So having taken part in one or two of the previous “Review a Great Game Day” events, when Eric mentioned there was going to be a “Review a Bad Game Day”, I immediately knew what game I would do an article on if I did this, and knew I should just do it. So here I am.
There are many games I rented as a kid, from first getting an NES in late 1990, to some point in mid-1995 or so, when we moved towns and my grandmother passed away. There were even a fair handful of BAD games I rented, like The Empire Strikes Back, in which I could only get a couple levels in, or Cool Spot, a puzzle game I couldn’t quite get the hang of. Or even both (yes both) Ghostbusters games, neither of which I enjoyed.
I’d say that my overall luck of the draw when renting was pretty decent. I chose such classics, sometimes purely by looking at the box art, like Joe & Mac, or Mega Man, or oddball games like Totally Rad and Monster Party. But my worst choice, by far, was a game that I chose to rent because of the box, because it looked neat, and because of my growing obsession with superheroes. I made the sorry choice to rent…Defenders of Dynatron City.
So while I had no idea of this at the time, Defenders of Dynatron City was a creation by Lucasfilm, and was intended to be a whole new mega-franchise of the early 90s. They had a six-issue comic series by Marvel Comics. They had an animated pilot for a cartoon series, that featured the voice talents of big name actors like Whoopi Goldberg, Tim Curry, and apparently originally Christopher Walken (before the network made a genius move to replace him). I’m sure they even had plans for action figures, merchandise, the works. But the pilot (which I didn’t see), did not get picked up, and so the cartoon series never happened. But the game was released, and on paper, it should have been alright, being designed by one half of the team behind Maniac Mansion.
Now, while they’re certainly no X-Men, this goofy team has the makings of being cool/entertaining. You’ve got Jet Headstrong, the burly hero who can fire his own rocket head at bad guys. Miss Megawatt, a girl made of electricity. Toolbox, a robot dude with a hammer for a head, and appropriately, a toolbox full of other useful tools. Buzzsaw Girl, who for some insane reason has a buzzsaw for feet. Monkey Kid, a blue monkey who throws exploding bananas. And lastly, the team mascot, Radium Dog, a canine who can fly and super strong jaws. They work together to, as the title implies, defend Dynatron City, from the likes of the villainous Dr. Mayhem, and his robot army.
Like I said, on paper, this had the makings to easily be something along the lines of The Tick (a childhood favorite), so it’s too bad the cartoon didn’t live up to that. But, as far as the GAME goes? My god. For something that was supposed to be the next hot property, it sure does stink. And that’s putting it nicely.
The game kinda-sorta plays out like a “Side-scroller”, or rather, something along the lines of River City Ransom, if that game were clunky, oddly both slow and fast at the same time, vague about where to go at all times, and with horrid hit detection. The story plays out in “chapters”, and the game obviously wants to come across as this big, epic, complex experience. But it doesn’t play enough like an action game to be a GOOD action game, and it doesn’t play enough like an adventure game to be terribly good at that either. It’s obvious to me, that the guy who designed it, didn’t fully know what kind of game he wanted to make. The easy bet would have been to make it a simple, action-based beat ’em up, like RCR or Double Dragon. Fix the hit detection, and that might have been kinda fun. But as it is, it plays out like a weird adventure game where you can actively attack enemies. Enemies that are hard as hell to ever actually kill, because the hit boxes are horrible.
It should be said that as a kid, I had an incredible amount of patience with games, ones that I owned and even ones that I rented. Even the first Ghostbusters, I tried to stick with until I got to Gozer. There are only a tiny handful of games I ever rented that I can remember basically “giving up” on, like Empire Strikes Back, because it kinda plays like shit, and I couldn’t get very far in it. Or Ghostbusters 2, for surprisingly similar reasons. There were VERY wonky or clunky games that I would stick with, and try my damnedest to beat, like Flying Dragon, or Time Lord, both absolute clunkers that I actually owned. But with Defenders? I played it for a good hour or so. I WANTED to like it, because it was about superheroes. But no matter which character I used, the enemies were tough to beat, the game was not super great about telling you where you should be or what you should be doing (in an oddball Mario is Missing type city layout, no less). And by the time I got to some sort of mission that took me to the mall, I had finally had it. I gave up, turned the game off, and didn’t play it for the rest of the time we had it.
And for anyone who grew up in my era, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, that there are few worse feelings as a young gamer, than having wasted a precious game rental on something that sucked ass. Especially because you always immediately think of OTHER games you picked up that you chose to pass on, renting THIS shit instead! There were, as stated, several bad games I rented over time. But when I think back on those days, nothing stands out with that truly bitter taste in my mouth, than Defenders of Dynatron City. And so, even though there are arguments to be made on this point, I have consistently deemed it The Worst Game I’ve Ever Rented.
Just for the hell of it, I guess I’ll give it some official “review” rankings.
Story/Concept – Filled with false promise
Graphics – Bland and uninspired
Sound – Headache inducing (and can actually make you kinda nauseous)
Controls – An incredible mix of clunky as hell, and slippery as greased dog shit.
Gameplay – A tug-of-war between getting lost and not being able to actually hit enemies.
Final Verdict: A game, and franchise, that if they had just put more care and effort into, might have turned into something special, or at least memorable for the right reasons. But as is, both the cartoon and the NES game, come across as sadly rushed, or at best, confused about what they wanted to be. I don’t mind telling you that just writing about this game is like mild-PTSD, in a half-joking kind of way, because it drudges up that same crappy feeling and bad taste in my mouth from renting and playing it as a kid. So please, unless you’re a masochist, just don’t ever bother with this thing. It’s best left where it was found, on the trash pile.