Tom and Jerry (SNES) review
"From the Book of Snow Dragon, Volume XLIV, chapter 2, verses 18-22, row 4, seat J: "
From the Book of Snow Dragon, Volume XLIV, chapter 2, verses 18-22, row 4, seat J:
18 ''And lo, the small boy did place the Tom & Jerry cartridge into the SNES, looking at the clock to make sure he did not surpass the time limit for gaming imposed upon him by his parents of great and authoritative stature.
19 And yea, saith I unto thee, the boy was mightily impressed with the graphics and the quiet but upbeat music and the fact that the objects of his affection, Tom and Jerry, were on the screen for him to see.
20 After a period which could have been no more than a quarter of an hour, the small boy had completed the journey, whereafter he looked at the clock on his nightstand.
21 I speak the truth unto thee even now, the mere passing of the fifteen minutes had not been a figment of his imagination, but rather the literal amount of time that had passed.
22 Therefore he turned off the SNES and went to impress his friends with his nose's capacity for storing Play-Doh.''
From this infallible source of literature we can determine many facts that summarily define Tom & Jerry (Altron, 1993), a stylish platformer that sadly suffers from Amateur Pole Vaulter's Syndrome (APVS), wherein the developers not only missed the bar by a laughable margin, they landed so far below it that the pole went halfway through their stomachs, bounced along the ground and ultimately, through some loophole of physics, stood vertically in the air and fell to the ground, resulting in a twisted colon and a spine shattered in six different places. This is doubtless a gruesome end that many will wish they had not read about, but the worst part is that it could have been prevented. With attention to detail and motivation to take it to the next level, Tom & Jerry could have been greatness, even as far as kiddie platformers go. Instead, the outstanding parts mold into an introverted whole, a game so lazy and pathetically simple that it makes Felix the Cat look like Contra.
Tom & Jerry's first and foremost problem stems from too much order. Every level - all four of them - has the same basic thought process behind it:
1) dodge inanimate objects that have mysteriously come to life and follow a hardcoded path that is easily avoidable after light study,
2) make your way across cliché platform arrangements that a two-year-old could slop together,
3) collect the usual perfunctory items that no platformer can seem to wean itself off of, and
4) fight Tom in a duel to the death at the end of each level.
To their credit, the boss fights with Tom are reasonably challenging. Tom, true to cat form, is a crafty adversary capable of envisioning mouse traps that would make Rube Goldberg cry tears of envy. Under Tom's watch, you'll be hotfooting your way around walking rivets on a construction site while using the electromagnet on his crane to hoist yourself up to eye level and throw something at him. In the first level, he's secured himself in the back of the movie theater and has a series of ropes rigged up that will drop sandbags on your rodent head. Tom certainly has what it takes to be among the top ranks of bosses that take three hits to kill, but the rest of the game lags far behind his subtle genius and suffers greatly for it.
Coinciding with the theatrical release of the Tom & Jerry movie, which committed heinous blasphemy by giving Tom and Jerry vocal cords and handing them over to an owner whose face you could see, this game wants no part of it whatsoever. It's merely a four-level platform romp in which Jerry gets to beat up on Tom for no good reason (never is it vice versa - pretty unfair to the food chain, I always thought). Being as short and easy as it it turns out to make it a waste of valuable programming resources. Sure, it's aimed at kids that have just learned the negative consequences of eating their boogers, but insulting their intelligence like this is inexcusable. Kids can measure up to the likes of Super Mario Bros. and Kirby Superstar, two side-scrolling games I've always thought were fun to start a child down the gaming road on. I've seen it. They don't need this tripe thrown at them, never have. Tom & Jerry's idea of mixing it up is throwing in fast-moving ledges in the Lego block level. So you've got a movie tie-in with no link to the movie that's so easy that certain higher-evolved animals have been trained to beat it in anticipation of being rewarded with processed food pellets. It's nothing more than a quick buck for some hapless publisher. Strike one.
The control is fortunately accessible to children, with the major involvements being walking, jumping, and throwing small green marbles, Jerry's only line of defense against anything that moves. From the standpoint of a toddler, the only kind of person who should be playing this game, this is absolutely perfect. There's no need to memorize what a whole bunch of scary buttons do, no need to get cranky over the shoulder buttons and the ever-mysterious Select. The control is easy to learn and, as another plus, responsive. While it takes a little time to get used to some peculiarly slippery terrains, the majority of the game entails ledge-hopping and learning to aim your marbles at smaller enemies or foes above you, things that aren't too hard for anyone to learn in a couple of minutes. It gets the kid vote here, but something still isn't adding up. All the time, you feel this unknown factor breathing down your neck, something that puts the icing on the cake and desires it to be left to nursery school undergraduates. What is it? You won't figure it out yet. It takes a bit more time.
Shrugging the feeling off momentarily and looking at the graphics, you get the sensation that more time was spent here than in any other part of the game. Technology could have ceased all further advancement right here, and we'd still have dead-on likenesses of our second favorite cat-and-mouse duo (next to, of course, Itchy & Scratchy) in cartridge format. The levels are a lush sight as well, using the full range of bright and brilliant colors to depict the most mundane objects - books, wood paneling, enormous cat-piloted construction equipment, etc. It's all a sight to see, certainly, but any stickers boasting usage of all 16 megs would have been a boldfaced lie. This game is sparse to the extreme, meaning you'll probably see all the decorations in the first fifteen minutes of the party. Lights .... camera .... but what action? On the inside corner, but still, strike two.
The feeling sneaks up on you again, stalking you with each passing second that this game is in your system. You've narrowed it down to a few things that it could be, but you're not quite sure yet. Keep digging.......
And then the sound, playing second fiddle to all the other second fiddles to fill the orchestra pit full of second fiddle players. These are the weirdest songs you'll ever hear in a video game, as you soon find within a couple of bars of the first level's theme that there is no clear-cut melody. Without melody, there's nothing to be truly remembered here, and the songs consisting of what can be no more than ten measures play themselves over and over again - ad nausea, as it were. Even fights with Tom have only the sort of background instrument doodling that you hear in the oldest of old cartoons. There's nothing that you'll remember on occasion or hum as you make your way through the halls at school. The sound made when pushing Start at the title screen is more memorable than any of the songs in the game - a sad state of affairs. That's strike three, and the game just goes down looking.
That third strike is what you feel the whole time you play Tom & Jerry, but it doesn't come about until all of its foibles are noticed and fully comprehended by your brain, which still struggles to compute other mishaps that occur along the way. Even the climactic final level, in which Jerry makes his way up through his mousehole while skillfully evading Tom's dangerous paw, cannot save the game from the ultimate destiny of living in a KB Toys bargain bin - not after three strikes, it can't. Tom & Jerry is a lethargic yawnfest that no one should ever trouble themselves to play. It is even worse to put things into perspective and consider that the first game released for the system (Super Mario World), released two years prior, has 24 times as many levels as this game does. That's not at all to say, however, that Tom & Jerry should have 96 levels in it, because any more of it and the children might learn the fine art of gouging their eyes out in the hopes of not having to look at it anymore. Maybe the lack of levels suits the game just fine after all.
Flashy but yet still poor presentation can't stop Tom & Jerry from being nothing but a thin shell of the game it could have been. Movie merchandising got the better of this cartridge. If even an inkling of the drive put into fine-tuning the stunning graphics and precise control had been put into the conception of some of the less superficial aspects of the gameplay, T&J might well have been one of the most underrated platformers of all time. As it stands, it's a shiny object for the baby to play with and nothing more.
Fitting, then, that I close today with another passage from the Book of Snow Dragon, Volume LXXII, chapter 54, verses 110 and 111, row 9, seat H:
110 Verily, graphics do not a game make; it requires more, your breath to take.
111 Include more felicitous features within; then our hearts you shall forever win.
And everybody said, ''AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-MEN!''
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)
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