Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
The Taz of the title is the bizarre but lovable Warner cartoon character who's known as the Tazmanian Devil.
A straightforward platform game - stonk along, avoid the baddies and get to the end of the last level.
Directions from Australia to the South Pole: go south! However, were you by chance to turn left as you start out on a journey from the Land of Sunshine to the chilly wastes, you'd come across a strange little island that no-one ever talks about: Tazmania. Maybe it's the hint of madness in the name, but no-one has bothered to visit the island in years - in fact the world couldn't give a XXXX for the place.
As a result, there are quite a few bizarre species living peacefully on Tazmania that would long ago have been extinct. The Tazmanian devil is one such curious animal. Sort of dog-like, with an insatiable appetite and a leering appearance, he runs riot in the jungles and backwoods areas of the odd island. His trademark is his deadly spin which has caused mighty problems for some celeb cartoon characters of the past. Tazmania is a sort of 'wildlife' arcade game on the Master System: a chance to observe at length these animal's curious behaviour. Actually, they are quite curious about matters themselves, so our study follows their attempt to discover the lost Sea-birds, hiding in a remote and fabled part of the isle. The prize of discovery is probably the biggest eggs in the world, requiring a custom built frying pan. Poaching these is Taz's aim (well, he'll have to steal them first).
Taz's first outing takes in the wide plains of Tazmania. These gentle undulating areas are not too tricky to traverse, with only the odd gaping chasm waiting to claim Taz. The main hazard are the other creatures trolling about in the midday sun. These include tribal mice, who carry their spears in an aggressive manner, and a particular species of man-eating plant, which has evolved legs, with which to chase his prey.
Deeper into the interior, Taz explores the island jungles, teeming with deadly fauna. The jungles are home to a familiar fire-splitting plant named Ghoulsandgostus Ripoffus which require some spin correction. Tree serpents also writhe amongst the foliage, so Taz may have to seek protection in the lofty reaches of the tree branches.
The lava caverns of Tazmania are rarely disturbed, except by egg-hunting devils! However, a sojourn in this subterranean hot-house is required. As well as the deadly lava pits, which kill on contact, the caves ore home to mysterious fire-flies which can weaken our furry friend. By this time there ore plenty of spikes lining the floor and roof, and plenty of crevasses leading to doom.
The last vestige of an ancient civilisation, the ruins are a distinctly dangerous place to inspect. The crumbling remains form a maze of narrow passages and walls that need to be broken through. Even the exit is quite well hidden. The living dead wander the balconies and corridors, without even bothering to take their bandages off. The spooky ambience is heightened by the billowing spirits which float on air. Both these unholy specimens can be 'exorcised' with a quick "spin to the face!".
You've made it! Now you have only to cross the final leg, the fabled valley of the Sea-birds. Here the terrain comprises of water-filled valleys and towering rocky outcrops that Taz perches on precariously. Of course, only the hardiest of creatures lives in such a place, so be prepared for the mandobilled rock lizards, and the bizarre hopping rock monsters. The ground here is so uneven that you have to be careful not to slip to your doom, and sometimes leaps across vast spaces are the only way forward.
In the best traditions of platforming; Taz can help himself by picking up the odd object left lying around the landscape. Taz's way is a bit different, though. He eats them! Strange things happen when the following icons meet Taz's gastric juices:
The attack spin of the Tazmanian devil has intrigued naturalists for years, and it's bound to amuse and enchant you, as you play Tazmania! Basically, pressing and holding button one turns you into a spinning moss of terror, and a match for the enemy. However, this con only be kept up for a couple of seconds before the spin level is depleted and needs recharging.
Taz Mania is already available on Megadrive, and soon on Game Gear. The noteworthy fact is that each format's version of the game is completely different in style and structure.
It's that time again - put the boot into the Master System. However, on this occasion it's done with regret. The time I spent playing Taz Mania was really enjoyable, I think the game itself plays in a superior fashion to the Megadrive version. But the major flaw of that game has been carried over and Master System Taz Mania is also far too easy. I can't fault the graphics are sound: they're fab, with great variety for each level. The layouts for each level and clever, and some of the areas are quite taxing. But there is just far too much chicken lying around. If there was less extra energy and lives thrown about we might have a bit of a challenge. One annoying feature of the Megadrive, inserted here, is the resetting of bonuses for each new life, enabling the accumulation of masses of lives: This is not good game design. Having to criticise Taz Mania is so irritating, because with a little tweaking all these complaints would be groundless. As things stand, I would recommend this great, but very easy game to young children and novices.
Taz Mania on the Megadrive was a graphically stunning title with some great ideas which were spoiled by the game's lack of challenge. Whilst the Master System version follows very much in the presentational footsteps of its predecessor, with some of the best graphics seen on the machine for ages, efforts have been made to make things tougher. For a start, the spin power bar has been introduced, preventing crafty players from just spinning through most of each level and enjoying permanent invincibility. The levels also contain more deadly drops and smaller platforms to force more accurate jumping. There are also quite a few levels to add some longevity to the title. However, there are a couple of glitches. Firstly, there aren't enough enemies, which means the threat comes mostly from tricky platform arrangements and accidentally eaten bombs. Not surprisingly, this makes Taz Mania very easy. Secondly most levels have at least one extra life secreted around them. These lives are reset when Taz dies, meaning that if he keeps collecting them all, levels can be completed without losing a life, or even gaining one! Sadly, this means that the time taken to up the difficulty of Taz was wasted. A pity really as it spoils what would otherwise be a classic Master System title.