Format reviewed: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
In an age where animal mascots were a dime a dozen, Sparkster was worth his weight in gold. How many of his classic escapades do you remember?
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em
Every hero needs a villain – Superman has Lex Luthor, Mario has Bowser and Sparkster has his own in the form of Axel Gear. The corrupt rocket knight has been a thorn in your side since you first encountered him, and you’re pretty sure he will be for the rest of the game. As stage five draws to a close, it seems like standard set-up for a big chase boss, with Axel powering up his gigantic robot pig suit as you negotiate a series of high platforms at speed to evade him.
But at the end of your run, something quite magical happens – there’s another robo-pig suit, it’s just as big as his and it’s facing in the right direction for a good old scrap. Suddenly, you’re back on even ground! It’s not the prettiest fight ever seen in video games, nor is it easy – after all, nobody ever said a fair fight would be – but you’ve got two opossums fighting each other in metal pig suits. That’s all we ever want from videogames, really.
Your first extended jetpack trip is certainly a memorable one, as you head out over the open water, kicking up spray in your wake. Of course, it’s not an uninterrupted journey, as you’ll soon be interrupted by the pigs of the Devotindos Empire, who set about ruining your day – and that’s to say nothing of the giant mechanical snake…
As you head towards the climax of the game’s opening stage, the stages are continually raised, and nothing lets you know that you’re in serious trouble like being chased by a big wall of fire. As jets of flame shoot forth from the pursuing conflagration, you’re treated to a background which is shimmering in the heat. Ace detail, that.
A Moment To Reflect
Konami’s programming mastery is on display here, as Sparkster encounters a reflective pool of instant death. Not only are the reflection effects pretty, they actually serve a very important gameplay purpose – large crystal formations block your view of Sparkster mid-way through this section of the stage, and you’ll rely on the reflections you see to determine his position.
Sparkster’s incursion into enemy territory is one of the most spectacular sights to behold on the Mega Drive. The cityscape of Devotindos might be a grey, smoky landscape, but it’s one would could look at all day – the background is beautifully drawn, with clever use of colour masking the limitations of the hardware and everything scrolls by incredibly quickly.