Yup, another movie based game. I had a lot of them growing up. Sure, my collection had some of the gems we all know and love, and I played plenty of what we’ve come to know as classics when they were released, but a large portion of it were based on movies. Since we were a big movie family, it felt right. That and even back in the day companies had no problem capitalizing on what was popular at the time. That’s why there were 16 games based on ‘The Simpsons’ by 2000, yet only a handful of ‘Castlevania’ games (though the ‘Mega Man’ franchise spread it’s legs pretty wide).
The strange thing is that ‘Warlock’ wasn’t a popular movie when it came out let alone in 1994 when the game was released. In fact, as far as I can remember, the game had more in common with the 1993 sequel ‘Warlock: The Armageddon’ then it did with the 1989 original. That makes this game based on a year old lukewarm sequel to an obscure horror movie that no one gave a shit about. Someone must have REALLY loved this film.
I’m not even sure why I picked this game out. I saw ‘Warlock: The Armageddon’ by the time this game was released, and I do remember liking it (though unlike the original which I saw later and more frequently, I don’t remember much else about it), but I don’t remember being pulled towards it like games from other franchises. Hell, the ‘Animaniacs’ game was out at this point, why did I choose this one?
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
That purple trench coat…damn I thought that was cool at the time. The main character wore one, which made me REALLY want one. I want you, the reader, to think about that for a moment. Think about what a purple trench coat would look like, not a digital one, a real one. Now imagine that on a 9 year old. My little brain thought that I’d be hot shit, but in reality I would have looked like a midget Prince that enjoyed striped shirts and ‘Mortal Kombat’ sweaters.
The protagonist’s style aside, I was drawn in by the fact that I wasn’t some kind of gun toting super soldier or an unbeatable mecha ninja, it was just some asshole who knew magic. Your primary weapons were a blast of silver…something from your fingertips and the orb from ‘Phantasm’. Having a ball that you could control was useful; I could see why The Tall Man uses it. It’s not as if the magic was more powerful than traditional attacks, the game changing ninja magic in the ‘Shinobi’ games was far more powerful, but I thought that it made more sense that the magical mystery goo shooting from your fingertips was enough to bring down Julian Sands.
Aside from the magic and the trench coat, only one thing sticks out in my mind: the scrolling pit of death. Even if pressed harder than Giles Corey, I couldn’t tell you what each level consisted of, but I’d still get mad at that fucking pit. I remember it being an autoscrolling level, annoying in and of itself, but it wasn’t anything too crazy. That all changed when a giant pit opened up in front of me. I jumped, I died. I stood still, I died. I got so fed up with it that I threw down the controller and stopped playing, not just for that moment, for 20 YEARS.
Will I be able to get past that part?
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
I can honestly tell you, the purple trench coat doesn’t look half bad on this character. He may run like that awkward Anime fan in middle school (arms down guy, not the arms back sonic guy), and his face may look jacked up even before he takes damage, but that coat does look nice.
Actually, most of what I’ve played looks nice. There’s lots of color in each stage, even when you’re dumped into a castle or a dungeon, the color is always saturated and vibrant. The stage design, while nothing to write home about, tends to give you that eerie, spooky, scary Halloween feeling. You start in a nondescript suburb, bright blue skies framing pristine houses where dogs run through the front yards. The next thing you know, you’re crossing barren landscapes where the sun sets amongst dead trees, tombstones, and crypts. I didn’t expect this kind of design going into ‘Warlock’ of all games and now I’m kicking myself for holding this off till November when it would have been a decent October game to cover.
As nice as it looks, it controls like a fat kid on an obstacle course. You can’t jump that high, or that far, and forget about maneuvering around enemies, it’s not going to happen. I had to anticipate where I wanted to go at least a second before I moved otherwise I didn’t have a chance at reaching a platform, avoiding an attack, making an attack, avoiding an obstacle, hitting an obstacle, shooting a switch, avoiding hitting another switch, hit the enemy instead of a switch, moving forward, playing this game, etcetera.
Beyond actually playing the game ‘Warlock’ has its charms. I know, that sounds dumb, but hear me out. ‘Warlock’ is unpredictable in its expectations. It’s deliberately paced like ‘Castlevania’ but adds a few new touches that only the fantasy setting can accomplish. Who needs to spend precious time looking for an entrance to a hidden area, when I can simply shoot my orb and grab the items I need? Is that gate lever too high? Shoot it with a magic bolt. Boom! Problem solved. There’s enough unique elements to this game that make me want to finish it. I’m not going to say that it’s for everyone, most people will probably call it quits after the second level, but even after all these year, I still find myself enjoying it.
P.S. – By the way, the level I got stuck on involved shooting platforms off the ceiling. It’s not the game’s fault that I was dumb.