Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, Super Metroid, ActRaiser, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mario All-Stars, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy…these games all have three things in common: they’re all platform games, they’re all on Super Nintendo, and they’re all genuine classics that stand out even today. Yes, if you’re a fan of old-school platform games, then the SNES is pretty much the ultimate console to own.
In 1994, Kemco decided to get in on the action when they released Kid Klown in Crazy Chase, the second title in the Kid Klown series, after “Kid Klown in Night Major World” for the NES.
The game opens with a slideshow laying out the story. Blackjack, the evil space pirate, has kidnapped Princess Honey of Klown Planet and is holding her ransom in return for control of the throne. For some reason probably best left unknown, the King sees it fit to send Kid Klown off to defeat Blackjack and rescue his daughter. However, Kid inevitably lives up to his reputation when, attempting to blast the villain’s spaceship out the sky, accidentally presses his ship’s panic button instead and crash-lands. Blackjack vows to blast our hero once and for all, and thus the game begins.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Kid Klown in Crazy Chase is not a conventional 2D platformer. Instead of being a traditional side-scroller, the game presents you with an isometric view of the action, with the level running diagonally from the top-left to the bottom-right of the screen. Blackjack has placed a bomb at the end of each stage and it’s your objective to reach the end of the level before the burning fuse runs down. Along the way, you’ll have to dodge all manner of hazards including pits, spikes, boulders and other dangers exclusive to each level that depend on which environment you find yourself in. However, it’s not enough just to beat the fuse to the end of the level. On the way, Kid Klown is also required to collect all four playing-card suit icons (i.e. Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades) which can be found inside balloons dotted about through the course of the stage. Jump and pull the string of the balloon and it opens to reveal its contents, be it a card icon, a coin, or a trap (e.g. a bomb).
The controls are as simple as they come – use the D-pad to run faster, slower or move left and right in the scrolling environment, while jumping can be performed by pressing any of the face or shoulder buttons. It all makes for a nice simple game, and Crazy Chase is easy to pick up and play whenever you’ve got a bit spare time without wanting to get too bogged down in controls, plot, strategy or other game mechanics.
In terms of the visuals, it comes across very well. The game sports a bright and colourful cartoony look and boasts nice chunky sprites. The isometric view also serves in giving it a 3D appearance that sets it out from other games on the system, but at the same time it retains the attractive 2D sprites of the system, without making the mistake of substituting them for ugly looking polygons.
As well as this, it seems a good deal of care and attention has gone into Kid Klown’s animations and facial expressions. Coming into contact with each different hazard provokes a unique reaction from the titular main character. For example, running over spikes will cause Kid Klown to hop around on one foot in pain, while falling into a puddle will result in him wringing the water out of his drenched clothes. These Looney Tunes inspired mishaps combined with Kid’s reactions to them are certainly a more interesting way to take damage than the standard “take a hit, flash for a few seconds, then play on” approach that most other games employ. It’s nice to see that so much care and effort has been put into these animations as it ensures that the game carries its own charming aura. However, it has to be said that no amount of personality can help after the hundredth time you fall into a pit of lava, run into an open manhole cover, or are crushed by a boulder. Once you’ve seen it all before, the humour can start to wear a bit thin.
In-game music and sounds are fairly decent, if nothing too spectacular. The music is upbeat, chirpy and even quite catchy in places. Each level’s respective track fits the environment well, although the title theme which greets you immediately after flicking the power switch will probably make you want to smash your TV’s speakers with a hammer [It’s Hammer Time? – Editor].
So far we’ve mentioned the positive aspects that can be found in Crazy Chase: the isometric view combined with the rather uncommon game mechanics of avoiding objects and beating the clock (well... fuse) mean that Kemco has at least succeeded in offering gamers something a little different from the usual 16-bit platform outing – always a plus in our books.
However, while Kemco have attempted to make Crazy Chase stand out amongst the crowd with its isometric viewpoint, it does present some problems. As is the case with a lot of isometric games, the faux 3D appearance can make depth and distances hard to judge. This is a particularly irritating problem in a platformer, where precision jumps are the name of the game. It can be hard to judge and time your jumps well and all too often you will end up plunging into a pit, taking damage and wasting valuable time. It’s easy to become frustrated.
On top of this, the system of having to collect the four playing-card suit symbols is made tricky by the fact that Kid Klown can only run down through the level. You can’t backtrack at all, so if you miss a balloon, it’s gone. It’s not much of a problem if the balloon only contains a coin, but if you happen to skip a balloon containing one of the card symbols (which you almost certainly will at some point thanks to the awkward isometric view) you better get ready to play through the whole level again. Yes, that’s right – fail to collect even just one of the four symbols, and you’ll be playing the entire stage over again. The game actually displays the message “Not Again!!” on the screen as you prepare to tackle the level once more. Unfortunately, many gamers will probably agree with this sentiment and simply elect to play a different game. The developers should have paid more attention to their own message and realised that being forced to repeat a level just to find one or two card icons just isn’t fun.
But if it’s so annoying, why did Kemco decide to include this rule?
The answer is simple – there are only five stages in the whole game, each taking around three minutes to get through. By forcing the player to repeat the level over and over until all the suits are collected, the overall difficulty and playtime are increased.
It would have been better however, simply just to have more stages to play through – not just to be forced to play the same ones over an extra couple of times…
A mere five levels is unacceptable, and once the player has become familiar with the game, Crazy Chase can be blasted through without too many problems in just around half an hour – hardly value for money. There’s seriously not much gaming to be had here. There isn’t even a final boss. Complete all five stages and you’re rewarded with a mini-game in which sheer chance determines which of the game’s alternate endings you get to view. You have five attempts to find the correct keyhole on the cell holding Princess Honey captive. Guess the right one and you win, otherwise you get the bad ending. Seriously, that’s all there is to it. It’s hardly an epic end to your adventure.
In terms of replay value, there is a hard mode to play through as well, but it’s unlikely that anyone will want to bother. The mandatory card-collecting system, the fact that you can’t backtrack and the tricky isometric view all add up to make Kid Klown in Crazy Chase a frustrating experience. This is especially the case for beginners, who will probably just resort to reaching for the power switch before long, rather than bother with any more of Crazy Chase.
Kid Klown in Crazy Chase isn’t a truly bad game and can actually be entertaining in small amounts with its simple gameplay, decent sound and nice visuals. The isometric view and unorthodox take on the genre ensure that it’s at least a bit different to the regular platforming experience. However, only having five levels on offer is poor and with so many superior games (let alone platformers) on Nintendo’s 16-Bit console, there’s really no reason to ever play it. Beginners will find it frustrating while those who bother to get to grips with it will beat it and never look at it again. All in all, it’s nothing more than a mediocre experience.