Let’s NOT Talk About Wonderboy 3: Monster Lair

wonderboy front

Back in 1991, my brother received a Mega Drive for Christmas with four games. Really, all we wanted was a console with a few games. We didn’t specify at the time what games we wanted because we had no idea what there was other than maybe Sonic. We got Sonic. We also got Altered Beast and Fantasia. It should have been a subtle hint that either our parents hated us and wanted us to suffer or they had no idea what games to get either.

They also got us this.

I’m not sure what to tell you.

Look, let’s get right to the chase: I used to like this game as a child but right at this very moment in time, having replayed it from start to finish in the space of half an hour, I can’t for the life of me work out why in the same way that I couldn’t with Flicky. It’s not an awful game. It’s not buggy or glitchy. It’s not a badly coded game. It’s just dull as anything, yawnsome crap that really has very little going for it. VERY. LITTLE.

I return to this game with fresh eyes and think to myself ‘what the actual fuck is going on here?’

I’m not sure what to tell you.

Seriously. It’s pointless to explain it. It makes little to no sense and even after the explanation in the credits and the story in the booklet, it’s disastrously poor storytelling. It’s not even a story. It is basically the age old “DEFEAT ENEMIES, SAVE EARTH” sort of shit that I suppose older games could get away with. But even games in the Spectrum-era had better stories than this. I still wince at the concept of having to say this has a story.

wonderboy 9

IT FUCKING DOESN’T. Look, you shoot things on land. you shoot things in the air, you save the Earth and that’s it. THERE IS NO IMAGINATION TO IT. IT IS BASICALLY SAVE THE EARTH FROM ALIENS LEVEL OF SHITTY STORYTELLING AND I SHALL EMPHASISE THAT WITH THESE CAPITAL LETTERS.

Essentially, Leo and Priscilla, the two main characters walk through what I refer to as ‘go-with-the-flow’ style levels shooting MAGICAL bullets at snails, snakes, pelicans and mushrooms while they shoot beach balls at you. Each level culminates in a a flying SHMUP-style level with a boss. Bosses include (and these are for real): a fish, a snake, a bat, a cactus, a mushroom and something akin to an ice golem. They’re all shit and the only way to defeat them is to shoot them. There’s no skill. Everything is just spam the shoot button. None of the bosses hold any major sort of challenge as such, including the final boss. If you have a controller with a rapid fire/turbo button, the bosses can be beaten in seconds. Even without it, if you spam the button enough times, it’ll die in about ten seconds, as opposed to two or three. Yeah, OK, some of the bosses send miniature versions of themselves out to kill you and some of them shoot beach balls at you (TEY’RE FUCKING BEACH BALLS. WHY DO THINGS SPIT BEACH BALLS AT YOU? SO VERY TERRIFYING. ARGH. A MUTANT BEACH BALL. RUN THE FUCK AWAY). But there’s nothing exciting about any of them. Eventually on higher difficulties, they throw more shit at you and you have to hit the damn things a few more times but fucking hell. Challenge is distinctly lacking. The cactus is a pain in the arse because it slithers across the screen, following you until its head emerges at the other end. Yes. The boss shits out its own head. Lovely. But again… shoot it plenty of times and it’ll die.

Big whoop. I’m bored already just talking about it.

wonderboy1

As I sit here and think about this game, I’m constantly thinking in my head what would make it better. I’ve done that before with other games. Oh if only it had this or did this or had this and did this as well. With this game… it’s difficult to pinpoint what I could genuinely do to make this game ANY BETTER.

And that’s what might be the problem with it. It feels like a lost cause to be honest. It doesn’t feel as though the developers really knew what to do with it. The ground levels are flat, mostly, and require little to no skill to complete. You get rid of enemies in your way but you could actually just jump over them, eliminating the point to them even being there. And what’s with the animals being mean? Every enemy is animal-related in some way and it doesn’t make a massive amount of sense as to why you’re shooting them. Yes, they get progressively trickier and whatnot, as they ought to, but to be honest… it still feels weirdly unfair.

wonderboy7

As you travel across the levels, getting pushed around by the left-hand side of the screen, you pick up fruit, vegetables and snacks depending on the character you’re playing at. These items appear randomly and give your character health. This health decreases over time and if you don’t collect anything and your health depletes, you lose a life. If you get hit by a beach ball, you lose health. If you hit an enemy or plunge into water or the pits of doom, you lose a life… which makes the whole idea of the health bar shenanigans partially redundant. If enemies are going to kill you when they touch you… why have the health meter at all? It feels confusing to have a health meter that purely depletes for the sake of it because you’re not rushing through the stage at the speed of light. You can’t even do that for fear of what’s coming at you ahead of you. I mean, you could spam the shoot button to cover your own arse but is that much of a challenge? Guess what? You can press a button several times. Good for you. What do you want, a medal? You can have one made of coal. Or shit. One or the another.

But yeah, most of the levels are reasonably flat so if you choose that technique, well good for you. You suck. Other levels that are a bit more treacherous, you’ll struggle with that method. You’ll die. Poor you. Learn how to play games properly.

wonderboy2

Wait, wait… what the actual fuck are those things meant to be?

fucking bees

ARE THOSE MEANT TO BE BEES????

I SWEAR TO GOD THESE THINGS LOOK LIKE EDD THE DUCK.

edd the duck

FUCK YOU, EDD THE DUCK. YOU ARE NOT COOL. YOU NEVER WERE, YOU NEVER WILL BE AND THE FUCKING INTERNET IS A BETTER PLACE FOR NOT KNOWING YOU EXIS-Ohhhhhhhhh. Sorry about that.

For those who don’t know, Edd the Duck was a fucking irritating puppet character on Children’s TV in the UK who spoke with a squeaky quack noise and basically needed twatting round the face at every opportunity. I think he was often. He was the punchbag for the most part. For good reason. He was a pointless exercise in how to infuriate children by making them wait for the presenter to INTERPRET HIS SQUEAKS like an idiot. Poor people. They had to deal with this guy and GORDON THE FUCKING GOPHER.

Ugh. I can guarantee this fucking review will choose THAT picture as the one to front it. Bollocks.

wonderboy4

Picking up weapons happens when you kill a group of enemies and you do get a choice of a mixture of reasonably useful ones. You get to keep them for a limited amount of time that varies based on its power. The hazy whirly one in the picture above lasts longest as it mostly sucks. Missiles, laser/drill beams and dual-sided shots last about the same amount of time. Ring shots spread out across the screen, making them exceptionally useful and then there’s the massive BOOM shot that basically kills most bosses in about half a dozen hits. It’s way overpowered but it lasts all of about ten seconds.

Traversing through fairly empty levels is often dull as. Looking at the above screenshot, you’ll get to see an example of the ridiculously lazy level of artwork the game offers you. The backgrounds stink (I only JUST worked out what the brown smear at the top of the level was – it’s the FOREGROUND. HOLY FUCKING CRAP), the characters have about a dozen frames of animation in total and the gameplay mechanics and controls are woolly at best. They’re responsive and all that but it’s the jumping that feels wrong. Sometimes you could jump a long way forward and sometimes you’ll jump up about half a centimetre across the screen. Holding up as you jump helps the characters float down slowly and this can be used to bypass some parts of the level but by level 8, you’re confronted by a mass of springs and DEATH BELOW YOU because the characters cannot swim etc, etc that the jumping comes into play. Mess up the jumps and you’ll swiftly be floating down from the sky after being rescued by a pink dragon.

It makes sense when you see the game. It’s the pink dragon you ride on in the SHMUP sections.

While we’re at it…

wonderboy3

Why are there even SHMUP levels?

It’s meant to be a platformer? Isn’t it? What even IS this game? I mean… the fuck? I told you this game doesn’t make sense. I’ll tell you what also doesn’t make sense. When you finish a ground level, you enter a dragon’s mouth. Are we… inside a dragon…? I can’t explain it. It makes little to no sense. There are pillars inside? There’s a sky inside? I DON’T UNDERSTAND. WHERE IS THIS? HELP ME. JUST HELP ME.

My other big complaint with these levels, particularly level 4, is that the weapons you get don’t last long enough to even AFFECT things that much. It seems like a waste of time to even get a weapon when it won’t last long enough to last until you defeat the boss. On level 4, you don’t even get a choice. There are two bosses anyway so of course it won’t fucking well last long enough anyway.

wonderboy5

First you get thi-

HOLYSHITBEES

FUCKING BEES, MAN. FUCKING BEES. YOU’RE NOT EVEN BEES.

Anyway, first you get the hive with your basic weapon ONLY because whatever weapon you do get runs out of time when the boss actually comes into view. And then you get this:

wonderboy6

Which is fine because she’s actually one of the better designed bosses. It’s still the same old bobbins though. Shoot until dead. No skill. She follows you around the screen, lands in the spot you were last in and then shoots beach balls at you.

That statement still sounds fucking stupid.

wonderboy8

And then you’re in space.

WHAT.

THE FUCK.

WHY THE FUCK AM I IN SPACE NOW?

AESTHETIC?! BECAUSE WHY THE FUCK NOT.

I can’t even explain what the actual fuck this is attempting to do or be. It just IS. It just happens because why the fuck not? The developers clearly thought “fuck it send them to space” and everyone was OK with it. Why the fuck not? THERE IS NOT LOGIC OR REASON FOR THIS TO SUDDENLY HAPPEN. WHY IS IT HAPPENING? WHAT EVEN IS HAPPENING? GIVE OVER, GAME.

wonderboy final

OH OK. FINAL BOSS LOOKING LIKE A REJECT FROM GHOSTBUSTERS. GO ON THEN. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO OFFER?

wonderboy end

FUCKING.

NOTHING.

He shoots lightning at you, he does very little else and then he disappears in a mass of rubbish explosions.

He’s Raiden. He’s Raiden from Mortal Kombat.

This game is not good. I can’t even justify my liking this game as a child. It doesn’t make sense, it’s a poor example of game design, it tarnishes the Wonderboy name and if anything, it’s utterly shameful as a game in general.

It’s over in half an hour but even then, if you went to bed with it, it’s be the worst sex you’ve ever had with a game.

It took me 30-odd games to throw that kind of reference in.

DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH THIS GAME. IT’LL GIVE YOU HERPES.

POSSIBLY.

I DUNNO. I DON’T HAVE SEX WITH GAMES.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s