At a Glance: The Lawnmower Man, a drool-inducing sci-fi disaster from the early 90’s, was supposed to be a touching story about stupid people and how they can become more intelligent with the help of fancy virtual reality devices. Instead it became more of a story about stupid filmmakers and how they should never, ever be allowed near cameras or any other devices that will allow them to transfer their highly flawed ideas to film. The SNES adaptation of this hit blockbuster turns out to be a similar story about game developers and how they can apparently get anybody to publish their crappy software if they can track down a publisher stupid enough to be easily bribed with promises of candy and chewing gum. And this is where THQ comes in.
Platform: SNES (Download Emulator here - 395k)
Download: Download ROM here - 563k
Game Plot: I saw the critically unacclaimed “Lawnmower Man” about eight years ago, and then immediately tried to train myself never to think about it again by using Punch Therapy (every time I thought about it I punched myself) but despite my best efforts I maintain a pretty clear memory of that godawful movie. It revolved around a retarded guy named Jobe and a slightly less retarded guy named Dr. Angelo who formulates a brilliant plan to make Jobe smart by strapping him to a table and forcing him to play video games. After long sessions of these video games, along with lab experiments where Angelo takes a virtual hand and pokes Jobe in the brain, Jobe becomes a supergenius with telekinetic powers and the ability to smack people in the head with the pumps at the local gas station. Jobe, determined to create a plan even dumber than Angelo’s, decides to upload himself into virtual reality and take over the world. In the movie’s terrifying ending we hear Jobe’s “birth cry”, which consists of every phone on earth ringing in unison. This leads humanity toward a dark future in which each and every citizen lives under the constant threat of Jobe calling him up and asking if his refrigerator is running.
Quit looking at me like that.
A big dummy named Simon Pick saw this cinematic shitsmear and decided to glorify it with a SNES platformer intercut with some really stupid VR sequences where you float through the middle of nowhere chasing your own hands. But before you get to play, you have to sit through a couple of unskippable copyright screens and then stare at the title overlaid onto a swirly blue backdrop that looks almost exactly like the time-travelling animation in Chrono Trigger. You have to stare at it for a few seconds before pressing start does anything, but after that you get to see a set of badly pixellated photographs captioned by incoherent text. After you get through that you get sent BACK to the title screen and have to wait a few MORE seconds before you can go to the character select screen. At that point you can select from one of two grainy pictures of characters from the movie, then the painful introductory sequence is finally over and you can get down to the significantly more painful task of playing the game.
The main game is a remarkably bad platformer that requires you to run through the street firing a weird blue frisbee launcher and picking up data discs that fall out of trash cans. In a role reversal that’s great news to pretty much everybody but you, the enemies all take several hits to kill but a single hit causes you to transform into a clump of white pixels that float away like flakes of dandruff. Occasionally you will find a trash can on the ground and you will have to shoot them and collect all the AOL trial CDs that fall out, at which point Jobe will appear at the bottom of the screen and start making faces at you. Every now and then you’ll run into a gateway to Virtual Reality represented by a floating “Access Denied” sign, but don’t worry, you can just shoot the gateway a bunch of times and it will bow to your gun’s code-cracking skills and open.
Walking through the gateway leads you to the Virtual Reality section, which is simultaneously the worst part of the game and the worst use of VR since Nintendo introduced the Virtual Boy to break into the lucrative “game systems that make your eyes feel like they've been injected with battery acid after fifteen minutes of play” market. The mode 7 “VR” graphics consist of two disembodied arms floating in front of your face while chunky pixellated squares scroll toward you and the ugly shaded ground churns underneath you like a river of vomit. And if you think graphics this ugly are excusable due to the time period, let me point out that this was released in the same year as Star Fox, one of the best games the SNES ever saw. Well-executed Mode 7 graphics were clearly possible at the time, and yet Simon Pick was unable to create anything prettier than a gradient-shaded ground slowly oozing past you while flat squares scroll in your direction. The VR mode’s terrible graphics are made up for by the gameplay in the same way that Macho Man Randy Savage’s grating voice and terrible music are made up for by his lyrical ability and his fantastic grasp of the English language. All you do is dodge at a drunk snail’s place from side to side to avoid the scrolling rectangles of doom before you each the exit, which is pretty clearly marked by a colossal yellow “EXIT” sign floating in midair.
Enemies: The basic foot soldiers you fight come in two varieties – one has a superpower called “crouching” and the other has a superpower called “never ever crouching at all under any circumstances.” There are some variations, like chimps with pistols and stealthy snipers who hide behind the wall, apparently unaware of the fact that it’s a side scroller and you can see them just fine, but it all boils down to knowing whether each enemy is one where you have to jump or one where you have to duck. Oh yeah, and some of the later VR levels feature chimps who float around and shoot cubes at you. I’m not too sure what to make of that.
Hey, it's Andross! Oh wait, shit.
Weapons: The only moderately useful weapon is your starting gun, which shoots little blue discs everywhere. But I honestly don’t know why Angelo is wasting time fighting all these henchmen and searching for Jobe, since if Jobe’s brilliant plan is to call every phone on earth then it should be pretty simple to track him down with the powerful modern weapon known as *69.
Number of Levels: I lost count. You can only launch so many blue frisbees and slam headfirst into so many giant black squares before it all kind of becomes a blur. There are also a few levels where you break codes and do a few other random things, but I paid as little attention to those as possible and I am a happier man for it.
Number of Bosses: Just about every level has a miniboss and a boss, and these range from a car that simply drives back and forth without doing anything else to a guy with a flamethrower who sets himself on fire and then starts trying to set you on fire. The only noteworthy bosses are a guy that you fight in a Space Invaders style vertical shooter and Jobe himself, who you fight in a thrilling sequence that involves drifting around and shooting his floating head with green Christmas ornaments.
Defining Moment: Well, I thought it was funny that they named all the VR levels “(something) Zone” in an attempt to trick you into thinking you’re playing Sonic the Hedgehog, but that’s about all the enjoyment I got out of this thing.
Each category in the rating system is based out of a possible -10 score (-10 being the worst). The overall score is based out of a possible -50 score (-50 being the worst).
Finally: an advice column for the rest of us! (Who seek to enslave humanity.)
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The Rom Pit is dedicated to reviewing the most bizarre and screwed up classic console games from the 1980's, the ones that made you wonder what kind of illegal substances the programmers were smoking when they worked on them. Strangely enough, the same illegal substances are often necessary to enjoy or make sense of most of these titles. No horrible Nintendo game is safe from the justice of the ROM Pit.