Re(?)Considered: Popeye: Rush For Spinach
It yis what it yis an' tha's all it yis.
Popeye: Rush for Spinach is the product of three separate delusions.
Delusion 1. Popeye was popular enough in 2005 to merit a videogame.
Delusion 2. That said videogame, being largely multiplayer-focused, would find multiple pairs of people each prepared to buy copies in order to get the most out of it - over say, any other multiplayer GBA game.
Delusion 3. That spinach is desirable enough to rush for under any circumstances. Don't get me wrong, I know Popeye is a huge fan, but does anyone else care about spinach even 1/100th as much? I sincerely doubt it. Maybe a vegan who had been trapped down a well for some weeks.
Namco were onto a bit of a sales loser with this one, which is a shame because it's not half bad. Actually, it's almost exactly half bad. It is a really attractive, brilliantly smooth game based on a crappy idea and executed haphazardly. Its closest companion is probably the majestic and vastly underrated Genesis title Dashin' Desperadoes, as Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto and J. Wellington Wimpy tear arse in a footrace through a series of fairly generic levels, presumably rushing for spinach. Let me just check the manual. Hang on, says here they're not even rushing for spinach, they're rushing to "accompany Olive Oyl on a walk in the park". Why's she in the race then? If she wins, she doesn't have to be accompanied by any of these pricks.
It's all fitfully good fun. It's got a pretty pastel look and the pixel art versions of the characters are appealing. The animation is a little substandard, which is jarring in a game based on some of the best-looking cartoons of all time, but it's functional. You race from left to right, using some uninspiring power-ups (land mines, shields etc) to interfere with the other racers, or hitting B to shove them behind you when you're close enough. It's frenetic at best, mindless at worst. There are vehicles and gimmicks along the way which don't change up the gameplay much, but if you've ever wanted to see Popeye shred some sick grinds on a skateboard, Rush For Spinach has you covered.
It's a shame, because this could have been a bona fide under-the-radar couch classic if they'd just released it on a system that allows split-screen. And, for that matter, allows four players. There are four characters but you're limited to two in multiplayer, which is an insane decision.
In the end, good presentation can't mask a fairly pedestrian, if pleasingly unusual experience. Ultimately it just left me wondering why on earth there was never a side-scrolling Popeye beat-'em-up back in the nineties arcades. Seriously, imagine it. It would have been incredible. Now I'm thinking about a modern Popeye game based on the Arkham Asylum style of combat. Anything other than Popeye: Rush For Spinach. I mean, a Popeye game where you don't even punch anyone in the face! I've had all I can stands, I can't stands no more.
It's fleetingly decent but just not cohesive, it's Popeye the gaming sham. (You're fired – Ed)