Format: Mega Drive/Genesis
Genre: Action Platformer
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1992
I've spoken 'bout it before, probably in review notes but definitely on the old forum and on social media; the early 90's was a great time to be a kid, in my opinion. Granted, everyone will say that about their own generation and of course nostalgia goggled can be strong, but I stand by it. One of the big reasons besides video games (obviously) was the awesome amount of animated shows/cartoons we had, whether re-runs from the 80's back or fresh from around the world, there was so much to soak up. Which leads into the review, rather handily…
Taz-Mania was released back in 1992, developed by Recreational Brainware and Sega (who also published) for the mighty MegaDrive (with additional versions for the SMS and GG handled by others, but they're not up for review) in the often cookie-cutter genre of action-platformer. The game was based off of the show by the same name, starring one-time irrelevant but by this time hugely popular Taz the Tasmanian Devil who originally featured in Looney Tunes. You'd immediately think a match made in heaven, when you take in to consideration the fantastic pairing of Sega and Disney we'd all seen by this point, so it was logically exciting to see a Warner Bros team up.
Said WB team up was certainly something that got me hyped. In fact, Taz-Mania was (if not the first) one of the original buys in the wake of Sonic The Hedgehog. Keep in mind, the SMD wasn't exactly the easiest thing to pirate (o hai Amiga), so actual purchases were few and far in between (that's where my uncle and playground borrowing came in, of course). I hadn't played the game at the time, but I absolutely loved Taz-Mania the show, so it was a no-brainer. I wanted, I needed this game, people! Being one of my own, it got played a horrendous amount to the point where I probably didn't even have to revisit the damn thing before sitting down to review.
As soon as you boot the game up you're treated to the main game sprite of Taz spinning onto the screen and gobbling up the S in SEGA. Taz-Mania kicks off with a gag and sure as heck keeps 'em coming at a rapid-fire pace. The intro sequence features Hugh (Taz's dad) rattling on about their ancestors who would nab the eggs of a gigantic species of bird (SPOILER ALERT: it aint Keewee from the show, unfortunately) which the whole tribe could live off for a year. Predictably, this gets Taz all worked up and he whirls off in a dust ball on to his adventure. Meanwhile, Dog the Turtle “Arf”'s. Good stuff. So the overall plot is basically Taz goes in search of an egg to comedic consequences. Entirely fitting, in my humble.
There is 17 levels in all (represented by 18 dots on the map, go figure), split up over 6 main stages that differ as to how many levels feature in each region as Taz zigzags across the map, essentially booting out the tried and tested formula you'd see in a Sonic title. The scenarios are nicely varied, even if totally unlike the little island they take place on (y'know; Tasmania), but fit in nicely enough with the show – which is the main thing. These stages start off in the desert, before shifting to an ACME factory (f'yeah), the standard ice level (f'yeah), the jungle, a mine (where Taz gets to go for a ride on a mine-cart), and finishing off in a desert/jungle hybrid that is a more temple-like area with statues of Taz's ancestors dotted about the place.
I personally wouldn't consider Taz-Mania an absolute breeze, which is something Sega Power magazine here in the UK would imply. Back in the day, I would get stuck on the same sections over and over – and, well, over! Typically with many a game, I was much better as a kid than I am now. This? This is a major exception to the rule, yet revisiting it I did feel easier. Controls keep things simple: A to jump, B for everything else and C to go all F-5 fury. Taz can at times feel a bit floaty, but is ultimately in your control once you have timings down. You will be using Taz's spin a lot. It helps gain speed and works as an attack, as well as increasing range when jumping.
The game ultimately rewards exploration while being a jump-attack side-scroller, with each level having their own secret rooms, different routes, etc. which keeps up the variety factor a tad. There is often a case though of each level throwing its own unique mechanic here and there, which can lead to confusion at times. For example, in the ACME factory there's switches to use to stop certain moving platforms, etc. and the mine stage (which opens with the pure muscle-memory mayhem that is the aforementioned mine-cart ride) has these odd lifts/elevators toward the end, including one with a bounce-back mechanic that drove me as nuts today as it did way back when. There is the odd simplistic puzzle to tie in to the exploration aspect, such as figuring as and when to jump off a baddie, or push a crate into place – but really, it was all sort of standard by this point in the MD's lifespan. While not wholly original, the gimmicks that are on show certainly work in the games favour. That, ultimately, is what a player is looking for. Or should be. But the big let down for me is how many bloomin' leaps of faith you have to undertake. Seriously, it's like 'leaps of faith: the video game'. Gets tedious real quick.
Graphically it's a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand it is perfectly cartoonish, matching those previously mentioned Disney titles on Sega systems in terms of giving you wish fulfilment in the sense of playing an actual cartoon. On the other hand, perhaps more subjectively; there are moments where sections appear as if they're a part of the background yet are foreground, to the point where Taz can literally look as if he's gone off-screen completely. If that wasn't poor form enough, there are certain tiles that just appear “there” with little thought, rhyme or reason barring the stretch where you could argue its commenting on the occasional lazy animation tricks of the show itself. Those niggles aside, the main Taz sprite is well animated and looks great, full of personality. There's some weird looking enemies, but all individual feeling, even if they have a good few frames less than Taz himself. Even with some colours being a bit drab, much of the palette is splashed about and often vibrant. All in all, the look of the game is of a fairly high standard, but obviously wont come to match some later games, but it shouldn't have to as this was, after all; 1992.
Music and sound effects are credited to Nu*Romantic Productions and as a whole the soundtrack is a bizarre yet oddly fitting dealio, that sounds somewhat like a bloody experimental jazz record in chiptune form. It's seriously all over the place and nearly impossible to hum along to. For some, however – I'm pretty sure it'll get old fast and almost immediately start grating on the player. Especially if you get stuck in a certain area, which is easier done than said. Some of the enemies almost have their own music upon encountering, including those guitar screeching licks (literally) from the big stone things. It really is mental, but totally fitting with something that is an offshoot of Looney Tunes. Gotta give it props all day for that, to be honest. It's certainly original! Just not particularly listenable on its own. Unless you dig that kinda thing. There is the occasional voice sample that's thrown in now and then, which is again appreciated. The sound effects for when Taz is spinning around like a tornado is on point though.
While I dismay at the non-useage of Keewee as the final boss, you do get some sweet cameos in boss battle roles from Bull Gator & Axl (who rock up in a 4x4 and try to mow you down) and Francis X Bushlad who true-to-form does his utmost to kill Taz and complete his rites of passage. Those are highly appreciated from moi, alongside utilising the Bushrats as recurring baddies strewn about the place. Taz himself is the big draw and rightly so, with some pure Looney Tunes moments such as if something drops on him, he gets squashed; noticing a boss he'll whip out an “Uh-Oh!” sign; get burned and he turns in to a grey crisp with red eyes; fall into icy water? He pops back out in a cube of ice. It's all genuinely amusing which adds massive levels of charm factor, which is what always brought me back to the game in the first place.
At the end of the day, Taz-Mania is a relatively faithful adaptation of the source material on offer even if it doesn't feature the entire roster of the TV show. What it does, it does well enough to keep you entertained, it certainly kept me entertained at least. The only trouble is the difficulty from the trial and error aspect which may well turn off some of you more “modern gamers” despite said Sega Power review recommending it to those with a lack of experience. The grating parts of the game are ultimately its downfall from the leaps of faith to the music in sections. On the face of it all, its charm will hopefully charm you enough to keep going. I don't honestly recall if I beat it back when by myself or witnessed my dad or a friend do so. Its blurry there, as much as many a memory of this is vivid (for both the pros and cons). I can proudly state, that in 2016; my very copy gone and got completed. No time like the present, eh?
Sega went on to release a follow-up a couple years later which is a classic in its own right. Taz had a fairly decent run on consoles over the years, where while this wasn't the first (Atari VCS gets that honour) it's up there with the best on offer for Taz-maniacs, if you will. It certainly kicks the pants off the Sunsoft offering on the SNES which came a whole year later to the gaming party. In short, I say: PLAY IT!!
Verdict:- Don't take this final verdict on the RGG Scores alone, try to soak up what I said in the main review and give the game a play yourself. If it was rated on charm and fan appeal alone, it would rank much higher.
A recommended play and worth your investment when it comes to time spent with it. You'll likely be equally entertained and perhaps frustrated. Old school platforming leaning on the good side of average rather than being fully "great"
What it does well, it does very well. But ultimately Taz-Mania has its hang-ups. Not enough to call it awful. Far from it, in fact.
Second Opinion:- Stupid young Olly023. Couldn't even beat Taz-Mania in one setting. Bzzt. Transbot did. Transbot slapped that foolish marsupial into showing respect.
It's a decent game. Not trailblazing, certainly not Transbot, but does its job for those of you fleshbags out there who enjoy such farcical nonsense.
Transbot Scores:- 6.5 out of 10