Game Of The Month: December 2015
Smash TV - Arcade / Multi Format
Films and videogames are sometimes extremely close to one another in terms of taking inspiration from other ideas and expanding on them to create something similar yet possessing an identity all of it’s own. For the month of December 2015 RGG wants to take a look at a game born from a mixture of a previous title mixed with a concept taken from a major Hollywood movie that in itself was borrowed from an earlier film about a future where game shows have gone just a little bit too far.
Created by Eugene Jarvis and Mark Turmell and published by those arcade masters ‘Williams’ Smash TV is a top down run & gun videogame that followed on from the control and gameplay ideas that first appeared in Eugene’s previous work ‘Robotron: 2084’ released in 1990 the story is set in the then future of 1999 where a violent TV gameshow is the number one source of entertainment for the masses. With the world in poverty and craving more extreme entertainment to keep them in check the only way to make some serious cash is to venture into a massive TV Studio and compete against wave after wave of murderous thugs and assorted creatures in order to collect prizes and cash.
If this sounds familiar it’s because the concept is massively borrowed from a film called ‘The Running Man’ staring Arnold Schwarzenegger where convicts as well as ordinary people are pretty much forced into doing a similar thing only in that movie it’s for freedom rather than just financial reward. That idea was also stolen from an earlier film where people run normal streets in order to reach a safe zone whilst being hunted so as you can see in the entertainment world everyone sort of copies everyone else. It’s absolutely worth pointing out though that each project mentioned here still feels very much original because of it’s own unique elements brought to the table, both films feel massively different and of course a videogame is interactive so it stands apart.
Using a very cool twin stick interface one stick controls the players movement whilst the other fires whatever weapon is being held at the time, considering the game was released way before twin analogue sticks on home consoles this was a great thing to draw people into the arcade halls as it was a genuine new experience for many although not completely unique to Smash TV. Playing like Gauntlet on ‘crack’ you zoom around the screen dodging enemies attacks while dealing out serious destruction and mayhem in order to clear each room and then afterwards choose a route to the next play area. Every so often a boss encounter would appear where one giant enemy would try to destroy you and that’s where the already high challenge levels went through the roof. Smash TV was a hard game, brutally at times.
As you deal out death a whole host of superb voice over’s ring out in your ears as the comical TV Show announcer chimes off a whole host of superb one liners that again are taken from other popular movies of the time. People familiar with the classic film ‘Robocop’ will easily pick out ‘I’d by that for a Dollar’ and ‘I Love it’ it’s one of the coolest aspects of an already awesome videogame that connects yet another pop culture set of moments into an interactive experience.
Very soon after it’s arcade hall release a whole host of home conversions made their way into the dens of gamers the world over with versions on the NES, Snes, Genesis/Megadrive, Master System, GameGear, Amiga, Atari ST and even the 8-Bit micro computers such as the C64, Spectrum and CPC range got their kicks thanks to some clever coding to fit such a fast moving game onto such old machines. Some of the conversions such as the NES and SNES games allowed you to either use a second controller to fire in multi directions with the Snes version actually having the four face buttons as primary control method. It worked a treat however nothing was quite like the originals smoother more playable method. Later released on several retro compilations for the Playstation and PS2, Xbox, Gamecube it’s pretty much been seen on every format ever as I type this so if you want to play it, it’s easy enough to find.
Very much a product of it’s time it perfectly fit’s the 1990’s attitude era of gaming. It’s over the top violent and utterly cool at the same time. It’s story is borderline ridiculous and it’s addictive as hell and every second of play results in a bigger smile growing on your face. This is how games used to be made that sadly no longer really exist outside the indie games scene. It’s old school in every way and absolutely demands your attention from the first credit to the last boss. It’s Total Carnage and never apologizes for it and because of that we love it!