Toxic Crusaders: A Review by Valdronius
What do you get when you take a B-movie and turn it into a Saturday morning cartoon? Well, you get a D-show, where the D stands for Dropped After Thirteen Episodes. Now, for the sake of argument, let's say you took that show and told Bandai to adapt it into a video game based. What would you get? You'd get an F-game, that's what. I'm not going to tell you what the F stands for, but suffice to say it isn't Fantastic. And that, my friends, brings us to Toxic Crusaders. I rented this game when it came out back in 1992, I remember thinking it looked kinda cool. After about ten minutes of play, I went back to the rental store and got a different game; it was that bad. But that was a long time ago. Maybe the game deserves a second chance. I'm an older, wiser, more patient Valdronius, and my video game skills have greatly improved since that fateful day. Will the game be able to find redemption now, fifteen years after the fact? My sources tell me no. They also advise me that I "better not tell you now". Are my sources a pair of Magic 8-Balls? Um.... no!
As I mentioned, this whole fiasco started with a B-movie. It was entitled The Toxic Avenger. I had never watched this movie before, but I felt I would not be able to do this article justice without first seeing the film that started it all. Since I was unable to find it on any P2P networks, I decided not to be a cheap ass and I shelled out the six bucks necessary to rent it. The movie is an early product of Troma Studios, and it is directed by Lloyd Kaufman, the company's legendary co-founder. The movie starts off in the Tromaville Health Club, where janitor and local dweeb Melvin Junko is shown as having rather poor social skills and an even worse complexion. The bullies of the club, Bozo and Slug, and their girlfriends, Julie and Wanda, decide it would be funny to seduce Melvin and trick him into putting on a pink tutu. After that, they get him to kiss a sheep, thinking he is actually kissing the very hot Julie. Every member of the health club begins pointing and laughing, causing Melvin to go kind of apeshit, jumping out a second story window and landing in a canister of toxic waste. He bursts into flames and runs away, mutating as he flees. Like all toxic substances, the ooze that Melvin fell into gave him superpowers and the desire to fight crime. The only difference being that Melvin, now known as the Toxic Avenger, brutally murders criminals and signs his work by leaving dirty mops over the faces of his victims.
It may shock some of you to know that before writing this article, I had never seen a single Troma film. And even though I am hardly a B-movie aficionado, I still enjoyed it for the most part. It met all three of the classic B-movie prerequisites: Blood, Bad Acting, and Boobies. How anyone thought this would translate to palatable children's programming is beyond me; the cartoon had none of these. The Toxic Crusaders cartoon followed the exploits of Toxie and his team of mutants as they battled the polluting ways of the evil pollution-loving alien Dr. Killemoff, his henchmen, and his limitless army of nameless goons known as the Radiation Rangers. So the cartoon was a bit of a cross between Captain Planet, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, just without any sort of entertainment factor. The only thing that could have possibly made a worse cartoon would be BC Entertainment's Lycanthrope. Sure, Lycanthrope had Robert Carradine as well as Michael Winslow, who was animated in the short-lived cartoon version of Police Academy, and I've actually met director Bob Cook, but Toxie actually had potential to be kid friendly. Unfortunately that potential was never met. The Toxic Crusaders video game was anything but kid friendly, and we're going to find out why.
The games storyline is simple enough: the evil Dr. Killemoff has captured all of the Toxic Crusaders, save Toxie himself. He has also captured Yvonne, Toxie's near-sighted big-chested girlfriend. You start off the game armed with your trusty mop. In the movie, the mop was just used by Toxie as his modus operandi. In the cartoon, it is his trusted and beloved weapon. It's also sentient for some reason. In the game, you just use it for whacking people, and it performs this task admirably. Unfortunately, Toxie is somewhat of a klutz; the mop flies out of his hands the first time you get hit, gone forever until either you die or make it to the next level. Without the mop you are forced to fend off enemies with your bare hands. Strangely enough, your fists do the exact same amount of damage as the mop does. I assume the mop has a larger range, but I have no desire to test this hypothesis. If it weren't obvious enough that you've lost your mop when you see it fly off the screen, the programmers added insult to injury by putting an "M" icon at the bottom of the screen, letting you know whether or not you are in fact holding a mop. Thanks a lot, assholes. The other major annoyance in this piece of crap is that if you are walking right, and try to quickly turn left to attack, you will instead start moonwalking and become a prime target for getting stabbed in the back. I could also go on about the fact that Toxie has a total of maybe seven or eight frames of animation, but lazy programming is something to be expected from Bandai. Well, I've stalled for as long as I can; let's get this shitfest under way.
Level One introduces us to our basic enemies. First off, we have Radiation Rangers, Dr. Killemoff's loyal hazmat suit-wearing minions. Rangers carry around with cans of toxic waste with them, and they'll occasionally toss globs of the stuff at you. Seeing as toxic waste is what turned Melvin into the Toxic Avenger in the first place, I don't see what danger this poses. If the Rangers get close enough to you they'll try to bludgeon you with the barrel. As you can imagine, a large barrel of toxic waste makes for a pretty fucking unwieldy weapon, so this also doesn't pose much of a threat. Next up we have slightly more agile enemies armed with backpacks full of carbon monoxide. These guys can be a real pain in the ass, as they jump onscreen unexpectedly and punch you in the face. When I was halfway through the game, I discovered that the best way to deal with these bastards is to use your super attack. What's the super attack, you ask? If you press Select, Toxie will execute a special move that sends any basic enemies it hits flying off the screen. There is no detriment to using the attack, aside from the fact that Select is an awkward button to use repeatedly on an NES controller. Finally, we have rolling barrels. I normally wouldn't include a mundane inanimate object in a list of enemies, but if I didn't, I'd only have two usable screenshots from the first level. Is this lack of enemies a bad sign of things to come? Yes, yes it is.
Here we have the first boss, a giant, muddy, rat-thing that spits poison loogies at you and doesn't move. As much as I may enjoy hitting the immobile with blunt objects, this boss battle lacks any sort of fun whatsoever. To defeat this guy, you have you jump and smack him in the face just before he spits. If you possess a basic understanding of time, you can jump, attack, wait one second, repeat. After you do that enough, he explodes or something.
After you defeat the first boss, you see a newspaper clipping depicting Toxie and the newly rescued Major Disaster, our hero's floraphilic companion. Normally, a game would take this transitionary period to further the plot with some exposition. Like maybe Major Disaster overheard Dr. Killemoff talking about dumping radioactive chemicals into the town water supply or something like that. Unfortunately, this game doesn't believe in things like complicated plots or interesting plots. Your friends were captured and you need to un-capture them. End of story.
Level Two takes the old rolling barrel shtick and adds a twist to it... they bounce! Does this make them harder to dodge? No. While most of this game is so ridiculously difficult I can't see how any child could ever beat it, the barrels move so slowly that they are more of an annoyance than an actual obstacle. The second level also marks the return of the Can Luggers and the Smog Boys. Again, these are the only enemies you will see in this level. Normally when a game fucks you over this bad, they give you the courtesy of a reach around in the form of tougher palette swaps of the basic enemies. That is, unless it's a Bandai game. No, Bandai games will just rape your colon and strip you of your will to play video games. To their credit though, they do throw in flying desks that come sailing out of the windows in the background. However, they don't trigger until you've walked past the window, so it's still pretty lame.
If, like me, you expected to fight the first boss again at the end of Level Two, you're going to pleasantly surprised. The second boss is Bonehead, a badass biker with a predilection for pink. I don't know why he's riding a Harley around in a school and tossing explosives at random, but I suspect it has something to do with Marilyn Manson, Grand Theft Auto, negligent parents, or school bullies. This boss is actually quite a bit more difficult than his predecessor. In order to defeat him, you need to stand directly in the path of his motorcycle, jump at the last second, smack him in the face with your mop, then get the hell out of the way while you're landing. I don't like to brag, but I once used this same tactic to single-handedly kill 74 members of the Hell's Angels. When you're done you get treated to the closest thing to B-movie violence that this game offers: a shot of what appears to be Toxie revving the motorcycle's engine and pushing the spinning tire into Bonehead's face. Sweet.
Things really start to pick up in Level Three. You'd probably never know this though, because to get this far, you'd have to suffer through the entirety of Levels One and Two. So unless you're an idiot, or reviewing the game for a super awesome website, you'd have gotten bored and given up long before you reached this point. There's a whole new set of enemies to fight, including birds that dive into open toxic waste canisters and mutate into evil gargoyles. You wouldn't think it, but there are an unlimited number of doves in Tromaville, doves which can only be stopped by destroying the cans of waste that they seem to mistake for birdbaths. After killing some birds and making some fairly tricky jumps, you get to the vertical scrolling part of the level where enemies try to drop barrels on you. I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of one of them with his mask off, and I'm pretty sure it was Donkey Kong, but I can't say for certain.
Did I say that things picked up in Level Three? Well, I lied. The third boss is the first boss, except now he's orange, and now he spits flaming loogies instead of muddy ones. And guess what, you beat him in exactly the same way. Sometimes it's okay to reuse bosses as enemies in the last level, but reusing a boss as another boss is just fucking lazy.
Level Four takes us onto the Tromaville Highway, because playing in traffic is a great message to send to kids. At the outset of the level, Toxie mysteriously hauls a skateboard out of his ass and fun times then ensue. Canister Carter and Smoky Bandit are back in this level, and this time they're wearing rollerskates, because it's fashionable. After a lot of asinine autoscrolling adventure, you get to the end of the level where you fight... holy shit! Do we get to fight a helicopter, like in Super C? That would be fucking awesome!
Damn it. Every time I think something awesome is going to happen, it turns out to be some fat bastard with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Mayor Grody is actually quite impressive. Despite being a fat piece of shit, he actually moves, unlike Bosses One and Three. I don't know if there's a particular strategy to beating this guy, I just punched him in the face a lot until he went into cardiac arrest. I figure if it works in real life, it should work in a video game too. Then I laughed at him instead of doing CPR, because you can get sued if you attempt to save someone's life and fail. Also, he was evil.
What video game would complete without a traipse through the sewers? Certainly not this one. After kicking the living shit out of everyone you've run into thus far, the enemies are pretty fucking scared so they try and hide from you... underwater. They can only hold their breath for so long, so once you see bubbles rise up from that delicious sewer water, you know that they're going to have to come up for air soon. When they do, you can liberally beat them to death without any rhyme, reason, or fear of reprisal. Eventually you'll get sucked down a drain and swept out to sea. Here you'll kill aquatic plant life and scuba divers on your way to the fifth boss...
Holy shit, it's the Penis Monster from Tromeo and Juliet!
Just kidding. Boss Five is one of the main villains from the cartoon, Psycho. He attacks you in a bizarre submarine that fires missiles at you, then tries to sodomize you with an electric cattle prod. When you hit the sub, the screen flashes white and blue. I hadn't mentioned it before, but this game is not epilepsy-friendly. So if you have epilepsy, don't play it. Even if you don't have epilepsy, don't play this game. If someone tries to make you play this game, tell them you can't because you have epilepsy. Either that, or kill them; you'd be doing the world a favor. During the course of writing this article, I tried to find some information on the Toxic Crusaders cartoon, but there is very little info out there to be found. What I did find is that Psycho was voiced by Michael J. Pollard of House of 1000 Corpses, Dick Tracy, and Sleepaway Camp III fame. Let's move on, the final level awaits...
Level Six takes us right to the heart of Dr. Killemoff's island fortress. Here you'll fight the same damn enemies you've been fighting since Level One, but there are also a few new obstacles thrown in for good measure. Giant telescoping drills come out of the walls, missiles come out of the floor, and steel beams fall from the ceiling. You also have to perform some really tricky jumps over bottomless pits before you get to the level's mini-bosses.
The final level sends two mini-bosses at you before you get a shot at Killemoff. First up is some schmuck who teleports around the screen and tries to run into you. He'll keep running until he reaches the same vertical position as you, so he can be rather annoying. Once he takes enough of a beating, he exposes his crotch, allowing you to deliver the final blow. After that, you fight a weird train type thing that drops railway spikes on you and tries to run you over. Neither one these enemies is terribly difficult, they just get in your way before you face off against the good doctor. And if you thought that Bozo and Slug's death scenes in the movie were anti-climactic, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
Ladies and gentlemen, your end boss, Dr. Killemoff! Dr. K has two attacks. He'll either shoot electricity or push you, and neither of them is very impressive. But if you were expecting something more than that, you obviously skipped over the entire article and started reading here. Anyway, after you unmask the self-proclaimed Pollutant Mutant From Planet Smogula, he runs off saying that he'll be back. Fortunately for gamers everywhere, it turns out to be an empty threat. Good riddance.
So there you have it, arguably the worst game I ever had the misfortune of playing. No single aspect of this game is difficult in and of itself, but some level sections are so long and tiresome that Toxic Crusaders is nearly impossible to beat without using save states. When I rented this game, I gave up before I even made it to the first boss; it's that tedious. And as if the gameplay wasn't bad enough, they make you read retarded environmentally conscious jokes between every level. This game is a horrible blemish upon the NES game library, and should never ever have been made. At least the movie had some redeeming qualities, such as gratuitous violence, lines like "I've always wanted to cornhole me a blind bitch.", and Cindy Manion's breasts. Even if the game had somehow managed to include all three, that still wouldn't have saved it from being one of the most disappointingly awful platformers ever made. Fuck you, Bandai.
Posted by: Valdronius
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