LJN, how I loathe thee. You guys may have only been responsible for one good game in your entire existence (Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage). Almost all the rest were pile of crap after pile of crap. So how did LJN, along with Acclaim and THQ before all its great wrestling games (though let’s pretend Nitro and Thunder never happened), stay in business for so long? Easy. They kept getting the game rights to big licenses that tricked people into buying respectable numbers of copies of their awful games. And LJN was the worst of the bunch, releasing some of the all-time worst (*cough* *cough* Back to the Future and Friday the 13th).
Some of you may think I’m ranting because I hate LJN. That’s not true. *Buzzer sounds*. Okay, mostly not true. *Buzzer sounds*. Partially true? *Buzzer sounds*. Fine. It’s completely true. But I will admit that while LJN was possibly the worst licensed video game developer ever, it had the business skills to get the licenses it needed to carry its substandard programming to good sales. So how does Wolverine, based on the most popular X-Man, fare? Let’s see…
Plot: 3 out of 10
“Makes,” “no,” and “sense” are good words to describe this game’s storyline. The manual explains that Logan has washed onto an island. Conveniently for LJN, Logan has no memory of how this happened. There’s no one around, only a fortress. Except that he can find a few other X-Men in this fortress and get new abilities from them. Even more conveniently, it turns out to be Logan’s arch-nemesis Sabretooth who runs this place and the traps and hired grunts within. Like many video game villains, he seems to have a NSA-worthy surveillance network that enables him to often taunt Logan. And the ability to ignore any concept of location continuity. Surprisingly enough, Sabretooth is giving orders to Magneto. But then, the idea of Sabretooth as some kind of mastermind is a stretch anyhow. Except in this game, he’s always been a mad berserker, not this chess master.
Graphics: 7 out of 10
Truth be known, the graphics are quite acceptable. Yeah, anyone who tells you that “graphics vs. gameplay” is a new thing is just focusing on the good things that they remember from “the good old days.” The sprite of Wolverine is reasonably well-detailed, as are the backgrounds. And the portraits of Wolverine in the title screen (shown at the top of this review) and ending, and of Sabretooth in the short cutscenes, are actually pretty good. The enemy sprites, save those of Sabretooth and Magneto, are a step down, though.
Sound: 4 out of 10
There are two songs for the levels. One has a good and unique beat. The problem is that you alternate between just two songs for eight levels. They even repeat the title music for the ending. So even though the music is good, there’s not nearly enough of it.
Gameplay: 4 out of 10
Logan handles mostly well, but the gameplay is ruined by two flaws. He moves quckly but not too quckly, jumps well, and attacks quickly, with punches alternating with kicks if you attack repeatedly. He can also sheathe his claws to double the damage inflicted with each blow.
But here are the two flaws. The one you’ll realize almost immediately is that every punch with the claws out drains a little life. That makes absolutely no sense. Why make the whole point of Wolverine a disadvantage a lot of the time? Second, if they want to make sure we don’t use the claws, why not make it something less destructive like requiring Logan’s life to at least be half full? As it stands, you won’t be making much use of them. I realize that Logan says that using his claws hurts for a moment before his rapid healing closes the wounds (they come out through his own skin), but did LJN really think such a small detail was important? Especially since the wounds are supposed to be quickly healed. BFD.
The other flaw occurs when Logan enters a berserker rage. He sometimes goes into an uncontrollable rage. In this game, you have a Berserker meter that increases with every enemy you kill and decreases with every hit you take (apparently it makes him angrier than winning a fight). When it fills, he is invincible for a short time. But unlike brief invincibility periods in other games, this makes Wolverine constantly punch, kick, and stop until the rage ends. You can’t move or jump except for the stops. Imagine trying to jump over a pit while in the rage. Yeah, it’s just like that.
Challenge: 3 out of 10
Kind of like the gameplay in that the challenge is handled well except for one crippling flaw. Enemies and environmental dangers are placed well, but aren’t terribly difficult. The problem is that you don’t get knocked back when hit. Instead your energy constantly depletes when you are touching an enemy. Depending on how quickly you get away, you can lose half your health on a single collision. That makes this a much harder game than it seems to have been intended to be.
Overall: 4 out of 10
And that makes it one of LJN’s best. But by my standards, Wolverine is far from a good game. The worst part is that this could actually have been great if not for a few problems. Fortunately better companies would start making X-Men games soon enough, and this would never again be even close to the best that fans of the comic franchise could hope for.