I’m about ready to give up on Looney Tunes themed games. The ones I’ve tried so far have been terrible. I have a few others, but I know them and they aren’t much better. Maybe the characters are just too old, too out of style. Video games weren’t even around when they came out. No, we need to move on to the younger generation, my generation, the ones that know what games are all about. I speak of course of the amazing Tiny Toon Adventures!
For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, Tiny Toon Adventures (AKA Tiny Toons) was a joint project between Warner Brothers and Steven Spielberg’s very own Amblin Entertainment. It first aired in September of 1990, the show followed quite literally a new generation of cartoon characters as they attended school and learned how to be funny. The main characters were mostly analogues for the various famous Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, many of whom actually appeared as the teachers in the school they attended. The show only lasted 3 seasons, which is a huge shame. It was and still is one of my favorite shows. Even with the relatively short life of the show, I consider it to be one of the shows that shaped my childhood.
There were actually quite a few games made with the Tiny Toons license. There were a good handful of games for the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis. Then another whole handful made for the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and right up to the Gameboy Advance. There were even games made for the Playstation and Playstation 2 long after the show had ended. With so many to choose from, it was hard to pick just one, but I narrowed it down and decided to try Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! for the SNES. It’s an action platformer created by Konami, who were at the top of their game at the time. It would seem every great cartoon game of the time was made by either Konami or Capcom, and I can only imagine this will live up to that high standard. So without any further delay, let’s jump right into this game and see if this new generation can bring some credibility back to the Looney Tunes name.
The game starts with Buster and Babs introducing the game and setting the basic groundwork for the first stage. Just like in most of the cartoons, we start out at their school, Acme Looniversity. Buster has to run because his classes are starting, and Babs warns that some animals have escaped and are causing trouble in the school. It looks like we’ll have to be careful as we make our way to class.
We control Buster as he makes his way through the school, and just as Babs warned, there are a variety of different animals running around loose in the school. Though really, what makes one animal a main character and the other just a wild animal? Anyway, the most common of these animals are rats with remind me of Roderick Rat, a reoccurring character from the rival school of Perfecto Prep. Of course, Buster isn’t helpless in his journey, but his controls are definitely going to take some getting used to. For starters, his attack is, as best I can describe it, a drop kick with a back flip. It’s very effective, but it’s such an awkward attack style that it’s a bit hard to get comfortable with.
Buster’s other ability is his dash, which in full cartoon fashion allows him to run straight up walls. This is another very effective ability, but again one that is so foreign of a concept that I often found myself underutilizing its potential.
Death Count: 1
Halfway through the level, there is a brief mini boss fight against Arnold the Pit Bull, acting as a security guard in what looks like the art department. You’ll need to defeat him to retrieve the keys to the door on the far end if you want to escape. He’s not just going to stand around and take a beating though. Being the meathead that he is, he’ll charge straight at you as soon as he sees you. But after a few drop kicks, he’ll be down for the count and give up his keys.
This brings us to the school’s cafeteria where Hamton warns us of the trouble Dizzy Devil is causing. Always hungry and naturally quite stupid, Dizzy is destroying the entire kitchen in an attempt to get full his belly. Left unchecked, there won’t be any food left for anyone else to eat. It’s up to Buster to stop him.
Death Count: 3
Inside the kitchen is one of the most unique boss battles I think I’ve ever seen. Dizzy isn’t evil, he’s just hungry, and so we don’t want to hurt him. Instead, we just want to help fill him up before he destroys everything. To do this, we need to stand on a platform below him and bump the food from below so it flies up into his hungry mouth. This is easier said than done, as Dizzy has a tendency to get over excided and destructively spin around the whole kitchen, destroying the food, the platforms, and even Buster if he just stuck in Dizzy’s path. Hide inside the doorways until it’s safe, then feed him as quickly as you can.
Once he’s had his fill, Dizzy will promptly fall asleep right there in the middle of the kitchen. But that’s ok, you beat the first stage and get to move on to the bonus rounds. Set up like a game show, you spin the wheel to see which of the 5 minigames you’ll get to play. These games give you the opportunity to win quite a few extra lives each, which you’ll need in the coming stages.
For my first bonus round, I landed on the Mystery Weight Challenge. In this, you have 5 characters ranked in weight from 1 to 5. You pick the order in which they will compete, and quite simply, if your character is heavier than your opponent’s character, you win a life. I actually managed to win 3 out of the 5 levels, though honestly it was nothing but luck.
The next stage opens with Buster telling us how important the dash is going to be. It also sets the stage as a western movie, with Montana Max insisting he be the main character. Buster and Plucky are suspicious that Max is up to something, but they let the spoiled brat have his way for now.
The western town is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, you have some thugs throwing tomatoes out the second floor windows at you. On the other, there’s a happy pair of mice that want nothing more than for you to do jump rope with them. In fact you can’t proceed until you successfully jump rope with them, which is kind of odd.
Making it though the town, you eventually find yourself at the Inn. With nowhere else to go, you’ll have to climb up to the highest floors of the building, all the while avoiding rolling barrels and falling chandeliers. When you make it to the attic, you’ll finally see what Montana Max was scheming as he steals all the valuables out of the attic safe.
Death Count: 8
After jumping out the window to catch Montana Max, we find ourselves on a train for what is possibly the most frustrating section of the whole game. In retrospect, it wasn’t hard, it was just very demanding, and required complete mastery of Buster’s dash ability. The screen is auto scrolling as you slowly progress up the train, dodging random nets the whole way just waiting to snatch up Buster. Unfortunately for you, the train enters a tunnel, and Buster is left no other option but to dash over the mountain, jumping over gaps, and busting straight through enemies in the process.
Death Count: 13
There aren’t very many obstacles along the way, but you need to be completely perfect or you’ll never make it. The tiniest hesitation will cause Buster to lag behind and fall off screen, dying and forcing you to start over again. Things like jumping slightly too late will cause Buster to take too much time climbing a wall, and fall off the screen as it scrolls.
Leading up to this point, you’ve never really had a chance to figure out the subtleties of Buster’s dash, and they really come back to bite you in this level. It’s the little things like the fact his dash has no true momentum to it. What I mean by this is that when Buster comes to a ledge, he doesn’t go flying off like you would expect to happen when someone is running as fast as they can towards a ledge. Instead he’ll make a 90 degree turn straight down the side of the cliff, again causing you to fall off the edge of the screen as it scrolls and having to start over.
Death Count: 18
If you manage to make it over the mountain and catch up with the train again, you’ll now be in even greater danger as the tracks fall away out from under the train. Once again, the auto scroll is what makes this so dangerous. In any other situation, you’d be able to stay ahead of the train cars falling. In this game however, you need to ride the falling train car down as it falls until the screen scrolls enough to reveal the next car. Then you’ll have to dash and jump to the next car before you fall into oblivion.
I don’t know what happened to the front of this train, because after one last long jump, we find ourselves on what is clearly a different train. This new train has a ridiculously high roof which would never have fit through that first tiny tunnel. It’s also full of passengers, all of whom seem to have it out for Buster for some reason. I want to believe that they’re thugs, but on closer inspection, they might be some kind of special needs people. The one guy is wearing a Yale sweater and swinging a turkey leg at me. I think I might have just beat up a handicapped person. At least the magician at the end of the train is more clearly attacking me with his extending cane. He also looks like he might be the devil, so double win for killing him.
Death Count: 24
Once again, the engine of this train is nowhere to be found, how has it kept its momentum this long without an engine? At first, it would seem like this is the end of our journey, since there’s nowhere else to go, but just then a collection of wooden beams start flying through the air. If we jump from beam to beam, we might just be able to catch up to the rest of the train. But once again, the lack of experience with Buster’s dash made this harder than it needed to me. Namely the fact that I didn’t realize you could start a dash in midair. Without knowing this fact, the final jump to the back of the train can feel impossible.
It looks like it was Arnold the Pit Bull throwing those wooden beams at us. I don’t know if I should thank him, or be mad at him, so I’m going to drop kick him in the head. Even with his help, we still haven’t reached the engine of the train yet. It’s going to take one super jump to the moon if we want to catch it.
Death Count: 27
Then again, maybe we don’t want to make it to the engine. It seems no one is driving the train, it’s just full speed ahead and hope we don’t all die. We can’t have that, so it’s up to Buster to bring it to a stop. In what is another unconventional boss fight, Buster has to actually fight the train until it stops. As with this whole level so far, the auto scroll still never stops, and makes this battle so much harder than it needs to be. You’ll have to attack the smokestacks as fast as you can while avoiding the shooting flames and steam. If you slow down, you’ll end up falling off screen and have to start the fight over.
Destroying the smoke stacks apparently wasn’t enough to stop the train. This makes sense since the smoke stacks really have nothing to do with propelling the train forward. I don’t know why Buster thought that was the solution to this problem. So the train is still recklessly out of control, and it looks like we’re not the only ones going for a ride here. Montana Max is clinging for dear life to the front of the train begging for help. Thank God for that conveniently placed railcar being pushed along in front of the train. We’ll have to use that to escape. Lucky for us we manage to pump the railcar all the way up to 88 mph and travel back in time. Hooray for back to the future references! Wait, was there plutonium on that cart?
We’ve finally completed another stage, and that means another bonus round. This time I end up landing on Hungry Boy Hamton. In this minigame you have to slide the tiles around to create a path for Hamton to walk on and collect the apples. This mini game is so unbelievably easy. I managed to collect all 6 apples, and with it gained 6 extra lives for the next stage.
I’m going to need every one of those lives as we head into the spooky mansion. It’s raining, and there’s nowhere else to go except for a lone mansion out in the woods. It’s so overdone that even Buster knows it’s cliché. But cliché doesn’t mean bad, let’s see what horrors are in store for us in this spooky mansion.
Death Count: 30
It doesn’t start out promising for me as I’m killed almost instantly by the plethora of ghosts roaming around the mansion. After a few attempts, their patterns start to become more obvious, even when they appear to be coming from everywhere at once. Surviving the ghosts brings us face to face with what appears to be a Two Headed Vampire Frankenstein Monster. And here I thought I’d go my whole life without seeing one of those. What’s more, these monsters are accompanied by what look like evil cake. How on earth could cake be made evil?
Death Count: 32
This brings us to the most frightening room in all of creation. The dreaded teeter totter and giant mallet room! Oh the humanity, think of the children. Won’t someone please think of the children!! In all seriousness, I’m not sure how this room really fits with the rest of the mansion. There’s only a single enemy in the whole room, which is a bat that turns into a vampire. He is easily dispatched, and the rest of the room is just navigating the teeter totters and avoiding the mallets.
Hiding in fear in the deepest corner of the room is Babs. Apparently she and a friend were playing in the basement when a mad scientist came and captured her friend. He hooked the friend up to some weird machine, and Buster will have to destroy it to save the friend without hurting them. It looks like we’ve made it to our next boss battle.
We enter the scientist’s lab and OH MY GOD IS THAT BABS’ FRIEND?! Babs, after this is all over I think we need to have a serious talk about what the hell you were doing alone in the basement with whatever that thing is. But for now, it looks like we’re going to have to do the hero act and KILL IT WITH FIRE! Sorry, I mean rescue Babs’ friend. We don’t want to hurt…it…so we’re going to have to find a way to destroy the mind control machine instead.
Death Count: 36
Thankfully, Melvin is providing us with just the ammo we need to do that. Oh yeah, the monster’s name is Melvin, Melvin the Monster. Anyway, while trying to destroy us, Melvin will throw giant light bulbs and giant bolts at Buster. The light bulbs are useless, but those giant bolts are heavy enough to do some serious damage to that machine. Just kick them are hard as you can into the machine, and watch as it cracks and breaks. Eventually the machine will become so unstable that it just explodes entirely. Melvin is free of the mind control, Buster is the hero yet again and we all should probably get back to school.
After another bonus round of Hungry Boy Hamton, it’s time to resume our school life. Of course, the school life of a cartoon character can’t be all trains and mansions. Sometimes you have to show a little school spirit! Out at Acme Looniversity Stadium, things aren’t going great for our heroes. With the game almost over, and the rival school Perfecto Prep leading 14 – 10, only a touchdown will win the game. Can we do it? I don’t even know how to football!!!
Death Count: 38
So it looks like we’re playing football now, but thankfully, it’s an incredibly over simplified version of the game. There are no plays to plan out or anything like that. Your only choices are to either run the ball or pass it. If you choose to pass the ball, Plucky will send a long pass down the field for Buster to catch. There’s a convenient X marking the spot it will land, but Buster refuses to ever stop moving. This means you’ll have to try to run back and forth in the landing zone in hopes of catching the ball when it comes. I found this to be nearly impossible, and opted to run the ball more often than not.
Death Count: 40
Running the ball is much easier. Since the game is still played in a side view perspective, running the ball boiled down to jumping over or occasionally sliding under the defensive linesmen as you make your way down the field. It’s slow but steady progress, and it’s worth it in the end when you finally make that touchdown to win the big game for the school.
After such an amazing victory against our rival school, we need to kick back with another fun bonus round. This time we land on Plucky Duck’s Go-Go Bingo. Just like real bingo, you have very little control or strategy for this game. 7 balls are called, filling in character faces on the board and you get an extra life for every bingo you make. By the end, I only managed a single bingo to get a single extra life.
Now that Buster is the big sports star of the school, everyone is going to start asking him for favors. Case in point, here we have Calamity Coyote asking for help. Apparently he hid something up in the sky, but can’t remember where, and wants Buster to help find it. He hid something…in the sky…are there a lot of good hiding places just kind of floating around in the air that I just don’t know about? How did he even get up to the sky to hide anything? He can’t fly.
Death Count: 41
It likes like I might have my answer, giant balloons. I would think Hamton’s idea to use a plane would be the better option, but he doesn’t seem inclined to help us. Instead he just makes bubbles for Buster to jump on. Bubbles don’t make the best platforms, and they will quickly break if you’re not fast enough.
Eventually Buster lands on top of a blimp, which is actually a very bad place to be. The blimp is constantly rocking back and forth, and Buster has no control over it. All he can do is defend himself from the vultures as he hopes for the best. Of course, nothing can ever go right for Buster as the blimp suddenly pops.
Death Count: 43
Buster is saved at the last second, and now finds himself trapped in some kind of giant floating pinball machine. Seriously, what is going on anymore? I must have lived a very sheltered life to not know about giant pinball machines in the sky. Anyway, about half way up the machine, there are a variety of colored balls which Buster must collect. It’s not until Buster collects all of them will the other set of flippers appear at the top of the machine, offering Buster the final push he needs to escape.
So we’ve done it, we braved the sky world and found calamity’s lost treasure. What was so important that Calamity felt the best hiding place would be way up in the sky? Well of course it was the script for the rest of the game. No wonder nothing has made sense, everyone was adlibbing until they could find a copy of the script.
Death Count: 44
Someone isn’t too happy about this discovery however, as the structure quickly starts collapsing around you. Buster has to run as fast as he can to escape, but why is he running higher? Do you have some master plan to float back down to the ground once you make it to the top of the building? I guess we’ll never know, because this stage ends once Buster runs off screen at the top of the building.
After yet another round of Hungry Boy Hamton, it’s time for the final stage. This time it’s a Space Opera where Buster must battle an evil empire army all by himself, all to save Princess Babs. Well, once she’s actually ready for the scene and lets herself be captured that is. She looks suspiciously like Princess Leia from Star Wars right now. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.
Death Count: 48
Contrary to popular gaming convention, this game starts with you traveling to the left. It’s actually surprising how disorienting that little change can be at first. Along the way, you’ll be fighting a whole army of Stormtwoopers, removing any doubt that this is absolutely a Star Wars parody. Also that’s not a typo, in the Tiny Toons universe they’re called Stormtwoopers. But you’ll soon forget all about it when you reach the far right and see one of the most annoying things in all of gaming, a jump to a ladder over a bottomless pit. In all my years, I have never seen such evil.
This ladder brings you up to one of the space ships, but unfortunately for you it’s locked. If you want access to this amazing space ship, you’ll have to find the key. There aren’t a lot of hiding places for it in this area, so just keep climbing until you finally reach it in the top left corner of the room. Returning this key to the ship will not only allow you inside, but it will also activate some kind of light bridge to leave the area.
Death Count: 53
It looks like we somehow managed to make it to the outside of the ship, and thankfully Buster seems to be able to survive the cold vacuum of space without a space suit. Who knew bunnies were so well suited to space travel. Buster’s amazing abilities don’t save him from the war going on around him. Every so often a large explosion will engulf the whole ship, destroying everything on screen. The only way to protect yourself is to be hiding behind one of these randomly placed barriers. It won’t be easy, but Buster must survive this war! If he fails, who will ever save Princess Babs?
Back inside the ship, those explosions must have messed with the gravity as well as dislodging this giant ball. I’m not sure what the ship would need this random giant ball for, but it serves your needs rather well right now by being a convenient wrecking ball. Just keep messing with the gravity until it finally smashes right through the floor. Then have fun as you play some more pinball with a robot. You could kill him quickly, but why would you want to, every time it hits the bumper it makes it explode with stars to collect.
Death Count: 58
Is this level still going? Anyway, it’s time for the game to give your reflexes their ultimate test. You’ll have to use Buster’s dash ability to climb up a rather tall shaft. Of course, Buster’s dash doesn’t last long enough to get you the whole way to the top. You’ll have to run over the dodo buttons set on the wall to refill you power along the way. The dodo buttons aren’t the only buttons on the wall however. If you aren’t careful and run across one of the “Out” buttons, a metal barrel will fall from the sky, trapping Buster inside for storm troopers to beat on.
Death Count: 65
The level just keeps on going once you make it to the top of the shaft. With plenty of enemies around, Buster will have to stay on his toes to survive. But the real challenge comes from the red hot glowing balls bouncing around. Jump over then, duck under them, whatever you have to do to get past them, just don’t let them hit you.
Death Count: 70
Having persevered through all of that, we finally come face to face with Duck Vader and his giant paralyzer gun. Buster, the Knight of Honor, will have to defeat him in order to finally rescue Princess Babs. I guess expecting an “I am your father” reference was hoping for too much out of this conversation.
Death Count: 73
This is going to be yet another rather unconventional boss battle. The paralyzer gun will pivot around the center of the screen as Duck Vader tries to shoot our hero. You’ll need to kick Duck Vader in the head to detach him from the gun, and then knock the gun around until it shoots him. The problem with this strategy is that you’re just as likely to shoot yourself as you are to shoot him. It’s a challenging battle, but you must rescue Princess Babs.
With Duck Vader defeated, Princess Babs is finally safe again, and Buster is about to get a kiss as a reward. Just them, Plucky jumps back on stage and ruins the whole mood. So forget it, no more Star Wars parody. Strike the set, get it all out of here, we’re done.
In fact, roll credits. We’re done with the whole game. Are you happy now Plucky? Everyone was having a good time, but now we’re just going to end the game super abruptly. Congratulations!
Gameplay – 7 / 10
This game is hard for me to review unbiasedly. The game feels very difficult, to the point of being unfair, but in retrospect was actually very easy, just demanding. And that’s the word I’m trying to hold on to, demanding. Nothing about the gameplay was particularly hard. In fact everything was so perfectly patterned that it becomes second nature after a few attempts. But it is very demanding of perfection, with the tiniest of missteps spelling disaster. Looking at basic controls, boss battles, and general game structure, everything was very well implemented, as well as being unique and interesting. Unfortunately, being unique and interesting ultimately made them feel unnatural. However, that’s a failing in the player, not the game itself.
Graphics – 8 / 10
The graphics in the game I thought were very good. Everything was very detailed and true to the original character designs. The animation however is somewhat lacking, with many characters that would probably benefit from a few extra frames of animation. This is particularly noticeable during the football game where the Perfecto Prep team has completely rigid upper bodies. Their arms are just generically outstretched like mannequins the whole time. This oversight leads a lot of characters to appear stiff and almost animatronic.
Audio – 7 / 10
The music is really good, and fits both the feel of the source material as well as setting a good atmosphere for the game. Nothing about the music really stands out as great, but nothing was bad either, which is more important in my opinion. No, my complaint with the audio is more in regard to the sound effects, or rather lack thereof. There weren’t any sound bites from the show, or reactions to damage, or really any of those audio details games of this nature usually have. I know it’s an SNES game, and the options were limited at the time, but this feels like they didn’t even try.
Story – 7 / 10
Again I’m torn. On one hand, each stage was well introduced with its own mini story arc. But on the other hand, there was no over arching story for the game as a whole. Each stage was almost completely self contained, and left the game as a whole feeling rather disjointed.
Total Playtime – 3h 7m
It’s a rather short game, and if I were a better player it would be even shorter. I would guess that a perfect run of the game could be done in roughly an hour.
Total Deaths – 73 Deaths
I’ve said it before, but the game is not hard, it demanding. Once you get the patterns down, you wonder how they ever tricked you in the first place. With that being said, I died quite a few times before I saw those patterns.
Overall Score – 7.5 / 10
It’s been a while since I thought a game should get a half score, but this game deserves it. Every aspect of the game shows that the creators cared about and understood their source material. But at the same time everything was just a hair off being great. The occasional 4th wall quip and the movie parodies perfectly match the show. Even Buster’s controls, specifically his dash, prove that they understood he’s a cartoon and needs to have cartoon physics. But at the same time everything felt slightly stiff, as if we were watching the dress rehearsal rather than the final performance. Going back to Buster’s dash, the cartoon physics of it, while true to the character, feel unnatural for the player. This ultimately makes the experience frustrating rather than charming. Then the level designs, while simple in retrospect, are just a hair too demanding to not feel broken. However, the overall experience was a fun one, frustration and all. Being a hair off great is still a generally good game, and one I would easily recommend to fans of the series.
NO! No more tests! We’re done! Plucky ruined it for everyone!
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