RETRO

the Marvin Missions review – Classic-Games.net

Developer: Icom Simulations    Publisher: Sunsoft    Release: 10/93    Genre: Action

The Disney license has a long history of excellence within the video game realm. From Capcom to Sega to Virgin every studio put their best foot forward when it came to the house of mouse. Sadly the same cannot be said of Looney Tunes. More often than not the games were average to outright dreadful. Daffy Duck: the Marvin Missions falls somewhere in the middle. Just off the strength of the character alone the game is compelling. But it takes more than a cool character and funny adversary to make a good game and that is where it falls short.

Of all the Looney Tunes characters next to Speedy Gonzalez and the Tazmanian Devil Duck Dodgers makes the most sense as a video game. The concept seems almost tailor made for a Mega Man style action game. Sunsoft did not go that route however, instead crafting an action platformer big on exploration and large set pieces. There are many things I like about this game but unfortunately the execution of its ideas is not as sound as it should be.

The Marvin Missions makes full use of its license. As Duck Dodgers you have access to a large inventory of weapons. Prior to the start of each world you can buy numerous items from the shop. Most of these are secondary weapons like freeze beams, three-way shots, and an anti-matter cannon. The more expensive items are extra lives and credits to continue. Jet Fuel is also available although you must accept that even with a full meter it drains fast. You only get to shop once per world but thankfully you can find more ammo if you search the levels enough.

Your exploration plans will be curtailed by the controls. There is no getting around it, the control in the game is sloppy. Daffy slides around when walking but the worst is the kick back when attacking. It is a nice idea in theory but in practice it is one of the most frustrating mechanics I have come across. Being pushed back with every shot is at odds with the precision platforming the game wants you to attempt. There is no way to avoid it and it nearly ruins the game. As if that is not bad enough the various planets feature varying gravity and surface conditions. I nearly gave up once I reached the ice planet as it encapsulates everything wrong with the game. The fact that I soldiered on shows that the game still has its good points.

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The levels in the Marvin Missions are absolutely massive to the point you have a convenient map. One stage in this game is equivalent to two in most other action platformers. There is no time limit so you can go at your own pace. With his trusty jet pack you are encouraged to explore every nook and cranny for power-ups, of which there are many. Look hard enough and you can find continues to avoid paying the hefty fee in the shop. In total the game spans nineteen levels and five planets and covers a lot of ground. I do not remember the cartoon shorts that much so I cannot compare the environments between the game and show. However Sunsoft have done a reasonable job making them look and feel authentic which is a point in its favor.

The very thing that makes the Marvin Missions unique is also a detriment. The large levels are a confusing mess of similar passages and platforms that is hard to navigate. I like that there are multiple paths to the end goal but I wish they were clearer. It is true that the mini-map helps but it is the size of a postal stamp. The repetition is strong with this one and the game can feel meandering at times. Perhaps it would have been more tolerable if jet fuel was in ready supply but I doubt it. Considering each planet has at least four sub-levels the game feels like a slog quickly. Large size just for the sake of it does not cut it when there is very little of interest occupying that space. A shorter more focused experience would have been ideal.

The difficulty is sky high in this one. There are cheap shots left and right due to the messy controls. Enemies are a little too resilient and healing items are not common. The size of the levels makes extended play sessions tedious, especially with their confusing layout. If you do not spend wastefully in the shop the boss battles are a tiresome war of attrition. I could go on and on but you get the point. For every good point there is another that undermines it. That is a shame as with Sunsoft’s other Looney Tunes titles the production values are exceptional. Too bad they largely go to waste.

In Closing

This is a tough one. In spite of its sloppy controls I still like the Marvin Missions. But would I recommend it? Unfortunately, no. You have to accept a lot of jankiness and bad design to appreciate its good points. You are better off spending that time with a different, better game. Sunsoft definitely tried with this one but it is a case of close but no cigar.

6 out of 10



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