Review by Tom Clark

Reviewed: 01/15/02 | Updated: 01/15/02

Little to do with high winds, weather forecasts, or innovative gameplay...

Hurricanes was a classic cartoon series, apparently. I say apparently because... well... to be honest with you I'd never heard of it before I played this game. Whether that's just a reflection of my lack of culture, or a reflection of the lack of quality of the cartoon is largely irrelevant, it just means that I came to the game without being blinded by the license, and as such I judge it purely on what is on offer. This fact will probably leave the developers wishing I'd seen the show....

According to the manual, Hurricanes told the tale of a football (or Soccer to our less English friends) team on a remote island. The potential was therefore in place for a fairly innovative game that could have broken the trend of all the other cartoon-licensed games out there at the time by providing a comedy football game, or could have been a straight-out sim to compete with the likes of FIFA . Sadly the developers (in this case U.S. Gold) took the easy, and cowardly, option, and decided to make a platform game. Well how unexpected....

The main problem with Hurricanes is, and this may sound odd, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it as such, it's just so... ordinary. Pretty much everything about this game has been done before - the first level, for example, takes place in a jungle environment, and later levels include haunted houses, a beach, a train level.... The only real surprise is that there is no level featuring ice: the level design really is that clichéd and generic. There are virtually no surprises in store here; you know that the jungle levels will feature various simian foes and clambering on vines, the haunted house level will look purple... before you even start the levels you almost know what the music will be like. In all fairness though, the game, however formulaic, is done reasonably well. There are four playable characters (including Cal and Amanda, the box proudly exclaims. Like I said, it's all lost on me, but it's bound to excite someone out there), although they all play exactly the same, so you can just choose the sprite that you like the look of best. The levels are reasonably large and well designed - if you miss a jump you only miss because of your own mistake, and are left feeling that you can really do it next time, a sign that the developers have managed to strike up that elusive balance between making the jumps difficult and making the game frustrating to the point of abuse. Also, the enemies on offer are quite varied, if predictable. There are also a few nice touches - lose a life and the ref yellow cards you (although quite what the referee is doing flying a Back To The Future style hoverboard is beyond me - you don't see Dermot Gallagher appearing on one of those every Saturday, do you?), lose your last life and it's a red card, and early bath, for you. In fact, the whole package is fun, but it feels so familiar that it's like watching episodes of TV shows that are seemingly repeated all the time (like the Halloween episodes of the Simpsons) - they're still enjoyable, but if you've seen, or played, them first time round there really is little need for coming back for more.

There has been an attempt at least to give this game a unique slant, although at the end of the day it is dead on arrival. Basically, the character you choose is constantly dribbling a ball. Pressing the 'C' button causes the character to kick the ball, and this serves as your weaponry throughout the game. While this is a nice touch in theory, it's a tad too difficult to aim, and as missing means that a new ball has to be thrown in (an infuriatingly lengthy process), you can hardly take out your enemies with any real speed, meaning you take needless damage, as you are forced to stand waiting for a chance to shoot the enemy. This is countered by the developers, though, by making the game woefully short. While it isn't too easy, it's no Battletoads, and the whole thing can be completed within a few hours (I managed to complete the game on my third time playing it, and I am in no way a skilled gamer).

Where this game does shine, though, is in it's presentation. The graphics are very impressive by Mega Drive standards. While not achieving the dizzying highs seen in games such as Vectorman (which is arguably the pinnacle of Mega Drive presentation) and Ballz, they are bright and colourful, and have a nice cartoon-y feel to them. The scenery, too, is really quite... busy: quite a lot of detail has gone into the levels (most notable in the final jungle stages). The characters appear a bit on the skinny side (although not to the extent seen in the likes of Judge Dredd), but they move fluidly, and there is no noticeable blurring when they move faster. The sound effects are reasonable, if a little on the ordinary side, but the music is a real treat. The tunes will all have you humming or whistling away as you play, and at least half of them will have you humming or whistling them after you finish playing.

All the slick presentation in the world, though, won't disguise the fact that this game has been done so many times before. It's still good fun, and probably worth a purchase if you feel that you really need another platform game, but at the end of the day there is pretty much nothing here that you haven't seen in countless other games. A lazy waste of what could have been an original game.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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