Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
In 1991, Ocean (aka Konami) developed an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System video game, Darkman, based on the comic-book film released in 1990 starring Liam Neeson in what has become something of a cult role.
This is a two-dimensional platformer, with the standard controls of A to jump and B to attack (in this case, with a short-range alternating punch and kick). There is no crouch for the down button on the directional pad nor any secondary effect for the up button. Having no projectile weapon either, the player (including a second if desired, in turn-taking fashion) controls the protagonist Darkman character through many levels of differing scrolling orientations and types altogether in an attempt to satisfy a loose storyline (the opening menu actually has a separate option to read the story) involving a scientist’s experiment gone wrong and his resulting attempt at seeking vengeance on some goons.
Darkman the NES game has both good and bad elements to it. In summary, some good aspects: Innovative stages involving photography and differing gameplay goals, differing characterizations based on Darkman’s ability to take on the appearance (and thus, apparently, the other physical traits) of certain foes later met as bosses, and an overall smooth, pleasing appearance. The bad components: Not-quite-polished physics resulting in overly slippery momentum and odd hit detection (battle is somewhat arbitrary in contact), rather difficult precision-jumping sequences throughout, and just an overall license-grade performance.
In its defense, Darkman does not look too bad. The visuals are colorful, varied, and detailed, with sprawling backgrounds highlighted by the interactive foreground. The cliche Chinatown is a delight, and the sprite animations are slick, along with action bits like the steerable metal mine-cart rails thingies.
The music is slightly annoying, though it does get better, and the effects are standard fare for platform play, with the “bloops” and “swishes” of jumping, sliding, and the occasional “biff” for punches and kicks.
This video game certainly does contain some creative, innovative ingredients, such as the trio of levels the player must endure as each of a series of different masked-on characters, or the PokemonSnap-like photo portions. These interesting additions, however, do not make up for the general lack of spectacular development consistently present. The enemies are either simplistic and easy or nightmarishly difficult, and the variance in levels seems to give the idea that the creators preferred quantity over quality in their gameplay elements. Even considering its timeframe, it looks a little worse in context; by 1991, the NES was entering the latter years of its life cycle, and many of the issues in Darkman should have been able to have been conquered in its making. Overall, it turns out as an average effort; at least that makes it better than many other licensed games, and good enough for two and a half stars out of five.