May 16, 2011, at 03:00 PM
Mini Review: Man Overboard!
(S.S. Lucifer) Man Overboard! is a late (1994) Game Gear release from Codemasters. It was also released on the Mega Drive and a bunch of other systems as Sink or Swim. The plot: save the passengers of a sinking ship by helping them get to the exit.
It’s a platform puzzle game with similarities to Krusty’s Fun House and Lemmings - you have to guide dumb always-walking passengers to the exit hatch. There are various traps, switches, conveyor belts, etc to overcome along the way.
The original game was for the PC, and had fairly chunky Amiga-esque graphics. For the GG, they scaled everything down quite a lot - so you end up with more visible on-screen than the original, but pretty tiny sprites. They’ve tried to hammer the graphics into the available pixels but the original huge-eyed super-deformed main character looks pretty mangled by the process, and the passengers are just moving blobs really.
The level overview picture is nice, it could have been much more of a cop-out - the plane flying past with the password is a nice touch. The level intros have a bit of a go at a graphical effect, and in-game there’s a nice raster palette swap to show the water, which even has nice little 1px bubbles floating up for added effect. There’s some nice (albeit 1-tile) procedural parallax going on a lot of the time too. Overall, not a bad effort, but it does feel a lot like the graphics were converted by a programmer...
There’s no music in-game, and rather sparse FX.
This is a long game. Seriously. There are precisely 100 stages, and they take a couple of minutes each. I played through it in ApprenticeMinusDS, which kindly tells you the elapsed emulator time on your savestates - that is, the time from power-on to that savestate in the virtual world of the emulator, not counting any replayed parts using rewind/savestates - and it came out as just under 3 hours. That’s longer than a Game Gear’s battery life...
I’m not sure how “replayable” it is. The number of levels means you’re unlikely to have memorised them all, but it’s not as varied as Krusty’s Fun House and thus not as much fun to play through when you know the answers.
It’s reasonably unusual, probably belying the game’s non-console European roots.
There’s a reasonable variety of problems to deal with, using the available puzzle parts in a few different ways rather than being too predicatable. There’s never a move to excessively twitchy gameplay. There are a fair few cheap deaths, though - both the passengers (some stages require you to run to a specific point right at the start, but you can’t see when you start) and you (a few times, after rescuing the passengers and searching for the player exit you can get into an inescapable area and have to jump in a trap).
The GG version is apparently a bit of a downconversion from the original - some of the gameplay mechanics are absent (magnetic hoists? lifeboat?) and I suspect some of the levels are watered down as a result - at least one has a direct path from passenger entrance to exit.
It smells a lot like a clone of Krusty’s Fun House, whose original version predates the original of this by a year or so. The conveyor belt mechanics are the main difference here, along with the rising water level - which is only used vary rarely, unfortunately.
As a late release and a downconversion, maybe I shouldn’t expect so much, but the late European releases often have more to offer than this. Still, it’s an unusual game for the system and we should enjoy it for that.
It’s not a late-release rare gem, but it’s entertaining and offers plenty of diversion for puzzly platform fans.