Publisher: Vic Tokai
Year of Release: 1989
Date Reviewed: 3-7-98 ("Old Era")
We've seen it happen all too often. A game is released with a lackluster interface, limited action, and a stupid plot, simply because its producers thought creating a "funny" game was sufficient to draw the appreciation of consumers (does the name "Bubsy" ring a bell?). Thankfully, Clash at Demonhead was not one of those games. Why? Because its producers prioritized making an "entertaining" game above making a "funny" game, rather than synonomizing the two. They gave the player an involving, entertaining world and a vast interface. They made their humor both blatant and subtle. They made the game worth playing, not simply a bastion of immature humor and stupid catch phrases. And, in the end, we were left with an exceedingly entertaining and enjoyable NES game.
The plot of this game centers around Special Agent "Bang" (no real name or surname is offered, but Nintendo Power took the liberty of making one up in their review of the game), who is getting some much deserved R & R after the completion of his latest mission. Bang's headquarters contacts him, and informs him that he is needed (Bang is, after all, his organizations greatest asset.) It seems Professor Plum (his name is no coincidence), the inventor of the "Doomsday Bomb" (a device capable of annihilating the entire world (probably invented for political reasons)) has been kidnapped by a group of rebels whose base is located near "Mt. Demonhead". Bang suits up, and begins his bizarre quest in the foothills of Demonhead.
The action of this game is superb, and not lacking of the game's whimsy. At face value, it is fairly standard -- Bang runs around and destroys things before they can kill him. That much does not change throughout the game. However, the instruments used in that effort can change greatly, once the player discovers the "Super Shop." "Super Shop" is a supply store, run by a stout man with a mustache, that carries a hodgepodge of things that will make Bang's life much easier. There are the boots, which increase Bang's jumping ability and running speed. There is the jet pack, which allows Bang to fly and/or hover. Also, there is the Aqua Lung, with which Bang gains the ability to breathe underwater. And finally, the Super Suit, which permits Bang to swim in lava (which is a necessity in Clash At Demonhead, believe it or not) and climb icy walls, in addition to increasing the strength of Bang's gun. Also, there are items that enhance the gun in various ways (i.e. causing it to fire in four directions at once.) There are also "Shop Calls" and "Microrecorders." "Shop Calls" do just what their name implies -- they call the Super Shop and bring it to you, literally by dropping it out of the sky (though it's not as outlandish as I am making it sound). Microrecorders contain the passwords through which one can continue the game -- a necessity in the distinctly non-linear world of Clash at Demonhead.
The land that Bang must assail consists of the area surrounding Mt. Demonhead (and eventually the mountain itself), divided into around forty routes. Each of these routes are populated by a smattering of corny enemies, many of which include hopping things with propellers and stupid expressions, gun turrets with eyes, heat-seeking missiles, and strange hulking things that require more than one shot to destroy. In addition to the standard enemies, there are seven "governors", whom Bang must defeat in order to acquire seven medallions (or so he was told by Tom Guycot, the man he presumes to be the perpetrator of this whole twisted kidnapping.) As Bang encounters these governors, as well as a cast of kooky allies and the occasional neutral creature, he begins to piece together the purpose of Professor Plum's kidnapping, though he is often led on countless side trips that include rescuing the wise hermit, and defeating an ancient demon. Still, there is the pervasive feeling in this game that Bang has absolutely no idea what he is supposed to do, which is, in truth, part of the fun, and obviously deliberate. Many of the characters talk in riddles, and are of a significance unbeknownst to Bang until after the fact. The plot of Clash at Demonhead truly brings to life the whimsical world in which it is set.
As for graphics, Clash at Demonhead is pretty basic, though it allows for different facial expressions from the same characters -- a feat rarely achieved (or attempted, for that matter) in its time. The graphics in the action sequences are colorful and suitable to the nature of the game. Everything in this game is, graphically, as it should be.
The music is where Clash at Demonhead suffers most. While the songs are not necessarily bad, there is little variety among them. Most of them are fairly basic, and sound similar, albeit not identical, to previous compositions. In addition, the sound effects used in this game's score are generally shrill and rather irritating. The primary instrument in the game's unofficial main theme sounds similar to a smoke alarm -- unfortunate considering that the score itself isn't all that bad.
It is an unfortunate drawback that this game is more enjoyable muted than with sound, but a negligible one. A holistic examination of Clash at Demonhead makes it clear to one that this is a carefully constructed game, and, in most ways, a triumph.
My Score: 8.5
Falling into a pit will send Bang to the bizzare icy underworld here pictured.
We can all learn from Bang's example that a vital part of communication is being a good listener. Evidently appropriate facial features are not.
A comprehensive course in cartography is advised before playing this game.
Whether human or strange gun turret, spitting is not acceptable public behavior.
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