Toilet Kids (TurboGrafx-16) review
"Us poor folks in America sure have gotten the short end of the stick haven’t we? Doesn’t it just seem like so many excellent and wonderful games from yesteryear never got released in our country? Sure, you can download ROMs, translation patches and all that jazz to play a number of these games now, but wouldn’t it have been nice to go to your local store to buy Dragon Quest 6, Star Ocean or a Parodius game, so you could play them before they earned that ever-so-chic “retro” reputation? "
Us poor folks in America sure have gotten the short end of the stick haven’t we? Doesn’t it just seem like so many excellent and wonderful games from yesteryear never got released in our country? Sure, you can download ROMs, translation patches and all that jazz to play a number of these games now, but wouldn’t it have been nice to go to your local store to buy Dragon Quest 6, Star Ocean or a Parodius game, so you could play them before they earned that ever-so-chic “retro” reputation?
Kind of makes you feel bad about yourself doesn’t it? While those Japanese kids were playing the original Fire Emblem, you were muddling through a double-dose of Hydlide and Deadly Towers. While they were engaging in the huge and involving battles of Bahamut Lagoon, you were attempting to struggle through the horrible translation of Robotrek. Sucks, doesn’t it?
Well, remove your head from the oven! There’s no need to be committing ritualistic suicide to preserve what little honor you still have. You see, the Japanese game designers didn’t just hold back great games to tantalize and depress us. Sometimes, they did it for the collective good of the American population.
Exhibit A: Toilet Kids, a shooter that redefines the word obscure. This 1992 attempt by Media Rings Corporation for the PC Engine (the Japanese Turbografx-16, in case you’re interested) never became a franchise like R-Type, Gradius or Darius. Nope, this craptacular game barely made a ripple in the water before being flushed into the depths of obscurity.
Just turn on the game and turn off your brain to see what I mean. Look at the title screen. Look at the large man standing directly under really large Japanese lettering (which I believe is saying, “If you wish to maintain sanity, turn your PC Engine off, NOW!!!”). Look at his head. Notice anything strange? Like, that his turban seems to be made of poop?
If you found that to be uproariously funny, take my rating of this game and dramatically raise it -- as this game takes the “potty humor” concept and runs with it. For all four stages (yes, this game is mercifully short), you’ll see all sorts of toilet-related attempts at humor which all sadly seems to fall short of actually being funny, clever or even interesting for more than a couple of seconds.
Let’s take the introduction for example. You get to watch some anonymous kid sleepily walk into the bathroom, flash his johnson and sit on the john. A true Hallmark moment, if I do say so myself. Sadly for the tyke, this is no ordinary late-night potty break, as the toilet does a stellar imitation of Old Faithful, sending forth a geyser of water that sends the kid flying into the air, only to be sucked into a strange and mystical world inside said toilet.
And then the action starts. The first thing you’ll notice is that your protagonist has apparently gained some pretty cool powers now that he’s inside the toilet world. He can now fly and fire off both bullets and bombs. Any vets of the shooter genre will quickly recognize the control scheme, which consists of using one button to fire bullets at airborne foes and another button to lob bombs and surface enemies, is very similar to that used in much better games as Dragon Spirit, Twinbee and Xevious. The only difference is that if you hold down the “bullet button”, you’ll be able to charge it up and release a very effective scattershot that will eradicate everything in its path.
As you play through the game, the next thing you might notice is how utterly plain the levels of Toilet Kids are. With only four levels, an intelligent designer might really go all out to provide a bizarre and stimulating world -- the kind of place that would make most players deathly afraid to step within 50 paces of any toilet. But that’s not a factor, here. The first two levels both are generic “outside” levels, taking you back-and-forth through grasslands, water and forests. Then, we go underwater for the third level and finish things off with a desert level. When you add the uninspiring music and the blocky and plain cartoonish graphics (a far cry from Air Zonk on the same system), this game looks and sounds as unappealing as the subject matter it derives its name from.
As for the enemies, well, all I can really say is that the writers of that bathroom book for children, Everybody Poops just might have known what they were talking about. You’ll be seeing plenty of fecal matter emitted by just about every adversary you face. It doesn’t necessarily look like dung, as the designers seem to have felt it easier to create brown pellets that look suspiciously like generic shooter bullets, but take my word on it -- it’s poop and it is spewed at you constantly.
In fact, any creativity this game has was used in the creation of the enemies. You have to give these people credit for taking average, everyday turtles and camels and turning their shells and humps into piles of poop. Or designing bears that reach behind themselves to “manufacture” a pellet of dung to throw at you. Or fish with legs that are visibly straining to force out poop lasers. And the rare enemies that aren’t constantly going number two are even more bizarre. No amount of words can adequately describe my feelings upon seeing a squad of penises fly onto the screen to shoot urine (the same graphic used for the poop bullets, except they’re yellow) at you before escaping. And then, we have the creations that attack with their flatulence. Yep, whether it be lions or a pair of disembodied legs, a number of enemies will fart in your general direction -- not the most noble way for you to face death.
There is definitely a certain degree of demented imagination at work here in the creation of these enemies -- sadly, it is way too scattershot to be effective and is next to non-existent in the eight boss fights present in Toilet Kids. Sure, a couple of them have exposed posteriors and two of them (an elephant and the big guy on the title screen) definitely don’t try to disguise their allegiance to the awesome power of poop, but for the most part, you’ll be dealing with generic bosses that easily could be altered to be in virtually any cartoony, cutesy shooter ever made. You see, it seems like the designers of this pile of offal seemingly didn’t take into consideration that a mundane boss is a mundane boss. It doesn’t matter if you insert an exposed butt or have them fire out little brown poop balls or clouds of gas -- you are still dealing with spiders, dragonflies, whales, helicopters and other run-of-the-mill bosses that will not elicit prolonged bursts of applause or gasps of wonder from the average player.
The gameplay itself isn’t much to write home about either. The screen scrolls slowly and the designers apparently forgot that weapon variety plays an integral part in making shooters cool. Of course, they also forgot that tons of potty humor does NOT play an integral role in making shooters cool, so I can chalk that up to the designers being completely clueless, but absolutely determined to take their one gag and run with it. Anyway, you remember how I described your standard gun and your standard bombs? Well, that’s essentially it as far as weapons are concerned. You can pick up various power-ups, such as a star that wipes out all enemies or an egg that works as a frontal shield, but there’s no laser gun, no ripple gun, no homing missiles and nothing else that potentially would make this game remotely enjoyable to trudge through.
Instead, what you’re left with is a ridiculously poor game loaded with unfunny poop jokes that do nothing to offset the generic and plain graphics and sound, lack of a weapons system, bland bosses and boring gameplay. Do yourself a favor and if by chance you run into this game, don’t play it -- just flush it away. And while you’re doing that, just remember -- while you were playing some great game that did get ported to America, like Chrono Trigger or Super Mario Brothers 3.....some poor Japanese schmuck was stuck playing Toilet Kids. Bet you feel better about yourself now, don’t you?
Community review by overdrive (April 15, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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