Tag Archives: platformer

SBC #07 King Dedede & Kirby’s Adventure

Feels chilly in hereYou never know what will inspire a lifetime.

Today’s game is Kirby’s Adventure. Just in case you were born on another, possibly star-shaped planet, I will explain what this game is all about. Kirby is a pink ball with marginally existent limbs. He eats damn near everything he can fit into his giant mouth/stomach, and this includes the many enemies that bar his way forward. Sometimes when Kirby eats an opponent, he gains their “power”, even if that “power” is simply “has a sword”. Kirby fights through eight worlds to defeat his rival, King Dedede, who is a giant penguin wearing a bathrobe. Kirby’s Adventure is a simple 8-bit title, and, while Kirby can acquire a number of “verbs” through his borrowed powers, it is mostly a two-button affair that is marginally more complicated than Space Invaders.

And it is impossible to describe how effectively this lit my imagination ablaze.

But I’ll give it a shot…

Kirby’s Adventure was not a birthday or Christmas gift. Given its release date is in May, I assume it was a “graduation” gift, or something related to a good final report card. Whatever the case, it is distinct in my mind as I remember my parents purchasing this particular cartridge at the mall, and that granting me the ability to pore over the instruction manual on the ride home. I remember “learning” the slide and air pellet moves, thinking these extra skills would somehow turn my Kirby into an unstoppable juggernaut. I remember internalizing the story of Dedede stealing the dreams of Dreamland and then having a bubble bath in the Dream Spring (it’s part of the story! Look it up!). I even eyed that forgotten relic of the NES era of instruction manuals, the “Memo” section of the book, and imagined what I would write there in the future.

But when I got the game home and finally popped it into my ‘intendo, I was greeted with the brain poison that still seeps through my skull to this day…


Here is how you draw Kirby. Before his adventure gets going, you should know this. You should be able to do this. He is a little circle with some eyes. You can do this. This is Kirby’s Adventure, but you can make your own Kirby. Take your own Kirby on your own adventures.

And, my brothers and sisters, that is exactly what I did.

WeeeeeI have always been a teller of tales. Long, long before this blog became my main creative outlet, I would draw “storyboards” for my own narratives (and videogames!). My mother was a teacher that always wound up with far too many (literal) copies of any given test or worksheet, so I drew on the back of countless pieces of scrap paper. My art was primitive, my stories were puerile, but, dammit, I had a story about Mega Man to tell, and I was going to tell it. I would shove these wannabe flipbooks in front of any relative that would be in the immediate area, and I would spend hours (or what must have felt like hours for the adults in my life) explaining the intricacies of my chronicles… even if half those narratives were probably just marginal plagiarism of episodes of The Real Ghostbusters. Look! I didn’t have much life experience as a primary schooler! Ideas had to come from somewhere!

Thus, Kirby was my holy grail. As of Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby was the perfect combination of three things:

1. Kirby had practically no personality beyond “is heroic”
2. Kirby is a circle, and thus super easy to draw
3. Sometimes Kirby has a sword

And that’s all it takes. King Dedede was hard to draw, but Metaknight was a circle that permanently had a sword. Bam, we have a persistent enemy. Throw in an immobile tree and the occasion waddle whatever, and I could produce reams of paper all decorated with Kirby and his various adventures. It was primitive fanfic in its most primal form.

And then I actually wrote fanfic. Hell, it was a fanfic radio play.

HUGSKirby’s Adventure is ultimately an easy game. There are frequent save points (on a system where even RPGs were stingy with allowing a break), multiple minigames that will grant you dozens of lives, and health powerups floating around roughly every seven inches. However, even the original Kirby adventure acknowledged that Kirby had an easy time of it, so it was possible to unlock Kirby’s Adventure Extra Mode. After finding every last switch and hidden passageway in the main game (no small feat back in the day before FAQs and firmly established Kirby “secret tropes” [aka hammer the up key any time you see a shadow: it’s a door!]), a much more difficult version of Kirby’s Adventure would be available. Kirby now had a limited three points of health, healing items restored a correspondingly meager half of their previous payloads, and all minigames were cranked up to “impossible” difficulty. More importantly, though, was that there was absolutely zero saving allowed. This was obviously a move to keep the lives counter important (no continues and limited lives would be more than a little marred by a “restart anywhere” save system), but the lack of even a “suspend game” option (if such a thing were possible on the NES…) meant that it would take an entire day to conquer a game as lengthy as Kirby’s Adventure. It took me weeks to finally finish Kirby’s Extra Adventure (which, reminder, when you are ten, is approximately the same length of time it takes to learn Hungarian as an adult), and when I finally saw that Nightmare cleared off the map, my prize was… a sound test.

So I decided to make the most of it. You better believe something this embarrassing is going behind a click…

SBC #03 Donkey Kong & Donkey Kong Land

Donkey TimeBack in the day, videogame stories were only available through their attendant instruction manuals. The manual for Donkey Kong Land opens with this plot excuse:

Cranky Kong, ageing video game pioneer and primate patriarch, swayed back and forth in his rocking chair as he harassed his grandape, Donkey Kong and his little buddy, Diddy Kong.

“Well, I’ve got to admit, your last adventure was a bit more successful than I ever thought it would be…” he jibed. “Course, put a few fancy graphics and some modern music in a game, and kids’ll buy anything nowadays…”

Donkey and Diddy tried to discreetly cover their ears as they stared out into the jungle surrounding Cranky’s cabin. The old ape continued his taunting.

“Back in our days, understand, we had an extremely limited colour [sic] palette to work with, and we still made great games… No way you could duplicate that feat today, Donkey my boy! No siree!”

Cranky had been going on and on like this for what seemed like hours, and Donkey Kong had finally had enough.

“People liked Donkey Kong Country for more than just the ‘fancy graphics’ you old coot!’” he snapped. “The number of colours [sic], the resolution, it doesn’t make a difference. It was just plain fun!”

“Yeah, and we worked hard fighting K. Rool and his goons!” Diddy chimed in. Both he and Donkey still had the bumps and bruises to prove it.

Cranky nodded his head knowingly. The two youngsters had predictably risen to the bait and swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

This look familiar?“So you’re saying that an adventure like your last one would be a success even on an 8-bit system, like… Game Boy, for example…” Cranky said slyly.

“That’s right!” DK exclaimed without hesitation. Diddy joined him in accepting the challenge.

“We’ll even let the Kremlings steal the banana hoard again, and this time we’ll get it back on Game Boy!” Diddy boasted. “Hey a golden opportunity to get out of DK’s ridiculous guard duty training,” he thought to himself.

“I’ll believe it when I see it!” Cranky scowled.

And, with that, Rare laid down the gauntlet: Donkey Kong Country was a success because it was a great game with amazing gameplay, and not just because it had fancy, “next gen” graphics. If Donkey Kong Country were “demaked” onto a less powerful system, it would be just as powerfully popular.

And thus did Donkey Kong Land actually prove that graphics and gameplay do go hand in hand.

Very gnawty?Against all odds, Donkey Kong Country was one of the great momentum-platformers of the 16-bit era. When Super Mario Bros. was released, it inspired a cadre of imitators that all tried to capture that Mario charm, but generally fell short of the mark. Mario controls in a very particular way, and, when you don’t understand the exact physics of a portly plumber, you wind up with a dozen platformers that can all be described as “slippery”, “clunky”, or “dogshit”. When Sonic the Hedgehog dominated the discourse and entertainment centers a few years later, those same copycats came out of the woodwork to make the same crappy games, but faster (and sometimes with an obnoxious animal). Donkey Kong Country could easily have fallen into similar traps, but, in the deft hands of Nintendo and Rare, the big gorilla came out as something truly unique and extraordinary. Donkey Kong is definitely not Mario or Sonic, but he was something special all the same.

The best verb for Donkey Kong is, appropriately enough, “barreling”. DK initially feels slow, but, as is proper for a powerful primate, once he gets going, there is no stopping this king kong. Donkey Kong Country is at its best when DK can barrel forward: rolling, bouncing forward off enemies, and sometimes even using that roll to dip down into a pit and leap off thin air in some mimicry of a double jump. What is important is that Donkey Kong feels great when he is moving forward at high speeds, but also feels different from when a certain blue hedgehog pulls off the same general moves. There is an omnipresent weight to Donkey Kong, and steering that weight ahead to the level goal feels genuinely attractive. The usual Donkey Kong Country stage has neither a timer nor a reason to rush, but it always feels like you are being rewarded when DK is continuously barreling.

Then there’s Donkey Kong Land. This miniature adventure somehow does not understand its titular star.

Here we goIf you think you are going to make progress as a barreling ape in Donkey Kong Land, you are sorely mistaken. The pre-rendered, pea-green sprites of Donkey Kong Land are delightfully large and chunky, but that means there isn’t much screen real estate to actually maneuver. And, given your average Kremling exists exclusively to bonk into our heroic apes, this translates to a whole lot of damage incurred by lizards, vultures, and the occasional flying pig that will spawn right on top of our protagonists. And this limited space doesn’t only lead to reptile-inflicted injuries: Donkey Kong Land has a bevy of pits and moving platforms that would be passable on a larger screen, but are now all but unavoidable due to a complete inability to see what is below your monkey’s toes. Any way you slice it, unless you’ve been preserving your clairvoyance skills for 90’s Gameboy games, you absolutely cannot play Donkey Kong Land with any kind of speed.

And everybody involved knew this, too! This tip appears plainly in that same instruction manual:

“Take it slow when you first explore a level. Some of the enemies are well camouflaged and might be hidden, waiting to spring out at you!!”

Memorize every trap and trick, kiddies, or you’re going to have a bad time!

That other game...And this is all such a tremendous shame because Donkey Kong Land did go the extra mile and create a new, separate experience from Donkey Kong Country in every other way that mattered. Donkey Kong Country was already a game loaded with ideas (your main hero could run, jump, and even swim!), but Donkey Kong Land added some interesting concepts that seemed to only exist within the confines of the Gameboy. Sunken ruins! Bosses that feature “counter” gimmicks! Nemo the whorly thingy! An entire level featuring some kind of weird “turn your K-O-N-G letters into platforms” dealy bopper! And some of the locales and features of Donkey Kong Land were later adapted to future Donkey Kong Country concepts. Gangplank Galleon and whole areas devoted to climbing around rigging got their start here. Kremlantis the half-sunken ancient temple and Monkey Mountain both feel like areas that would be right at home while exploring the wilds of Donkey Kong Country 3. And Big Ape City and its reliance on construction sites seems to be the only spot in the Rare-era of Donkey Kong history wherein OG Donkey Kong is referenced as heavily as it would by the future of Mario & Donkey Kong titles.

But it is also inconsequential before the fact that Donkey Kong Land is a bear to play.

Clam upThe Swirlwind is an excellent example of the issue here. This mobile, miniature tornado initially appears as a typical kongponent, but leaping on it will reveal that it is practically a mobile trampoline (or tire, as is proper to the gorillas). This can lead to some interesting level design, as the added height from a shifting (and potentially dangerous) object means a lot in a world where your playable character has jumps that are best described as “hefty”. And this is the kind of object/enemy/tornado that would appear in future Donkey Kong Country adventures to great success. But here? The screen is so limited, every time you get a perfect “high jump” off the whirlwind, you don’t know if you are going to be landing on solid ground ever again. And when they combine this moving object with its best friend, the moving platform, you are all but guaranteed to watch ape-death again and again. You can probably guess where it would be best to land, but odds are good that a Krusha or bottomless pit is waiting for you. And the end result here is that every time you see the Swirlwind, something that should guarantee a new and interesting challenge, you just sigh, because you know you are going to have a pile of gorilla corpses in front of you by the level’s end.

And that’s Donkey Kong Land in a nutshell: a lot of fun ideas smooshed onto a screen that absolutely cannot support them. Cranky was right! Donkey Kong Country was good because of its “newfangled” graphics! Because without the Super Nintendo, Donkey’s island goes from thrilling to tedious.

Donkey Kong Land deserved colors and a better resolution. But what we got just proved why graphics and gameplay are as inseparable as Donkey and Diddy.

SBC #03 Donkey Kong & Donkey Kong Land

Donkey Kong in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Pretty Kong

  • He any Good? He’s the original heavy in the cast, but he is never as heavy as you think. I would venture to state that Donkey Kong’s bulk is evidence that the weightier Bowser was planned for the original, but didn’t make the final cut. In the absence of a barrel tossing special, his signature now seems to be a bevy of helicopter punches that are surprisingly effective.
  • That final smash work? At this point, we simply have a generic punch flurry. This is a tremendous step down from his previous DK Bongo Blast, but one can forgive the emphasis on a final smash that doesn’t switch to an entirely different gameplay style. At least both of these moves directly reference Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.
  • The background work? DK Kong Jungle has a delightfully moody sunset, and includes a mobile barrel. It doesn’t get more Donkey Kong Country than that!
  • First Appearance: He was a slow guy before they even figured out how smash attacks should work, so he might be the worst character in the original Super Smash Bros. But, hey, sometimes you just want to make a comeback after suffering 150% damage, and carry a victim off the stage.
  • Classic Mode: Donkey Kong journeys to New Donk City by recruiting Diddy, banishing K. Rool, and then fighting a series of “partner” duos, culminating with Mario & Luigi before defending the city against Master Hand. So I guess the moral of Donkey Kong Country is that Donkey Kong always has a buddy?
  • Smash Trivia: Was Donkey Kong the first Super Smash Bros. boss? He appears in the original one-player mode with a gimmick like any of his original eight contemporaries, but his stage is a 3 vs 1 fight with a gigantic gorilla. Considering this appears on the hit list before Metal Mario or Master Hand, this could be read as the series’ first big bad. He is at least big…
  • Looking good, guys

  • Amiibo Corner: Looks like we have three Donkey Kong Amiibos. Turbo Charge Donkey Kong is a used car salesman. Super Mario Series Donkey Kong has goofy bulging eyes to look like a muppet. Dynamic jumping Smash Bros Donkey Kong has a cool open mouth. That’s the pick of the primates right there.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Donkey Kong is primarily based on his Donkey Kong Country incarnation, and everything about that game was designed in a cooperative parallel with Donkey Kong Land, so… kinda? Smash Bros Donkey Kong is like the more successful brother to Donkey Kong Land’s weird dude that never left his parents’ basement. Or always left his parents’ basement? How does that work with a portable game…

Donkey Kong in Donkey Kong Land

  • Monkey BusinessSystem: Gameboy initially, with full Super Gameboy support. It also saw rerelease on the Nintendo 3DS, which theoretically ups the odds it will appear to menace us again on the Nintendo Switch Online service.
  • Number of players: Nobody bothered to cram link cable support into this one, so just one monkey at a time.
  • Support Network: Other than the rhino and the ostrich, every other buddy from Donkey Kong Country does not appear in Donkey Kong Land. There is no Funky Kong to usher you between levels, no Cranky to offer advice (outside of the manual), and nary a giant frog to be seen. The forgotten Candy Kong’s save ability has even been replaced by saving being tied to collecting the K-O-N-G letters. It is difficult to imagine a weirder choice than forcing the player to scour a level repeatedly just for the ability to turn off their Gameboy.
  • Say something nice: The Donkey Kong Country game pak is banana-yellow. I always appreciate a uniquely colored cartridge.
  • Donkey or Diddy: It feels like they didn’t quite get the distinct momentum differences between Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong 100% correct in this game, so Donkey wins due to being able to bounce off bigger Kremlings. Sorry, Diddy, he’s just built different.
  • Favorite Level: Big Ape City is the clear winner here. Vaguely urban environments have been a part of the series since DK first ventured through a Kremling factory, but swinging across chains over a skyline feels special.
  • Watch it, Buddy: We played Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong ’94, and a variety of other, not-gorilla based games on Even Worse streams back in February. You can watch the stream right here:

    Original Stream Night: February 7, 2023

    This was based on a vote as to which Donkey Kong game I should play, and I did technically play the winner for a little while. But I also have the attention span of a gnat, so this kind of thing happens.

  • An End: King K. Rool is responsible for all this misery, and once you beat the guy (who has a jumping splash that now has an outlet outside this game), you get… credits. That’s it, folks! Not even a Cranky denouement!
  • Just like SmashDid you know? According to interviews, Paul Machacek of Rare advocated for Donkey Kong Land to be its own game (and not a simple port) due to the success of the original-to-Gameboy Battletoads game. This is the first I’m hearing about Gameboy Battletoads being successful… or.. uh… existing as its own game at all, so it is debatable on whether or not Donkey Kong Land was grounded in a flawed premise from its inception.
  • Would I play again: Not on your life. There are better Gameboy platformers out there (Super Mario Land 2 springs immediately to mind) and better Donkey Kong Country games (like, any of them). Slumming it with Donkey Kong Land is good to see what’s cooking, but it is not ever going to be a filling meal.

What’s next? Pyra is going to be featured, but Mythra will have to wait a week after that. Please look forward to it!

Can we move?

Wild Arms 3 Part 58: Breaking Down

Not to get too in-depth on how the sausage is made, but the making of this Let’s Play has a very clear "steps" process:

1. Play and record the game on the Playstation 2.
2. Go over every individual frame on a PC, and dice up the screenshots/GIFs. In general, one "chunk" of gameplay (usually a dungeon and its surrounding cutscenes) is addressed while watching two (2) movies, so about 3ish hours per chunk. This yields between 100-450 (!) shots, depending on the length of the dungeon and its plot.
3. Play the same section of the game on the Playstation 5, this time with an eye on capturing anything I missed the first time.
4. Grab those screenshots, which is usually a quicker/more focused process.
5. Separate the shots into chapters of approximately 80-125 screenshots, and then write about ’em.

And I am noting this process because as of last Wednesday evening, I have now transformed the entire game of Wild Arms 3 into screenshots. Steps 1-4 for the entirety of Wild Arms 3 is now complete, and all that is left is to write the remaining chapters.

… And there’s about 20 more of ’em, so we’re going to be here a while.

But still!

And we are noting this milestone on June 12, Crimson Noble Day. One man tried to catch a crimson noble. He set up a simple trap consisting of a basket propped with a stick and beaker with his own blood under it. Nobody believed he could catch a crimson noble with such a stupid trap. But when dawn broke, a crimson noble was trapped under the basket. It’s one of those ‘you never know until you try it’ kind of stories.

Previously on Wild Arms 3: We are infiltrating the big bad base of the big bads! After a (not) thrilling race through some closing doors, it is time to check in with…


The tube room.


It has been a while, but please recall that Malik’s plan all along has been to revive his (presumably dead? Maybe just moved to Florida to get away from him?) mother. If you thought all the clone-mommies got flushed down the toilet after Yggdrasil crashed, here is confirmation that Malik is back on his bullshit.


First dialogue for the most important character in this world.


Ladies and gentlemen, she is finally for-real appearing.


(flashback previously not seen in the LP)

“Little Girl” here has been appearing throughout the game at various locations. You can go back and check the LP for confirmed sightings “all along”. This one from waaaay back when we first visited Little Twister was saved until now for the purpose of not drawing too much attention to this creepy creature. Really couldn’t find a way to casually excuse that screenshot. These, however…


(First Appearance, Issue #8)


("Above the Alley" at Humphrey’s Peak, Issue #21)


(Randomly part of Janus’s monologue, Issue #30)


(Waiting to oversee the show, Issue #45)

Are some more subtle sightings. Note that she has always appeared during cutscenes or in areas just out of reach. Despite appearing to be a normal NPC, she is never accessible when you actually reach her location.

For the record, her first appearance was before we even met Maya.


(It’s a sound effect, hard to capture in a screenshot LP, Issue #49)

Also, she has a weird little laugh that we heard briefly back in Ruins of Dreams, and will be hearing again more often.

There are also other references to her in the script going back to even before she appeared, but those will become more overtly apparent later.



And, somewhat explaining her aloofness…

FGC #620 The Incredible Crash Dummies

Learning!Let’s look at the history of The Incredible Crash Dummies, and how they are enormously relevant today.

Cars are amazing. Much like the common copier, a car is a normal part of daily life for many people, but something that would be impossible science fiction a couple centuries back. An automobile is a device that an individual personally owns, and allows said individual to turn a trip that would previously take weeks into a handful of hours. Want to transport groceries from the market? Go on a road trip? Steal a couch from your neighbor? A car makes it all possible!

Cars are also rolling murder machines.

Automobiles are terrifying. They are gigantic hunks of plastic and metal that we routinely hurl through our neighborhoods at speeds that could turn a human being into bloody chunks. Statistically, automobiles are one of the leading causes of unintended death and injury in the United States, with 37,595 motor vehicle deaths in 2019. And, while the US has experienced less motor vehicle death since 1999, there has been an alarming trend of that number ticking back up since 2009. Did we lose some driving skill points with the Obama administration? Are people returning to more reckless driving after watching Gerard Butler’s Gamer? Can we blame “self-driving” cars that have demonstrated a Christine-esque bloodlust? The world may never know. What is important is that cars are helpful and an incredibly likely way for you or a loved one to die/be seriously injured.

But maybe it won’t be so bad if you wear a seatbelt. I learned that from some dummies.

This is gonna hurtThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a US Federal Agency that is ultimately responsible for vehicle safety standards. Like many American institutions, it is three lobbyists in a trench coat claiming they are working for the public good (and they’re totally old enough to buy beer, too, mister). The NHTSA was founded back when America had a three company monopoly on the very concept of cars, and has often been responsible for legislation that punished companies both foreign and domestic for attempting to gain a foothold that might make Henry Ford cry. Look up some details on the Citroën SM sometime if you’d like to see how the safest car ever™ can apparently be torpedoed by headlights. But, even if their motives are suspect in many situations, people at the NHTSA are firmly in the business of safety, so we have those proud men and women to thank for less cars immediately immolating their passengers. Oh! And seatbelts! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was practically founded to get seatbelts around your tummy.

Legislation made seatbelts mandatory on all cars produced after 1966. Then Reagan (naturally) dropped ‘em in a fit of deregulation. But they came back shortly thereafter, as the Supreme Court sided with insurance companies that wanted seatbelts in all cars (for altruistic purposes, I’m sure). New York then became the first state to require seatbelts to actually be worn in 1985. From there, other states quickly followed suit, and now New Hampshire is the only lawless hovel in the USA where seatbelts are optional. But as important as laws are, they are only as good as their enforcers. A seatbelt law is great for pulling someone over for the slimmest of reasons, but there were also many cops that, having grown up in a seatbelt-less environment, thought the law literally wasn’t worth enforcing. Seatbelts were and are a greater good for society and vehicle passengers… but they were kinda uncomfortable, and nobody likes being told what to do. It’s impossible to say if it’s bad or not.

Enter the crash test dummies.

COMMENCE LEARNINGIn 1986, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began running public service announcements featuring crash test dummies. Where did they come from? Well, in 1869, Mary Ward was killed by a steam-powered car. 60 years later, someone decided to look into that, so Wayne State University of Detroit started seeing dead people as test cadavers in controlled car crashes. Unfortunately, measuring what the heck was going on was practically impossible with the tools available in 1930, so things were rough. But it did work in some fashion, as much of what we know about car design safety and bodies being ejected through windshields comes from this era. Look it up! It’s in The Journal of Trauma! Which is a real thing! There were also animal test subjects for a time, too, because humans are the trashiest animals of all. But at some point in there, people stopped strapping corpses and bears (!) into cars, and the crash test dummy became standard. The dummy was apparently first used in 1949, and technology on assessing exactly how damaged a dummy could be by a crash gradually progressed as the decades passed. And, as the crash test dummy became an iconic part of car crashes, someone had the bright idea to stick those dummies out in front of a camera. Vince and Larry (voiced by Garfield!) were born, and their slapstick hijinks lasted as long as a normal commercial, and they taught everyone “you could learn a lot from a dummy”.

And, while it is hard to measure the success of the Crash Test Dummies campaign, they were apparently effective. The dummies were ubiquitous in the old days of limited television channels/entertainment options. It seems certain that they aired these PSAs in conjunction with family-oriented programing, so if mom, dad, grandma, and Jimmy Jr. were sitting down to watch Head of the Class or Designing Women, the Crash Test Dummies would be a part of the experience. And they were entertaining! If you heard Vince and Larry talking about mundane-but-inevitably-fatal tasks like crossing the street or driving down to the store, you kept your butt in your seat, and watched the carnage unfold. At the time when the official campaign was retired in 1999, seatbelt usage had risen from 21% to 67%. Was this because people had learned a lot from these dummies? Or was it because children loved the toyline?

Because who could say no to this weirdo?

Colors are real
(Bomb Man and Tron Bonne provided for scale)

The Incredible Crash Test Dummies was an action figure line that combined the two things boys like most: vehicles and wanton destruction. Every Crash Test Dummy vehicle was built to be driven, destroyed, and then immediately rebuilt. And these were not Lego-esque construction toys, they were cars with crash-apart windows, crumple zones, and other fun features designed to break (and instantly unbreak). Everything scaled very nicely with other toy lines (if you want to see a GI Joe live through a generally harrowing experience, go nuts), and the actual figures had neat features, too (Vince and Larry can really go to pieces at the drop of a hat). There were even “little buddy” style figures, like the cat, dog, and crash test child that parents demanded be banned. So there’s a collector’s market, too! Hooray! They were never on the same tier as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers, but the Incredible Crash Test Dummies must have had enough of a fanbase to sustain three different seasons of toys.

Oh, and a few videogames. They… existed.

Here we goTechnically, today’s chosen game is The Incredible Crash Test Dummies for the Super Nintendo. This version was ported to the Sega Genesis, Amiga, and other systems that did not have the wherewithal to host Chrono Trigger. There was also a Nintendo Entertainment System version, and that more or less played like a primitive sports title/minigame collection, and it was ported to the portables of the time. What ties these two versions together is that they were all absolutely terrible games. The NESalikes at least consistently reminded you that you were playing with crash test dummies, and practically every event involved some kind of slapstick carnage. The SNESalikes, however, were simply 16-bit mascot platformers (from the people that brought you B.O.B.), and were practically indistinguishable from the rest of the poorly considered dreck of the time. There is the charm point of the dummies losing their limbs as they lose health, but that doesn’t impact the gameplay nearly as much as you would think. Beyond that, there is a P-Balloon-esque powerup that encourages some limited flight-through-inflation… and that’s about it. This could easily be Swift the Tenrec racing against the nefarious Dr. Walrus, because no one would notice the difference if the Incredible Crash Test Dummies license was missing from The Incredible Crash Test Dummies game.

But there is a plot to the SNES version! And that plot is surprisingly germane to today’s point (we’ll get there eventually).

The Incredible Crash Dummies toy line initially featured Vince and Larry, the same dummies from the public service announcements. However, shortly after the toys were initially produced, parents began protesting the toy line, and networks stopped airing the PSAs. The reason? It was assumed that the PSAs were now serving the dual masters of public health and turning a profit. Every ad that told you to buckle your safety belt was inadvertently also informing children they could go buy The Incredible Crash Test Dummies merch down at K B Toys. This was seen as a bad thing by the public at large, so the toy line was made more distinct from the PSA characters. Vince and Larry kept on informing the public of the dangers of hugging windshields, and colorswaps took over as Slick and Spin. From there, Slick and Spin gained Pro-Tek Suits, as they had to combat their new enemies: the Junkbots! And those Junkbots barely looked like Crash Test Dummies! How convenient! This prompted a Saturday Morning Special/VHS Tape that told the (computer generated) tale of how the Crash Test Dummies must stop the nefarious Junkbots from stealing a really kicky vest or something. This same story/conflict became the plot of the Super Nintendo game, and now you too can battle the Junkbots and all their rad playsets and toys. Nobody likes youAnd never shall a Junkbot interact with Vince and Larry, else the safety of Crash Test Dummies implode. In short, whatever initial plans for The Incredible Crash Test Dummies line ever existed were seriously derailed the minute it seemed like the toys might endanger the successful PSA campaign.

And I am just trying to understand a world where a capitalistic campaign to make money off children is derailed and modified for the sake of public safety. Christ, I cannot even imagine that anymore.

You want Angry Ranting Goggle Bob? Sure, let’s do this. I lived through a number of significant events in recent American history. I remember when we were first supposed to hate Iraq, and I remember when we were asked to do that all over again a few years later with a similarly named president. I remember when 9/11 happened, and we were told to “never forget” the deaths of 2,996 people. I remember friggin’ freedom fries. And why do I mention any of these tragedies? Because they became focused, national campaigns demanding compliance. There is not a single person on Earth that ever heard of a law renaming a condiment due to political pressure, but, somehow, for six months, all the local restaurants employed servers that asked if you wanted “Catalina dressing” instead of “French”. Forget the crash test dummies, I have seen ridiculously successful advertising campaigns that benefitted only the US Government my entire life, and the public at large doesn’t even recognize such as propaganda. Or, put another way, next time someone shouts “America is Number One!” go ahead and ask them to name their sources. And, no, “freedom” is not an answer.

But this is not to say the United States of America is terrible! It is simply an affirmation that when the federal government wants something to be the standard for the country, they don’t need to make a law. All they need to do is pump the ubiquitous media with interview after interview about how something is our “enemy” or some ambiguous-but-vital goal is “impossible if we don’t all work together”. We all need to go to the mall right now, or the terrorists win.

Jumpin' AroundYet, now that there is a public health emergency that is likely to cause us to confirm how many people over a million you need to see dead before you start using a plural, the government cannot get its messaging straight. Killing Middle Eastern people was the only way we were ever going to ever be happy again, but getting a vaccine? Put that in the maybe column. Wear a mask? No, that might offend some customers that think this Applebee’s staff is somehow dirty. Actually close some goddamned stores because the risk of a localized outbreak will have a greater impact on society than Cletus buying his 256th Funko Pop? Never! Our government has never had a problem taking a bold, unwavering stance on the subject of massive, coordinated death, but when it comes to public health, everybody is shrugging and claiming personal choice is important. Nobody was talking about “personal choice” when the local donut shop was being vandalized every week after 9/11, Joe!

And this pisses me off after the last two years: Where are the Crash Test Dummies for COVID? I understand that Lorenzo Music might not be available for dubbing, but can we get a few decent voice actors to voice the… I don’t know… Mask Buddies? Some kind of ad that runs between Hulu reruns that promotes public health in the slightest bit? And not some “we’re all in this together” commercial to get you to go to Starbucks? The original Incredible Crash Test Dummies were a successful PSA and toy line! And videogame! That was awful! But still! You can do this! You can save lives and make a couple of bucks! I know you can do it, America! You have literally done it before!

Listen to this dummy. You could learn a lot from the past.

FGC #620 The Incredible Crash Dummies

  • Battle all our playsets and toys!System: There was a full system breakdown during the article, so I will just reiterate that we’re focused on the Super Nintendo version today. Will I look at other ports? Absolutely not.
  • Number of players: This really should be two players, as Crash Test Dummies come in pairs. But no dice. Sorry.
  • Level Up: Your main offensive ability is jumping on your opponents, ala Super Mario Bros. But! You can also throw a limited-ammo spanner of some kind as a projectile. And it gets better as you defeat more bosses! Or… it is supposed to… or… something… as it mostly just gets “stronger” by flying in loop-de-loops or other bizarre patterns. Like a lot in this game, it is a choice.
  • Favorite Boss: It is hard to say how much this was influenced by the already toyetic movie, but it seems like the bosses were exclusively chosen to sell the vehicles offered by the toyline. And I’m okay with that! I have been fighting the Technodrome for years! The final boss is the best, as his morphing truck adapts the whole “build whatever” aspect of the Junkbots canon. Oh, but all the bosses are absolutely terrible to fight, because of horrendous hit detection, so you won’t ever see the final boss anyway.
  • Bonus Time: Every boss is immediately followed by a Turbo Tunnel-esque bonus stage wherein you are forced to ram your dummy into a wall with as much speed as possible. For this being the “bonus” of playing an Incredible Crash Test Dummies videogame, you would expect they would maybe put a little effort into parts flying everywhere, or possibly our favorite dummy saying something cute as he is ejected. Nope! Just dumb explosion graphics. Lame.
  • Away we go!Stage End: Every level ends with a spinning “Next Zone” sign, and your dummy rolling into a ball to eject off to parts unknown. That seems weirdly familiar for a 16-bit platformer….
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So I made reference to a local donut shop being vandalized during the article. This is seriously in reference to my college days. Immediately after 9/11, the local donut shop was run by a Pakistani dude who actually did have his 24/7 coffee/donut shop vandalized, like, all the time. This led to the situation wherein my friends and I, completely unaware of this, showed up one night at 3 AM for coffee and donuts, because we were, ya know, bored college students. The owner had a bat at the ready when we arrived, because he assumed we were there to rob and/or vandalize the place (admittedly, we did have multiple tall people with a post-Matrix inclination toward trench coats). It was a confusingly tense situation! Mostly because half our party was high as hell, and had a really hard time understanding what was happening! After we explained that we mostly just had the munchies, the guy calmed down, and we all had coffee and donuts and talked about how much it sucks that so many people were so reactively racist all of a sudden. And I want to say that, barring the premiere of the Justice League cartoon/Gamecube (we were nerds), we came back there and hung out with the guy every weekend that semester. After a few months, hostilities seemed to die down, he stopped personally working the night shift, and we went back to dealing with whoever was making minimum wage for corralling geeks on the graveyard shift. But the point is: don’t let anyone tell you the time after 9/11 was a time of “national unity”. It was only a time of national unity for people that didn’t have to protect their businesses and homes with baseball bats.
  • Did you know? Yes, actual bears were used as crash test dummies at one point in history. This is inhumane and marginally insane (do you know anyone built like a bear? … I mean… a real bear). But it did mean that, for some short epoch, bear was driving. And how can that be?
  • Would I play again: No. This is… No. B.O.B. might get a play first, and that’s horrible.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pokémon Legends: Arceus! Completely random that yet another Pokémon game appears on this blog! Maybe a Castlevania will be next! Anyway, please look forward to it!

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