Comix Zone - A Well-Drawn Game With Big Issues

Jake Spencer
26 March 2012

You blew it up!

Comix Zone's graphics?

I can't get over how spectacular this game looks. I'm not even a fan of nineties superhero comics - the "edgy" character designs, the overuse of pinks and purples - but there's something about seeing that style through the pixelated lens of the Sega Genesis that absolutely works for me.

Think the still screenshots look good? Try playing it. This is a game that's in love with motion. Every character gyrates with superfluous frames of  animation just because they can. The screen is constantly littered with speech bubbles and emphatic onomatopoeia popping in and out of existence. Funky hardware tricks are thrown about willy-nilly; for the Sega logo on the opening screen, for instance, is scaled, skewed, and rotated just because the developers could. I haven't even completed the first level of Comix Zone, and I'm already prepared to call it one of the finest looking games I've ever played.

It's that playing business that's the real downer, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've been familiar with Comix Zone for years, but tonight was my first time playing it. All I knew before this point was that it was a platformer/brawler set in the pages of a comic book. As you progress, you jump from panel to panel, sometimes physically tearing through these barriers. I'd heard it was challenging.

Oh, and it looks good. Like, really good.

I thought I was entering the game without knowing much about it, but, no, that's pretty much everything. I guess there's also basic puzzle-solving - in one panel you pull a lever to open a door; a few panels later, you push a box near a wall so you can pull a lever that's otherwise out of reach - but most of your time is spent punching guys.

Like I said, I didn't play much. Maybe there's some finesse to punching guys that I haven't discovered, but I seemed to do well enough by hitting the punch button. Sometimes I'd punch while jumping or ducking, but that says less about the nature of the combat than it does about my desire to assault lots of buttons at once.

After 5-10 minutes of punching guys, I fell in a pit. I died. Game Over. I started a new game. After 5-10 minutes of punching the same guys again, I fell in the same pit again. Game Over. Again.

I'm making Comix Zone sound terrible, but it isn't! I don't want to punch any more guys or fall in any more "screw you" pits, but for twenty minutes, I had a blast. I want checkpoints, smarter combat, and less platforming, but I like this game in spite of itself. Its strength is its presentation. I can't imagine playing to the end - I doubt I'll ever even play beyond that pit - but I'm glad I finally tried Comix Zone for myself.