Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"DecapAttack", Genesis, 1991.

The uncanny can be frightening simply by virtue of its irrevocable strangeness, but sometimes it goes so far that what would ordinarily be frightening just becomes a kind of background noise as a whole new silly system attempts to assert itself.

To win at this game, you've got to use your head.

Welcome to DecapAttack, the new game for Sega Genesis starring Chuck D. Head, who demolishes his enemies with just a toss of his head.

Chuck can outwit a ghoul by leaping across a collapsing log bridge. Hop aboard a roving eye to escape vicious werewolves. Bounce over horned beasts with a flagpole. And gain extra propulsion by punching a skull head.

In a jam, he can always use his other head. The one in his chest that lunges out to chomp anything in its path, instantly turning attacking totem poles into piles of toothpicks.

Everyone knows that two heads are better than one. But in this game, you've got three heads -- counting your own, of course. That's enough to give Chuck's arch enemy, Dr. Frank N. Stein, more than a few headaches himself. It's an experience that'll pop your top, and a whole lot more.

Sometimes it takes a while to hit on the natural mascot for a platform. The Sega Master System was adrift for a time before Alex Kidd, presenting Fantasy Zone's spaceship Opa Opa as its face to the world. Where would the NES have been without Mario? Then there is this, which one imagines as a stab in the dark for extreme credibility in the dark days prior to the advent of Sonic the Hedgehog. Points for originality, guys, but it's a little too avant-garde.

Typically "a toss of his head" would imply ducking out from an errant lock of hair. The blow-by-blow reads somewhat like stories written by grade school children, with constrained Dick and Jane antics substituted out for whatever Mad-Lib fancies strike the speaker. All plot concerns fall by the wayside in the service of a child's only required narrative drive: and then what happens next? And then what happens after that? Many events, all outrageous, none amounting to anything.

The protagonist's name is just stupid, while the antagonist's name is worse -- it's lazy. Let us hope there were somewhat cannier Japanese labels initially and they were just localized in a pathetic fashion. (Edit: it is a conversion of the JP game Magical Hat, and in fact the ad messes up the name of even the NA release's big baddie, which is actually Max D. Cap. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't sound like Chuck D. Head would have much to fear from Max D. Cap.)

And then there's that last sentence. Sega, is that a come-on?