REVIEW: SPAWN (GAME BOY COLOR)

spawn gbc cover

NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON COMICBOOKMOVIE.COM 10//22/2013

Does Konami really need any introduction when it comes to the ethical treatment of a license in the video game industry? I mean really, let’s run down the list a little: TMNT IV: Turtles In Time, Bucky O’Hare, X-Men and the Simpsons in the arcade, Buster Busts loose, The Adventures of Batman and Robin, the list goes on. I can’t think of any one publisher, maybe with the possible exception of Capcom and their Disney games that have produced such a phenomenal portfolio of licensed games that are great even today.
Spawn on the Game Boy Color? Well…you can’t win em’ all.

Arriving a little less than a year after Nintendo finally upgraded their hardware to finally incorporate color, Spawn is an 8-bit side scrolling action game that loosely retells the origin of the character through a total of seven very short levels. It’s also a dedicated GBC cartridge (normally characterized by being cased in clear material) and only playable on the GBC.

spawn gbc ss2

Upon booting up the game you have the choice of one of four stages, reminiscent of Konami’s own Bucky O’Hare on the NES: Three of the levels are your basic plat-forming action stages: You walk, run, punch and shoot random thugs, fight a mid-level boss , then continue on until you fight the main level boss. The fourth level breaks up the variety a little and places you on a motor cycle where you can ram thugs on motorcycles and shoot cars. This is the only time in the game that you’ll partake in this type of vehicular action, and frankly that’s a good thing. The bike level goes on for far too long and it’s not terribly exciting. Your primary attack is a wheelie ram that’s also not that intuitive to line up correctly, and outside of that you can kick behind you, which rarely factors in as most opposition you’ll find is in the front.

spawn gbc ss1

One thing is that’s initially deceptive about Spawn is the choice of the levels is only available on the easy difficulty, which the game defaults at. When you beat the four levels, you’re challenged to try the game at a higher difficulty to see the proper ending. Yes folks, it’s one of “those” games.

When you move the difficulty up a notch (playing on Normal will let you see the final three stages), you’ll find the other levels are not terribly different than the ones that came before. That is, except for one stage where you’re plummeting against no opposition from either enemies or obstacles.

Similar to the two Spawn games that came before it, the GBC game once again features the 9:9:9:9 energy meter that doubles as your health and ability meter, though the only ability you have is a pointless chain attack that you’ll never need to use once by holding “B” and then releasing it. This game is a lot more generous in keeping the meter topped off with plenty of health items scattered in the levels, as well as topping you off once you beat the main levels boss.

The environments in Spawn are decently produced, ranging from the alleys and buildings of New York to Heaven and Hell, but the same can’t be said of the character models. The enemies, especially the bosses, lack any type of detail and look like blobs of color thrown together in MS Paint to resemble Spawn’s rogues gallery. One of the positives however is Spawn’s character, who get’s tiny little additions as you progress through the game. After the initial stages his body will show more spikes and eventually he’ll be shown in his full capped glory. The details are not shown off in a cut scene, in fact I had to password check a few stages to make sure I wasn’t seeing things after I finished the game, but I appreciated the subtly of the changes.

Another unfortunate area in which Spawn is lacking is in the gameplay department. For one the game is incredibly short at only seven levels that won’t pose much of a challenge to anyone who’s at all familiar with 2-D side-scrolling games. It also lacks any type of variety, other than the above mentioned motorcycle stage, you never grow as a character except cosmetically. You never gain any new abilities or additional powers, instead relying on a basic punch and guns picked up in the environments. Controls are also not as tight as they could be, especially in the jumping department where I found myself missing platforms due to the awkward jumping physics. Luckily however, there are zero pit fall deaths to be found in the game.

A decent amount of famous Spawn rogues have found their way into the game, including Clown, Overtkill, Redeemer, Tremor and Malebolgia himself. Outside of the last boss, where you actually have to figure out a trick in order to win, all of the foes can be beaten by punching with little or no regards to your health until they die.

Konami has shown in the past that they can produce some of the best licensed games around, but that clearly is not the case with Spawn on the Game Boy Color. The game itself is not bad, it’s a perfect 10 compared to Spawn: The Eternal, but everything about it from the character models to the gameplay are nothing more than average at best. I would claim that Konami was trying to bank on the license to move copies of the game, but in all honesty I’m not even sure if the Spawn license was that strong in the popularity department in late 1999 when this game found its way to store shelves.

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