Friday, October 8, 2010

Note to Vic Tokai, Inc.: Dimwit Duck with Electric Tail ≠ Sonic the Hedgehog

At least the box art isn't
 as bad as Mega Man 1
Socket, known in Japan as Time Dominator 1st, is a shameless, shameless Sonic the Hedgehog clone circa 1993 for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It's yet another "creature-mascot with a radical 'tude!" platformer, and thanks to Sega's Blue Blur, these kinds of games were so plentiful in the early '90s that players used to fill their swimming pools with them and make like Uncle Scrooge with the breast stroke.

The comically-named "Time Dominator," who turns out to be some a-hole manbat with a monocle and a top hat (kind of like Scrooge McDuck, actually) is out to destroy time or whatever! Only electric boyduck Socket, who was apparently dressed by his uncoordinated five-year-old son, can stop TD from, uh, dominating time! Thankfully/unfortunately, there are no whips and chains in this game.

Not many people recall Socket - or even its parent company, Vic Tokai, for that matter - but those who do wish they could send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to incinerate this game with a conveniently misplaced taker full of highly explosive chemicals.

And I honestly have no idea why.

US Title Screen
Socket isn't going to win any awards for things like originality, control, level design, entertainment value or being anything other than a two-hour time sink that's only slightly better than facing your own awful life, but the hate and humiliation heaped on the doofy looking duck with the electric cord tail is entirely disproportionate to his moderate suckage. Socket's got little going for it aside from some awe-inspiring parallaxed backgrounds and sweet vintage Genesis tunes, but that all ends after the first two worlds. By the time the player speeds into world three, the only thing between him and boredom is the reset button. If you've ever played a Sonic the Hedgehog title, you'll find yourself grinding Socket to a halt at least 700 times by pressing down when he's running in an attempt to roll up in a ball, a la the Blue Streak himself. But just like the hedgehog, if Socket isn't going at least the speed of a time-traveling Delorean, he will crawl up the gentlest of inclines like the most despondent of mental patients. Add to that controls occasionally seeped in rubber cement and frustrating "labyrinth" areas and you've got yourself a 4 out of 10 game, only no amount of beer, liquor or bleach could convince anyone to take it home with them for more than three bucks.

Japan's Title Screen
However, there are some good aspects of this clunker, like a semi-interesting "electricity bar" mechanic similar to the fruit/food idea utilized by Adventure Island on NES and a few Gauntlet style action-RPG games like Dungeon Explorer on Sega CD. The only problem is that Socket is a robot or something (yes, someone dressed him like that on purpose), so he loses electric charge - energy - by performing any task, from jumping to kicking to standing completely still. With each world consisting of a "high speed area," an "athletic area" and the accursed "labyrinth" areas before a boss battle, there's a bit of variety to be had, and the kick attack can be performed without losing speed - an appreciated inclusion. With great music and pleasing graphics, the first 15 minutes of the game harken back to the carefree days where the Genesis ruled the video game heap and my only worry was that school, AKA The Horrible Homework Hut, was going to cut into my Street Fighter II Turbo time. Then Socket becomes a boring, ugly mess, but the beginning was good while it lasted.

Here, I took this blurry screen shot for you. Emulators are over-rated.
A game with a rating of 4 out of 10 isn't really worth berating unless you're me, and I can tell you that there's not enough to rip into here without the positive aspects of the experience taking your article from funny to nostalgic. So why then did Stuart Campbell reportedly give this game the lowest score possible in his Sega Zone magazine review, and why does Ashley Davis have her shorts in a similar twist, digging this one up more than 15 years after it was released and promptly rocketed into obscurity? I guess Davis has an excuse - she was writing for Destructoid's "Games that Time Forgot" series of articles, and at least she was fair. But Campbell... the lowest score possible? Really? Socket/Time Dominator 1st's goofy brand of derivative "fun" simply doesn't deserve that kind of punishment. It's like kicking the fat kid after he tries to sit with the cool kids at lunch and is laughed out of the cafeteria.

You know, I bet this game would have been better received if it had been called Socket: Time Dominatrix 1st instead.

Quack for me, slave! Before I run out of energy from standing still!

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