Ahmed Ali gives us his thoughts on the 16-Bit SEGA title, Captain Planet.
“Captain Planet he’s the hero. Gonna take pollution down to zero.” – With an opener like that in the theme song, we all knew how great the TV show was [ED: Did you know it was written by Phil ‘The Boon’ Collins?].
Following the “hit” show, we got “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” for the Sega Megadrive, a video game aimed at all the young children falling into the demographic for the show. Now were those kids lucky or doomed from the beginning?
|Feed the worrrrrrld.|
Captain Planet and the Planateers (CP) is a Sega Megadrive game by developer Novalogic, developed during Captain Planet’s TV prime, Novalogic gives it a fair go and we can clearly see that. The graphics are not bad, all the characters are not only memorable, but also pleasantly resemble all the details from their TV counterparts. The levels look different enough from each other to not get boring, and there are even other touches in the game, which I really appreciate.
An example of a good little touch to the game is how the level select changes from day to night as the time you spend playing goes by. This is a brilliant touch because it adds tension to the games timed design, meaning the game is over if you do not beat it in an hour. So having the day to night change is a great way of engaging the player into the game and reminding us of the ticking clock.
Speaking of the games design, Captain Planet borrows from Mega Man and features a level select where you can choose what enemy/levels to do. This is a nice touch as it makes the game much more flexible, especially because it allows the people who can’t beat the levels to have a go at playing all of them. However, do keep your expectations low as this is no masterpiece in game design and unlike Mega Man, there is no strategy in what levels you should play first, no special items or weapons to gain from any of the levels and so the order in which you play them is completely dependent on personal taste. A missed opportunity which could have made the game a much well designed experience. Like Mega Man, I love the 3 difficulty settings in CP, because unlike the other games in the 16 bit era, CP will not require extreme precision and timing to beat; giving reasonable challenge to all the kids (especially on easy for me!).
|Sweets attacking yellow rattle-turd|
Developer Novalogic tries experimenting with a couple gameplay ideas and that can be easily felt in the different levels. The Sewer level tests your platforming by placing the valves you are supposed to shut in tricky spots, forcing you have to do some jumping to reach them. Sadly, the platforming is no Mario and gets monotonous after a while, but nevertheless is refreshing enough from traversing the tunnels of death, that is the rest of the level, so I commend developer Novalogic for providing us a well-placed breather. The addition of escalating water in the level builds amazing tension and as a kid I was always scared trying to finish the level in time. It’s a brilliant addition, done well because it compliments both the maze/trap like structure of the level and the need of locating the pressure valves.
Another level where Novalogic tried a new gameplay element is the computerized level. It has no strategy, you are just supposed to run and jump, with not only drones shooting you and hitting into you, but also with all the platforms being laser zapped, leaving nowhere for you to hide. This level is somewhere I can see Novalogic experimented as they tried introducing the gameplay element of blind speed and quick reaction. Playing this level on normal or hard difficulty poses some of the most frustrating experience I have had from the 16 bit era. The lasers always hit you, the mechanical drones are so big that they always zap or touch you and the amount of life you get depletes quicker than you can say “Pollution”. A failed experiment, whilst I respect trying something new, I do not respect giving players a migraine.
Other than the couple of experimentations I noted there are a plethora of missed opportunities, there are 4 elements in the 4 playable Planeteers hands (sorry Maku but Heart sucks), and the game forgets to use those elements. With earth, fire, wind and water the developer Novalogic decided to use them all as basic projectile attacks, the colour palette being the differentiator between the different elements. This keeps the gameplay a bit too basic, it just stays as an action platformer with one attack, a super that throws 3 projectile base attacks at once and nothing else in the arsenal of the Planeteers. Potential was present and unused, similar to how potential was present in the way different levels could have been played out. Although, keeping the length of the game in mind you shouldn’t get bored of the attacks before the game is over anyways.
|--Bob Geldolf, 1993|
The rest of the game is more unsatisfying platforming, very crappy music with no theme song, some boss fights requiring your child-like imagination to make fun and then last but not the least, the final Captain Planet level. After all playing as Cap’ is what all of us wanted when we got this right?
Controlling Captain Planet is like trying to drive a double decker bus, also similar to a double decker bus; Captain Planet is massive in the game and does not scale well with other things, making him an easy target for all the projectiles. This is frustrating, also controlling Captain is not easy as trying to shoot in alternative directions takes a couple of goes. Eventually you will enjoy controlling Captain Planet as it’s something new and having a complete new gameplay experience as the last level is a nice touch.
“Jack of all trades, master of none” – Minus the Jack
Playing as Captain Planet is The last level proves again how developer Novalogic likes to incorporate many different elements into their games. Not a bad thing to have as a quality in a developer at all, but since Novalogic has tried throwing different elements into CP, they have forgotten to fine tune any of them, leaving all of the elements subpar to other games. This, whilst making the game monotonous, does make it feel a lot like the low budget TV show -- which is a compliment to some degree as the video game is somewhat faithful to the TV show.
Sometimes things can be so bad that they can be good. We see it in B-horror movies, in hilariously bad music and now there are some video games that are trying to pull it off. I’m not certain if Captain Planet and the Planateers pulled it off, whilst the game is quite bad in some bits with hints of great ideas, it leaves the game in such an ‘okay’ state, that there is no excitement when thinking about giving it a play.
The biggest compliment I can give to “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” is that it pulls off the same charm of the show. Looking at it on your shelf, you will never really want to play it at all unless you’re somehow wanting to reminisce with your memories with the TV show. That’s why CP is a hard game to recommend, whilst I will play it to laugh and remember the time I wasted on the show, you might not have any connection to the property and may just dislike the game. Take it for what it’s worth and if Captain Planet was ever a part of your life, then maybe give this one a go, you might find it interesting.
Position: Staff Writer
Why hello there, my names Ali but you can call me The Geeky Penguin if you so please. Raised with a SEGA genesis controller in between my hands I have been gaming for as long as I can remember.