Monday, 26 November 2012

Biker Mice From Mars (SNES)

Today I'm going to find out what this Biker Mice from Mars Super Nintendo game is. Seems more like 'Insect Robot Teddybears From Mars' looking at the logo.

I'm sure I must have seen an episode of the cartoon this is based on at some point, but I remember next to nothing about it. And anything I do remember probably actually came from that Avenger Penguins cartoon. But I'm sure all the crucial info I need to know is included in the game's title.

Hey it's a racing game! My first guess would have been a platformer with bike riding bonus levels.

This is what you get when you reach the player select screen on the US version, but the European version I'm playing has a few subtle changes. I'll try to point them all out to you on the next screen.

1. The race is now sponsored by Snickers.
2. Vinnie is waving a Snickers bar around on his portrait.
3. Every single other character is holding a Snickers bar in their portrait too.

Okay maybe the changes weren't so subtle. It looked to me at first like they'd just edited the chocolate bars into their hands afterwards, but nope they've actually drawn entirely new portraits for everyone.

I think I'll go with Vinnie, as I like his Scooby Doo neckerchief and how his assessment of his ability is immediately proven wrong by the stats underneath. Actually I just want his bike, it looks like he stole it straight from Akira.

Well it's a difficult choice, but I think I'll have to go with 'race' seeing as I'm entirely penniless. Plus Vinnie's already bought a snack.

Yeah, this definitely seems like a racing game. I wonder why they call it 'Square Town' though.

And they're off! Except for Vinnie. who seems to have stalled on the starting grid! It's almost as if the rider has no idea what button controls the accelerator!

Okay I think I've got the basics figured out now, and I'm starting to catch up. You'd think a square track would be pretty much a no-brainer, but there's patches of rough ground I need to avoid, so it's not all straight sailing.

I hope some of the money raised by this obviously organised racing tournament is going back into fixing these streets, because damn this place is a mess. It's a pretty mess though; these graphics are awesome.

What the...

One of the other racers just changed my mouse and bike together into one slow... headless chicken... thing. I'm sure there has to be some kind of rule against this. When I turn back (if I turn back) I'm going to have to see what kind of weapons and power ups I've got available myself.

Fourth place. Not bad for my first go at the game! Or maybe it is, I dunno. It's my first go at the game.

Yep, it's true. Even winners need food to survive. Victory is not a substitute for a nutritious meal, and you can't get muscles like that without eating up all of your chocolate bars.

This screen isn't even in the US version of the game, it exists purely to sell Snickers bars. You know, Snickers are actually a clever choice of product to be linked to the game seeing as they're from the Mars corporation, but they never comment on it.

At least I didn't get instantly booted out the tournament for doing so badly, and I even got a bit of cash for avoiding complete failure. Time to hit the shop I reckon.

Holy shit lady, I'm not spending $2500 on a Snickers bar. This is actually 'armor' in the US version, so I'm guessing it does the same thing here. Thick layers of protective chocolate, nougat and peanuts protecting both rider and bike. I'm saving up for an new engine though, to help fulfil Vinnie's dream of actually being faster than someone.


ROUND 1, RACE 2.


Nice to see we're not stuck in the city for every race. You know, I think without these helping hands popping up at every corner to point the right way I'd be totally screwed. There's a mini-map on the bottom left side of the screen, but I can't keep an eye on it all of the time.

Oh and yeah, every corner is always 90 degrees. Except the ones that are 180.

Did that asshole just turn poor Vinnie into a bubbling puddle of oil? That's it, no more Mr Nice Mouse, I'm going to use my innate jumping power to... jump all over them! For three times every lap at least, then I run out of jumps and need to wait until I cross the finish line to get a refill.

Also crossing the line gives me a random special power to use each lap, such as time stop, or invulnerability. What I get seems to be based on how well I'm doing though, as when I'm in the lead all it ever gives me is a pitiful bag of cash.


ROUND 1, RACE 3.


Now they've started to put Snickers advertising in the actual races as well. A great place for it too, in the middle of a sewer.

Yeah yeah, I know, this race is probably televised.

This is the closest the US version of the game comes to advertising by the way. It's a banner promoting the in-game shop.

Meanwhile, back in the race, the track itself is trying to blow me up this time. Yep, there are random flame jets in the sewers. Because why not? Maybe the race organisers installed them when they were putting up the billboards, to add a bit more drama to the event.

I don't like them.

Well I made through it a few laps, but they eventually got me. Three hits is all I get before my bike explodes and I'm left to limp to the finish line. Actually this is only a minor problem as they let me ride off on a new bike pretty much straight away. The game isn't an asshole.

And now I've finally failed to lose enough races to be able to afford my first upgrade! Maybe I'll do better when I'm not riding the slowest bike on the track. Or maybe all the other races are getting upgrades at the same time and this actually changes nothing. It's a mystery!


LATER.


First place! And the bottom three get disqualified.

And then a gate falls on them.

And then the road collapses.

Basically, don't come in the bottom three in this race, it won't work out for you.

Sadly the game doesn't have saves, so all I get is a password after every round. It's better than nothing, though it means there's no way to replay races to beat your previous best time. Well, not unless you're writing them down on paper.


ROUND 2, RACE 5.


Hey, wasn't this guy disqualified and dropped into a chasm after round 1?

Alright I'm in third place in the last race of the round, if I don't do something drastic here I could end up disqualified myself, and I'm guessing it'll be a lot more permanent for me. Time for... SNICKERS™ POWER. Eating a Snickers bar gives you a burst of speed and makes you invulnerable to damage. (In the game, not in real life.) In fact, it also lets you ram enemies off the track, and makes you smarter and more attractive to the opposite sex. Shame it only lasts a few seconds.

The Snickers bar is actually a standard video game power up star in the US version in case you were wondering.


ROUND 3, RACE 3.


Danger? I've raced between flame jets and arcs of electricity. I've raced on tracks without walls, where the slightest mistake could leave Vinnie drowning or falling to his death. Every single race I'm up against five other racers trying to destroy me... and NOW is the time you flash up a danger sign? What's over there, Godzilla chewing on a nuclear missile?

Oh I see, it meant 'danger, this water is flowing into a spiky wall'. I probably should have treated that warning with a bit more respect in hindsight.

Who the hell puts a giant spiky wall in a sewer though, really? Yeah, I know, same people that put up the billboards...


ROUND 3, RACE 5.


Oh I forgot the mention these giant fans when I was listing all those dangers a second ago. These things are fun because they blow you off the track, and then you explode. Oh wait, I mean they're the opposite of fun.

At least I've always got a helping hand to give me a lift up when I'm down. Every lap I fall off the track here, hit that purple thing dead on, and then explode. Without fail. Though fortunately it's still possible to win even after a few 'mistakes', the game isn't an asshole about it.


ROUND 5, RACE 3.


I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about a game having lots of content, but doesn't this thing ever end? I must have completed over twenty races already.

I think I'm just used to racing games being split up into individual races or small tournaments, but this is just one long unbroken run of every track in the game in a row. I suppose that's one of the reasons there's a password every five races.


LATER.


Finally, I made it to the finish line! The very end of the game! Though I only managed bronze place.

The game explains to me that "you survived all five rounds, but you haven't tasted final victory". Hey, I can live with that. Penultimate victory's still way better than I usually manage. Though before I turn it off I think I'll investigate the other game modes.

There's three game modes on the title screen: 'Main Race', 'Battle Race', and 'Practice'. I tried a regular race last time, so I decided to give Battle Race a go. It seems the main difference with this mode is that when you lose all your hitpoints, this time they don't give your bike back and it's game over.

Then you must face... this thing on a spring. I let the timer run out to see if he got splatted, but nope. Massive disappointment. And now I'm finally finished with the game.


I'm honestly struggling to find things to complain about in Biker Mice From Mars. In fact I'm struggling to think of an single isometric racing game that I can say is better than it, though to be fair it's not exactly my favourite genre. The graphics are excellent, the rock soundtrack sounds great, the control is precise, the gameplay is slick, and despite the random power ups having a big influence over who wins a race, it's still mostly a test of skill.

Well I suppose you could argue that any game that I'm able to complete on my first try without continues is clearly not that much of a test of skill, but I was only playing on the normal difficulty. Plus it does have a two player mode. Anyway, it kept me playing to the end, so it gets a shiny gold star.


If you've got any thoughts about the game, the post, the site, or whatever, feel free to leave a comment.

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