The Game Gear Directory: (Tar-Tem)

More like Lame Gear...!

Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle (1994)

Edgar Rice Burroughs? More like Edgar Rice Burr-no! This initially seemed like just the sort of simplistic platformer that rang my bell, but unfortunately it became clear that I was dealing with a stinker when I noticed a banana countdown. See, it's not enough that you've got to reach the end of the enormous levels, here; you've got to comb every inch and collect all twenty... well, I think they're bunches of bananas, but the sprite work isn't exactly what I'd call clean. You've got something in the region of ten minutes, though enemies will rarely drop time limit boosters, which I foolishly assumed I wouldn't need. But no, I still didn't manage to get all the items on the first stage within the time limit, despite having over ten minutes to do so. I can't say I had much in the way of willpower to go on, after that; if that's your first level, I'd hate to see what happens next. As I've said before in the Directory, maybe the game becomes absolutely incredible following this appalling first impression. But, you know. Let's face it. There's no way, is there? It's a shame, because the ingredients were here for something underrated; it's not a visually appealing game (I think it's basically a badly coloured in Game Boy title) but the level design is fine, Tarzan feels okay to control and launching hatchets at enemies is inherently quite funny, though they all take too many hits to die. I wish I had liked this more, but for being so pointlessly demanding from the very first stage, it doesn't deserve more than one asterisk. *

Taz in Escape from Mars (1994)

This Mega Drive conversion generally looks the part, with a lovely Taz sprite and some nice, Chuck Jones-ish environments. Unfortunately it runs poorly, with a choppy framerate and a generally poor feel to the handling. Taz's tornado spin is almost comically slow here and has no sense of power or impact to speak of. Levels feel aimless and lacking in any kind of interesting challenge; it's just haphazardly placed enemies and collectables. Most bafflingly, I found on a few occasions when I'd achieve something difficult - i.e. a bit of actual platforming off the beaten track, using considered spin attacks to rebound from walls and land on small ledges - I'd reach my reward; a bomb, which when eaten, harms you. Huh? No, unfortunately this is rather poor, though it's at least not annoying so I've experienced worse. Oh dear. This is going to another one of those instalments of the Directory, isn't it? Escape From Mars was bland and boring on the Mega Drive, too, but it had a decent baseline in the original Taz-Mania cart, which while not perfect by any means is an enjoyable (and nostalgic) game for me. Bringing that to the Game Gear could have been cool, but unfortunately Taz and Sega's handheld do not have a good history... hence our next entry. **

Taz-Mania (1992)

No point mincing words. This is the worst Game Gear game. I cannot conceive of encountering anything worse than this. If I said any other game is the worst Game Gear game, I was wrong. This is now the worst. It is unimaginably poor from the off. Actually, that's not entirely true; the title screen is not too bad, and the nicely scaled text made me believe this might be a cart well-tailored to the handheld. Then you start playing and the absolute worst music ever "composed" for a video game assaults your ears. Go and look it up, I implore you. It's a fucking cacophony, and it never stops - in fact, fascinatingly, there's a different track for each level, and they're all equally appalling. The actual gameplay is this weird kind of chase thing; Taz is always moving forward, or always compelled to move forward. The first level sees him chased by a Bushrat on a gigantic boulder, and he - you - have got to use the tornado spin to outrun it. However! The spin has limited power, and it can only be recharged by eating food. However! If you spin over food it is destroyed, so you need to tactically switch on and off your spin to progress. However! The controls are so completely shit that sometimes this just doesn't work and you'll die through no fault of your own whatsoever. The next level is a mine cart stage that's much easier but no more enjoyable, and it just gets worse from there. The second ice stage has platforms you'll simply fall through for no good reason. The game's not done. Or, more terrifyingly, it is, and this is what they chose to do. You know the worst thing about Taz-Mania on Game Gear? The Master System game is excellent! JUST PORT THAT! But no, instead we get this... thing. This thing that defies verbiage. I'll put it this way; I can't think of any way to describe it that I'd consider appropriate. Taz-Mania: Fuck off. *

Tempo Jr. (1995)

Another forgotten Sega mascot, Tempo Jr. is a title I had somewhat high hopes for. Unfortunately, while it's certainly a looker, it doesn't offer a lot in the way of fun. The graphics are frankly incredible for Game Gear, with Tempo himself being a particularly impressive feat of sprite animation. It sounds good, too, and the controls are solid; Tempo moves slowly but can dash with a double-tap, and he's dangerous both on the ground and in the air with kick and dive attacks. Unfortunately, as ever, it's the level design that destroyed my interest in this one. Stages are large, aimless and mostly empty, with collectable icons placed sparsely and seemingly at random. It's certainly playable, but sometimes feels more like a tech demo than an actual challenging video game of note. Interestingly enough, developers Red Company went on to develop both Project X Zone games, which had the exact same issues despite being an entirely different genre. And Tempo Jr. doesn't even paper over its flaws with anime boobies. Would that it did, my friends. Would that it did. **

(Next: Ten-Tes)