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Title: Karnov
Author:Data East
Rom Player: NESticle
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: In what has proven to be a very unusual angle, Data East has cranked out a Russian superhero game, making Karnov the first positive Russian role model since Soda Popinskiís self-imposed pro-soda, anti-vodka campaign. There doesnít appear to be much of a story in Karnov, for there is no introduction and there is no evidence of a plot within the game. All I know is that you control a rotund Russian, presumably named Karnov, who screws around in various ruins and towns throughout the world.

You see, there are a grand total of nine stages, each with very little to do with the preceding stages, so it is difficult to string them together in order to create a makeshift plot. Youíll go from empty towns, to forests, to mountains, and all sorts of other backgrounds made from only a handful of colors. Nearly every stage gives you the opportunity to go either high or low, the only difference between the two being which enemies appear and where. If you go high, there are often a few pitfalls that will either drop you down to the lower parts, or drop you into a pit that will kill you. Avoiding such pits is reasonably easy to do, though some require you to either climb up a tree or similar object to jump them, or use one of your interesting powerups to circumvent the pits.

But what can a large Russian man in bag pants and curly shoes do to defend himself? For starters, Karnovís method of attack is to breath fire at his foes. Well, breathing fire is kind of a stretch; itís more like spitting little orange balls at high speeds towards the enemy. He starts off with a single, straight-shooting fireball, but can get up to three, provided that he gets the right powerups. Unfortunately, youíll have to do a lot of heavy breathing in order to get through each stage alive, because poor Karnov can only take two hits before he bites it. Whatís peculiar about this is that the first hit will drain the color out of both him and his fireballs, turning them both a dull gray and black.

Since all he can do to defend himself is to spit at things, he comes with a variety of powerups. The first of said powerups are special curly-toed shoes that let you jump higher for a brief period of time. Next, you get quite a few little cartoon-style bombs, which are useful only for blowing open the occasional wall in some levels. You also have a deployable ladder, which you use mainly for climbing up ledges and getting other powerups, but you can also use it for some rather interesting combat maneuvers. The next powerup you get is a boomerang, which you can use instead of your default flaming breath. The only catch is that after you throw it, you have to catch it when it comes back toward you, otherwise, youíll have to find another one. The last, and indeed the most useful, of such tools is a smart bomb that will eliminate every enemy on the screen, with the exception of the stage boss.

Those are powerups that you can use at any time that you feel. In addition to them, you also are given slots for several powerups that you will be called upon to use in specific situations. To elaborate, the game will switch which powerup you have selected for use based upon the situation and whether or not you can use the item there. If it suggests that you should use one of the next few items, youíll get a ringing sound and it will select the appropriate one for you. The first of such situational powerups is a helmet that, when worn, will reveal all of the hidden powerups in the area that you would have find by jumping and hitting various unmarked spots in the air. Normally, such hidden powerups are only for bonus purposes, but in a few rare cases, you will have to have the powerup in order to proceed. Next, you have a diverís helmet, a powerup that lets you swim really fast underwater. Of course, this powerup is only used in, and only appears in, the gameís one and only water stage. Regardless, the next in line is a set of wings for our big-boned buddy. They let you fly for a little bit, in case you hadnít figured that out by now, and then dump you straight down. That last one for the situational powerups is a very handy shield that will take stay in front of you, taking numerous hits and allowing you to prolong your life perhaps long enough to defeat a boss or get past a really dug in enemy. Also, though not much of a powerup, there are blocks with the letter ďKĒ (for Karnov, I guess) that serve the same purpose as the coins in Super Mario Brothers, except that you only have to collect fifty of them to get an extra life, because the area that Karnov lives in has a much better economy than the Mushroom Kingdom.

This brings us to the next question: What sort of things would stand in the way of a fat, fire-breathing Russian? Thatís easy: rock monsters, bugs, etc. Enemies in this game vary from the first giggling, boulder-tossing golem, to flying green ducks, to mummies that transform into tombstones, to an almost dignified red dragon snake thing. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, ďWell, if the enemies are that messed up, the bosses must be at the zenith of the bizarre,Ē in which case you would be right. The first boss you encounter is a variation on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, because this one has a jar full of stuff that it throws at you. From then on, you get things like fire-breathing dinosaurs, centipede women, and someone walking their pet lion as boss villains, which like so many of the early Nintendo games, points to some major acid use among Japanese game developers.

The music for this Russian romp is one of the worst varieties Iíve ever heard. For starters, you only get one song for the entire game. The rest of the music consists of two short songs for death and a game over, one for the final boss, and one short one for the ending. Hell, the one song for every level isnít even that good. Not only that, but there are only slightly more sound effects than there are songs, making this game a rather unentertaining audio experience.

If I were to market this game, Iíd have to use the same principle that I used in this review: a heavy emphasis on the Russian guy, rather than on the content. Itís too bad that one of the earliest fire-breathing Russians was saddled with such a mediocre game.

Best Cheats: None

Game Play: 8
Graphics: 7
Music/Sound: 5
Originality: 10
Overall Rating: 7

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