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X-Men (Genesis) artwork

X-Men (Genesis) review


"It's definitely uncanny..."


The X-Men consist of mutants with unique powers, diverse character designs, a huge array of enemies, and distinctive environments, so they always seem like a surefire fit for concrete video game adventures. In the right hands. When you start up 1993's X-Men, you're immediately treated to flatulence and the Savage Land. Sure, this tropical anomaly within Antarctica has its share of X-Men stories, but the sight of an overwhelmingly washed-out, bleak, swamp-like rendition of the territory, while poorly composed, synthesized fart noises play on, is not a very welcoming first impression. There's no actual in-game twist as to why it looks this way, either... it just looks gray, green, and ugly.

Moreover, once you actually start playing, it's apparent Western Technologies has made a substandard side-scrolling platformer that happens to have the X-Men license attached to it. At its center, X-Men is extremely dull, even with the likes of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Gambit, and Cyclops at your controls, and it's really because you're doing the most generic platforming feats imaginable through six stages; jump on one platform, move forward, hit an enemy, jump again, hit an enemy at a platform above, and so on. In terms of opposition, normal enemies are either stuck on a small platform, or they basically walk back and forth on their respective planes, attacking when you come into view. The devs try disguising this underwhelming design by making everything in the game cheap and unfair, and that's when everything falls apart.

It's not even funny how intentionally awkward some of the enemy and hazard placements are, not to mention foes with projectile weaponry fire as soon as they appear on screen. It's frustrating making a jump to a platform above or below, knowing full well an enemy is waiting, and you can't even get a solid hit in until you land next to them, often guaranteeing a free attack for them. As for projectile-based enemies, you need to know when they're coming to counter quickly, and sometimes that might not be fast enough. Incredibly, ducking isn't a reliable tactic, since the devs make projectile shots travel at juuuussst the right angle for some enemies, where it looks like they might fly over you. Nope. What's the point of a duck feature if you can't use it as intended?

However, the biggest offense goes to the game's strict usage of your characters. Each of the four characters are considered a life, and if you lose every single one, the game ends. No continues or passwords. Now, you can switch between characters within a stage, and this is helpful due to each character having a separate health meter. Problem is, you only get a limited number of switches, which changes with every subsequent stage. For some reason. Like, you can only switch once in stage five, but three times in stage six. It makes zero sense.

Oh, and your characters' health doesn't replenish after completing a stage; you have to catch floating health orbs in the Danger Room interval, and adding insult, there's a time limit for this. If you're fast enough, though, you can grab health for one character, run back to the control panel to switch another character, and grab the remaining health. In a perfect world. Unfortunately, more times than not, you realistically only have enough to fully replenish one drained character. This puts you in the awkward situation of playing the next stage with weakened X-Men, and it only goes downhill from there with every mutant lost in battle.

It's easy to write additional paragraphs detailing more grievances about the game, from the flimsy hit detection, to every stage having an abundant eyesore of drab green and gray colors, and then there's the infamous requirement of resetting your Sega Genesis with no legitimate knowledge hinting at it. But all you really need to understand is that X-Men is designed in a deliberate, crude manner, purposely failing the player at every step. It's a lousy method of making gamers play over and over again, since there's no joy to be had here. I mean, the amount of hazards you keep stepping on is Home Alone-levels of ridiculousness. Remember that scene where Marv gleefully climbs through the window, only to scream in horror when stepping on Christmas lights with his bare feet? That's what it feels like constantly hopping around in X-Men. Now, just replace the John Williams soundtrack with fart noises, and it's a solid parallel.

2/5

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 19, 2017)

Fun fact: Greendog starred in another game prior to his Sega Genesis debut. He was originally in the board game Surf Trip, which was released back in the 1980s.

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