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DecapAttack (Genesis) artwork

DecapAttack (Genesis) review

"DecapAttack, a 2D platformer on the Genesis, takes the general premise of Frankenstein and adds several twists to it."

DecapAttack, a 2D platformer on the Genesis, takes the general premise of Frankenstein and adds several twists to it. As the cartridge boots up, the big bad dude of the underworld, Max D. Cap, has launched an invasion on an island, shaped like a skeleton, and succeeds by separating it into seven parts. Enter: Frank N. Stein and his monster creation, Chuck D. Head. However, instead of a tragic tale of death and misery between the two, DecapAttack puts them in the role of heroes, with Chuck as the controllable protagonist and Frank providing informative support as they challenge Max's reign.

Also deviating from the gloomy nature of the original plot is the overall cartoony and campy vibe of the game; silly enemies range anywhere from flying ducks and skeleton fish, to cheerful werewolves and green goblins that shoot arrows from their caps, all while a catchy, haunting soundtrack plays away. And then there's Chuck himself, a "being" wrapped in bandages, which Frank has accidentally implanted a head inside the abdomen area, a head that stretches out and attacks with a smile. Completing this absurdity is the ability to attach a skull on top, a weapon that can be flung at enemies from a distance and even come back of its own accord after a few seconds.

At first glance, DecapAttack plays like a fairly competent title that backs its kooky atmosphere as you battle minions, jump from platform to platform, avoid lava pits, navigate underwater, and use spring skulls to your advantage. The only aspect that some players will need practice with are the floaty running controls, since Chuck doesn't come to a complete stop on command. And if the whole "stretch punch and toss a retractable object" mechanic sound familiar, that's because the devs, Vic Tokai, have used this style in past titles, Kid Kool for the NES and Psycho Fox for the Sega Master System. Shoot, the bendy poles that can be used to propel your character great distances even make a reappearance.

But, as demonstrated many times through video game history, you're going to need more than a gimmick or hook in order to produce a great product. The most glaring problem is how DecapAttack is seriously lacking with in-game content, repeating situations for long periods before upping the difficulty or switching scenarios. For most of the game's run, you're literally just jumping on easy-to-reach platforms, avoiding lava, using springs, and swimming to reach the end of every round, each of the seven areas containing three, for a total of 21 stages.

Scarcely, you'll be placed in an automatic scrolling stage where you must stay ahead of an odd monstrosity, like a towering killer totem pole, or meet new enemies, like fish that can jump out of water and give chase. But that's scarcely, as the developers really stretch things to the point that it feels like they padded out the game just to justify its hour-plus long journey. DecapAttack only displays any significant improvement when you reach the second to last area, when the level design tightens up, forcing precise platform jumps, and new enemies are introduced after a lengthy, dry spell. It's sad that, until then, the most formidable obstacle throughout are the tricky water segments, which the game has an unusually high amount of.

Another area that's damaging is the lack of difficulty. If the game still managed to be fun regardless, this wouldn't have been a problem, but as been said, it's pretty repetitive, and with these two elements colliding, that's not a good thing. Considering how easy most foes are to defeat, unless you like blindly running into danger, the default four hits you have is too gracious. Even when you go to options and set it at two hits, you'll barely lose lives, though there will be an occasional hiccup or two. I will give the game its due for forcing players back to the beginning of a stage when a life is lost, plus all the items you've uncovered can't be recollected, as well as fallen platforms staying gone. But the most ridiculous thing is how you don't even have to use the abundance of special power-ups that are scattered everywhere... that's how simple DecapAttack is. They can be saved for boss encounters, especially the final fight, to make the game even more of a cake walk.

If the devs (or whoever changed it) would have stuck with the challenging one-hit kills from its original Japanese incarnation of Magical Hat, the game could've had the difficulty aspect going for it, at least. It's a shame, because DecapAttack has a wacky setup and the backing of an already-tested mechanic, but its lack of variety, in solid level design, enemies, and challenge, prevent it from blossoming into an entertainingly ghoulish IP for Sega during its Genesis run. Frankenstein and his creation may have teamed up to save the day in this adventure, but ironically, this tale still met with an unfortunate end.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (October 31, 2012)

You have no idea how close I was to using a Cool as Ice quote for my Riding Hero tagline...

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