Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day

Rocko’s Modern Life was a cartoon whose presence I merely tolerated. The 4 o’clock Ninja Turtles slot had long since been dissolved and non-commercial television had become the sole bastion of after-school cartooning. I was completely at their programming mercy – it was either the news, or them, and by extension, Rocko’s Modern Life. But watch it I did – and while I didn’t outright despise it, it certainly did nothing to raise my heart rate, or stifle my yawning.

This was probably the point, but the sheer mundanity that underscores Rocko’s life filled me with existential terror. It was depressing to observe the mediocrity of Rocko’s life and that of his friends. His best friend Heffer was an air-wasting dole bludger.

GETAJOBGETAJOBGETAJOB!!!

His friend Filburt was a socially-stunted loser. Rocko was the most responsible out of the lot of them and even he operated at the bare minimum. Probably mission accomplished, as far as the show’s creators were concerned, who no doubt sought to make pointed observations on the mediocrity of modern life through the medium of cartoon. But that doesn’t make the show any more enjoyable. I mean, I can appreciate how others could like it, but I would rather escape my mundane life than study it.

Videogame titles don’t get much more suspect than this.

But none of this compares to the horror that is the videogame adaptation. The entire game is an escort mission. You are Rocko, and you must walk your dog Spunky through four unremarkable levels – featuring none of the warped architecture that characterised the cartoon – clearing mundane articles from his path, and punching/kicking enemies that respawn every time you go back to find your stupid dog.  There’s a word for that: annoying.

From where I’m sitting, there’s only one clear positive outcome of this game’s existence:

Watching a pelican get punched in the face.

Take THAT, Pelican!
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Looney Tunes B-Ball

There’s a reason people are getting excited for the new Mickey game.  Mickey Mouse, by and large, has a heritage of pretty good videogames, and Disney has respected the videogame medium (and their characters) enough to roll up their sleeves and make the games themselves.  When was the last time you saw Mickey Mouse in a cartoon or film?  Never, right?  But you *have* seen him in Kingdom Hearts.

Things have changed, Warner Bros.  Videogames don’t play second fiddle anymore, and you failed to see it coming.  You didn’t respect the medium or your characters enough to treat a videogame as anything more than just another piece of merchandise.  And so now we have abominations like Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage and Looney Tunes B-Ball to contend with.

Look at those four on the bottom of the screen.  Just happy to be there!
Look at those four on the bottom of the screen. Just happy to be there!

Being the great house of animation that you once were, you *could* have sat down with this new-fangled ‘computer game’ thang and tried to work it all out.  Of all the studios, you could have created the most beautifully fluid animated works of the 2-D gaming era.  Instead you commissioned hacks like Sunsoft and Acclaim to butcher your legacy in no time at all.

Take Looney Tunes B-Ball for instance.  This could have been the Mario Kart of basketball games.  What we have instead is a dull, drab, street b-ball game with Looney Tunes characters pasted in.  I could have just glued their heads to paddle-pop sticks and it would have been more enjoyable.  Nay, this could have been better than Mario Kart and NBA Jam.  We expect madness from Bugs and Daffy, and we sure as hell expect more than stiff pie-throwing animations.  Slapstick humour is more contextual in a Looney Tunes game than it will ever be in Mario or the NBA – neither of them are funny in their own right – they were merely placed in humorous situations.  Conversely, here I find America’s funniest cartoon characters placed in a decidedly unfunny situation.  You have to collect gems to purchase powerups during play of the ball fer cryin’ out loud (and that’s before you can even use them)!  Why not just cut out the middle men and have them collect the powerups direct instead?  And why not eliminate the need for another button press, and have the powerups kick in immediately upon pickup?  It makes sense in a stupid NBA Jam kinda way.

Ehhh...no.  Not today.
Ehhh...no. Not today.

Do you think maybe you could have spared a comedy writer and an animator or two to help out with the game?  What’s that, they were all busy working on Space Jam?  Wait a minute, SPACE JAM? Isn’t that that movie where the LOONEY TUNES play BASKETBALL in OUTER SPACE?! What did you do, tell the guys at Scultpured Software that you were *maybe* thinking of doing a Looney Tunes cartoon where they play basketball?  You didn’t even tell them about Space Jamdid you? Did you ever consider that maybe you could have developed the game in tandem with the film, take a little more time to make the game actually good; add in a few more characters like, I don’t know, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweetie Pie, Speedy Gonzales, Pepe Le Pew, Road Runner, Porky Pig, MICHAEL JORDAN AND BILL MURRAY?  Was da scwipt to Space Jam weally so sacwed dat you couldn’t share da wuv wid da iddy-biddy game makers?

The same team ended up doing the Space Jam movie tie-in anyway!  Instead of rushing two mediocre games out the door, you could have commissioned the New Greatest Basketball Game on the Planet.  But you didn’t.  You were happy to pump out just another piece of merchandise.  And here we are, years later, not giving a damn about your characters or anything they appear in.

There’s a reason the world waits with bated breath for Epic Mickey and not Epic Bugs:

Relevance.

You missed the boat, Bugs.  You could have been ahead of the curve, but you got sloppy.  Now all we have to remember you by is a collection of crappy videogames.

"That's all Folks!"
"That's all Folks!"

The Flintstones: The Treasure of Sierra Madrock

flintstones_derek_margot_moki

While surveying the site of some ancient ruins, two young archaeologists, Derek and Margo, and their nomad friend Moki, find themselves trapped and sinking in a whirling pool of sand.  And when the dust settles, they stare up in awe at a vast chamber, filled with giant relics and artifacts from another civilisation…And there, at the far end of a cavern, a door with a strange inscription!  ‘All who enter these portals pass…through…time!’[1]

HANNA-BARBARA’S

GREATEST ADVENTURES:

THE FLINTSTONES:

THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADROCK

flintstones_hubbub

MARGO: Where are we?  It looks like we’re in a clandestine gathering…of men…in a cave.  The strong scent of manliness; it’s almost too much for a woman to handle.  Quick Derek, tell us what this is before I pass out!

DEREK: Hmmm…they appear to be cavemen, Margo, and judging from their common headdress, I’d say you’re right.  This *is* a clandestine gathering of men, perhaps the earliest incarnation of the Freemasonry.

MOKI: All I know is I want one of those funny hats!  Look at those horns!  Is that blue cotton candy it’s made of?  Mmm…cotton candy!

MARGO: I believe it’s called ‘fairy floss’ in parts of the British Commonwealth–

DEREK: Quiet Margo, Moki!  It looks like the leader’s about to say something!…He says he’s the Grand Poobah, and he’s retiring.

flintstones_poobah

MARGO: I wonder who will become the new–

DEREK: Wait!  There’s more…he says whoever finds the Treasure of Sierra Madrock will become the new Grand Poobah!

MOKI: Treasure?!!  What are we waiting for?! That hat looks delicious, let’s go!!

DEREK: Not so fast, my nomad friend.  We can’t interfere with the timeline.

MARGO: Why not?  It’s never stopped us befo–

DEREK: SHHHHHHHHH!! It looks like we already have two volunteers, one who calls himself Fred Flintstone and his short companion, Barney Rubble.

MOKI: Oooh! I saw them on TV one time!

DEREK: Don’t be silly Moki, this is real life, not a cartoon!  And besides, you don’t even have TV where you come from!

MARGO: Actually, this *is* a cartoon, and Fred and Barney are from the studio next doo–

DEREK: SHHHHHHHHH!! There’s no time to waste!  We have to follow them!

MARGO: Will you stop interrupting everyone, you jerk?!

DEREK: Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that, what was it you were saying, Margo?  Try speaking into my other ear in future.

MARGO: Sorry, never mind…

DEREK: Good. Well there’s no time to waste!  Let’s go!

MOKI: Yippee!

MARGO: It looks like they’re taking turns rolling some kind of six-sided rock, with Arabic numerals on it…

DEREK: That would be a primitive die, Margo – not to be confused with its plural, ‘dice’ – and they’re rolling to decide which area they’ll go to.

MOKI: Ooh, craps!  Can I play?

DEREK: No need for profanity, Moki!  Besides, we all know that craps is a game of two “dice”.

MARGO: This is strange…my notes say the Flintstones were a modern Stone Age family, but there’s nothing ‘modern’ about this at all – no cranes; no insinkerators; no nothing.  Fred’s just running and jumping around the jungle like a primordial wonder, clubbing every dinosaur in sight!

flintstones_primordial_wonder

MOKI: DINOSAURS?!! Help!

MARGO: Oh, Moki!  Whatever will we do with you?

MOKI: But, but!–

DEREK: What on Earth! That Flintstone character just died, but now he’s back at it again!

MARGO: There he died again! But he keeps getting up and going for it!

DEREK: He’s not getting very far, though.  At this rate, we’ll never see the Treasure of Sierra Madrock!

MARGO: And that means…

MOKI: No blue cotton candy hat for Moki! Hurry Fred, hurry!

MARGO: It seems Fred is being resurrected against his will.  He doesn’t want to go on, but some one or some *thing* keeps dragging him out of the dirt.  And look at that HUD!  Derek, I have reason to believe we are in a video game of some k–

DEREK: Oh, don’t be silly, Margo!  Dinosaurs; cavemen – what more proof do you need that this is…haha, come on, Moki, what did you do with Fred’s–

MARGO: TAAAAAKE THAT!!

DEREK: *OOF!*

MARGO: AAAAAND THIS!!

DEREK: *AGHHHH!!*

DEREK:

MARGO: Was “club” the word you were looking for?  Oh, I’m sorry, did I just YELL INTO THE WRONG EAR?!

DEREK: *UFF!*

MARGO: That oughta teach you not to interrupt my sentences, Know-it-all Jerk! Come on Moki, let’s go home…

MOKI: Yahoo!

AAAHH! Real Monsters!

You know, this game, like the television show, is something I wanted to hate. AAAHH!!! Real Monsters! was a television show by the Klasky Csupo people– the same people who brought us the fun but ultimately disappointing Duckman and the ugly, boring, atrocious cyst on cartoonkind called Rugrats. However, Real Monsters was different– it was a bunch of monsters going to monster school in a sewer. It was funny and cute when it needed to be and it had Tim Curry.

That doesn’t change the fact that licensed games in the 90s were usually somewhere between garbage and almost-garbage, though. Especially games based on Nickelodeon franchises (Did you ever play “Guts”?). Again, though, I was proven wrong by this game: a gross, sewery setting with an interesting, mildly puzzly platformer with Lost Viking-esque control gimmicks.

Of course, it’s not without the typical tropes and failings of a non-Mario platformer for the SNES. There are pipes that spit sewer water at you on seemingly random ‘timers’ (JUST LIKE REAL SEWERS, OH WAIT). occasionally you hit two of them and they are going at alternating times and you have to sneak between them. Except there’s not enough room. Queue the bullshit of having to take a hit to keep progressing. You know, impossible shit to keep you on your toes.

Aside from that though, it’s pretty fun. I recommend checking it out. Knowing Nickelodeon, there are probably still some sort of reruns on there, too, so you can even get the back story. Not that you care. You’re a video gamer player, not a NOVELIST.

AAAHH! Real Monsters!

The orange guy has no holes in his head for his eyeballs so he carries them in his hands. DELICIOUS.