Men in Black: The Series (Game Boy Color) review
"Men In Black was a slightly above average film. Dealing with the exploits of a secret team of officials whose job it is to deal with the aliens on Earth, it starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K. While it was hyped beyond belief when it came out, repeat viewing showed some pretty severe flaws in the movie, which was apparently based on a comic book series. Still, it was good enough to spawn a sequel (which was really poor, to be honest) and a cartoon show. And that cartoon spa..."
Men In Black was a slightly above average film. Dealing with the exploits of a secret team of officials whose job it is to deal with the aliens on Earth, it starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K. While it was hyped beyond belief when it came out, repeat viewing showed some pretty severe flaws in the movie, which was apparently based on a comic book series. Still, it was good enough to spawn a sequel (which was really poor, to be honest) and a cartoon show. And that cartoon spawned this game. So with such a rich depth of background to the developers, this game should have been great - you've got your cool weapons, loads of aliens to blast, a cartoonish wealth of environments to explore.... Sadly, what we got instead was a pretty poor shooting game that will be over in less time than it takes to watch an episode of the cartoon.
MiB doesn't really have a plot (which is never a good start unless you're playing a puzzle game). Even the manual fails to give any motivation for your actions, saying under the headline 'Game Objectives' ''Just... keep moving and stop the aliens before they stop you''. Almost enough to give Shakespeare a run for his money.... Although there is a central villain - a chap who looks like Herr Flik from 'Allo 'Allo, and who I assume to be the Buzzard guy mentioned in the manual - his role is limited to turning up when the developers seemingly couldn't be bothered to come up with a proper boss for each stage. Other than that there is no continuity from stage to stage - you're given a garbled message at the start of each stage, usually involving a nasty type of alien with a stupid name causing havoc, and that's it. The game doesn't even have a proper ending - it feels just like the developers had enough and decided to stop making the game. Very bad.
The gameplay is really nothing remarkable either - your character (it could be Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones... or any Man In Black for that matter) scuttles around the six side scrolling levels shooting things. And that's all, folks. While this sounds frightfully monotonous, it never feels repetitive - mainly due to the fact that the game will be completed within half an hour - it is frustratingly short. Also, there are really not that many different types of alien in the game - meaning that you'll get tired of seeing the same breed of cannon fodder over and over again. So much of this game just cries out laziness on the part of the designers that it's almost impossible to believe that this game has been play tested, or even finished.
First impressions of the game are not good. You start off in the MiB headquarters. Since there is a wall to your left, you naturally assume you must walk right. Off you go then. THWAK - what appears to be a ribcage falls on your head. Undaunted, your plucky Man In Black continues on his rightward quest. Whoops, crushed by another falling ribcage, again with no warning whatsoever. Get any further than this without smashing the game into several little pieces with a hammer while screaming pro-alien obscenities at your Man In Black, and you're treated to several other 'delights' of the first level - the bouncing ball trap that can't fail to hurt you when you activate it, but, naturally, that you can't fail to activate being just one. Oddly, though, this pretty diabolical opening stage is as tough as MiB gets - it's all woefully easy from this point on.
The control, too, is flawed beyond belief. While jumping and shooting is easy enough, and the overhead arc of bullets is achievable after a little practice, moving your character is actually quite difficult. Press and hold the direction your character should be moving in and he'll walk in that direction. Double-press and hold and he'll run. It should be simple - there's nothing complex about it, nothing that should pose a problem. Fine, then, except for the fact that it, well, doesn't really work. More often than not you'll send your character charging like a drunken lunatic into a pit, or casually strolling into the path of that flying brain creature that you were hoping to run away from. It has to be played to be believed - the controls really are that shocking. Still, you do get used to this after about twenty minutes, although by that point you will be at least halfway through the final stage.
While it may sound as if this game is without any redemption, it has to be said that there are a few nice gameplay touches. In the Manhattan stage (stage 2) for example, aliens disguise themselves as bicycles and other parts of the background scenery, causing mild surprise when they spring forth and attack you. Sadly such nice touches are few and very far between, meaning that this is a game that leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.
The presentation, though, is actually quite passable. Granted the sounds are absolutely awful, and should be switched off immediately, but the graphics are quite nice. There are a few FMV cutscenes (most notably the intro, which I assume is a GBC rendition of the cartoon's title sequence), and while they don't actually have any plot to convey, they are the only thing that makes this game look finished in any way. The in-game graphics, though, fare less well. The backgrounds vary from the bland (the MiB base and forest levels) to the almost pretty (the Rooftop level sports a pleasant skyline, at least), but mostly just settle for being average, while the main character looks awful - very nondescript and grey looking, with a garish white border. Still, no matter how bad the character looks, it's animation is very well done - being smooth flowing and impressively diverse (which means that you get to see you character casually wander into the pit that you were trying to perform a running leap over in style). Still, while parts of the presentation are acceptable, the rest of the presentation more than cancels that out, meaning that the presentation isn't enough to save this game from being as shockingly poor as it is.
This game isn't pure evil - it does have the occasional nice touch, and parts of it look pretty enough, but on the whole it's a poorly constructed, shoddy and unfinished piece of junk. You want to protect the Earth from the scum of the universe? Then don't buy this game - maybe then the developers will go out of business.
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)
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