bill-swift - August 16, 2013
Remember that youthful fantasy we all --all-- had, before hairlines started receding and middle-aged spread started... spreading? The one in which we were badass ponytailed comic artists/rock musicians who were inadvertently sucked into their own comic book; forced to battle our own freakish ‘toon creations to the death before punching a supervillain in the gonads several times and escaping?
Damn straight you do. So hold on to your asses, because that was the premise of lost classic Comix Zone, which is coming at you right now.
This 1995 Genesis release introduces starving artist (and part time crotch-thrusting rocker) Sketch Turner, as he works on the eponymous comic book late at night. A bolt of lightning strikes the page, which --entirely logically, of course-- allows the monstrous mutant Mortus to leave the confines of the book. Suffice it to say, Mortus isn't the kind of guy you'd want to bring home to meet your folks (if, y'know, you'd choose a gay green claw-y beast as a lover. Which you're free to do. This is 2013, after all). Which he swiftly proves, flexing his bastardry muscle by sending Sketch into its pages in his place.
Whereupon, shit gets real in the most literal sense.
Comix Zone (that's Comix Zone the comic book within the game Comix Zone and not Comix Zone the game itself. Pay attention!) depicts a post-apocalyptic war between the New World Empire and Mortus's invading forces. You are immediately met by General Alissa Cyan, who proclaims Sketch to be the Chosen One and tasks him with defending the planet. Armed only with a ponytail --one which is, let's be frank, a bit shit-- and a pet rat by the name of Roadkill, he sets to work.
What follows is a combat-heavy action platformer, which revels in its cartoon setting. You progress from panel to panel in the book, between sewers and deserts and other wondrous gaming clichés, as your opponents are ‘drawn to life' around you. Such beings include lumpen turtle-men, turd demons of some sort, those bastard bat things (screw you, bat things! Screw you always!) and all kinds of other unpleasantness from the depths of the devil's dick besides.
Levels proceed in a similar manner to Golden Axe or Streets of Rage, in that administering a successful beatdown will see the trusty ‘GO' sign appear, which grants you access to the next area. Fights themselves are traditional beat ‘em up-esque too, with simple combos of punches and kicks and jumping attacks being about the extent of your talents.
Adding a little spice though, Comix Zone also gives you --wait for it, you'll shit-- three riveting inventory slots. (Yes indeed. We're living the dream, right here.) You'll find items around the stages, bombs and power ups and other whatsits and doohickeys, and it's up to you what you carry and how you use it. It gets a little puzzle-y at times, and all kinds of inventive approaches can be taken.
1995 was late in the Genesis's life. The poor ol' guy was mostly being put out to pasture at this point, or taken behind the barn, given some oats and shot in the face. The mighty ball-busting PlayStation had just arrived too. As such, sales of Comix Zone were suitably craptacular, sadly.
Still, Sketch's adventure has become quite the cult classic. The presentation has that timeless quality of the best 2d art, there's a pleasing clunkiness and 'weight' to the combat, and it's a fun and quirky challenge throughout. You can also uppercut a mutant and watch as they rip, bruised-cranium first, straight through a comic book panel into the one above.
We really can't stress that last point enough.
If your interest has been piqued, take a look at the game in action below:
Source of images: gamefaqs.
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