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The Tick (SNES) artwork

The Tick (SNES) review

"Friends and neighbors, I have just returned from an exhausting sojourn. Not long before I left, my chin was smooth and my face was untarnished by age, but now I return to you with a long, straggling beard and many a wrinkle, wart, and pockmark on a visage once considered worthy of a goddess's kiss. Before my arduous voyage, I enjoyed the meat of the land with great voracity - some would say to disgusting excess. No more is my body a reflection of this enjoyment, though; my journey wore me down t..."

Friends and neighbors, I have just returned from an exhausting sojourn. Not long before I left, my chin was smooth and my face was untarnished by age, but now I return to you with a long, straggling beard and many a wrinkle, wart, and pockmark on a visage once considered worthy of a goddess's kiss. Before my arduous voyage, I enjoyed the meat of the land with great voracity - some would say to disgusting excess. No more is my body a reflection of this enjoyment, though; my journey wore me down to the point where people now say of me that my skin and muscles barely hang from my brittle bones. And my fingernails, which I have a bad habit of biting to the nub, have been neglected in the interest of persevering in my quest. They have now grown to lengths reminiscent of Howard Hughes's nails in his final days.

What sorts of travels could possibly turn a portly, yet handsome man such as this into an old relic who can hardly stand under his own power? one might be moved to ask. Was he walking solo across the windy sands of the Sahara? Not even close. Was he traversing the snowy plains of the Antarctic? Nope. Was he biking across the United States from Los Angeles to New York? I wasn't even doing that.

Though they are all remarkable feats, I was doing none of those things. What I was doing was playing The Tick on Super Nintendo.

Despite being released during the peak of the eponymous cartoon's popularity, the Tick is very much a carbon-copy of the comic book, although some classic moments from the TV show appear in a somewhat bastardized form (Chairface Chippendale writing his name in the moon, for one). People familiar with the television series who are looking for friends of the Tick such as Sewer Urchin and the Crusading Chameleon will be disappointed to find in their place Paul the Samurai (who fights with a baguette) and the yellow-clad sai-wielding ninja babe Oedipus, who appear as companions to the Tick in tight squeezes. Along with a healthy knowledge of the comic book, Tick requires you to have two other things before you play it: balls of steel, and a spirit that can withstand even the most tedious beat-em-ups. Whatever beat-em-up games you've played before, Tick is twice as long, boring, and hard as any of those. Don't question me. This is fact.

And so it is that you start the game on the first chapter, entitled ''Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas'' (again, after an issue of the comic book). Never has a nail been hammered with more precision than with the naming of this level. If we are allowed to assume that zillion is a real, quanitifiable number, then throughout the next four chapters, each detailing a different part of the comic up through the Tick's destruction of Ninja World - an event whose spectacularness cannot possibly detailed in such a lacking game as this one - you will face roughly seventy zillion ninjas in jumpsuits ranging in color from blue to red to black to white to green. Subplots featuring characters like Running Guy, the Chainsaw Vigilante, and a clone of Clark Kent help liven up the lulls in-between ninja fighting, but on the whole you'll just be wondering when it'll be over.

Finally the Tick gets to stop scrapping with hordes of ninjas and moves on to what one can only hope would be sunnier skies and brighter days. Not a chance. After fending off millions and zillions of ninjas, the Tick must face the Idea Men - faceless cronies in nice suits and creepy masks featuring lit-up eyes. In the cartoon they talk in garbled speech and have myriad hilarious dealings with our big blue hero; here they are interested only in shooting you with flamethrowers and hurling grenades at you. And just to get a good idea of how many of these guys there are, let's make up a number ending in ''illion''. How does one squillion sound? As long as it sounds like more than a million zillion, we're both on the same page.

Between them, the ninjas and the Idea Men take up about 5/8 of the game, with clowns and space aliens hogging the rest. You will spend hours fighting in vain against endless waves of these four types of enemies, each of which possess the same basic types of attacks; a punch or tiny bullet to stun you for a second, and then a hard slam, machine gun, or alien laser that will plant you on the ground and leave the Tick rubbing his nigh-invulnerable head. The latter happens a lot, especially if you're a fan of running around jump-kicking everything in sight. This game may starve the player cerebrally, but it compensates for its lack of intellectual treats with rock-hard - and on top of that, unadjustable - difficulty. You'll take out the oceans of ninjas, Idea Men, and clowns with ease the first time you meet each group, but then they start encroaching on your hit detection space, making it impossible for you to land a punch while they peg you point-blank with whatever weapons they have at their disposal. It's enough to make you dig your heart out with a SPOON!

So now, let's recap. What we have here, essentially, is a game that lacks variety to an extreme degree. It sends the same enemies at you over and over again without remorse, without considering how YOU feel about such treatment. Eventually, you become surrounded by the same enemies over and over again, and they pile the hits on you so fast your antennae spin. With the exception of short segments where you must leap across rooftops, boats, mountaintops, or any surface that the game finds convenient for its devices, these battles of insurmountable odds never cease. Your ''help'' that arrives when you collect a white-fisted powerup actually inhibits your ability to fight; whether it's American Maid, Paul the Samurai, Oedipus, or Die Fledermaus coming to your aid, you're reduced to the simplest kicks and punches. You can't even jump during these times! And since it is based on the comic book rather than the TV show, you have in your hands a video game that will be fully understood and enjoyed by all of seven people.

Oh, what a joyous day for beat-em-up fans everywhere!

Devoted fan of the big blue superhero and his moth-suited sidekick that I am, I had to persevere for fear that I would miss a golden moment if I quit prematurely. Where any average gamer would have quit shortly into the battles with the Idea Men at the very most, I stayed the course in hopes that I could find a sliver of Ben Edlund's trademark humor. Such japes only appear in the names of many of the chapters, however. The aforementioned ''Night of a Million Zillion Ninjas'' gets things started on the right foot, and later stages include chuckle-arousing titles such as ''Resistance is Silly'', ''Everyone Loves a Circus'', and - my favorite - ''Stealing is Not Nice.'' It's a shame that the gameplay itself fails to possess the gift of this brand of understated humor.

In fact, when it does try to make a joke, it often has very much the opposite effect, causing you to scowl or curse at the screen. Take for example those times when the Tick and Die Fledermaus fight back-to-back as the result of the white fist powerup. According to the show, Die Fledermaus is a Batman clone with one major twist; he keeps cool and maintains a perfect superhero charade when peace blankets The City, but faints when evil strikes. This yields humorous exchanges in the cartoon and in the comic book, but when incorporated in the game, Die Fledermaus leaves the scene the first time he takes a bullet in the chest. What's funny about that? Where's your help when you need it? These back-to-back partners aren't just fighting to get exercise or watch their arms and legs move around; a lot of the time they're there to take hits for you and allow you to take out several fiends at once. Someone may be laughing when Die Fledermaus lifts off on his first hit, but I have a feeling that person is in all likelihood on this game's development team.

To the game's credit, it is usually successful during those times in which it attempts to break up the monotony of punching and kicking. The fight against Chairface Chippendale can safely be considered the climax of the game, and it's the only stage of the game that has a time limit that has you hurrying to destroy the various parts of Chairface's giant ray before he is able to write his name on the moon with it. It's the only level in the game with a real sense of urgency about it. The next part of the ray that begs for destruction flashes rapidly, and you must discover the sequence and destroy all the necessary parts of the machine before it writes C H A I R F A C E in evil marquee letters on the moon, all while avoiding the showy villain's fanciful brand of cinematic kung fu. If the rest of the levels had had a point - nay, a purpose like this one, the Tick's Super Nintendo adventures might have amounted to something. Other highlights include a sequence where you must jump across moving speedboats and the battle on the beach with the Red Scare (a hulking Communist villain), but even they aren't enough to save the Tick from getting exterminated.

It's sad for me to see this game burn up in a blaze like a kerosene-soaked rope. My love of the cartoon series and the comic books is such that I wanted so desperately to see this game succeed that I had to play through it all the way through just to see if what I'd heard was true. All men who fight for justice and the spirit of good works stumble somewhere along their way - Batman and Robin certainly wasn't a good career move for its heroes - and I suppose it was necessary that the Tick's time had to come sooner or later. What an utterly pointless game this is, and there's no better way to get that through your head than with one last example.

This is at the very end of the game, but I promise I'm spoiling nothing by revealing it, mainly because you won't stick with the game long enough to see this. The final battle is against a pink, phlegmatic alien with choatically whipping tentacles whose name is Thrakkorzog. It's just like any other boss battle, except Thrakkorzog is huge, unmovable, and about twenty times more difficult to beat than any other character in the game. In spite of his ugly appearance and the overall creepiness of his lair, you face him without fear and punch/kick his tentacles to death while stealthily avoiding the lightning bolts he fires from his mouth. Finally you win (maybe), and Tick yells ''SPOON!'' straight from his diaphragm, just as he does when you beat any other level. You've triumphed over the blob once and for all.


All of a sudden, the game is over. Without any indication from the game that is approaching something resembling a cohesive ending, it just ends. You see the Tick riding a yellow motorcycle, and Arthur in the sidecar. It's over, just like that! And then you realize that this game had no real purpose, that it was just a series of adventures designed to put you in control of the Tick. All the humor of the Tick's insane witticisms, all the excitement that was borne of wondering how the hero would dispatch of his truly weird archrivals, all the good times he has with fellow superheroes - it's stripped away, as if the humor and excitement and good times of his adventures could be seen as a car, and this video game was the acid rain that strips it down to its primer. It's hard to enjoy this game when it's just a shell of what it could have been. You cannot enjoy this game, you simply cannot. Resistance is silly.

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Featured community review by snowdragon (April 20, 2004)

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