Posted on April 25, 2016
Great Old Gaming Gems – Comix Zone
Welcome to episode 2 of Great Old Gaming Gems. Today we take you back to 1995. The year that the original PS1 launched bringing 3D polygon based graphics to the masses.
Old school graphics from the 16bit era and before were almost all sprite based. These were games where the player controlled a hand drawn sprite. From Mario to Sonic before the PS1 changed it all the sprite was king.
Todays great old gaming gem is one of the last examples of sprite based graphics on a home console.
In a bit of historical perspective the early to mid nineties were a boom time in comics (check out our Geekout! for a history of those!) with comics finally entering the mainstream. Sega, eager to cash in, created Comix Zone. A sprite based game hoping to be (and I quote from the back of the box for I still own this game) “the first truly interactive comic book!”
Whether Comix Zone lived up to that hype however is a different question entirely. I’d argue that it didn’t as it wasn’t an interactive comic in the slightest. What this Gaming Gem was however was a beat em up in comics guise. And in being a beat em up? Comix Zone rocked!
Visually this game was the Megadrive at its finest hour. While lacking the speed of a certain Hedgehog the attention to detail in the graphics was, to my eyes, a bit special. Rich vibrant backgrounds, exceptionally well animated character sprites, plenty of colours and sampled speech this game proved that only being able to show 512 simultaneous colours was no obstacle for the Megadrive.
But what are system defining graphics without the gameplay to back them up? Nothing that’s what. Thankfully however Comix Zone was every bit as fun to play as it looked on the screen. Sort of. The big flaw in Comix Zone, and the reason many reviews online have criticised the controls, was that to play it properly you needed a six button megadrive pad. Which meant additional cost as the pads the ‘drive shipped with had but three main buttons.
Thankfully this gamer had the 6 button pad so all was good!
The three main buttons gave you jump, block and attack and the three extra buttons provided you access to items you collected throughout the game, the simple to learn but tricky to master controls had mastering the first page or so in no time but from there the difficulty factor ramped up.
Each area for beating up the baddies was depicted as a panel on a comics page. A particularly good kick to a baddie would send them flying through the gutter (white bit between the panels) into the next panel allowing access. This quirky feature added something to the game. Some panels needed switches to escape from, explosives, or even the aid of Roadkill your pet rat (how have I not already mentioned the rat?!) who you could call on for help.
This was Megadrive gaming at its finest!
The other reason I loved this game was that it came with a free CD of rock songs based on the soundtrack which was exclusive to the European PAL release of the game. While a re-listen for this article has me wondering quite why I remember it being so good this was a great concept for the time. CD quality music for gaming is something we expect nowadays but this was 1995 and it was a novelty. Not even the fact that you had to place your CD player near your TV could dampen my mood on receiving this game!
The question then is why did Comix Zone not spawn a hundred sequels. Well at the time of its release, with the PS1 on he horizon along with the SEGA Saturn, the game flopped. Big time. It was a commercial disaster. It just didn’t sell the units to warrant more entries in the series.
Sad but true that.
A quick look on eBay reveals that you can get a cartridge for around a tenner. But if you have the CD version like me you’re looking at £30 or more! Not bad that for a Great Old Gaming Gem.
And if you have a copy of the original DOS version on floppy disc? Who knows! As it is that rare I’ve not seen a floppy version on eBay. Ever. Only the CD Rom version (which including the music from the above mentioned CD),
But if you don’t have a working megadrive kicking about do not despair! You can legally play this game on a variety of other formats.
You could scour eBay for the Gameboy Advance port from 2002 or the Gamecube Sonic Mega Collection which also contained this gem.
Or you could just check out Xbox live arcade, the Playstation network store, Wii virtual console or the Onlive playpack as Comix Zone is currently for sale and available in all of these locations.
So this week you’ve really no excuse not to go out there and play this Great Old Gaming Gem!
And don’t forget to check back next Monday and every Monday for more Great Old Gaming Gems!