Friday, 13 March 2015

Gargoyles (Genesis/Mega Drive)

Gargoyles Genesis title screen
Developer:Disney Interactive|Release Date:1995|Systems:Genesis

Today on Super Adventures, I'm taking a look at Genesis/Mega Drive platformer Gargoyles, because everyone keeps asking me to. Apparently it's got some fans. Actually thinking about it, this is really just a Genesis game, as it was only released in the US and never made it to the Mega Drive regions.

It's based on the Disney cartoon of the same name that started in 1994, which ran for three seasons but somehow passed me by every time. I only caught the one episode and I don't remember it, so my knowledge of it is kind of limited. I do remember that it stars Keith David and half the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation... but that's entirely irrelevant as it's a 16-bit cartridge platformer so I'm likely to get 4 words of dialogue out of this at best.

Well I'm only assuming it's a platformer to be honest, I haven't actually checked, but it's an early-mid 90s cartoon tie-in so what else is it going to be? Look on my Game Series page, click 'Disney' and see how many of them aren't platformers. And that ain't because I've been deliberately avoiding all the 'Animaniacs' first person shooters.

The game's got an options screen! Not a massive shock I know, but I was playing classic Mario games all last month and they don't really bother with things likes this. Especially not with a sound test, now there's something that you don't see too often these days. The feature got misplaced somewhere when gaming packed up and made the move to the PlayStation era. Would've been nice to see an old fashioned password entry option here as well though.

I'll leave the difficulty on normal like I always do. Sound? Sure, I like a bit of sound. Music? Apparently they hired Medal of Honor/Lost/Incredibles composer Michael Giacchino, so I'm thinking 'on' for that as well. There's no FOV slider here, but I imagine I'll cope without it this time. Okay I think I'm good to go here.

994 A.D.


Well I hope they meant to do that, otherwise that'd just be embarrassing. I mean it's commendable and immensely forward thinking of them to try to find clean sources of energy while still in the Dark Ages, but it's hard to justify unleashing incredible evil as a side effect when they haven't even invented the light bulb yet.

And... that's all the narration I get. They could've thrown a line in there explaining who these gargoyles are and what Castle Wyvern has to do them, but these kinds of tie-in games often seem to be made with the assumption that the only fans would ever want to buy them.

Wow this guy I'm playing as looks like Gargoyle Batman, even down to the gold belt, though he's surprisingly crap in a fight. I slowed the footage down to check and that was seven times that dude in red reacted to being hit. I guess when you've got animation this good you want to keep showing it off. Plus there's arrows and fiery cannon balls flying past now and it all looks very epic.

I figured that I'd be defending the castle from the Vikings here, but it seems that I'm actually coming from outside and taking it from them. Fortunately I'm a lot better at climbing walls than I am at punching people, so it's easy enough to get around. Well, a bit better anyway, he sometimes seems to get a bit attached, and I think the fancy animation might be causing him to pause a half-second between moves sometimes.

Whoa... I didn't realise that I'd taken so much damage there. Apparently that is not the correct way to fight an axe-wielding Viking carrying a shield. She's the only enemy I've fought since that last screenshot by the way, as I left the archers alone and ran away, so I just threw away a life on my second fight.

The game was nice enough to restart me in exactly the same place, but the Viking problem remains unresolved. I'll need to figure out a better way to handle this I planned on seeing the second stage at least before turning this off. 

Okay, new strategy: run away.

Running away isn't working!

There's a platform over to my left, so guess I have to jump across just before I reach the top, because he's suddenly lost the ability to pull himself up and climb over for some reason.

OH SHIT, there are spikes there at the top! They're not exactly subtle either, so how is it possible that I missed seeing them?

I'm going to blame this bit from a minute ago when I was still running up to the castle. I was able to run behind the spikes and chunks of castle like they weren't there, so my brain filed them away under 'foreground object' and stopped registering them. There's a lot of foreground in this for me to walk behind, so I can never be 100% sure what going to block me and what isn't.

Hey, I just realised that my lives count is in Roman numerals. That's a nice touch. 

There you go, I figured something out all by myself! Getting a bit of a run up and hitting the claw button makes him do a shoulder barge through weak walls. Alright, now I'm making progress!


Well my momentum didn't last and my insight seems to have abandoned me too, as I've gotten stuck in the very next area. I can't climb up the wall on the right, and I can't seem to claw smash downwards through the cracked bridge either.

I don't know, maybe I haven't killed enough enemies or collected enough spinning golden chalices yet; I have been running past a lot of things along the way. I doubt that's the answer, but going back and sorting that out will be more fun that beating my head against this wall some more. Plus it's not like I have a time limit to worry about. I hope.


Turns out it's the throw button you have to press to smash downwards. I think it says more about my problem solving skills than it does about the game that I didn't think to try that yet. Then again it's the game's fault that I'm falling asleep here!


Well that's hardly sporting now is it? I had the right idea here, but I wasn't expecting the second cauldron-full of burning oil on the left to come so quickly. I'm lucky when I can see them coming at all with this foreground layer full of bricks in the way.

And now I'm managed to lose another life here as well, great.

It seems that graphics may have been given priority over gameplay with this, though this has had the side effect of leaving the game looking really nice. Sure the weird tiling makes it seem a little blocky and JPEG compressed on a sharp modern monitor screen, but on a fuzzy old school CRT TV a lot of that dithering is blended together. Plus moody red and blue lighting just works when it's done right.

Yeah, I didn't need to see what I was fighting anyway, you just go ahead and stick whatever you want in front of the camera. At least I can still see enough to tell that I'm not getting any invulnerability frames here after taking damage.

I can't say I'm finding this combat all that satisfying to be honest, even when I win. At least I know now that the archer up there will go down in a single hit, which is more expedient than satisfying but whatever. I could leave him alone, but the kill will be worth it to collect the golden chalice from his corpse which will restore... about the smallest amount of health you can see without a microscope.


Well this seems like something that I should've gotten past by now. It's a simple puzzle: jump on the counterweight to raise the portcullis then run through it before it closes. And yet I keep getting there a split second too late and bouncing off the gate.

If I end up losing my last life here because he head-butted a metal gate once too many times, I'm going to... well, I'll probably turn it off and do some else actually. Getting a bit sick of this game now to be honest.


Oh, I can kill the Vikings with one throw? Well that changes things! I'm still going to get hit a few times getting close enough to do it, but this should really speed the game up for me.

I'm sorry I couldn't get clean shot of it, but this is what the game's like!

Aw crap, I got shot with a flaming log from the other side of the screen! Why are these dumbasses firing at their own castle? Why are they firing at me for that matter, don't I live here? I'm sure this is all explained in the TV series, but the game ain't telling me nothing.

Oh, that was my last life wasn't it?

I had to lose sooner or later to see how continues work in this, so I suppose it may as well be now.


Well it's certainly nice to be back again. No really, I'm glad that it only kicked me back to the start of the stage, as that's a lot more mercy than a lot of platformers show. Besides, I know how to get past this bloody portcullis now; I just have to climb on top of the counterweight and run off the side of it. I was hanging off the side of it because I figured that'd start me off closer to the gate, but that doesn't work so well. This should only take me two or three tries now that I know the trick.

Man, it's nice when things actually work out for me! These archers die in a single hit either way, but it's more satisfying using the throw move somehow Also I found an excuse to use my awesome double jump, and just look at the animation on it! You'd think that a gargoyle would be able to fly or glide, but a double jump's cool too.


Well I sure fucked that up.

These towers stretch upwards for a while, with the gap between the spikes getting smaller the higher I go, and any time I screw up I'm getting knocked right back down again. I can't fault the game on its variety, but it'd be nice if it was giving me a variety of things I enjoy doing.

Okay, let's try this again.


Aww dammit, I climbed up to avoid the incoming log and ended up rebounding off the spikes!

I got a full set of lives back by using that continue earlier and now I've pissed them all away again between these towers. This is it, I've got like 5 or 6 hits left in me, because I am out of lives. Also patience. I'm not one of those megastar twitch streamers with their superhuman capacity to put up with boredom, I have limits!


Oh shit! Did you just fucking SEE THAT?

I mean of course you saw it, I've got it playing on a loop, but... holy shit! I've got half a health bar left now after soaking up those hits, but I am at the top of the towers now and hopefully right next to the stage exit too.

I honestly didn't think I was going to be able to pull that off, and I still doubt I'll ever be able to do it again, but I made it to the top! Man, it's been a while since I've struggled this much just to get past the first level in a game. I don't like it.


Well the good news is that stage exit was right next to me. The bad news is that the next stage is a boss fight against the Mighty Thor.

He does this thing where he summons lightning down onto where I'm standing and takes half my health off, and this other thing where he smacks me with a hammer when I jump up to hit him, and that's really all I can say about this fight as that's where it ended.

Still, it's right at the start of the stage, so I can replay it as many times as I want! Assuming that I have infinite continues.

And it turns out that I don't. One continue to last me through the entire game, seriously? The game doesn't seem to have a score either, so I can't earn extra continues by getting enough points.

So if I want to have another shot at getting past that boss I'm going to have to replay the entire castle from the start, and manage that incredibly fluky flaming log dodging tower jump again. Let me think about that for a moment, hmm.


Nope! Not going to happen. I found it hard enough to pay attention the first time, there's no way I'm going to make it through all that again. Sorry, but I'm turning the game off now.


CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT DODGE JUST THEN? I don't even know what just happened but I'm glad it did.

I decided I couldn't just quit there and leave it like that. I might not be enjoying the game, but I still have to give it a fair shot. Maybe the next stage is more my kind of thing, who knows? I definitely won't unless I get up to it.

This time I've brought a continue with me as well, so bring it on God of Thunder, I would have words with thee.

Every time I get a hit in, he teleports to another ledge, so I either have to chase him, or wait for him to come back down. I think I've got more chance of avoiding the lightning bolts if I stay on the ground, but I'm not sure. I mean they're lightning bolts, I can't dodge the things, only be somewhere else when they hit, and there doesn't seem to be anything to indicate where that'll be.

Whoa! Just like that huh? One second I have over half my health left, the next I'm on the Continue screen! I was doing really well that time as well; I'd been chipping away at him for a while, got him down to 2/3rds health. Maybe I should try throwing him next time...

I threw my next six lives away in pretty much the same way, and found myself back on the title screen again. Not the worst place to be though I guess. If you leave it on long enough it starts showing a demo of some of the levels I utterly failed to reach.

There's this lava cave level for instance. Like the game didn't look enough like Aladdin before.

Those spiky things up on the roof are actually there to be swung on, but you have to get the timing right as they like to open up occasionally and become considerably more harmful to touch.

Then later our hero would've been fighting 3D rendered alien things in front of this very Adventures of Batman and Robin looking modern day cityscape.

Oh, thanks demo for spoiling that plot point. I guess that's what the alien things are about then.

Oh damn, I missed out on a train level too! To be honest I think it would've just annoyed me though, as they've neglected to remove the fourth wall (and those girders flying past in the foreground aren't helping either.) Unfortunately all the beautiful animation is wasted when it turns into blind flailing.

Anyway I'm turning this off now.


To be honest I was having a miserable time with Gargoyles even before I realised how difficult it was going to be, but I'm struggling to say it's a bad game because... well, bad Genesis games don't look this pretty, right? Surely there must be some kind of player error involved here.

There's basically two core aspects to the game: platforming and fighting. It's fun to run, jump and swoop around, so they got that bit right. But the things you're expected to pull off can be a pain in the ass, and I actually did see some of level 2 in the end so I can tell you that doesn't get any less awkward. Lots of tricky swinging across gaps, having to get the timing right and grab hold of hooks. Combat on the other hand... well it became more bearable when I discovered that throw was an instant takedown, and even more fun when I avoided it altogether. That throw is a pain in the ass really, as you have to be standing in the right place, you'll probably want to get a regular hit in first to knock them off balance, and then once you press the throw button you're stuck watching the animation play out whether it connects or not, unable to move.

The game's no RoboCop 2, that much I'm sure of. That's the toughest pain in the ass platformer I've played in recent memory, and it makes this look like a work of art by comparison. Then again, Gargoyles looks pretty great for its age anyway, and sounds good too. Some Genesis games have really nasty music, but this is fine.

I like that I had double jumps, I like that it doesn't have a time limit, I liked that ridiculous swoopy escape I managed that one time, and I like that it tried to give me back some health after every kill. A little tiny insignificant amount of health mind you, but it's the thought that counts. Would've been nice if the continues had been a little more infinite though, perhaps a password every few stages would've been cool too. But you know, after giving this some thought I feel like I probably misjudged this earlier. I think it likely is a bad game.

I've made the next game clue a bit trickier this time, but I'm sure someone will be able to get it. Probably. It's nothing overly obscure.

Other things you can talk about in the comment box below include: this game, my article about said game, my site, and etc.


  1. Salute for you.
    I abandon this game in level 2 and play better games than this frustrating game.
    And i find it shocking that this game has fans or someone that's want to troll you or see you stress.

    1. I can believe that people genuinely like the game, as it got high review scores back in its day and looks great for a Genesis game, especially in motion. Though people also like to watch me suffer, so who knows?

  2. It's based on the Disney cartoon of the same name that started in 1994, which ran for three seasons but somehow passed me by every time.

    Yeah, me too. It seems to have huge geek-cultural significance and yet I'd never heard of it until I had access to the internet. Maybe it wasn't shown in Britain?

    so bring it on God of Thunder, I would have words with thee

    Is that a reference to Ultron Unlimited from the comics? I applaud you sir.

    The preview image looks a bit like the end screen from Turrican but I know it's not.

    1. I haven't actually read that comic... but yeah it is.

    2. I've hardly watched the the show myself, but it was part of the same onslaught of Disney cartoons as DuckTales and Darkwing Duck. It was darker and more complex. For instance, in the gun control episode one of the gargoyles accidentally shoots and almost kills their April O'Neil with her own pistol. (She's later shown being more careful too lock the thing up, and he develops a hatred of guns.) The third and last season dialed this back, though.

      It had voicework from most of the main cast of Star Trek: TNG and a man who rumbles like the narrator from Bastion. It also had some good villains, in particular a suave, smug billionaire who rarely outright lost. You could smash his scheme and take his stuff, but generally he'd planned for this outcome and found a way to benefit from it before he even set things in motion. The Nostalgia Critic gives a brief of the show, if you can stand the man.

  3. Not sure where that preview image is (plenty of background castles with only two shades of color in games), but it reminded me that I still got three last levels of Showel Knight left to beat one of these days...

    1. Yeah, there must be a million castle in a million backgrounds that look just like this. But you nailed it man, it's Shovel Knight.


Semi-Random Game Box