Wednesday 16 June 2010

Global Gladiators

Because it's "way awesome" and a "total blast"

Mick and Mack are back to plug McDonalds in this fascinating platform game called Global Gladiators. Skipping the reasoning behind launching not one but TWO platformers in the same year with the fast food franchise's branding, Global Gladiators was aimed to not only get people into the restaurant, but also to... help kids understand the environment? Are those groans I hear?

Global Gladiators came from Virgin Interactive, but unlike the division that handled McDonald Land, this one was luckily put under the hands of legendary developer David Perry (who brought us Aladdin and Cool Spot... and later Earthworm Jim). It means the build quality is a little bit better than what you would expect, and features the fluid animation that that the development team was known for. But it was still a subject of mixed reviews, because as with McDonald Land, points were deducted for the sole reason that it was affiliated with McDonalds.

After mounting pressure from the western world, McDonalds has recently moved into more healthier eating and now employs a stronger level of quality control. But back then (especially in the US), that wasn't so much the case, and so it's a tiny bit hypocritical to have giant slimeballs as enemies in a platformer when these things also worked in the kitchen serving the kids food. What's also dodgy is that despite the environmental themes, McDonalds has had a long history of using non-degradable packaging, and of course at the time meat was being imported from cows raised in areas that used to be rainforest!

Global Gladiators was built for Sega, rather than McDonald Land which aimed itself as being a Mario clone for computers. As well as seeing a release on the Sega Mega Drive, versions were released for the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear. The Commodore Amiga also saw a port, but this time around it's rendered inferior by its inability to produce nice looking backgrounds. Screenshots today therefore come from the good old MD, though if you wanted the best music the Amiga is the place to go.

Even as early as 1992 you can start to see this clear division in the target market between Nintendo and "everyone else". Nintendo's Mick and Mack are kids without weapons playing with wildlife in their spare time, whereas Sega's are armed, dangerous and are kicking the crap out of anything that gets in their way. Having said that though, a Super Nintendo port was planned, but scrapped. Prototypes have surfaced in recent years but the reason for cancellation still isn't known.

The game consists of running, jumping and shooting, with an emphasis on collecting the coloured "golden arches" (again, McDonalds logos) before you reach the end of the stage. There are far too many enemies littered around the levels that will get in your way, but luckily there's a generous health bar that will keep you alive as long as you're careful.

But within a few seconds of playing you'll notice one of Global Gladiators's most deadly flaws - the physics. The kids (who by the way are identical in this game bar a palette change) have terrible acceleration problems, which means they start off very slow before working their way up to a respectable speed (but will decelerate instantly). This lead to all sorts of issues when it actually comes to doing some platforming, because it's difficult to judge exactly how far you're likely to jump.

Shooting will also push the player backwards a few pixels, which can cause further issues. It means that despite the smooth animations, gameplay is fairly clunky, and on top of this the camera doesn't always react in a perfect manner either. The game is very repetitive - you're always having to shoot at the same three or four enemies and they're always quick to fire back. The levels are long because you're almost forced to eradicate every living being on the stage, and as there's no password system, getting to the end of the game is quite a challenge.

There are bonus stages themed around recycling, but getting to these stages only happens once in a blue moon and they're not great. At least you don't spend these stages shooting at things though!

The graphics and sound are decent though nothing to write home about as many other games of the time were using similar ideas. Global Gladiators makes heavy use of speech samples, but this makes sure the game only appeals to early 90s American kids who use the terms "way cool" and "totally awesome". Somebody had the great idea to make the game shout "VIRGIN" when the Virgin logo shows up... I'm sure that went down well. I suspect the graphics are supposed to look like the artwork used in comic books, but it's nowhere near as pretty as Comix Zone.

In short, the game is nothing more than average, but if you're a fan of repetitive gameplay and... fast food, this could be the game for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment