Wednesday, February 4, 2015

StarBoy91's January 2015 Mini-Reviews 2/3

Written: February 2nd-4th, 2015
M.C. Kids (NES)
1991 Virgin Interactive
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Talk about a low point in Virgin's '90s career, and a low point for fast food-based platformers too (in this case, McDonald's).  I can't believe the developers of this cheap cash-in thought that children (the intended audience for M.C. Kids, or McDonaldland if you happen to live in Europe) would have the patience to go through the whole game's awkwardly set up obstacles and poorly designed areas.  I'm twenty-three and a half years old, and I don't have the patience for this platformer.  And maybe it wouldn't be so bad had the game been properly polished, decently structured, and the slightest bit of fun.  M.C. Kids is none of these things.
You know how in games like TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure, Cool Spot, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, and Sonic the Hedgehog the more you walk the closer you proceed to run?  Whilst in those games the running and jumping was solid, in M.C. Kids' case it is extremely loose, meaning you have to be very controlling of it in midair (particularly when to very small platforms).  But the final nail in the coffin for this game is that it's a blatant Super Mario Bros. 2 copy.  Copy!  Not only do you throw blocks at enemies, but later on you also dig through sand!  That is just shameless theft.  I wouldn't mind it so much if it played good and was fun, but it doesn't and isn't, so I do.
One thing I did find curious was the way that your character loses a life when the Select button is pressed while the game is paused.  I don't understand that.  It's also very bland-looking for an 8-bit title which doesn't do it any favors.  I'd much rather play Mickey's Dangerous Chase on the Game Boy than this game, it's that bad.
My Tentatively Personal Score: 3.5/10
Magical Tarurūto-kun (Game Boy)
1991 Tose (Developer) / Bandai (Publisher)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Recently I've been thinking of playing games based on this Japan-only manga/anime series, so for the first try I went with the Game Boy version; and honestly I thought it was decent at best.  Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad either.  The gameplay is solid, the worlds are nicely drawn, and the title sequence is fun to watch.  I liked how the game alternated between platformer and shoot'em up.
Some things that drag this game down is that it's one of those pattern-based games, so you have to move at a steady pace unless you wish to meet an early end; the boss fights are way too long for their own good (I counted: the last boss takes twice as many punches to defeat than it does to oust the very first boss); and just when you think it's going to get better it ends.  It's a very short game, which was a shame because it was mostly fun while it lasted.  Now I'm more than looking forward to try the second Magical Tarurūto-kun on the Game Boy.
My Personal Score: 6.0/10
Mickey's Playtown Adventure: A Day of Discovery! (SNES - ROM)
1994 Visual Concepts (Developer) / Hi-Tech Expressions (Would-Be Publisher)
Another unreleased SNES ROM leaked online, this one was complete but got cancelled because of reasons we'll never get an answer to.  I think I'll reserve full judgment on this game until I experience Mickey's Ultimate Challenge (because, same publisher); Mickey's Playtown Adventure is okay and it's one of the better unreleased SNES games that I played.

It's not really all that special, but browsing around each nook and cranny it makes me feel sorry for Visual Concepts, whose hard work and effort they went through, went down the drain when it was refused a single physical release.  I can't imagine how sad they must've felt.  The visuals aren't the best I've seen in a Mickey Mouse video game but they are very colorful and detailed to look at; and Mickey Mouse's jumping and walking animations are very fluid.  It's neat to see the Disney cast looking good, including Scrooge McDuck, but why was Donald not included when Daisy was?  There couldn't have been something you could do for him?

Controls are simple and lightweight, and basically it's a series of errand-running and fetch-questing which much younger children wouldn't have minded but older gamers may have found tiresome and repetitive.  I think the target audience would've liked it if it was released, and at least it's playable.  I definitely wouldn't choose this over superior Nintendo or Sega 16-bit Mickey Mouse fare, but it's passable for what it is.
My Tentative Personal Score: 5.5/10
Mr. Bloopy (SNES - ROM)
1994 Rare-Compedia (Would-Be Publisher)
Mr. Bloopy is one of those games in the '90s where the main character for one reason or another was a blob, only this one wasn't released.  Basically it's an action/puzzler like Millennium Entertainment's Super Morph, but unlike that game where it at least played decently was in a restricted segment with no enemies, this game on the other hand goes for full sidescrolling with well thought-of but poorly executed controls, with enemies.  At least there's no timer this time.
In each stage your blob Mr. Bloopy must solve puzzles in order to proceed to the next part of the stage, whether it be by matching blocks to the image on the side, making a bridge that's exactly like the flying creature mapped it out, getting an image to be whole, and matching the end of stage poster exactly as is.  Mr. Bloopy can change to any of the four different colors, which is necessary because plenty of puzzles require mandatory color alternating.
This would all be fine if the game wasn't so deliberately paced, which inspires more frustration than it does rewarding payoff.  Even the movement and jumping controls are awkwardly slow, and despite a password system coming in handy, it doesn't completely excuse the tedium it exudes.  Wake me when it's over.  Zzzz
My Personal Score: 4.0/10
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (Blu-Ray)
2014 DreamWorks
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
When I grew up watching Rocky & Bullwinkle, I must admit that the Mr. Peabody & Sherman specials were not ones I was particularly looking forward to watching, though it may have been because I was far too young to appreciate them.  I recently caught up with the DreamWorks adaptation on Blu-Ray, and despite my previous perceptions of the show it's adapted from I had a blast with this movie.
DreamWorks' animation is always great to watch in motion, and even though it's aimed at children there's plenty of elements that I thought was really good.  Ty Burrell really rocks it s the knowledge canine Mr. Peabody, and there's a lot of humor in it which I thought was funny (especially when it comes to Patrick Warburton's scene-stealing Agamemnon).  While normally time travel plots in movies are a struggle to keep up with (what with continuity), it's not the case here; though there is a clever scene surrounding what happens when the time machine travels to a time when the characters existed.
It's not all humor as there are moments of poignancy when it comes to the relation and chemistry between Mr. Peabody and Sherman.  Like How to Train Your Dragon there is a brief flying scene which made me feel like I was soaring, which I enjoyed.  I should be mad that there are moments of scatological humor aimed "for kids", since I hate that stuff, but at least I was entertained by a lot of what worked for me and that the movie wasn't condescending.  I liked it a lot.
My Personal Score: 4/5
Mr. Tuff (SNES - ROM)
1995 Sales Curve Interactive (Developer) / Ocean (Would-Be Publisher)
Man, I need to cut down on watching or playing media that start with the same letter during the same month; I covered a lot in January that started with the letter "M".  Another unreleased SNES game, this one is a platformer that stars a demolition robot.  Unlike the other unreleased Mr., Mr. Bloopy, this one actually looks and plays decently (and at least the music isn't grating).  Not that it says much about the quality itself as Mr. Tuff requires you to be absolutely careful when trying to reach the exit while contending with enemies under a short allotted amount of time (short, because time goes fast); and if you lose a life then you must start from the beginning of the stage.  It's not terrible, but it could've been worse.
My Personal Score: 5.0/10
Mummy 1999, The (DVD)
1999 Universal
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Stephen Sommers' take on The Mummy is a very fun popcorn movie to watch every once in awhile, and is really more its own movie than a remake of the 1932 original.  It doesn't matter if it attempts to be like Raiders of the Lost Ark, it's still great to watch.
It's got very fun and relatable characters; Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz exhibit fantastic chemistry whenever they're onscreen; the action scenes are great; and there are lots of moments of humor that makes it fun to watch (made all the better since the movie itself knows it's fun and silly).  Many of the special effects still hold up today, with the exception of CGI Imhotep, but even then I don't particularly mind.  It's also got one of my favorite Jerry Goldsmith scores on film (alongside The Secret of N.I.M.H.), which effectively adds a lot of atmosphere, tension, and emotion to each scene.  His mystery, action, and romance themes are wonderful to listen to every time; it's just too bad he didn't return for the follow-ups.

The credits sequence is also breathtaking in the way it's executed, with the hieroglyphs turning into letters and words.  Out of the trilogy 1999's The Mummy is my favorite, and a part of me wishes that it remained a stand-alone because to me that's how it works best; but because it became a blockbuster hit it spawned two sequels, each one worse than the last.
My Personal Score: 4/5
Mummy, The: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Blu-Ray)
2008 Universal
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was actually the only Mummy movie in the trilogy that I saw when it was in theatres, though that may have attributed to the fact that I didn't really get into live action adventure movies until that very year.  At the time I thought it was decent though not as good as the first Mummy movie.
But years have done this chapter much less justice than The Mummy Returns before it, and despite having seen and read reviews of it prior to rewatching it again I was wondering if I would get something from it.  I did, but sadly it's not a lot.  Rob Cohen's movie suffers from a ton of problems--the most obvious being that there are no mummies here whatsoever, and yet the characters still call the terra cotta statues "mummies", by which point I find myself groaning at how juvenile and forceful it is.
The casting is also a huge misstep: considering it's been roughly fourteen years since the last Mummy movie took place (that one took place in 1933; this one transpires in 1946-47), Brendan Fraser's Rick O'Connell has not aged one bit and has become a clumsy shadow of his old self; Luke Ford, who plays the now adult Alex, looks more like he could be Fraser's brother than his son; and let's not forget the huge blow that was cast when Rick's wife Evelyn, previously played by Rachel Weisz, has been recast in the form of Maria Bello.  Now don't misunderstand me, she's a very good actress; but she's wrong for this movie.  And poor Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh; they're better than this.
Despite being the shortest movie in the trilogy (at 112 minutes), Tomb of the Dragon Emperor feels longer than it does (with a prologue that lasts about twice as long as the prologues in the previous two Mummy movies).  It also doesn't help any that it's poorly scripted and has got overreliance on CGI; and unlike the predecessors where they had a semblance of an ending this one's resolution feels weak and unfulfilling.  And it's a shame that it's the case; because the movie is well-shot and beautiful to look at (when it doesn't go for shaky cam and bad CGI), Randy Edelman's music is breathtaking (including the rousing and triumphant "A Call to Adventure"), and a very stylistic-looking credits sequence which serves as neat eye candy.  Which makes watching this movie even more painful because those are the only things going for it.  =(
The Mummy series should've just ended with The Mummy Returns, and this so-called "sequel" didn't need to exist.  Had it not been tied to the series and been its own thing instead it would've still been bad but it wouldn't have been as insulting (and don't even get me started on how a deleted scene deliberately aped a Rick and Evelyn moment from the first Mummy).  And yes, the scene with the CGI yetis cheering after a bad guy is disposed of football-style was incredibly dumb; which is an apt descriptor for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
My Personal Score: 1.5/5
Mummy Returns, The (DVD)
2001 Universal
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
The first Mummy movie by Stephen Sommers was a very fun popcorn movie that was thrilling, adventurous, funny, and didn't take itself seriously (the movie itself being aware of that quality aspect).  The Sommers-directed follow The Mummy Returns, on the other hand, is a bit of a step down; and it's not necessarily the fact that it was made solely because its predecessor was a huge hit at the box office... though there is that.
The chemistry between Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz still work relatively well, and this time around they have a young son who's got twice the smarts and courage of his parents when he's kidnapped.  There is also a twist regarding Evelyn, but one could see it from a mile away, and even the woman who has connections with Arnold Vosloo's Imhotep shares it too.  It was nice to have Ardeth Bay again, and it was great to have John Hannah's Jonathan again; but where the movie suffers most for me is ... well, there's plenty that does it wrong.
The CGI, which was mostly good in 1999, looks absolutely worse and unpolished in a movie that was made two years later (like the imps and the infamous Scorpion King).  There's tons of moments that scream "callback" to the first movie that it takes me out of the feature: there is a domino chain reaction (albeit with different elements) that almost looks like a shot by shot remake of the domino chain reaction in the first movie with the bookcases (with the same angles, no less); a "reading a book never hurt anybody" reference; bits of a flashback that are stock footage from the previous film; you name it.  And get this: the very hieroglyphic symbol that Jonathan needed Evelyn's help with in the end of the last movie is the same exact one that he helps Alex with at the end of this movie.  We get it, Sommers, this is a Mummy sequel, don't rub it in!
Alan Silvestri's music isn't bad, but it doesn't hold a candle to Jerry Goldsmith's engaging score from the last film.  At least there are moments of humor and drama that make this movie watchable and okay for me, even if it is slightly overlong (Weisz is still in it, and that's good); and at least The Mummy Returns actually took place in Egypt and had mummies in it, unlike The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor which Rob Cohen took the reins of seven years later to a largely negative reception.
My Personal Score: 3/5
Namco Museum (Game Boy Advance)
2001 Mass Media (Developer) / Namco (Publisher)
While you could do much better than experiencing these Namco arcade classics on a handheld, Namco Museum on the Game Boy Advance is actually a pretty standard (albeit harmless) compilation.
Even though some games are cropped to fit the size of the screen, it really doesn't detract from the fun.  Dig Dug and Galaga are still some of my favorites from Namco's yesteryear, but the other games aren't bad either.  Also adding to the replay value is the option to set up a different amount of lives and what score you should reach in order to earn a new life.  It's too bad that since the PlayStation One days have come and gone that the Namco Museum series excised the whole virtual museum altogether, but I suppose that's a price to pay in order to experience certain games in newer compilations of theirs.
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
Opus n' Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work (DVD)
1991 Amblin Television/Universal Cartoon Studios
Screengrabs from my Region 1 DVD of Opus n' Bill in A Wish for Wings That Work
Perhaps it's because it wasn't like I had expected it to be prior to watching it and because it's different from the other Christmas specials; but goshdamn, I couldn't help but fall in love with this special.
A Wish for Wings That Work is an obscure and underrated special that's got a lavishly beautiful artstyle, very fluid animation despite being made for TV on a low budget, really funny dialogue at times, one of the most ingeniously off-the-wall moment that you wouldn't expect, and it's got a lot of heart too (even during the ending).  My whole review of it is here if you want to know more; each time I watch I enjoy it; and it's too bad that it's the only animated media starring the earthbound penguin Opus.
My Personal Score: 4.5/5
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>

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