souls is about to unfold! Or… did unfold… it was like a decade ago… No matter! Please look forward to it!


FGC #129 Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

Can you hear the theme song?Let’s talk about Quantum Theory.

Quantum Theory is a huge part of advanced science, and its basic origins lie in a desperate need to explain the more unexplainable pieces of our universe. While the term “quantum” is often applied to whiz-bang future sci-fi, Quantum Field Theory was originally put forth in the early 20th century, thus making Quantum Theory literally older than Howdy Doody. Of course, at that time, Quantum Theory was little more than math nerds tossing theoretical equations back and forth, nowadays, we’re closer than ever to observing what was previously purely hypothetical, and, yeah, there is something a little sci-fi about the fact that we might stumble into multiple worlds.

The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is pretty simple to explain (particularly if you’ve ever seen an episode of The Flash). Every action made has a possibility to go in multiple directions. For instance, if you bite into an apple, you might get a fresh chunk of fruit, or you might lose a tooth. If you just had a tasty treat, your day continues unimpeded; while a damaged incisor means a much more complicated experience. And what if you were to meet your spouse on apple day? In one instance, you are happily married with 2.5 children and a surprisingly stupid dog, in the other, you’re forever alone, hording cats due to a dental based repulsion. According to the many-worlds interpretation, both of these universes “happened”, and you’re merely observing one or the other. Multiply this concept by every living creature on Earth, and you’ve got a whole heck of a lot of different universes. Some where you’re exactly the same, some where, through a series of fortunate coincidences, you are President for Life of the United States of Mexico.

Now, a number of scientists believe that the many-worlds interpretation is nothing more than a thought experiment, something used to demonstrate the way quantum mechanics could He's so happypotentially work, but not necessarily how it does work. After all, there’s only so much energy in the universe, and it would run out pretty quickly if a new universe had to be created every time you thought about your underwear choice (this is why I rarely go clothes shopping, the thermodynamics, you understand). But if you take the many-worlds interpretation literally, it means that there are infinite universes out there, and we got pigeonholed into a meager one universe. Hard not to feel a little indignant…

It’s interesting how this intersects with the famous quote of 18th century philosopher/math nerd Gottfried Leibniz, who stated that we live in the, “best of all possible worlds.” Ultimately, this phrase was interpreted as an approval of God (Christian version, natch), who, in his infinite benevolence, allows suffering, yes, but the suffering is apparently at an acceptable level. If there was any more suffering in the world, the world would be crap, but currently, there is only suffering so that the good may prosper and enjoy life. This sounds like an extremely First World Privilege interpretation of all the misery and pain in the world, but it is supported by many other religions across the world. Consider the Daoist Yin Yang, a symbol of good and evil eternally swirling, showing a perfect balance between the two. Is there an absolutely equal amount of anguish and joy in this world? Could such a thing ever be proven? If Aunt Bernie gets a bad haircut, does a starving child get a cupcake?

Really, it’s a matter of personal interpretation. Quantum Theory or no, Man has always imagined what could have been. “For want of a nail”, the proverb seemingly originating from time immemorial, states that even the Catchytiniest change in a battle plan could result in failure, and, if only that horse had a proper shoe, the battle would have been won. This is the dream of the loser, that some tiny change would have delivered the lost to a fortunate outcome. This is not the consideration of the winner, the one that believes, once again, that this is the best of all possible worlds. In modern times, you see it after every election (“Oh, if only Gore was president, then we’d all be skipping around breathing the freshest air!”), every war (“This is what America would look like after a victorious Confederacy”), or even random video game releases (“This cancelled game would have catapulted the Xbox to market dominance!”). We all have our interpretation of the best of all possible worlds, whether it involves marrying our prom date, or seeing a second season of Firefly.

But the other side of the many-worlds interpretation is the brass tacks of “this is the only world we got”. For better or worse, we are collectively observing this world, and it’s set in stone. Elvis, David Bowie, and Prince are all dead, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about that. You are you, and you are capable of change, but your past will always, one way or another, be a part of you. Five thousand years of recorded human history got us to this collective point, and, while we might squabble about the details, nothing is going to change the past. There’s no stopping this world to get off, there’s just what you’ve got, whether you think it’s the best possible world or the worst, technically, it’s both. This is the only world we got, and we only have fiction for comparison. It’s easy to imagine marrying your high school sweetheart and living forever in happiness… or “sweetie” murdered you on your first anniversary during an underwear choosing based “grizzly accident”.

This is the world we have, and it’s all we’ll ever have.

And it’s a world that contains Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.

wakka wakka?We live in a world where Pac-Man, a maze-based game about a circle with an eating disorder avoiding the vengeful undead, was an unbridled success. For years, and even arguably today, Pac-Man was imitated time and time again, spawning clone after clone… or is it “homage”? Regardless, Pac-Man was an unbridled success, and it not only devoured quarters at the arcade, but also gobbled up hearts and minds with more merchandise than could be imagined. We point to Star Wars or Pokémon today for examples of unfettered, exploitative merchandising, but there was a time that the pop charts were dominated by Pac-Man Fever.

Pac-Man begot a series of dubiously legal clones of his own, and the Pac-Man “formula” continued within its own franchise. Ms. Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania: there was no lack of Pac-Man games that were all basically “Pac-Man… with a new hat!” I’ll admit that, as a child during the age of Pac, I played all those games (except Pac & Pal… I think), and was never disappointed by the “new” challenges. Nowadays, each of those entire games would likely be little more than “another level” to be seen within the original game, but in the early 80’s, it was a fine way to blow through some change.

As seen in Smash BrosPac-Land was the outlier of this group, as it was a 2-D side scrolling game that was very similar to what would now be known as an Endless Runner game (or Adventure Island game?). You might be able to claim that this game was trying to adapt the “old” mascot to steal some of upstart Mario’s thunder… if the game hadn’t been released a year before Super Mario Bros. It was ahead of its time, but it was also generally the least well received Pac-Man. I’m only basing this on my own memory of the time, but I know that I saw about five Jr. Pac-Man machines to every one Pac-Land back in the heyday of arcades.

Despite all this, someone decided that Pac-Land would be the ideal starting point for the long awaited Pac-Man 2. So, in 1994, Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures was unleashed on the SNES and Sega Genesis.

It was… something.

I maintain that everything about this game is completely impossible. No, the game isn’t that difficult (the whole experience could be completed inside of two hours if you know what to watch out for), what I’m referring to is the sheer absurdity of nearly every decision that went into creating this game.

First of all, it’s a “playable cartoon”. This means you don’t have any control over Pac-Man, and all you can do is, basically, encourage Pac-Man to maybe do what you want. “You” also have a slingshot available, and its most common use is repelling various hazards from Pac-Man’s periphery. Also, you can hit Pac-Man rightIs this your fetish? in the face, and piss him way the hell off. So, right off the bat, you’ve got the world’s first sadism simulator[citation needed].

Next, there’s Pac-Man’s world. While it could just be a coincidence, it seems like a lot of the trappings of this game rely on the Pac-Man Animated Series, which would make a lot more sense if that show hadn’t concluded in 1983, a full eleven years before this game’s release. Yes, the show was probably bumping around at 4 AM on a random cable network, but considering the target audience of the show (widdle bitty babies), it comes off as an strange choice.

Then there’s every other bonkers thing that happens in this game. Pac-Man must get milk for Pac Baby straight from the cow, which involves being menaced by a crow. Neighbors will murder Pac without notice. Hot dog vendors are homicidal. Ghosts disguised as security guards. Rooftop ziplines. Hang gliders. Used gum monsters. Evil witches. And apparently randomly placed skateboards are the most deadly obstacles in Pac-Man’s universe. Pac-Man can play arcade games featuring himself and his wife. This is a world that makes zero sense to its inhabitants or us, the omniscient observers who keep shouting commands at the hapless, round creature.

Pac-Man lives in the craziest of all possible worlds.

Which forces me to consider our place in the multiverse. According to the many-worlds interpretation, we live on one of an infinite number of worlds. When you consider that, the raw odds of you (an exact genetic “copy” of you) even existing on 1% of the universes out there are infinitesimally low. And that’s even ignoring all the worlds where you died in the crib, got flattened by the school bus, or inadvertently wandered into the local tar pits. It sounds incredibly narcissistic, but consider that this might be the best of all possible worlds simply because it’s one where you exist at all.

Is this your fetish, too?And it’s a world where Pac-Man 2 exists, too. It’s a world where the sequel to one of the most popular and plagiarized games of all time starring one of gaming’s most iconic mascots is something that has barely ever been seen again. It is crazy from top to bottom, with nary a screen containing something that might be considered remotely “normal”. Pac Man 2: The New Adventures is absurd in every conceivable way, and it’s hard to picture the team of escaped lunatics that put this package together.

So whether you believe this is the best of all possible worlds or not, this is a world with Pac-Man 2, and that means, at the very least, we live in a world filled with wonder. Best or worst, that has to count for something.

FGC #129 Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

  • System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Also currently available for the WiiU.
  • Number of players: Just one, assuming you don’t acquire an audience over the course of playing the game.
  • Port o’ Call: The Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo editions are pretty much identical, except the SNES version contains Ms. Pac-Man, while the Genesis gets a version of Ms. Pac-Man that is reskinned to star Pac-Man Jr. This was apparently a result of Ms. Pac-Man being released on the Genesis shortly before Pac-Man 2, so the designers didn’t want to slash sales of their own prequel.
  • WeeeeBastard Child: If you didn’t know, the “original” Jr. Pac-Man was a Baily-Midway hack, and not officially sanctioned by Namco. This is similar to the origin of Ms. Pac-Man, but the difference is that everyone liked Ms. Pac-Man.
  • What is dead may never die: You can “die” or “lose” in areas of this game, but it’s the rare 16-bit game that didn’t bother with “lives”, so you’ll never see a Game Over screen. That won’t help you in any of the more death-prone areas of the game, but at least you don’t have to head home after every three losses.
  • Minecart? Yes, it is a 16-bit 2-D game, so there is a minecart stage. Whether it is more horrifying than the hang glider section is entirely up to the player. I hear some people just can’t beat that area.
  • Did you know? The Ghost Witch, main antagonist of this game, returns in Pac in Time, another 16-bit Pac-Man game that does not involve the traditional mazes. That game was actually a reskin of another game, Fury of the Furries, which only now features Pac-Man thanks to Namco wanting their mascot to get a little more exposure. So… was Namco hoping this Ghost Witch thing was going to take off, or did they just not feel like coming up with another villain?
  • Would I play again: Hey, Pac-Man is always good for a laugh. I can probably be counted on to play up until the second level/quest again… then things might get dicey.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mario and Donkey Kong! The oldest rivalry in gaming (… aside from ghost versus puck) is rekindled again. Please look forward to it!

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