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Defenders of Dynatron City (NES) artwork

Defenders of Dynatron City (NES) review

"Defenders of Dynatron City (DODC) was not as much a game as it was a marketing campaign. It's also a small reminder that the Hype Machine can sometimes falter in its mission to force something to become a hit. LucasArts, JVC, and DiC seemed to think they could make the next TMNT and came up with a cartoon with various superheroes, each of which had something about them that immediately stood out (like the fact that one of them had a saw blade attached to the end of her legs, kind of like a tortu..."

Defenders of Dynatron City (DODC) was not as much a game as it was a marketing campaign. It's also a small reminder that the Hype Machine can sometimes falter in its mission to force something to become a hit. LucasArts, JVC, and DiC seemed to think they could make the next TMNT and came up with a cartoon with various superheroes, each of which had something about them that immediately stood out (like the fact that one of them had a saw blade attached to the end of her legs, kind of like a torture porn mermaid; or the fact that one of them had a hammer for a head). The characters were supposed to defend Dynatron City from a super villain named Dr. Mayhem. The show was pieced together, Whoopi Goldberg and Tim Curry were set to do voice work, and a game and comic book were released to hype the show. Some might think of Transformers, how the show was an extended commercial to sell action figures. Hell, most cartoon shows from the 80's on were about just that. DODC took it a step further by having a preemptive marketing campaign.

This is where the creators faltered the most. To hype the show they released a game with loads of technical problems that was no fun to play. It could be that because of this the show never made it past the aired pilot episode. This just goes to show that you cannot simply throw money and licensed products at something and turn it into an instant hit.

DODC is not a well crafted game. The first thing you do is choose from three characters. Since this is a game that has no show to use as a previous basis, you don't know which character to pick: the obvious staunch hero that the creators assume everyone will love, the obligatory leading lady of the team whom the last character will likely have an unrequited crush on, or the cute canine companion. It really doesn't matter since they all share the same problems. The game will also give you three other characters to join the one you just chose. You pick your character, get a little background info, and immediately begin fighting robots that shoot lasers from cannons on their chest. Are these Fembots? From here it's move around and mash, mash, mash until you happen to hit a robot and defeat it.

Therein lies the problem: you can't hit the robots most of the time because the hit detection is so off. No matter which of the initial heroes you select, you shots will either miss most of the time or blatantly not be counted when you know they hit. It also doesn't help that some of the characters have horrible means of hitting enemies. It's understood that not everyone can attack in the same fashion. It's nice having so many characters, but it seems only the only useful ones are the ones that can hit from a great distance: Ms. Megawatt and Buzzsaw Girl. Everyone else either has to be right next to the enemy or in a weird position. Melee-based characters can't seem to land a hit except on accident because you need to hit the enemies in such a precise area. Don't even get me started on Jet Headstrong. The guy's attack doesn't work half the time. You hit the attack button and instead of shooting his head outward like he's supposed to, he stands there and swings his arms around like he has brain damage. This seems to happen when you're in a certain part of the terrain, like up too high or down too low, but sometimes this happens in the middle of the street. Meanwhile, he's getting barraged by projectile.

The screen has a faux-isometric look, and that could be part of where the hit detection goes awry. You have to be exactly level with the robots, and not a pixel off.

You start out on a street, and while the environment is definitely busy and somewhat detailed, the colors are nauseating. How many cities have you been to with bright giant bright orange buildings set next to puke green sidewalks? You have to run along these streets, smashing up robots when you first start. After you finish off one group of robots, you move onto another, and another, and another, and so on. You're being timed all the while, and when you first start it's really irritating. You don't know how to navigate the area very well, but at very least the game gives you a map and tells you what street you're on. The gameplay is based on hunting down enemies, killing them, and then moving on to the next group of enemies. It's pretty much look for trouble, find trouble, kill trouble, look for more trouble. Later on, you have to go down in the sewers or even into a mall and do the same thing. Enemies become more powerful, and some of them, like the Robosaurus, are downright cheap. If you allow that thing one hit, it'll get other hits in and eventually punish your characters until they're “captured.”

The way the game is setup seems familiar. I seem to remember levels that had you running down avenues and going through a confusing twist of doors and hallways the same way this game has you going down side streets. Oh, that's right, Heroes of the Lance. The game plays like Heroes, except faster and with better action. I suppose this game will take a praise where it can get it: this is basically a slightly better Heroes of the Lance. It has better controls, which is one of the few positive points of the game, a better sense of direction, and far better combat.

If all your defenders die, that's it. The game expects you to do so much in just one sitting, and without getting a game over. There are no continues or passwords or anything. Those would have helped the game out graciously. There's nothing more irritating than getting so far in a game like this and then losing everything and having to start all over.

The game offers very few health power ups, and some of them you have to buy. The worst part about that is that the game doesn't tell you how much purchasable goods cost. It tells you that after you've grabbed it and lost the money. It's irritating when you don't realize this and you grab a worthless item and find out you've just wasted half of your money on something you would never need. If you search buildings enough, you can find other items that will boost your money. You can use this money to buy other items to help you on your quest, or even just find stuff laying around like a comic book which will automatically switch out your current character for one of the others from the initial selection screen.

Even when you are in between missions, the timer is running down, and quickly I might add. There are tons of shops to explore that will allow you to grab power ups and hopefully heal your party, but you don't get enough time to really investigate them. It's like the developers want to rush you into the next area unprepared. You can find item that will replenish your time, but they too take time to find. The game is challenging enough without the stress of a constant time limit. Think of what it would be like if Who Framed Roger Rabbit? had a time limit. The game is already hard enough without one, but adding one would just make the game ridiculous.

DODC is a mess of a game that lacks planning. It felt like it was rushed out to hype a show that wasn't even a sure thing. Coming from LucasArts, I expected more. This game basically plays like a Heroes of the Lance with some slightly better qualities and a time limit. The fact that this game is so heavily combat-based kills it. The combat is poorly done and the hit detection is off. This means every meaningful scene of the game is negatively impacted by lackluster game mechanics. The game also doesn't look or sound like anything remarkable, and the fact that they give you so much to explore within a short time limit is a real head-scratcher. I think it's because of this poorly made game that the pilot never got off the ground. There was plenty of hype, but hype can't always make something a hit.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 06, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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