I was warned about saying too many negative things in this review. Specifically, GameCola’s own Allec Johnson (i.e., the guy who reviewed Bomberman right above this) explicitly stated that he would don a pair of high-heeled shoes and stomp my hands into oblivion if I dared to call Comix Zone a poorly made Double Dragon clone. Thankfully, this is not an entirely accurate description of the game. Comix Zone does indeed feature the same style of gameplay as this notable brawler (i.e., it’s one big kick-and-punch-athon), but Sega sprinkled in some innovation to make it stand out from all the other crappy side-scrollers.
You are Sketch Turner—comic book artist. Late one night, you’re up working on your latest graphic novel (or whatever you kids call them nowadays) during a thunderstorm when your work of art gets struck by lightning, and your comic’s lead baddie is brought to life. You are then sucked into your comic book and must battle throughout its pages; if you fail, your villain remains in the real world forever and can thus take it all over. This concept, while not entirely unique itself, makes for a unique side-scroller, as the action actually takes place within the confines of the comic book’s pages. While playing, you find yourself breaking through panels in order to advance, running for dear life when the comic book is set ablaze, and turning the page to enter a new level once you complete the one you’re on. It’s a great idea for injecting some innovation into this often bland genre, but unfortunately this game does not live up to its potential.
Every time you complete a level, you are given points for, among other things, using combos to defeat your enemies. There’s all kinds of spiffy moves for you to pull off, such as the “flying dragon kick” and the “somersault forward”. However, I found that the most effective combo for beating baddies is “punch punch punch punch punch punch punch punch”. Sure, you will get no points for style by employing this effective strategy, but just like in Drew Carey’s Whose Line Is it Anyway?, the points just don’t matter. The combos are just too complicated to make pulling them off worth your while, except for at times when you must pull off a combo in order to survive; then you’ll invariable be killed off by lava or something.
Since all you’ll be doing is punching your opponents over and over and over again, the action can get pretty bland. Sega may have seen this coming, because they implemented another innovation into Comix Zone—puzzles. How many beat-em-ups have you played on the Genesis in which you must use a wooden box to conquer a floor fan in order to proceed in the game? Probably not that many. These puzzles, while being fun to decipher the first time around, become a real chore upon multiple plays. And, trust me on this, you’ll be playing Comix Zone many, many times if you ever wish to fully complete it.
You start off the game with only one life. If you lose your one life in either of the first two pages, that’s it; game over, man. With every stage completed comes a life gained, but they’re easily lost by your character falling into a hole, or by one of the genius enemies deciphering your “punch punch punch” strategy, and thusly kicking your comic book butt. Also, there are no continues. You might think it’s fun going through the first page on your first time around, but after losing all your lives on page four for the tenth time and having to start all over again, you’ll find completing Comix Zone to be a real chore.
Comix Zone is not without its good points. It’s innovative, and I wouldn’t mind seeing these innovations implemented on more titles. Also, the graphics are better than on most Genesis brawlers, and the very design of the levels makes for a unique visual experience. If you like your games pretty and you don’t mind flawed gameplay, then you might enjoy Comix Zone. Or if you’re some sort of masochist like Allec and find pleasure in games that aren’t fun, then too you might enjoy Comix Zone. As for me, I’ll stick with my Ninja Turtles games. Hyperstone Heist rocks my socks.