Friday, May 20
Game Review - Beethoven's 2nd (SNES)
For those of you who didn't grow up in the 90's, Beethoven was a movie series about a dog named Mozart. Actually no, it's Beethoven. This is a video game based on the second movie, and oh boy are you in for a hidden gem.
This game is so amazing that I'm surprised they never made a game based on the other 5 movies, as far as I know. It's brilliantly paced, brilliantly animated, and the sound rivals that of any current-gen blockbuster title, and all this on an old, grey SNES cartridge. Heck, it's so awesome that the titles on the box and the title screen don't match up.
One could argue that the movie series has the case of excessive sequel syndrome...and they'd be right, but I'll get to that another time.
This game starts off with Beethoven trying to rescue one of his kids from...a roof - ABSOLUTE GENIUS! You're first obstacle is a fence. You either clear the fence completely or take damage. It's here where you find that the game has the greatest controls ever. Why, they're so good that you can't jump over the fence properly and that it's almost impossible to not get hurt here.
Let me clarify. Whether you're running or standing still, the first time you jump you'll move half a dog's length forward at the most. When you land, Beethoven starts running, and you're second jump should easily clear the fence. They could have implemented a run button - since L and R aren't used, but that's what everyone would expect. Instead, they opted for making the dog jump first, which is excellent. So why can't you just double jump over the fence easily? Because there's virtually no room to run. By the time you land your first jump and begin your second, you'll run right into the fence and make a dead stop. That's a great way to begin a platformer, by creating an impassable deathtrap.
Other enemies/obstacles in the game include cats spinning like Taz from Bugs Bunny, kids on skateboards, little poodles, dog catchers, falling apples, and the tops of light posts randomly placed on roofs. These all make perfect sense, especially since a little poodle and a St. Bernard would likely get along, a kid on a skateboard would either stop to say hi or run away in fear of the giant off-leash slobber face, Beethoven would just eat the apple and lamp post-like lights are always found on roofs. Also, roofs are always low enough for dogs to jump on top of from ground level. The only enemy that doesn't make sense is the dog catcher, because dogs run free of their owners around the city all the time, but I'll let that slide.
The camera works perfectly, because when you backtrack and turn around to hit a spinning cat that's chasing you, the camera doesn't just flip forward again, you have to move in the direction you want the camera to move, making it completely impossible to accidentally hit the very freak that's chasing you.
But the greatest part of the game is the music. It's a SNES render of one of Beethoven's classical classics that rivals that of any CD-based render of it. How? By repeating the same chord over and over again. I don't know what the song name is because I really don't know my classical music, but the fact remains.
As you could probably tell through my sarcasm, this game is bad, really bad. The only reason I tried it out is that I liked the first two movies as a kid and I wanted to see how bad the game got in hopes that it was bad enough to review it. Well it is, so let's begin tearing it apart.
As I've sort of said, the controls are awful, the obstacles and enemies make no sense, save for the dog catcher; the music is annoying and will make you hate classical music after a short while.
Anyway, after you rescue Beethoven's first kid he starts following you in the next level, well...that is until you pass the first obstacle, another fence that you cannot jump over without taking a hit. Your kid can't pass the fence, so having him in this level is completely pointless.
You get five hit points per life, represented by the paws in the upper left corner. You can recover one hit point by eating a bone or your entire health bar with a meat covered bone. I would say that makes sense, except that you have to push X to pick up the bone. Why not just automatically pick up the bone and save that button for running? Worse yet, you have to be in the exact right spot in order to eat it. You can also eat ribs to restore a life.
So what are the other buttons taking a run button away from us for? B jumps, fair enough, Y is a ranged bark attack that can be charged up for additional range and A shakes the dog. Why? There are occasionally sprinklers in the background, and when you walk past them you get water on you. You can shake off the water as an additional attack, but as far as I can tell it only works if the enemies are close enough to hurt you. I ask, what's the point? How is shaking water on a dog catcher supposed to stop them? What's the point if you're going to take a hit before you can successfully use it? And most importantly, WHY ISN'T THERE A RUN BUTTON?
So I made my way through the second level, and at the end you find Beethoven's girlfriend. I walked up to her like I did the puppy at the end of the first level, but the level didn't end. At first I was confused, but then I realized that you have to use the eat button to pick up the puppy and bring him over every obstacle. You also have to put him down to use the bark attack or the useless shake attack. Heck, you can't even duck under the dog catchers darts when you're carrying Beethoven's puppy. Anyway, I brought the useless puppy back to Beethoven's girlfriend, and the next level starts. Now I have to rescue another of their kids. Is this all the game is, rescuing Beethoven's kids?
At least the music changed, although now it's even more annoying and doesn't resemble anything I've ever heard. You're in a forest now, and you have new obstacles like camp fires that occasionally flame up, making it completely impossible to jump over without taking a hit. New enemies include squirrels that throw nuts at you, and birds. Huh, I guess the squirrels are out for revenge. More often than not the birds and squirrels won't give you any warning before they attack, again guaranteeing a loss of health unless you already knew they were there. At least they all die in one or two bark attacks though.
After the forest level, you're in some warehouse; don't remember that from the movie. Anyway, I'm moving along, jumping over cargo crates and barking at the new guard dog enemies when I step on a cargo crate that falls into a pit, killing me instantly. Since when did this game have pits? There's no warning either, the crate is partially sitting on another pile and the second you step on it you fall into the pit. Not only that, but there's a dog catcher right across the gap, so you'd think you can get closer and bark him to death before you jump over but no, the game's very first pit has to be a deathtrap.
Later on in the warehouse level, you encounter moving platforms over larger pits, and dog catchers waiting on the other side at one point. These controls simply do not work for moving platforms like this, especially when you slide a bit after you land. It's this level where you realize how utterly atrocious the controls are, and if it wasn't for the extra life before the first pitfall, I would have ran out of continues fast here.
The second warehouse level is even worse, with falling platforms on the very bottom of the level so that there's absolutely no hint that they'll fall down. Well, if you let your puppy down on the floor, he'll stop before any falling crates, but otherwise there is absolutely no warning...ever. I really hate this game.
The last level, a camp ground, is the worst though. Tougher versions of all the enemies you've encountered so far, falling rocks, logs over pits that you'll sometimes fall right through, and more twigs in the background that somehow hurt you.
So how does the game end? Like this.
To sum it up, a very short game with horrible controls, annoying sound, a non-ending, and has almost nothing to do with the movie. As bad as the X-men game was, at least it had a plot that sort-of related to the movie. All in all, I'm not surprised; it's about what I expected from a game based on a mediocre movie. I plan on reviewing the entire Beethoven movie series at some point, like I did with The Land Before Time last year, but I still have to find number 5 and 6.
Two word review - Ignoble Wretch