Cosmic Spacehead (Genesis) review
"Cosmic Spacehead... with a name like that the hero of this game from Codemasters was born to be an intergalactic explorer. So it's no surprise to see that that's exactly what he's up to here, although what is reasonably surprising is the manner in which he's going about it. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you an example of that rare breed.... the console point 'n' click game. "
Cosmic Spacehead... with a name like that the hero of this game from Codemasters was born to be an intergalactic explorer. So it's no surprise to see that that's exactly what he's up to here, although what is reasonably surprising is the manner in which he's going about it. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you an example of that rare breed.... the console point 'n' click game.
When we join the action, our Cosmic's in a bit of a fix. He's just returned from a great adventure, where he discovered the mythical planet Earth. However, upon returning home to Linoleum, his home planet, he finds that nobody believes him (the fact that he resembles the young 'un from The Jetsons no doubt scuppers his credibility somewhat). This plucky youngster isn't content with just sitting in the corner of some dingy Linotown dive, drunkenly muttering about his days of adventure to whoever will listen, though. Oh no, ever the intrepid hero, young Cozzer sets out to prove Earth's existence by going back to the blue planet, only this time he's going to take a photograph to prove he's been there. He probably isn't old enough to drink anyway.
While this sounds like a bit of a silly plot (and, to be fair, it is), the whole game has a tongue in cheek feel about it, so in the brightly-coloured confines of Cosmic's world, it makes a perfect sense. And unlike it's PC point 'n' click brethren (such as Grim Fandango and Monkey Island), Cosmic Spacehead doesn't rely on it's plot, the plot serves more as an excuse to set young Cos off puzzling, pointing, and indeed clicking, his way around the latest environment. It really does seem that the plot is superfluous on more than one occasion - quite often it's abandoned in favour of a little mini-plot relating to the area you're in (such as the robo-revolt in the factory, but I won't go into that for fear of spoilers). On the whole, though, these mini-plots work quite well at their task being simplistic enough to allow the relatively young audience at which this game is quite obviously aimed to enjoy the experience without getting to overwhelmed by plot twists, revelations and general storytelling. How considerate. Patronising plot abandonment aside, though, this is a game that can be enjoyed by everyone, despite it's target audience. The interface is initially confusing, but within fifteen minutes you'll be playing like a pro. The puzzles, too, are really quite easy (taking an early example: you need to cross an expanse of water... Hang on, wasn't that a surf board hanging around in the middle of an otherwise empty screen a few moments ago?), although to be fair the game does get harder as you progress, and ever the easy sections have much to smile about - I was left grinning like a stoned Cheshire Cat at the manner in which a cyclopean foe is dispatched in the early stages of the game, for example. The only real flaw with the point and click aspect of the game is the password feature - scattered around the landscape (initially quite generously, but frustratingly sparsely later on in the game) are password icons. Pick them up and - wouldn't you know it? - you get a password. Unfortunately these are NES style long passwords, and getting one digit wrong when transcribing them can lead to cart-chewing, cat-kicking, wall-hitting bursts of frustration. Other than that, though, this particular aspect of the game is very well done, if a little generous with the learning curve.
But this game has a dark side that pops up at various intervals. Cosmic Spacehead's personal Mr. Hyde appears in the form the platform sections that occur when moving between the major locations in the game. Although each only needs to be completed once, they have a bizarre ability to sap away the will of the gamer like a sponge. First off they are difficult. We're talking one hit and you die stuff here. Whilst this isn't a problem in itself, in fact, early on it is a welcome diversion from the easy as apples main game, it serves to accentuate everything that is not to like about the platform sections. First off, the level design is shoddy - the game suffers far too much from the dreaded 'leap-of-faith' syndrome, whereby you jump without having the faintest notion of where you are going, and what's worse these leaps usually lead to oblivion. In addition to this, Cosmic, who had up to these points been an obedient little sprite, suddenly rebels and becomes nigh on uncontrollable. Watching his evil grin as he haplessly throws himself off another ledge, it takes all your strength to avoid putting your fist through the screen in an attempt to get the little bugger. It really is that bad, unfortunately. But like I said, each section only needs to be played once (mercifully) so the point and click flavoured goodness just about outweighs the insipid platformery poison.
In addition to this there are a few mini-games, such as racing and pie fights (the latter is also available as a fun, if limited, two-player game), so the game continues to throw fresh challenges at you. The mini-games are all quite short, and just as easy as most of the game is, but they are a welcome addition nonetheless.
The presentation in this title is really quite superb. The graphics in the main game are bright and colourful, and really quite distinctive. Cosmic himself sometimes appears to move as if he is ice-skating, but aside from that his animation is fluid and fast. In the platform sections, however, things start to suffer from noticeable slowdown, and there is some pretty large-scale flickering to be seen on occasion. Also, as I've said before, it is impossible to look at Cosmic for any real length of time before feeling an urge to give the grinning loon a good slap (and that's not confined to the platform sections). You get the impression that they tried to make him appear loveable and 'cute', but all they did was make him look like the know-it-all brat that used to sit at the front of the class with his apple for the teacher. I digress a bit, but the point is, Cosmic himself is an annoyingly smug little git. The plot even involves the little bugger trying to prove himself right!
The tunes are not of as high a quality as the graphics, being as they are fairly forgettable outside of the confines of the game, but they are jaunty enough to suit the mood of the game, and don't start to grate unless you've been stuck with that particular tune playing for more than half-an-hour, and believe me, even when you get to the end section things aren't that difficult very often. Sound effects are fairly nondescript, but their average quality isn't really that noticeable when you're playing - it'll stick out at first, but soon it'll fade into the background.
For all it's faults, and it's youngster-favouring difficulty curve, Cosmic Spacehead is a quirky and likeable little title. You'll finish it within a week, two if you're still very young, meaning that I wouldn't recommend purchase if it costs more than a fiver, and when you finish you probably won't replay, but while it lasts it is largely an enjoyable experience. Cosmic Spacehead is a refreshing change from the endless waves of platformers and shooters on the Mega Drive, and deserves credit for that fact alone. That it managed to do a pretty good job as a game in it's own rights is almost a bonus.
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)
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