This post is part of our good buddy Bryce Wilson’s Raimifest Blogothon. We aren’t exactly a blog, per se, but we still wanted to post some written words as part of the festivities. If you haven’t already heard our podcast that is part of Raimifest, you can find it here.
We here at On the Stick don’t like to limit ourselves to just one form of media, but honestly, we talk about videogames more than anything else. That being the case, I figured instead of talking about one of Sam Raimi’s movies, we would talk about a game based on one of those movies. Now, it would be predictable for us to talk about the Evil Dead games. They’re recent, everyone pretty much knows how they pan out, and they’ve been talked about to death. The first one sucks, the second one’s a little better and the third one is a pretty solid action game. There’s also one for the C64, but I’m not British. So, I decided to do something a little less predictable and write about Ocean Software’s 1991 NES game based on Darkman.
This is probably not the best decision I’ve ever made.
I’m guessing anyone reading this site has a pretty good idea about the history of licensed games on the NES. They’re either Ducktales or they’re Back to the Future, and there’s not much middle ground. This one skews quite heavily towards the Back to the Future side. I suppose it’s not quite that bad, but… yeah, it’s pretty goddamn awful.
Darkman is a side-scrolling action game that only follows the plot of the movie in the most cursory of ways. In fact, where the game has the most potential is in the ways it follows the movie. Each stage is broken up into three or four parts, and in each stage you play as Dr. Westlake, but in a different guise. In the first stage, you play as Darkman, in the second as Pauly, in the third as Skip, in the fourth as Smiley and in the final as Durant.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a gameplay mechanic that could be fun. Tragically, the wonky physics, awful controls and cheap level design make it anything but. Every stage plays like an ice stage, it’s impossible to get used to the jump timing, and certain stage hazards kill you in one hit. Unfortunately, the only way to know which ones kill you in one hit is to get hit by them. Still, each disguise plays a little differently, but it isn’t enough to make the game fun. The closest it gets is in Smiley’s stages, because his jump physics make it so you don’t jump like a geriatric, unlike all the other characters. Of course, to counterbalance that, his stages are filled with enemies that can easily stun-lock you and rockets the fly at you from off screen and kill you in one hit.
Each set of stages ends with the boss, which is the person whose disguise you’re wearing. This makes every boss fight really easy, because any powers they have, you have, but you’re presumably less brick dumb than the AI. Following each stage is either a camera stage or a helicopter stage.
The helicopter stages have Darkman hanging from a rope on a helicopter, while you get hit in the face by birds. There are also trucks and motorcycles to get hit by, but mostly it’ll be birds. These birds now rival Ninja Gaiden’s birds as the NES birds I most despise. I want to find the guy who decided to put the birds in here and repeatedly punch his bathing suit area. Repeatedly.
The camera stages require you to photograph the next thug whose guise you’ll be assuming. The only problem is, it doesn’t matter how you do on them. It’s like Hogan’s Alley with a camera, but even if you get zero pictures of the next guy, it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the next stage. Maybe the time limit gets shorter? But it doesn’t matter. Time never ran out on me, and, in fact, I was rarely killed by enemies. The stages are so poorly designed that they’re your #1 enemy. Slipping of platforms, missing jumps, getting knocked out of the air by environmental hazards; these are the biggest hurdles.
Overall, it’s just a mess. For every bit as excellent as the movie is, the game is that much a trainwreck. The only complement I can really give the game is that the graphics are pretty good for the NES. Of course, this just leads to me being pissed off that when you finally slog through this 8-bit nightmare, the ending sequence is a motherfucking text crawl! Seriously, Ocean Software, you can kiss my fucking taint. That’s some bullshit, right there.
I should’ve played Evil Dead: Regeneration…