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SummaryHow exactly can there be a secret cliff?
The GoodYou know how the North American Super Mario Bros. 2 was simply a re-skinning of completely unrelated Japanese game? It’s funny how that kind of thing doesn’t really happen nowadays, but it was more common back when games were simpler. For example, the first Adventure Island is really just a re-working of Wonder Boy. Here we have Whomp ‘Em, which is a reworking of the Japanese game Saiyuuki World 2: Tenjoukai No Majin. Interestingly enough, it’s the sequel to the Japan only Saiyuuki World, a re-working of Wonder Boy in Monster World. Nifty, eh?
Whomp ‘Em isn’t really a drastic alteration of Saiyuuki World 2. Basically the main hero was changed to a generic looking North American aboriginal, and some of the items and power-ups were changed to correspond. This is probably because Saiyuuki World 2 was based off the classic Chinese tale, Journey to the West, which most North Americans, including myself, aren’t familiar with. So instead of playing as Sun Wukong, you play as Soaring Eagle, who is described in the instruction booklet as an “Indian Brave” who “ventures into the world seeking totems for his magic pouch.” Along the way you collect such helpful items as: buffalo headdresses, deerskin shirts, and of course, gourds. I can’t help but feel that the continent’s native population is being misrepresented, but whatever.
After a brief introduction stage, you’re given six stages that you can complete in any order. Each stage has a boss encounter at the end and, upon completion, rewards you with a power-up for your spear. After all six stages are completed, you get to move on to the final stage and a battle with the big cheese. If you think this set-up sounds a lot like Mega Man, I’d have to agree with you. In fact, Whomp‘Em is extremely reminiscent of Mega Man in terms of level design and mechanics. There are a few things Whomp ‘Em does differently. For one, bosses increase in strength after each one you defeat, so the difficulty level ramps up as you go. Soaring Eagle also has the ability to attack enemies above him by stabbing upwards or below him by holding his spear down and bouncing on them Scrooge McDuck style.
The stages come in the usual flavours. You have your water world, your ice world, your fire world, and your forest worlds. I can’t say the ice world was very well localized because it contains an anomalous amount of eyeballs for some reason. Each one contains their own special brand of enemies. Again, poor localization results in you fighting some really weird enemies like disembodied hands and those posable dummies artists use. Some of the power-ups are pretty nifty. There’s a really perplexing one that somehow makes the end of your spear spin around like a saw blade. One lets you ride a cloud for a short while just in case you’re lazy and want to bypass a section without having to work too hard at it.
The BadI swear the games I play seem to just get shorter and shorter. I started playing Whomp ‘Em just after lunch, and had it finished in about an hour. I wasn’t even hurrying through it or anything. It’s just a ridiculously short game. It’s okay for an NES game to be short, as long as it provides enough challenge to slow you down, but aside from a modestly challenging end boss, Whomp ‘Em is staggeringly easy. Add to the matter that the levels are extremely short and easy to breeze through, and you have yourself a new brand of brief game. Considering how linear and unoriginal it is, there’s very little reason to pick it up and play it again.
The biggest detraction from Whomp‘Em’s challenge is the removal of instant death. I’m not a fan of instant death by any means, but Whomp ‘Em doesn’t benefit from the lack of it. Hell, if you step on spikes, or even lava, you merely take damage. You can practically blunder your way through every stage since the platforms are always set up so you can climb your way out of danger. Although there are no real lives so you must restart the level each time you die, it’s not difficult to complete the game without dying. You life bar can be extended by collecting gourds, and extra life can be carried by obtaining “magic potions”. You can carry three, and each one heals eight hearts of your health every time your life bar becomes depleted. Amazingly, Whomp ‘Em isn’t without frustration. Boss enemies have the ability to steal your magic potions, simultaneously harming you and healing themselves. That’s infuriating, especially since I haven’t found a way to dodge that effect.
Given the game’s open structure and brevity, it should come as no surprise that a lot of the power-ups aren’t put to any great use. In fact, I never actually found out what the water-spray ability really does, since it never seemed to affect the enemies I used it on, even the fire ones. There’s one power-up that allows you to ride on a cloud for a short while, but it is only use once, by my count. I can’t remember ever using the poison power-up, nor do I even remember what it does. Whomp ‘Em’s just so short of content that it seems only half-finished. What’s there is pretty solid, but it feels like a lot was left undone.
The music is extremely hit and miss. Some of it is really upbeat and fun, but there are other tunes that are simply annoying. There is one song on the ice level which I swear only contains about three distinct notes, and they aren’t used to any great effect. It’s one thing to have music that isn’t very memorable, but this is the first time in a while I’ve come across a game whose music actually annoys me. It’s too bad, because the sound quality is fairly high for an NES game and it takes obvious inspiration from native music, it just, for the most part, sucks.