Taz-Mania (Genesis)

When I played Taz-Mania for the SNES last week, I just wanted to see what I was missing since I had only ever played the genesis version. If you’ve actually read that article you’d already know that I wasn’t quite impressed with it. At the same time, I remembered the genesis version not being very good either, but I still felt really nostalgic for it and wanted to play it again. I just never really planned to be reviewing it back to back with the SNES version.

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Whether I originally planned it or not, here we are playing Taz-Mania for the Genesis. Unlike the SNES version, the Genesis version is your standard 2D platformer. I also remember it being very hard with a lot of cheap shots thrown in. Even so, it was still one of my favorite games growing up and I played it so much I actually beat it back then. At least I’ve always thought I had beaten it once before. Now that I’m thinking about it, I have a perfect memory of the first half of the game, but I can’t remember even a single thing about the second half. So maybe I never did beat it back then. Only one way to find out, we’ll have to play this game through to the very end. Join me won’t you?

Gameplay

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Our game begins with Taz’s dad telling a story to the family. According to him, Tazmania used to be ruled by giant birds so big, their eggs could feed a family of Tazmanian Devils for a whole year.

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There is also a legend that these giant birds still live somewhere on the island. The promise of giant eggs is apparently all it took to convince Taz to go get one. No sooner does his dad’s story end does Taz spin off into the distance in search of one of these eggs.

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The island of Tazmania has quite the dramatic climate zones to it. There is an icy peninsula to the south, snowcapped mountains in the middle surrounded by dense jungle, and of course the burning deserts of the north where our game begins. Even though it clearly looks like a desert in the world map, the levels look very rocky as if we’re actually in the mountains instead.

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Taz controls just about how you’d expect him to in a game like this. He runs and jumps and of course can perform his trademark spin, during which time he’s nearly invincible. He also has a habit of eating nearly anything he touches.

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Most of the time he’ll be eating health items like the various foods scattered around the levels. Other times he’ll be eating power ups like the hot peppers that let you breathe fire. However he’s not above eating smaller enemies as well. You’ll take some damage from touching them, but it’s just so much fun to pick them up and eat them.

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Death Count: 1

You can’t eat all the enemies though, only the smaller ones. That means these larger square rock monster things are off limits. You can’t eat them, and you can’t kill them, you can only stay away from them. That’s fairly easy to do because they’re very slow moving. However, they can gang up on you when you’re stuck in the quicksand.

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Death Count: 3

The levels are also full of geysers shooting up into the air. These form platforms to help you get to higher areas, but they are also somewhat dangerous. Some of them will simply smash you into the spiky rocks above, killing you instantly. If you miss the platform, the stream of water shooting up will also damage you. And in the earliest instance of the games bad design, you can occasionally fall down the gap between the ledge and the geyser, again falling to an instant death.

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Death Count: 6

As further evidence of the bad level design, there is a zig zag of platforms Taz has to fall down. Unfortunately, waiting at the bottom of each of these leaps of faith is a bomb that Taz will instantly eat if you touch it. Unlike the food, bombs will obviously hurt Taz if he eats them, and so the first time through the level, you’re going to eat every single one of those bombs and possibly die.

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Death Count: 8

Since this is a platformer, the main goal of each level is fairly simple, just make it to the end of each stage where the conveniently placed wooden sign will point you in the direction of the egg. The levels aren’t very long, so at least for the first few levels, you should be able to just fly right through them.

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After a few levels, you’ll come across your first boss fight. Here two of the characters from the show, Bull Gator and Azl, are driving a truck back and forth trying to kill you. All you have to do is jump on the roof of the truck a few times to crush it in. it’s a very easy boss and you shouldn’t have much trouble with it.

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Following the boss fight Taz finds himself inside some kind of Acme owned factory. With all the cars around on the ground floor, I always thought it was an auto garage. But I don’t know any auto garages that have conveyer belts and spinning blades randomly along the upper floors.

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There are also a few giant presses that don’t seem to really be doing anything important. There are also several furnaces that keep popping open to reveal the fires inside. But otherwise this is a very short, rather uninteresting level.

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However, completion of it does bring us to the inner workings of the factory. Here we find ourselves actually on the assembly line where they’re building some kind of tanks. Unfortunately for us, there are several inspection points that Taz can’t go through. Not without getting electrocuted anyway.

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If we want to make it to the end of the factory, we’ll have to find the control switches to temporarily shut the factory down. Now that the assembly line is shut off, we can safely continue our journey.

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Death Count: 9

We’ll have to repeat this process several more times before the stage ends. Each time however there are more switches to choose from before you find the one that shuts the line down. Choosing the wrong switch will leave Taz with quite a nasty electrocution. That is if he isn’t killed by the multiple mounted guns already constantly firing at him.

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If you manage to make it through the factory in one piece, we’ll finally be in the icy southern peninsula of the island. Taz has really traveled quite the distance already. Here, the whole ground is covered in ice, and Taz will be sliding around very uncontrollably, just like you’d expect from an ice level.

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Death Count: 10

Luckily you won’t have to worry about the ice very much. Most of the level is actually spent jumping from ice drift to ice drift. So really your biggest concern is falling into the water. If you miss your landing, Taz will instantly be frozen into an ice cube when he touches the water.

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Even after all these years, I still remember a secret area on this map.  Right before the level ends there is one last ice drift just kind of sitting there. If you actually ride this down until it sinks, you’ll find that the water it was floating on is fake. It will actually bring you to a small cavern under the ice with a few fish for Taz to eat, as well as an extra life and an extra continue.

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Turning north, Taz quickly leaves the frozen waste to return to the dense jungle. Here we find ourselves under attack by whole families of primitive mice with little loin cloths and stone spears. There are also quite a few sentient plant monsters roaming around. They use their roots as legs, giving them somewhat of a spider appearance. But their heads are very lizard like in appearance.

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Death Count: 14

The real threat of this level however is the level itself. It is filled with so many leaps of faith and bottomless pits. Add to that how quickly Taz travels while spinning and you can easily spin yourself right off the ledges and fall down to your death.

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The next level is much simpler. Your task is to jump from needle thin branch to needle thing branch as you try to make your way up to the top of a massive tree. This level still has a lot of leaps of faith, since you can’t see the branches on the other side of the tree. But at least if you miss, you’ll just fall to a lower branch and try again.

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Make it to the top of the tree, and you’ll enter into another boss battle, this time against Francis X Bushlad. This young tribal member is on a mission to hunt Taz to fulfill his rite of passage into manhood. However, the fact that he’s wearing what looks like a diaper and hunts with a bow and arrow, I always thought he was supposed to be some kind of cupid. As for the battle itself, simple keep spinning on top of him and he’ll be defeated before you even know what happened.

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We’re not out of the Jungle yet however. First we must travel down the river. This is probably the turning point for the game from a forgettable platformer into a hellish pile of crap. For this river level the logs floating in the river are in a foreground while the platforms of land are in the background. You can jump between them whenever you want, but there is no indication of which level you are on. Not only that, but there aren’t just the 2 layers, there are actually about 5 layers for the different log paths as they float down the river. What this means is that even though you might be positioned vertically above the logs, you’ll unknowingly be on the wrong layer and splash down in the water instead of landing on it. The only thing saving this level is that there are a lot of solid platforms to jump between, keeping you out of the water entirely.

 

Death Count: 20

Things just get harder from here as Taz travels into the mountains at the center of the island. Deep inside the mountains we come across an old abandoned mine cart and must use it to travel through the cave. But this is going to be the most dangerous mine cart ride ever.

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Death Count: 27

You’ll have to use the cart’s scissor lift to safely rise up above obstacles, but you’ll have to be just as quick to drop back down or you’ll smash into the ceiling of the caves. There are also several portions where the track has broken. Rather than fix it, they seem to have just set up traffic lights to tell you how to clear the gap. Green means go fast to clear a large gap, while yellow means go slow, or you’ll smash into a low hanging support beam.

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Death Count: 42

Amazingly, that wasn’t even the worst part. Deeper in the mine, the game ramps the difficulty up to 11. For starters, the whole cave is a bit of a maze, so you have to remember where you’re going. But to make things worse, there are several instances of trap elevators that will break as soon as you step on them, sending Taz plummeting down to his death on the rocks below.

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Death Count: 49

The worst thing however is trying to jump from elevator to elevator. These sections have the elevators swinging side to side at a very fast pace and spaced far enough apart that you can barely see where you’re going. Even if you could see it, the landing area is so small that it’s almost impossible to land on it. This all wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that missing the jump means instant death when you land of the sharp rocks below.

 

Then if you do manage to make the near impossible jumps, the game isn’t done being annoying. The level has several instances of rubber band elevators. What I mean by this is that the elevator doesn’t move up and down with the levers like the ones you control. Instead you jump on it which makes it drop down, and then it will bounce back up. You jump again to make it drop lower and then bounce higher than before. You keep doing this over and over until you eventually lake it to the top. Most of them only require one or two good jumps to reach the top. But the one towards the end requires several minutes of jumping before you can actually reach the top. And if you mess up any one of your jumps, it will also set your progress back even further. I’m not sure if spinning down actually helps at all, but it made me feel like it was working better.

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Death Count: 52

Immediately following this stupid rubber band elevator is a fast moving elevator doing figure 8’s. You have to time your jump very carefully just to land on it without falling to the rocks below. Then you have only a tiny window of opportunity to jump across to the other waiting elevators.

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These however are also unsafe and will drop as soon as you land on them. You’ll have to be quick and jump to the next elevator which will also fall. Just keep jumping and eventually you’ll finish the level and be done with this stupid cave, and back on your way to finding that giant bird egg.

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Death Count: 69

The game however has other plans for you. Once again it will throw you into the river with its multiple layers. This time however, you don’t have the benefit of solid platforms in the background. Instead it is just a long stretch of river with the occasional small rock to stand on. Even then you’re not safe because tiny little crocodiles will jump out of the water onto the rock in an attempt to eat you.

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Death Count: 72

The second half of the level even manages to make it worse. For the second half the river is flowing to the left instead of the right. So now you are forced to jump from tiny platform to tiny platform since the logs are now completely useless. So to recap, you’re now taking leaps of faith to land on tiny platforms you can’t see on 3D layers you can’t tell you’re on. It was at this moment that I realized I never actually beat the game as a kid. I have a perfect memory of the desert and the factory as well as the jungle and even the mine cart and parts of the elevators. However I have no memory of this river or anything that happens after it. So in truth, I must have never made it past the elevators in the second mine level and my brain was just tricking me into thinking I had beaten it.

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Death Count: 80

After several attempts to clear the level properly, I finally caved and just went for a full on reckless approach to the level. Just jump as high as I could and spin jump as far as possible. The water will bounce me back up and then just keep spin jumping again and again. I didn’t have much health left when I made it to the exit, but you know what, I don’t care, I still finished the level.

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Thankfully the rest of the game sticks to a much more traditional platformer style with few annoyances. And it kicks this off with yet another boss battle. This time you’re fighting the mother of all the little plant monsters you killed in the previous levels. This one is much bigger than the others, but thanks to Taz’s spin attack the battle isn’t hard. Just keep spinning and occasionally jump spinning to hit the monster in the head, and it will easily die before you.

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We’re heading into the final stretch of the game now as we travel to the small islands on the west coast of the main island. Here you’ll be traveling through the ancient ruins of a long lost civilization. If the statues are any indication, the ancient civilization was also a breed of Tazmanian Devil. However, their absence doesn’t stop the statues from breathing fire from their seemingly infinite supply of fuel.

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These levels were actually quite enjoyable, especially after the last few levels had me raging so much. They follow the basic platforming formula without any major annoyances. The levels are set up like a maze and there are enemies around every corner. But they aren’t much of a threat, just spin through them and you’ll gradually find your way to the exit.

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Then the game throws a new annoyance at you with the third of these ruin levels. This level is the exact same level as the first of the ruins levels. I thought somehow the game glitched and set me backwards instead of forward. After the hell they just put you through, I guess the developers figured no one would ever see these last levels, so why bother making more of them.

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The level does have a single change to it. The exit isn’t there anymore. Instead a path has opened up to a previously blocked area. Inside, one of the stone Tazmanian Devil statues comes to life and is yet another boss battle. Just like all the other battles, simply spin attack until it’s dead.

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Death Count: 81

This brings you to the final level and the final boss battle with the giant bird. Thankfully this is actually the best boss battle in the game. It actually requires some thought and strategy to it if you want to win. To hurt the bird, you need to spin attack it in the face. But to do that you need to jump up on the platforms to jump high enough.

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After each attack, the bird will also counter attack in its own way by swiping its wings down at you. You’ll have to quickly spin from side to side to avoid the bird’s giant wings. After successfully dodging all the bird’s attacks, it will once again reveal its head for you to attack again.

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Repeat the process a few times and eventually the bird will leave in defeat, and Taz is free to claim the giant egg for himself. I do feel a little cheated though. Taz’s dad said that egg would be big enough to feed a whole family for a year. That sure is a giant egg, nearly as big as Taz is, but he could still eat that whole thing in a single sitting.

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In the end, it really doesn’t matter because Taz never gets the chance to eat it. As soon as Taz goes to pick up the egg, it cracks open to show the little baby chick inside. And as new born birds do, it instantly imprints on Taz as its mother. So the game ends without Taz ever getting the egg he fought so hard to get.

Verdict

Gameplay – 1 / 10

The first half of the game isn’t great, but I’d still give it a 6 for being a fairly standard platformer. There were a lot of cheap shots specifically designed to kill you, but the game was still functional. Then the whole game derailed in the middle into an unplayable mess. The mine cart ride itself is forgivable. It was hard, but it wasn’t impossible. You just needed to have a good memory and good reflexes. The other mine level however is complete crap. The jumps were nearly impossible, and with the whole thing being over instant death pits, you only had one shot at them. Then that bouncing elevator cart was pointless and annoying. But the final nail in the coffin was when you had to jump down the river. This level could have been handled so much better by simply keeping it on a single layer. Instead they gave it a true 3rd dimension without bothering to give you any indication of depth. Adding insult to injury was the boss battles. Because Taz is 99% invulnerable while spinning, there really wasn’t any challenge to the bosses at all. You have to wiggle back and forth while spinning and that was the entire strategy. The only redeeming battle was actually the last one. That at least required some thought.

Graphics – 8 / 10

The graphics at least I have always enjoyed. The sprites were really well done, and Taz especially has a lot of personality thrown into him. The environments were all also very well detailed and fun to explore. I am a little bummed that the vast majority of enemies were just those tribal mice in various different pallet swaps though. And I’m still not sure what those stone block enemies are supposed to be. Maybe they were in the cartoon and I just don’t remember them.

Audio – 7 / 10

The audio was also a rather high point for the game. It’s not the greatest soundtrack ever, but I have always enjoyed it. It also has quickly a few good sound effects thrown in.

Story – 5 / 10

The story is pretty standard. Taz wants an egg and leaves to go get one. Then we never hear from the story again until the final boss.

Total Playtime – 1h 45m

If it weren’t for all my deaths, you could easily beat this game very quickly. In fact I happened to have watched a speed runner beat the game in just over 16 minutes, so there you have it. The whole game could be beaten in 16 minutes if I didn’t suck at it.

Total Deaths – 81 Deaths

I die a lot in games. In fact, I die so much while playing games that I started a website to chronicle how many times I die while playing games. But this is one of the few times when I actually started raging because of how many times I die. Usually a death is a learning experience. I did something wrong, and I need to learn from it to get better. Here, especially in the mine, it wasn’t entirely my fault. The game is very poorly designed and meant to kill you.

Overall Score – 3 / 10

I want this to be right out in the open. If I wasn’t so nostalgic for this game, I would probably have given it an even lower score. But because I remember loving this game so much, I’m scoring it in two parts. The beginning and the end of the game, where it is a pure platformer I’m giving a 6 / 10. The graphics keep the game afloat for what is an otherwise forgettable platformer, but there were just too many cheap shots to make it a good game. The first levels in particular, with all those bombs at the bottom of blind jumps were rather annoying and uncalled for. Then the fact that Taz is slightly difficult to control definitely had an impact on the score. When he’s spinning he moves so fast you need to be very careful with him. But also when he jumps he has a slight bit of momentum to him that takes some getting used to. Then we have the middle of the game where everything simply went to hell. Honestly I give the whole middle section of the game a solid 0 /10. I have never raged so hard at a game as I did during the mine and river sections. They are just so poorly designed and implemented that they killed any and all enjoyment that could be had from this game. It was so bad that for the last 20 years my brain has tricked me into thinking I had actually beaten this game as a self defense mechanism to prevent me from wanting to play it again. The best thing I can even say about this game is that I’m glad I have this website as proof I finished it so I never have to play it again.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 83

Congratulations Taz! You’re a responsible mother now!

 

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