film & game reviews, the retro way.
SEGA Technical Institute
Beat 'em up
Genesis, Windows, GBA
One of the many games that completely blew my mind on the Sega Genesis back in the day was Comix Zone, an Arcade-style beat ’em up unlike any other.
The unique thing about Comix Zone was its dedication to achieving a full-on comic book style yet still kicking butt as a game.
The genius plot involved a comic book artist incidentally named “Sketch” Turner who, due to a lightning bolt hitting one of his comic’s panels, ends up being banished to his own comic book by the main villain he himself created. The enemy in question, Mortus, starts to draw enemies in the comic for Sketch to fight.
And yet somehow, Hollywood is constantly struggling to find exciting ideas for new franchises.
What part of this plot doesn’t sound awesome?!
I guess Monkeybone is a close enough attempt at making a Comix Zone movie…
A somewhat more monkey-themed Comix Zone movie.
But Comix Zone works so well as a game that it doesn’t need to transcend to any other medium. The idea that, not only can you play inside a comic book but kick through panels, shred the pages etc., makes it such an entertaining, immersive gaming experience that it would probably lose some of its magic if it were to be translated into a movie or a TV show.
A lot of effort was put into the graphics, the art, the animation on the characters and the backgrounds so the whole thing is pretty convincing as a superhero comic come to life.
The writing is also, as you can tell, pretty spot on.
The first level takes you to a post-apocalyptic New York City (complete with Planet Of The Apes reference) where you start fighting Mortus’ just-drawn minions. Fans of classic beat ’em ups will love how energetic the game’s fighting style is as Sketch uses various weapons and items lying around him to punch, throw and kick baddies against panels.
Slowly but surely, Sketch’s “Superhero Meter” increases and he starts to turn into a superhero which gives him the odd effective superpower to use briefly. As the game goes on, it gets more challenging but also even cooler somehow.
A starving artist with a top floor New York pad with big windows and gargoyles on the outside?
I WISH I was this starving...
Other settings include temples, canyons and, my favourite, the Himalayas.
I could watch Sketch comment on stuff all day, I really could.
Did I mention he owns a pet rat called Roadkill?
Yeah. He’s a weird guy.
The enemies you fight are basically all aliens of various types from generic humanoid dudes to Slimer-style green goblins, big reptilian monsters and evil sorcerers in the vein of Lo Pan from the movie Big Trouble In Little China.
After his henchmen prove to be useless, Mortus decides to take matters into his own hands and kidnaps General Alissa Cyan, the girl you meet at the start of your adventure. He cruelly locks her up in a glass case which fills up with water so it then becomes your job to get rid of the feisty boss before she drowns.
There are two possible endings to this game. You make it back to the real world either way but, in the event that you save Alissa, you can bring her back with you. Otherwise, you’re back to square one sitting at home by yourself with your comic in shambles.
I can’t say enough good things about Comix Zone: it’s unique, a lot of fun, it looks awesome, the music’s really cool, so are the sound effects, the writing’s clever and very funny, the list goes on.
It’s definitely SEGA at its best and most creative.
Anyway, I recommend aiming for the happy ending, if only so Roadkill can receive the mozzarella he truly deserves.