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Up from (Super) Obscurity

After my first two triumphant holiday theme months, I found it kind of fun to tie an entire month of garbage pap hard-hitting game journalism piles of words around a common, unifying theme. But this time I'm not using a holiday as my jumping-off point*
*: though if you need some Valentine's Day advice, look no further than LAST year's article!
Instead I'm going to talk about four Super Nintendo games with several traits in common:
  1. They're kind of obscure (natch)
  2. You play as anthropomorphic humanoid animals in these games
  3. Furthermore, the man-imals in question AREN'T from a famous cartoon show or from a long-running series of games!
Given those rules, I dub the February 2014 GameWTFs article theme month to be about the system's Endangered SNESpecies!
So let's kick this off right, with one of the most obscure, the most I-can't-believe-it's-not-based-on-a-cartoon-show: it's the one, the only --
Power Piggs of the Dark Age
And who exactly were these power pig(g)s?
Why not let the game itself explain, in its own whimsical way (a text crawl):
Honestly, the text crawl definitely makes this game feel like it was based on a Saturday morning cartoon. It even introduces the 3 piggs from the title screen --
there's the wise mentor on the right,
"the chick" on the left,
and Bruno, the leader, in the center.
Of course, by the time you get to the title screen, you might notice the game's first problem
...well, I guess you'd notice that Bruno's in-game sprite has a terrible case of "the crazy eyes" --
(an observation that is certainly borne out in the actual gameplay)
But notable by their absense? Gilbert and Lotta. Gilbert's winking, goateed (pigteed? Piggteed?) chin appears briefly when you touch the Sparkling Checkpoint Markers:
...but the only time you'll ever see crossbow-wielding, cash-register-working Lotta is on the game's title screen. "Deadly precision"? More like "deadly OMISSION!"
Consider this "Exhibit A" for the argument...
...that this little gamie went to market a wee wee wee bit before it was completed as planned.
And Exhibit B? The fact that there's a 4-word password screen, with 20 different word-choices making a total of 160,000 possible combinations --
...even though you only ever get one password during normal gameplay -- awarded to you after you've beaten half the levels.
(Though if you're really interested, there's a couple of other passwords floating around out there)
"Floating Around", you say?
It's a segue ironic that you should mention "floating" -- because aside from slashing a variety of medieval wolfs, making long blind jumping (albeit often guided by coins) and riding moving platforms...
this game has a weirdly innovative mechanic: hot-air geysers:
And they somehow have a strong-enough constant updraft to propel a portly porker into the wild blue yonder mild grayish vertically-oriented levels.
Each air-geyser puffs you upwards to a specific height and no farther, though you can swim out of the updraft at any point (sometimes into neighboring updrafts). You can also press "up" or "down" to somewhat control your ascent/descent, and you'll often end up leaping upwards at the apex of your blow-y-ness to hop onto adjacent slightly-higher platforms.
While it's certainly unique, it's odd that a game that stars a fat pig who is constantly eating donuts would be so focused on soaring around like some kind of porcine Ator.
Ok, Bruno jumps, blows, etc -- but how does he fight?
Well, not TERRIBLY -- he strikes quickly, has somewhat reasonable range, and can swat most projectiles out of the air. The biggest drawback is that many of its enemies take 3 hits to kill...and you can only dash in and hit them twice before they retaliate.
However the game's two themes -- funny ideas, but not enough time to have MANY ideas -- appear once again:
The Good: Sense of Humor
The game's two kinds of power-ups are both donuts: some add to your (relatively generous) health bar, others function like limited-use throwing-stars. You can get donuts from killing enemies or from breaking open crates. And how might you break open crates?
By jumping then holding the "DOWN" button. One might even say, "Butt Slam"
And then there's the relatively normal "goofy medieval wolf enemies" you might expect,
Archers, lance-wielding moron-wolves,
Giant Wolf-Knight with a ridiculously-huge boomerang throwing axe...
There's definitely some funnier twists on the staid "wolves/arrows/swords" formula. For example:
The floating wolf who opens fire on you with a peashooter!
The fact that the Axe Knight wolf ends up pulling a Arthur when he's close to defeat (his armor falls off, exposing his undergarments)
But perhaps your most noteworthy opponent is...
I'm sorry, Bruno! But your princess is...
well, not here, that's for damn sure.
One of the most diabolical tricks(?) up the Wolff Wizzard's sleeve involves dressing wolves up as princesses.
They blow kisses at you when you're at a distance...but when you get close, watch out! They whip off their regally-pointed dunce-cap-style hats and use them to launch a relentless stream of fireballs straight ahead.
Looking at their oddly-pink foreheads, I guess we're to assume that it is the wolf's bald head, and to further infer that these are male wolves in drag.
*: Because obviously if they were female, they'd have long flowing hair. I mean, look at Lotta, for cryin' out loud!
Well, of course you CAN'T look at Lotta, because after the title screen she's not IN this game...but I still think my point was valid! Whatever it was.
Yes, these enemies don't just show up for work and stand in place, they also made time to apply lipstick and put on false eyelashes in hopes that it would momentarily distract the Power Piggs before they launched fireballs at him. That's dedication!
Without a doubt these guys(?) make that other wolf (who got his head stuck in his helmet so dashes at you all out of control), look like an even bigger idiot:
Seriously -- get your crap together, man.
And on an unrelated note,
to close out the "THE GOOD" list:
This game has one of the best "Zone Completed" screens in the business.
The Bad: less than a dozen different enemies.
You meet a handful of different kinds of wolf in the first level, another few in the next two levels, and aside from one or two unique bosses,
that's all you get.
10-ish levels of those same 10-ish enemies (all of which you've seen by Level 3). There's definitely some cool new backgrounds as the levels go up, but no new mechanics.
I basically breezed through the first 6 or 7 levels...but once you get to the second-to-last level, you know it. It's harsh, has punishing challenges, and unlike the rest of the game, you can certainly end up dying. Repeatedly.
And the last level? Several orders of magnitude harder than the rest of the game put together
The game's difficulty curve is basically a cliff: be prepared to get through the entire game up to this point in under two hours, then spend many hours playing and re-playing the final stage. The glittering Checkpoints basically become "spend all your energy reaching this point, die, then re-start at the checkpoint with full health and try to reach the next checkpoint." Of course after the 3rd or so checkpoint, there's an extremely long stretch, concluding in another stretch full of geysers and spikes. (The last boss is kind of fun, though -- and mercifully has the game's final checkpoint right before him).
To reiterate: throughout the rest of the game, the "Throwing Donut" bonus weapons have been a fun toy; here, they're vital for your survival, and you'll have to scrimp and gather each one to help get by some of the more brutal challenges in obscure platformer history (my particular favorite involves THREE pairs of rotating platforms you have to climb, EACH of which contains cannon-hat-firing princess wolves, which must be taken out from a distance or at a sacrifice of health).
So, you've made your point -- it's a half-baked platformer. What else is new?
Well, speaking of half-baked, here's what happens when the mighty Bruno takes too much damage from his wolf(f)ish adversaries:
If nothing else, this game's good for a hammy death scene.
I'll get my hat.
...tune in next week!
Same Pigg Time, same Pigg Channel, for more Endangered SNESpecies! (except it won't be about pigs). Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta bounce!
— carlmarksguy, 2014-02-07
I own this game and remember seeing it reviewed in Nintendo Power. It was released when the SNES was on its way to becoming obsolete in favor of the N64's launch, so I'm guessing it was planned for you to use the other two characters, but it had to be published unfinished. (A lot of late-era SNES games show signs of this.)
Ah, that makes a lot of sense. Sad! And there's a number of other subtler "placeholder/would have been used more if they had more time" ideas, including the "wolves in the foreground shoot at you" moments at the end of level 1 (maybe Lotta the crossbow pigg would have had crosshair-shooting gallery levels or CABAL-style semi-shooting-gallery levels)
This game looks familiar to me, but we never had an SNES, so we certainly never played it! Definitely sounds slapdash, though I guess it has a distinct style going for it, at least?
Hmm - well, if you ever saw the "Garfield and Friends" cartoon, Bruno the Power Pigg looks about 60% similar to Orson's brothers..
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