Back in my day we rented video games for three days at a time, re-renting the good one and returning, but never forgetting, the bad ones. Comix Zone was a game I rented at least once, maybe twice, and looking back I can still “feel” how tactile this game’s combat was. I think, as a kid, I didn’t appreciate this one nearly as much as it deserved.
I remember playing this game, but not actually playing this game, and I’m looking forward to giving it a proper playthrough. At the very least it looks like a solid beat ’em up with a fantastic style and fun premise.
Stylistically, this game is just amazing. Everything from the comic book art style to the to the dialogue and even the crazy story were fantastic and elicited more than a few smiles from me. The gameplay, on the other hand, served as a swift reminder as to why I didn’t spend a ton of time with Comix Zone as a kid…
Comix Zone is hard.
Little is provided in the way of health items, and combat can range from a simple victory to a borderline Street Fighter level bout. That’s not to say the gameplay isn’t fun, because beating on enemies is an absolute blast, but when every nanometer of your health bar is precious, and the game only gives you one life it can lead to a stressful and even frustrating time.
The first three levels had me traveling from a mutant wasteland, to an alien spacecraft to a martial arts tournaments in the mountains. Stages are colorful and the comic book stylings are a joy to see in action. I just feel like the game is needlessly difficult, as I found myself getting bored after having to restart so many times after a single death…
I’ll give it another day, as I really do enjoy playing this game. Worst case scenario I guess I could always flip on the invincibility cheat just so I can see the whole game, but I’ve never had much fun doing that.
I gave Comix Zone another day and it only proved to emphasize how horrible I am at playing it! This game is just brutal, and honestly it’s enough for me to call it.
So this will be a bit of a hybrid old-system new-system review, as I transition to the new method I described here. I generally had I pretty good time playing Comix Zone, but it was really only enjoyable in small bursts…
Comix Zone handles really well, actually, with incredibly tactile combat and fast controls. It felt like I was playing a fighting game just as much as a beat ’em up. I thought this was pretty, as I love fighting games and it made every panel feel a bit more personal. My problem with the game stems from its difficulty, or rather, how it’s difficult. No specific point of Comix Zone is too challenging by itself, but when damage is completely unavoidable and there’s almost no healing items, and you only have a single life to play the whole thing on, the game is downright unfair.
Presentation, Sounds & Music:
The audio is, honestly, nothing terribly special. Yes there’s digitized voice bits and there’s nothing wrong with the music it’s not particularly memorable. The interface isn’t anything special either, but it doesn’t need to be. The health bar is large and clear and your inventory is readily visible. In fact, with a 6-button controller you can access your inventory items on the fly with the X,Y and Z buttons, which is a nice touch. The graphics, or rather the art and animation style, are where Comix Zone really shines. From the hand drawn comic book look of the characters and scenery to the visualized sound effects to the comic book panel transitions between stage sections everything in this game looked simply amazing. The censored searing was fun as well.
Fun & Relevance:
Comix Zone was a later entry to the Genesis library and it shows with impressive graphics and audio quality. Playing the game was a real joy and I looked forward to every enemy encounter. The problem, and it’s a huge problem, is that this game seems to really not want you to play it. Making any progress in Comix Zone is extremely difficult as any single death, from taking too much damage to an enemy knocking you off a ledge, results in immediate game over. Sometimes you’ll inexplicably get another shot at playing when you die, but even then you’re put right back at the start of the stage with no items. This makes playing Comix Zone for any real amount of time extremely unpleasant.