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Secret Scout in the Temple of Demise (NES) artwork

Secret Scout in the Temple of Demise (NES) review

"You find yourself in a dense jungle, just one pudgy little boy scout all alone. Walking along, you see a lone savage, crouching atop a temple. He lunges at you, knife in hand. Your only hope is to stave him off with your kung fu knowledge, kicking him mercilessly until he falls. But beware, as some, um, things are flying at you as well. I think they're traffic cones. Skillfully weave your way through these hazardous safety cones and destroy the vile savage. Free to move onward, you find a..."

You find yourself in a dense jungle, just one pudgy little boy scout all alone. Walking along, you see a lone savage, crouching atop a temple. He lunges at you, knife in hand. Your only hope is to stave him off with your kung fu knowledge, kicking him mercilessly until he falls. But beware, as some, um, things are flying at you as well. I think they're traffic cones. Skillfully weave your way through these hazardous safety cones and destroy the vile savage. Free to move onward, you find another man ready to rip your lungs out. It's time to do it all over again.

Bah, I tried to make that sound as interesting as I could. But anyone who was actually paying attention would probably start to wonder where the fun is, and the sad truth is that there isn't any. On a website that loves to attack such travesties as Hydlide and Heros of the Lance, it's surprising that Secret Scout managed to remain, er, a secret. But make no mistake, this one's about as rotten as they come.

Not convinced? Our rotund hero is equipped with only one move - his kick. Oh, and he can jump. And that's all you have to face these savages. OK, fine, but that's not uncommon in action games. But you face these people one at a time, and you must kick them over and over (about 5-6 times) until they fall. Does this really sound fun to you? Facing only one person is fine if it's a boss or you have a large number of moves at your disposal, but such is not the case here. Having only one move is ok if you have to stave off tons of baddies, but no such luck. Instead, it's boring repetition of simple and entirely worthless combat. It's as if they tried to combine the fighting game genre with beat em ups, but only took the worst elements from each.

And that kick? This kid apparantly watches too many kung fu movies, as he flails his arms in a pathetic attempt to look cool or something. But more importantly, the kid's so stubby his kicks are worthless. Your primary means of attack is only six pixels long! How are you supposed to take on whatever's out there in this dangerous world when you can't even kick properly? Your margin of error is so small it's a wonder if you ever manage to actually hit anyone; most of the time you will flail about uselessly as your opponent is randomly ambling around. Well, perhaps "flail" isn't the best word to use; there's a certain connotation of rapid and panicky movement associated with that word. Not so in this world, as you'll be forced to hold your pose for a good half second before you can try again. It looks stupid and it makes for an annoying battle. Bad controls mixed in with a bad attack? You betcha.

Speaking of which, you can get an alternative attack- throwing sticks of dynamite. Much better, right? Not at all. You see, our lame little scout here slowly tosses it forward and waits for it to explode. Unfortunately, during that time period the enemies are all moving about, and probably left the tiny little blast radius of your pathetic weapon. Yeah, they'll move around, but you won't. From the moment the dynamite is thrown, you cannot move. But your enemies can. I bet you can guess how often this stuff is useful. And if that's not enough, consider how you throw it - Select+Up. Select. I have never seen that used as an action button, for good reason. It's too far away from your thumb to be quickly pressed, and so using it in the heat of battle is not an option. I mean, it's closer to your left hand than your right, but you need said hand to press up. Nobody is stupid enough to think such a scheme might work; why did they put it in? The game woud have been better simply by ignoring the dynamite completely.

Sadly, attacks aren't the only part of the controls that are seriously messed up, as running is a complete joke. First of all, our pudgy scout must hold down B to run, which means he must hold his silly kung fu pose for a little while before dashing anywhere. Now jump while running, and try to stop on a dime. Nope, you'll just go sliding past where you want to be. This isn't like Mario's finely tuned acceleration and braking; it's simply sloppy controls preventing you from doing what you want. In fact, it feels like many amateur games I've made from people not experienced enough to know how to program proper running. It's all binary - you're either at the running speed or you're not. If you turn around you'll be moving at the exact same speed, only backwards. It means you can't time your jumps to perfection like in the truly great platformers; in fact it means you'll never precisely control your jumps at all. It looks fake and amateurish, and feels horrible to control. This kid can't even run properly!

Well, once you're done jumping all over the place and holding your foot up pretending to kick, you might as well exit the jungle. Just jump over a little stream that's there for no reason and climb up a vine to enter a door. So where would you expect to end up after entering a door in the jungle? How about the middle of a city? Any points this game might have recieved for atmosphere and thematic quality just went out the window. There's no unifying theme at work here, no plot worth mentioning. It looks like you're just some random kid with a pith helmet randomly beating up on a bunch of random thugs. In this city there are window ledges you can jump on to, and you can enter new areas through the windows. I guess the insides do sort of look like normal buildings, but my main gripe here is that they're virtually worthless. Some dynamite is hidden in one or two of them, but most of the rooms are empty. And since checking them out is so lame, there's no fun in hunting for new items. So now the game's an exploration game too? Are we really going to want to check out every room in this massive game? Yet another genre the game tries, and yet another one where it fails miserably.

But maybe you'll want to enter those windows anyways just to kill some pesky archers. See, there's no more traffic cones coming at you, but the windows are filled with bad guys with bow and arrow in hand. Compounded with the problems mentioned earlier, this makes the fighting an absolute pain. So why not wipe them out? Well, when you enter you can fight them one on one. But be careful, as when you get hit you jump backwards. These guys seem to have an autofire on their bows, since the arrows just keep coming. And it's timed perfectly so that the next arrow will hit you as soon as you recover. Yep, multiple arrows will smack you in succession while you can't do anything about it. It'd be comical if it weren't so sad.

Well, at least a heart falls out of the sky every time you kill someone. Yeah, your life meter is a bunch of hearts (although you can take a ton of hit before one heart is removed; they can't even get a life meter done correctly!), and it can be refilled often. At least in theory. See, these rooms have a series of ledges near the top of the screen. And for the life of me I cannot figure out how to jump up onto them. You can't jump that high, and there seems to be no other trick to get up there. Can you guess where the hearts fall when they land? So much for reinforcements! Was there anybody testing this game?

And speaking of those ledges, there's a door on one of them! An entire room in the game in which there is no way to get to! Sure, maybe it's possible you'll get some other item later on and can backtrack to it, but why would you want to go through the trouble? These "adventure" aspects don't work with the stupid action going on.

I could go on, talking about the endless level designs, how you can run through repeating tiles of the same thing over and over, enter a door, and then run back through the exact same level design. I could gripe about having to face three thugs with guns and the same problems as the archers, only this time you're almost certain to die. I could wonder about the stupidity of trying to make this an adventure game with one giant world when each area is distinct and the connections are completely nonsensical. But I'll try to end on a positive note. The character graphics are pretty good. Yes, their actual designs are ridiculous, the backgrounds are eyesores, and the animation is poor, but at least your scout isn't a pain to look at when he's standing still and you ignore everything around him. OK, so maybe that wasn't very positive, but it's the best this game can do.

mariner's avatar
Community review by mariner (August 26, 2005)

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