Friday, October 7, 2011

Cliffhanger: At Least It Has Cliffs

I've played some games with pretty big oversights, but I can't think of any as egregious as Cliffhanger for the Game Boy. I mean, how does a game called Cliffhanger  omit the ability to hang. I could understand if the movie it was based on weren't actually about a dude hanging on cliffs, but about the plot device, but that's not the case. If my memory of some ten minutes of the film, which I must have seen over twenty years ago, serves me right, I'm pretty sure the movie was about a dude that scales cliffs, and, in many situations, hangs from them. In fact, the cover of the game is a picture of Stallone hanging from a goddamn cliff.  I guess I should have expected this from Malibu Interactive, a part of a failed comic book company.

Okay, I'll give credit where credit is due. The game does contain cliffs. Still, it is a typical example of a simple platform game made to cash in on a major motion picture that was all too common in the early nineties. There isn't much to the game and the controls reflect that. Stallone can duck, jump, punch, and jump kick. He can't attack while ducking, so it just an evasive move, but at the beginning of the game there is no reason to use it because there are nothing that can be dodged with it. The hitboxes on his attacks are really awkward and sometimes it looks it should miss enemies, like with the wolves, but it connects anyway, and other times it looks like it should connect but doesn't, like with the hawks.

Cliffhanger is definitely one of those games in which everything is out to kill the player. The first thing that attacks Stallone is a drift of snow. Exciting. There is a lot about the game that I find confusing, such as why all the wildlife attempts to murder the player, but that's sort of my fault for thinking about it. But seriously, why are all of the pits filled with spikes? What kind of asshole climbs cliffs and fills its pits with spikes? Why do people listen to chiptunes when they could just listen to the soundtracks of awful old games like this one and not tell the difference? Especially since a fall from that height kills the player anyway. Why do the boots need to be picked up in order to run? Why is running performed by simultaneously holding up and pressing left or right?

So, pretty early on there is a big pit that is far too wide to jump across normally, but there appears to be a ropes suspended across the chasm. Logically, playing a game called Cliffhanger, the player assumes that Stallone is capable of grabbing onto the rope and pulling himself across. This is probably the first time the player will fall to his or her death. There just isn't any hanging in the game. Not off the side of cliffs, and not off of ropes. It makes me sad that I made it past the first zone, but when I got a part where rocks fall from the sky randomly while the player needs to climb ladders, I realized that I should stop playing. I realized that the more I played, the less I wanted to live.

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