Review by Arguro
An unknown game that is actually pretty fun!
When one sees the title Skuljagger: Revolt of the Westicans, it invokes thoughts of a great game, based around pirates, murder, mystery and suspense. While you do not get all of that from Skuljagger, what you do get is something surprising, strange, and down right hilarious at times. This is a game that can be referred to as "The Bubble Gum Blowing Pirates Game."
Skuljagger is the story of Jaxon Storm and the people of Westica. The Westicans have been forced into slavery on their home island by the evil pirate Skuljagger. For 10 years they have been forced to mine jewels and gems just to make Skuljagger and his pirate band richer. However, there is a small resistance group, headed by Storm. You control him through seven levels in his attempt to steal Skuljagger's sword and then eliminate him from his cruel grip on Wesitcan society.
What you got here is essentially another platformer on a system flooded with games of this type. You jump, you attack, your run, you win. Innovation is not found in this sense. However, what does make Skuljagger different is the fact that bubble gum plays a bigger role in this game than it has in any pirate movie, film, TV show, or video game in the past.
As you traverse through treacherous terrors, trembling timidly, (how is that for an alliteration) there will be random fruits scattered across the game. These fruits represent a different flavor of gum. The gum gives Storm different powers. Orange gum will allow him to spit bombs, cherry gum allows him to fly, and grape gum grants invulnerability. While this in and of its self may not be a new invention in video gaming, the fact that a pirate would use gum as an aid to destroy the evil occupiers of his home island is certainly a new concept.
Players will find that the bubble gum concept not only adds to the game play, but provides a sort of comic relief, in the sense that it is outrageous that someone who is fighting for his freedom would be chewing bubblegum he finds along the way. Honestly, who would think to crack open a coconut and look for gum to chew, let alone actually finding it and doing just that?
Level design is key for games of this manner to be enjoyable. They must contain enough variance that it doesn't feel like the same level over and over again. Skuljagger delivers, do a degree, on this level (pun intended). You will find your self scattered across the island, in many different places. You start out on the docks, move to a warehouse, end up in a lost city with ghosts, go to a beach and finish back on the docks. While there is some repetitive level design, everything is different each time you are at it and fits fantastically within the story.
Speaking of the story, this is not just a game with a few lines of text, like what was summarized in the beginning. The manual includes a full color, 80 page comic book that explains the story in great detail. The comic book also has hints to the game. Scattered throughout the game are secret zones that you can only reach by standing in a specific location and pressing a button combination that you would not normally conceive.
While this is an innovative idea, it is also a terrible idea. People who purchased the game brand new got to experience this innovation. However, for the rest of us who purchased this game used, we are stranded with no knowledge of how or where to find these hidden areas. Pressing eighty different buttons in every single location of the game is not anyone's idea of fun.
To keep the game exciting, there are many different enemy types throughout the game. While you fight the same boss three out of seven times, the enemies in the game get progressively tougher as you move throughout the game. You start out fighting oversized bugs that casually walk in your general direction. By the time you finish, these same bugs fly at your head with blazing speed, not to mention the myriad of other enemies shooting bullets at you that you can barely see.
There are few cheap deaths, but there are some. When you grab a continue gem and do not kill all the enemies around it before hand, you can run into some trouble. There will be times that the instant you re-spawn, you die. This is a great way to waste all your lives and continues.
However, outside of this rare occurrence, the advent of these continue points is nice. There are levels that seem to last forever, and without the continue points, you will throw your controller in disgust when you die just before the end of the level, only to have to return to the beginning.
In what is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game, the sound quality is nothing awe inspiring. While the music is diverse and mood setting, it is everything one would expect and nothing to become excited about. While the sound effects are all fitting and do not cause you to question their existence, again, they just do not do anything to cause excitement within ones mind.
Brightly colored graphics are one of the bonuses of this game. There are very few palate swaps of enemies and the enemies are drawn very well. The backgrounds all look great and the levels are well detailed. Even though these are not ground breaking graphics, they are effective. Controlling storm is also easy and works very well. There are no instances where jumping seems super human, and sword swinging occurs with ease.
One thing in particular that seasoned veterans of the SNES console and plat-formers in general will find good is the password system. While there are seven levels, only the first five have password, making the last two levels that can only be reached by defeating the ones before it. This is a great concept because it forces the player to defeat at least a portion of the game in order to reach the end. Once you reach that end and pass it, you will start over at the beginning, with your lives and your score intact. This adds to the challenge and replay ability of the game.
Skuljagger is one of those games you need to play. While I cannot say that Skuljagger is the greatest game of all time, I can call it the greatest game involving pirates and bubble gum. There are some innovative parts to the game that will surprise even the most cynical of us, but there is also familiar game play that while nothing new, is simple and easy to master. Skuljagger is a game that most have never heard of. I suggest that you do your self a favor and go find this game, even if just for a cheap laugh. It is a surprisingly fun game that certainly is worth a couple of bucks. You may not get the fascinating and mysteriousness of what the title conveys, but at least you will get something you can enjoy.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Skuljagger: Revolt of the Westicans (US, 10/31/92)
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