I think I’ve made it quite clear that I’m a fan of comics. Not as huge a fan as just about anyone who steps foot into Comic Con, but I’m a fan. When I was young, I took whatever I could get, usually a single comic each week, but it was never enough. It didn’t help that the storylines I was following were fragmented since I’d only get random issues of each run. Besides one shots and the mercy of a few stores that bundled runs together, I had to use my imagination to fill in the plot holes. Still, it was worth it. Besides, I have money now and I’m satisfying younger me’s curiosity despite having to pay a mortgage.
I think I’ve also made it clear that I’m a fan of video games. Well, maybe it’s not so clear since about 64% of the articles I’ve written have been negative.
Since I love video games and I love comics, it only makes sense to mash the two together. It works with video games and movies, right? I’ve reviewed a ton of movie based video games already and…
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
First and foremost, I remember the pet rat. You could pick him up and put him down, and if there was a secret item in the panel, he’d find it. That being said, he took up an item slot, so finding an item didn’t always mean you could take it. Yet I always made sure to have the rat on me even though it meant that I couldn’t always pick up some much needed health. Why? Because it was more than just an item to me damn it! It was MY pet! You think I’m going to dump my pet for a can of beans, or whatever the fuck it was that’s used for health? NO!
Let’s put the rat aside for a second (then pick it up later). ‘Comix Zone’ was everything I pictured when someone mentioned a comic book based video game. Sure, there were games actually based on comics, but they didn’t feel like a comic book. Playing a game with the X-Men, Spiderman, or Batman felt like just that, a game. Here, you leap from panel to panel, progressing the story as you move about the level. Playing in this way kept me in the moment andmade it feel like I was cracking into a new issue every time I progressed to the next stage.
Everything about this game felt perfect except for one thing…the difficulty. Many games released at this point were hard, sure, but when your game is considered hard when “hard” was the standard, it elevates it to a new level. I remember several instances where you had to punch or kick part of the environment to continue, but here’s the rub: you got hurt doing so. It was such bullshit to have to not only budget your life bar to take on a room full of enemies, enemies that had waaaaaay too much health by the way, but to also ensure that you had enough HP to go down a manhole.
Besides that, the game was fun as hell.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
It’s basically what I remember, which is strange considering the amount of heavy drinking and head injuries in my life. I had a blast playing this game and even figure out a few things that younger me never picked up on.
One thing in particular that I picked up on was the different move sets. Most of the beat em ups that I’ve played have them, but for the life of me I can’t figure them out. In a game like ‘Maximum Carnage’ I just mash the controller like a chimpanzee with a woman’s face and just hope that the correct move plays out. With ‘Comix Zone’ the move sets are easy to figure out, going so far as to telegraph the kicking combo if you press up so that you can’t blame the game when you accidentally spin kick over the enemy’s head instead of delivering an uppercut.
Even when stretched on out a 50 inch flat screen TV, this game looks great. The colors pop, shadows fall in just the right way to give the appearance of depth, and watching the enemies start as sketches to be filled with color as they’re drawn in adds to the experience the game brings. It’s not like Sega was trying to push the boundaries of game development the way they did with Sonic or the way Nintendo did with Donkey Kong, yet there’s still something to be said about choosing the art style to go along with the technology. 16 bit graphics tend to hold up better than previous generations, so it’s not surprising that they still look great, but what is surprising is that I think I can honestly say that it’s some of the best on the Genesis. Just looking at ‘Comix Zone’ gave me the same feeling as actually playing it.
This game does suffer from ‘Battletoads’ syndrome however. It looks great, it controls great, it mixes up a lot of scenarios, but it’s needlessly difficult. I need to be clear, it’s not ‘Battletoads’ difficult (I didn’t want to kill a maternity ward full of babies to make people feel my pain after playing ‘Comix Zone’), it’s just harder than it needs to be. Enemies can take a hell of a beating before they’re put down, health is scarce, and I even remembered correctly when I said that hitting objects can hurt you. You’re not swarmed with enemies or hurt more than a few slivers from your health bar when kicking a trash can, but let’s face it, in a game where they set traps from panel to panel that require replays to understand, it’s a bit much.
I’ve come back to this game time and time over the years. It’s left an impression that I can’t shake nor am I inclined to do so. It’s like remembering your first blow…um…wait, I should probably compare it to something else lest I get myself fired. It’s like remembering a really good…steak? Whatever, what I’m trying to get at is that I have very fond memories of this game and everytime I play it, I’m reminded of why I love it, even when there’s a dry spell, like when I haven’t had…steak…for a very long time.