-a rom hack of "Super Mario Bros. 2" for the NES-
review by: Dr. Boogie
How do you describe Transformers to someone who has never heard of them before? Robots in Disguise? More than meets the eye? A grand scheme to cash in on children's love of action and robots? And now there's a movie coming out (another movie, I should say). For those of you who aren't too familiar with the franchise, the Tranformers were huge back when I was a kid. Everyone you knew had seen the show and had an assortment of Transformers action figures. Not me, though. I had one or two Transformers, but we didn't get cable until the TV show had started to lose popularity, so I never really got into it.
The show did have a lot of celebrity fans, though, including infamous rom hacker Grimlick (not to be confused with Grimlock mind you), who has brought us such tribute hacks as the utterly lame He-Man edition of Kung Fu, the uninspired Battle Beasts, and the inscrutable Pink Floyd's The Wall. He's also ventured into regular rom hacking with the completely flaccid Dick Dug, but now, he's returned to the realm of rom hack tributes to his most treasured memories of childhood nerd-dom with what can only be described as Transformers Episode 2: The Return of Unicron!
By now, you must be wondering, "Why does the title screen have a headshot of a red snow monkey with a Fu Manchu moustache?" It's Unicron, of course. Don't you recognize him?
Oh, wait, I know what's causing you such trouble. It's because Grimlick is a lousy artist who has managed to make the fearsome Transformer look like a Care Bears villain. Consider this his way of setting the tone for the rest of the hack.
Now, before we go any further, I want to again state that I am not that familiar with the Transformers universe. I know that there are approximately 8.5 billion different Transformers, and when you combine that with the fact that Grimlick can't render one into his hack to save his life, one can understand how I would have some difficulty in naming all of his attempts. So no need to send me emails on the subject...
Anyway, in the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, you can choose from four nondescript Transformers that I call Genericons. From the left, there's Blandy, Jumpy, Grabby, and Floater. For my money, you've got to go with Jumpy, aka the green one.
One would think that in a Transformers hack, the author might try to render the backgrounds so that they look something like a Transformers background, like a Cybertron or some barren earth landscape. Grimlick, however, has decided to make each and every piece of the environment look like a piled on mass of Transformers that are, in many cases, animated. It makes the environments very easy to look at, let me tell you. At times, you'd swear you were looking at some kind of Magic Eye drawing.
Look, a jet-shaped Transformer! That must be... hmm, how many jet Transformers were there? Oh yeah, a fuckton. Still, you should take note of the other little Decepticon in the sky. He transforms into one of those ships from Tron.
Maybe this hack is a dual tribute to Transformers and Tron. Tronsformers?
Soundwave is one of the few Transformers that I do recognize (even though the colors are off in this case). There were tons of Transformers that turned into stuff like tanks and jets and such, but Soundwave turned into a cassette player of all things. It's hard to get any less intimidating. Anyway, I don't know why he's helping you out in this game by serving as a portal to worlds beyond. Robot politics are twice as complex as the human variety.
Bombs and generic Transformers aside, the end of each stage features a fight between you and a much tougher Decepticon:
He's, um, some kind of moth Transformer (an Insecticon perhaps?) that shoots jets at you. I believe his name was Blackmoth in the series. He was only in a couple episodes; you probably wouldn't have seen him. Anyway, from his robo-stomach comes the key to opening the exit.
Upon defeating Blackmoth, this Transformer will allow you to pass between in legs and into destiny! Thank you... Hipster! Your mighty legs have kept evil at bay once again! Now, I must play the slot machine, and then proceed on to the next battle!
This one kind of looks like Cutman from the Megaman series. Even so, you can still jump on his head and steal his hoverboard. That was the problem with the Autobots: there weren't that many of them that could fly. They had to travel through space all the time. They really should've had a platoon of jets or rockets, or something.
At times, your progress will be blocked by a locked Soundwave or two. Fortunately, the key to getting through these situations is a simple as picking up a transforming Rhinobot cassette.
But beware! Every Rhinobot is guarded by the Decepticon Padman, king of the shoulder pads!
Flee, you fool! Flee like you've just been marked down to $5.95 at Toys 'R Us!!!
You all remember Squigly, right? 'Course ya do. Today, the role of Squigly will be played by his understudy, the Nautilator, the lobster Decepticon. You all remember the Nautilator, right? 'Course ya do. He was the Decepticon that was always being mistaken for Cray, the crayfish Decepticon.
Boy, I don't know. These ones kind of remind me of owls, for some reason. Therefore, they must be based off of the owl Decepticon, Owlswald.
And it just goes on from there. There are tons and tons of these unremarkable Transformers in the hack. Some are enemies, but others are ammunition that must be plucked from the ground itself.
Look, there's one now! Save him by yanking him out of the ground, and them damn him immediately thereafter by hurling him bodily at your foes. It's for the greater good.
All this, and no Unicron. Where is that guy? Closer than you think, as it turns out:
It's a bomb, right? It is, just trust me on this. The Decepticons that transformed into actual bombs didn't last that long. When these guys reach critical mass, they blow up, and what you're left with...
Augh, it's the devil! Avert your eyes!!! Then again, maybe it's Unicron. He's still got the 'stache, but where's the protective layer of fur? Blown up, I suppose. That stuff really would've come in hand traveling through the cold vacuum of space. It tends to get a bit nippy out there.
Alright, that's enough standard fair. The thorough rom hacker typically saves the greater detail for the bosses. Let's see if Grimlick is willing to follow the conventions:
I guess this is supposed to be Megatron, what with his grey and pink armor 'n all. No arm cannon, though, and all he can really do is pace back and forth while throwing those rapidly-transforming kamikaze transformers at you. On the plus side, he doesn't have that hoarse, shrill voice that Megatron had.
I'm thinking this must be Hun-Gurr, the Decepticon with two dragon heads instead of hands (I actually had that action figure). Obviously, the heads spit fire. That's a given, right? I suppose they might have wound up spitting jets like that Blackmoth fellow, or some other crappy little Decepticons, but they're dragons. Some things are true with or without robots.
This must be Scorponok. How do I know? He looks like a scorpion, and who would guess that a guy named "Scorponok" would be at least vaguely scorpion-ish? Look, they can't all be totally original names, people.
Jetfire? I have no idea...
Ah, at last, something familiar. I may not know much, but I at least recognize Optimus Prime when I see him. I was a little confused to see him as the final boss instead of, oh I don't know, UNICRON, but I guess seeing his face lighting up inside of every bomb blast was good enough as far as returns go.
There's one last thing I should point out before I wrap this thing up:
Grimlick numbered each frame of animation in the cloud. In all likelihood, he was just planning to do something, let's say "cool" with the clouds, but after counting seven frames of animation for a freaking cloud, he must've realized that his efforts were in vain. Why show this to you now?
Because he also decided to do the same thing with Mario's face at the end of the game (Mario apparently had been dreaming that he and his crew had transformed into, well, Transformers). He also decided that Frame 1 should be Mario with no face at all. Perhaps he was upset that he couldn't completely change Mario's face into the visage of some recognizable Transformer, as that would require a degree of skill on his part, and so he decided to just tattoo some numbers on Mario, and then rip his face off. That, my friends, is typical rom hacker behavior, for even the most thorough hacker will reach the point when his desire to befoul is overruled by his inherent laziness. In this case, it means an end to the suffering that Transformers fans have had to endure by looking at this second-rate hack.
You know, maybe I've misjudged this guy, Grimlick. Maybe what he was trying to say with the legions of bland Transformers in his hack was that the Transformers franchise is ripping off the fans by turning out dozens upon dozens of Transformers with only minor aesthetic differences. Yeah, or maybe he's just a jackass that transforms into a loser. "More than meets the eye," indeed.
Have any questions or comments about this piece?
*** You too can play Transformers Episode 2: Return of Unicron! ***
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