Retro Review: The Tick

This game should not be in this good of condition

Superheros lend themselves perfectly to games.  They have a story you don’t need to explain in great detail because people have already watched or read about the characters’ histories, values, and battles.  Many a great game has come from the medium of comic books, but sometimes developers ignore all the things that make the comics great.  These games, lacking characters, story, and inventive combat, are shells that have a thin layer of a painted brand to appeal to unsuspecting a fanbase who has hope in there eyes but will soon leave with disappointment in their hearts.  Developed by Software Creations and published by Fox Interactive, The Tick for the Sega Genesis is one shell of a matryoshka doll with nothing inside.

The story is based off the comics, sort of.  Stages are broken up into chapters and some chapters are clustered together as a story.  But the story is never fully expressed as it’ happening or when it ends.  Your only indication of plot points are chapter opening which consist of a few characters in a still shot.  Not having a direction of what you are doing and why you’re doing it makes playing The Tick a real snore.

The graphics are a grab bag of sorts.  The character designs, especially on the Tick, are fluid and well detailed.  When jumping between buildings, Tick bounds and pirouettes with the grace and style.  His punch combos result in flicks, smashes and uppercut among others.  The bad guys have weapons that act as they appear; swords slash, guns shoot, flamethrowers fire, and nunchucks swing.  The backgrounds on the other hand…Ish Kabibble.  They are simply bland.  There’s the street levels, roof levels, the restaurant level.  The most interesting level is a winding mountain because you can walk up the level, as opposed to the previous ten areas where all you do is run left to right  The only time there’s an interactive aspect is a classic rope trap gag on the ground that can ensnare your foot, thus hurting you.  It doesn’t catch bad guys though.  Nothing else in any of the levels is interactive whatsoever.  After the rope trap, two screens later was a cow.  I thought, “Oh boy, I better not hit this cow because it might hurt me. Or maybe it’ll help me…” I tried rousing the heifer, but to avail.  In fact I walked through it.  Just like the lamppost, the mailbox, the fire hydrant, etc, etc.  The hardest part in the game traveling between levels.  You must jump from rooftop to rooftop and avoid being hit by daggers, grenades, and the like.  If you are hit, you fall back.  If you fall in-between buildings, you have to deal with a subplot.  These are mini-boss fights.  They can be amusing at first, but when you are hit into the same subplot fifteen times in the same stage, the premise wears thin.

The game play is repetitive, easy, and hard at the same time.  Repetitive because all you do is advance from screen to screen, punching and kicking ninjas, idea men, or aliens.  Easy because the enemies are all the same and need no tactics to defeat them.  Hard because the bosses must be dealt in a hit and run way.  The bosses will sap a lot of energy from you because hitting them is tough, but them hitting you?  All day son.  Hit boxes are hard to determine on any enemy.  The only way to be sure to hit someone is to make sure your toe or knuckle connects perfectly with someone’s face.  Not there body anywhere, mind you.  Combos are three hits only.   And with no partner there’s no juggling enemies and it becomes three hits after three hits.  It takes button mashing to a whole new mind-numbing level.

The worst offense The Tick makes is hard to decide.  There are so many glaring flaws, but the pinnacle must be no multiplayer option.  The Tick, a beat ‘em up based off a comic book/cartoon show with a mass of memorable and interesting characters, is a one-player game only.  Those great characters, such as Arthur, Sewer Urchin, and American Maid, are represented in the game, but only make you yearn to take control and bash some ninjas.  I’ll break down why each of the previous stated characters roles in the game are heartbreakingly useless.

Arthur is an item.  In fact, he’s the only special attack in your inventory.  When used, Arthur glides across the screen, killing all the bad guys.  This is a horrible tease because he cannot be used in boss battles, where his help would be much appreciated.  No, he can only be used during the stage against ninjas, idea men, or other baddies that are particularly easy to defeat.  Pressing the punch and kick buttons at the same time activates Arthur.  The default controls have punch as B and kick as C.  This too is problematic because of the buttons proximity to the start button.  When unpausing the game from a bathroom break or grabbing a beer (much needed for this game), you will use Arthur on accident.  This is frustrating because even though you can only use him on easy bad guys, it’s better being able to determine when to actuate Arthur for yourself.  Every time Arthur flies on screen, fans will give a long sigh and perhaps a tear that the Tick’s best pal is relegated to four seconds of screen time and has to be “used” for it.

American Maid, my favorite character from the show, is a power-up.  She, along with Oedipus, Paul the Samurai (the best character from the comic), and Die Fledermaus, can be used as a backup fighter.  And backups is the perfect term for them since they stand at the Tick’s back and are controlled by you.  When you hit punch, Tick punches and the backup character kicks and when you hit kick the backup punches.  This makes fighting multiple enemies easier when surrounded, but so would having a second player to watch your back, not to mention how much more fun it would be.  Seeing this second character only reminds you of what could have been.

Lastly, Sewer Urchin is listed in the manual not as a Good Guy, but under Guys Who Get in the Way along with the Human Bullet and Captain Lemming.  Now I understand that he wasn’t the most useful super hero, but he had a lot of heart and doesn’t deserve to be lumped with those other jabronis.  And in the episode “The Tick vs. The Filth” Sewer Urchin saves his friends’ lives, as well as being very sophisticated and have a lot of crime fighting gadgetry.  What if Sewer Urchin had been a playable character and wasn’t very good above ground, but on sewer themed levels he could have kicked ass?  That would be awesome.  Now I’m not going to blame the developers for not including every character as playable and not including a clever idea this specific, but this game should have been a two player and the general lack of humor is disturbing based off the source material.

I only laughed twice in my play through.  Once on a level where you must walk across a bouncing electrical wire and avoid being knocked into a pit of ninjas.  The other when I got Die Fledermaus as my backup fighter.  Due to his cowardly nature, he never threw a punch and fled immediately after being hit once.   These are the only times I encountered any semblance of the show’s wit being integrated into the game.  And these took three minutes (I’m being generous) of my six-hour play thorough.  The rest of the five hours and fifty-seven minutes was a humdrum experience to put it mildly.

The Tick stumbles between buildings and lands a D for repetitive game play, not using its characters or story, and no multiplayer option.  And I would talk about the whiney music but I’m too depressed to dismantle it.

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