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The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock (SNES) artwork

The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock (SNES) review


"Fortunately, the action levels that make up the bulk of the game are reasonably good. There’s not a lot of visual variety because each of the stages are themed, but you’ll see grasslands, volcanic areas, icy crags, a dense jungle and a series of dank caverns. The time limit is often every bit as much your enemy as the various animals that try to make life difficult for you."



There’s treasure hidden somewhere on Sierra Madrock, the fearsome mountain that looms somewhere outside Bedrock. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble know that much, and they also know that they won’t rest until the fabled bounty is theirs… whatever it happens to be. That’s the basic premise behind The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock, a unique and somewhat rare SNES platformer that you probably shouldn’t bother tracking down at this point unless you love the license. Even then, you should proceed cautiously.

Unlike The Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy for NES, which arguably offers a superior experience, The Treasure of Sierra Madrock is a two-player affair… if you want it to be. The treasure hunt spans five large stages, each consisting of a map and around 10 or 15 short action levels that can often be easily cleared in less than a minute. You control Fred and your friend plays as Barney, or vice-versa. If you’re adventuring alone, you’ll take turns controlling each of the two characters. The affable cavemen advance by rolling numbered rocks (don’t call them dice) to determine whether they will move one, two or three spaces along branching paths.

The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock asset


Landing on a space that you haven’t already cleared typically drops you into an action level, or (very rarely) a bonus area. You can also visit shops in the early going, where it’s possible to play the simplest of the available mini-games. These include a pachinko variant, a memory matching game, and so forth. They’re very basic and easily cleared. The only reason to even bother with them is that you can snag prizes such as extra lives or extensions to your life meters (though you’ll also find such items sprinkled liberally throughout the action levels). To participate in a game of chance or skill, you must first pony up ten clams, which you’ll find spread throughout the proper levels like coins in a Super Mario Bros. title.

Besides the mini-games that you can play by visiting the carnival spaces, you’ll also find three sporting events over the course of the game: a foot race, a rally and a skating event. Each of the first three stages includes one of those attractions, presented with Mode-7 visuals (sort of like Super Mario Kart, except not as polished). You must beat a computer opponent if you want to advance. Unfortunately, the athletic events are difficult because the controls are touchy. Events play out within confined arena courses, but you can’t turn very well if you’re moving at high speeds and you can’t win races unless you’re moving swiftly while making a lot of sharp turns to avoid obstacles that will slow you to a crawl. It’s a recipe for frustration, and each loss means that you have to waste several more turns trekking back across the board before you can make another attempt at the local arena. That’s not cool.

The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock asset


Fortunately, the action levels that make up the bulk of the game are reasonably good. There’s not a lot of visual variety because each of the stages are themed, but you’ll see grasslands, volcanic areas, icy crags, a dense jungle and a series of dank caverns. The time limit is often every bit as much your enemy as the various animals that try to make life difficult for you. Foes include spiky mammals, birds that drop rocks from overhead, giant fish that will knock you from ledges, and even bats when you decide to go spelunking. The bats deserve a special mention because they’re so irritating. They tend to slow you down when you need to hurry, or they’ll bump you and knock you into a pit as you recover from the blow. Seldom since the Medusa heads made their debut in Castlevania have such weak enemies proven so potentially devastating.

If you decide to give The Treasure of Sierra Madrock a shot in spite of the handful of flaws outlined above, do yourself a favor and start by familiarizing yourself with the controls. The game can be unnecessarily difficult if you’re not aware of some basic moves and rules that may not be self-evident if you lack an instruction manual. For instance, the shoulder buttons allow you to sprint (useful to outrun boulders and such), and you can double jump--at the cost of a clam per airborne leap--once you train at the nearest arena. Bizarrely, Fred and Barney can also float through the air if you hold down the jump button, which looks absurd but proves vital in even the earliest of areas. There are some tricky leaps that must be made throughout the adventure, and more than a few bottomless pits. Finally, many trees and similar bits of the background can also be climbed like ladders, so pay close attention if you find yourself facing a gap that seems impossible to cross. Acquainting yourself with such matters early on can save you a lot of grief in the long run.

The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock asset


As the game begins, Fred and Barney start out with three hearts. Depending how comfortable you are with the stiff controls, that initial meter is barely sufficient. You can grab heart containers throughout the stages or by winning mini-games, though, which makes it easier to survive some of the later stages. Just be aware that your life meter resets if you run out of lives. Aside from that symptom, there’s not much to fear from a “Game Over” screen. You can continue as often as you like, and any cleared levels within a stage will remain cleared. Because lives are also plentiful early in the game, you can build up your reserves and perhaps avoid inconvenient meter resets in the final areas.

Although it only lasts for five or six hours, The Treasure of Sierra Madrock features a password system. Younger and busier gamers will likely appreciate the convenience, though perhaps not as much as the developers intended; passwords take the form of four three rows of four item icons--some of them quite similar--so you have to pay close attention when you’re transcribing or you might wind up with useless notes. It’s a shame that a simpler, more intuitive solution wasn’t implemented.

The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock asset


The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock is a moderately challenging platform title with a few gameplay twists and a pair of beloved mascots that set it apart from the crowd of 16-bit action games. It’s a unique enough experience to be interesting even now, but some of the rough edges prevent the overall package from properly coming together. Flintstones fans who appreciate retro gaming will likely still find that the title makes a nice addition to already robust collections, but you’d do well to start elsewhere if you’re only just beginning your efforts to gather the greatest games of the 16-bit era. Despite containing some interesting ideas, The Treasure of Sierra Madrock doesn’t entirely live up to its name.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 27, 2012)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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