Sunday 18 October 2020

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1990

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is an action game that was also released on the Sega Genesis in 1990.

Your mission is to destroy Mr. Big and rescue a certain number of children in each level. Some are in plain sight but others are hidden inside doors and windows that you can open by pressing Up. Enemies will try to interject as you search each floor, and while your primary attack is a kick you can also use a life depleting special move to destroy several bad guys at once. The first two levels are located in a Club and on the Street, and in the latter you need to search car trunks while avoiding bombs; it's fun searching all floors for children, but the controls are unresponsive and it often takes several attempts before Michael responds to your inputs and faces the correct enemy or jumps to avoid incoming projectiles. The hit detection is also off and although you'll clearly be making contact with an enemy, there are too many instances where nothing happens. Later levels do little to impress or advance the formula set out early on, with The Cavern being a particular low-point; it consists of small, cramped caves and hidden walls that house numerous enemy types, but it never has any flow due to you constantly having to break up the action by searching inside of them. To be fair though, it is impressive how much is included from the Sega Genesis version and most of the gameplay is fully in-tact. The only real difference is that the final boss is completely unique here; while it's nothing special (and is brutally difficult) it still provides a reason for fans of the game to play this version. Unfortunately, the rest of the bosses are painfully dull and only consist of waves of enemies that you've recently faced.

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker shows some early promise, but it quickly runs out of steam and ideas, leaving you with a rather shallow, repetitive experience. It is remarkably similar to the 16-bit version, but the inexcusable controls issues and lack of gameplay variety are too notable to ignore in the long run.

Random trivia: An alternate build of the game ROM is available that incorrectly keeps the player in demo mode.

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