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Clash At Demonhead (NES) artwork

Clash At Demonhead (NES) review


"Clash at Demonhead is a wild ride, featuring shades of run 'n gun games like Contra and adventure games like Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest. 40+ interconnected "routes" make up the game. It does not flow in a linear pattern. Instead, completing a route will give you access to a few other connected routes, which in turn give you access to other routes. Like Simon's Quest, the object is not simply to complete every level, but to search and discover until you reach the end of the game."



A distress signal comes in. Holiday has ended. Seems one Professor Plum, eccentric old man and inventor of the Doomsday Bomb, has been nabbed by terrorists and is kept at the top of the treacherous Mt. Demonhead. Still in his Speedos, Bang answers the call, kisses his bodacious babe goodbye, and grabs his assault rifle. He feels no trepidation, nor remorse at leaving his girlfriend, nor regret at having to terminate his vacation early. Rather, he accepts the coming challenge of plowing through a vast system of interconnected levels, taking out the terrorist generals one by one, and dismantling the Doomsday Bomb once and for all.

Clash at Demonhead is a wild ride, featuring shades of run 'n gun games like Contra and adventure games like Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest. 40+ interconnected "routes" make up the game. It does not flow in a linear pattern. Instead, completing a route will give you access to a few other connected routes, which in turn give you access to other routes. Like Simon's Quest, the object is not simply to complete every level, but to search and discover until you reach the end of the game.

Traversing the routes is not always so simple. The art department at Vic Tokai slapped together some strange creatures that look pilfered from every day life. Instead of the usual stock enemies we get in most run 'n guns, Bang has to battle it out with football players, hybrid duck-bats, homing missiles, and loads of cartoony beasts with enormous smiles and doe eyes. One gets the sensation that the entire Saturday morning line up is after him. Blasting them out of the sky requires precision aiming and timing, or ridiculous power ups that you can purchase throughout the game like the thundershot, which sends giant burning blasts at enemies, horribly incinerating them. Other such power ups can also be purchased, making your attacks even more lethal.

The lack of a linear flow means that the object of the game is not to simply complete the levels. Exploration becomes key. Bang has to find six medals used to stop the Doomsday Bomb at the end of the game. Finding them means killing another ridiculously designed boss like an anthropomorphic fish with piranhas for hands or a robotic rhinoceros riding on a high tech moped. You smell that? Yeah, it's fresh air, and all those ridiculous designs, strange though they are, exude it.

The blend of action and adventure is near perfect. You aren't completely in the dark about where to go, as the game gives you ample clues, yet the game doesn't hold your hand through the entire outing. There are a lot of routes to explore, and within the routes are so many little nooks, crannies, and secrets. It seems like you're never not fighting. The spaces in between exploration are fraught with perils, beasts, and terrorists. Even when they're easy to deal with, you feel like you're on your toes.

The planning could have used a few more minds on board. Mainly, there are parts could have used consolidating. With more than 40 routes to explore, one might imagine that some of them are redundant. Quite a few of the routes are little more than short, straightforward single-screeners where all you do is run straight and shoot enemies. There's little challenge to these routes, nor anything poignant. They are simply there to bridge the gap between routes, and more than anything feel like filler.

Enemies are not always so intelligently placed. While some help emphasize the challenge and run 'n gun aspect of Clash, others are placed such that they cannot be dodged whatsoever, or are placed without consideration for the level design. A good example are the homing missiles. Some of them are positioned on the opposite side of a wall right as you enter a screen. The missiles fly into the wall before they have a chance to even be a bother, making their placement pointless.

Let's face it. If you're a fan of this game it isn't mainly because of the action or the adventure. No, it's the silly quotes, the quirky atmosphere, and the late '80s-early '90s illogic that makes this game enjoyable. It's the scene where Bang happens upon a demon's nest, and his reaction is a face that smacks of extreme constipation with an over-excited exclamation in the dialogue box: “DEMON'S EGGS!!!!” Or the fact that one of the main villains is a flying skeleton named Tom Guycott. Who the hell names a skeleton "Tom"? Or that the demon boss you must fight early in the game calls you a “presumptuous twit”. Or Michael, your correspondent with a hard hat who looks like a 40-year-old Eric Cartman. There's a lot of camp that has turned this game into a quasi-cult hit. It's hard not to laugh and wonder how much of it was intentional. Maybe Vic Tokai intended to have some of the camp in there to reference cheesy action/sci-fi action movies of yore.

Clash at Demonhead is a great mix of adventure and action blended with oddball humor that may or may not be intended. It's the feel of the game more than anything that makes it worth playing. Sadly, this game is kind of an in-joke. Either you'll enjoy it because you remember the era it came from, and understand how odd localization can make a game zany and accidentally enjoyable; or you just won't get the joke and this will feel like another run 'n gun, albeit a stable and playable one.

Rating: 8/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (November 16, 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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