Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Racism: It’s What’s for Halloween (Whomp 'Em for NES)

Halloween stash time! Let’s see here: a Heath bar, Tootsie Rolls, some of that God awful Now & Later stuff, a rock, O.J., purple stuff…

…and a copy of Whomp ‘Em.

Whomp ‘Em, an NES game by Jaleco – the company that would later lash out at the homosexual community with Rivial Turf! – bears perhaps the most faceplam-worthy name since the Nintendo DS game, Homie Rollerz. Playing it nearly 20 years after its release, one realizes that Whomp ‘Em is a shining example of how it was not only okay to be racist in the ‘80s and early 90s, but it was considered super cool.

The title screen.

I don’t have the exact numbers right now, but I know from an old issue of Nintendo Power that many Native Americans became clinically depressed after the release of this game – as much as 95 percent. First we pirate their land, then we make Whomp’Em. When will our cruelty end?

DEADLY hopping mushroom attack!

Wait a minute. Beyond all expectations, this game is actually kind of fun!

The player takes control of what appears to be the “average” Native American boy as he spears his way through seven or eight levels of weirdness. After making it past the hopping mushrooms, flying boogers and giant, rolling eyeballs of the first level, the player is presented with a Mega Man-esque level selection screen, with six stages based on the elements, which in this game, is the least racist part. The elements include fire, water, ice and uh, magic. Also “sacred.”

Okay, so they’re not all based on elements. So sue me. I guess for maximum cliché/racism, Jaleco had to add words like “ritual” to the game somewhere.

His fight money!
Whenever the player completes a level, he or she receives a new weapon, just like in Mega Man. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re NOT playing as the Blue Bomber and you began to wonder when Capcom got so racist. The answer there is “Whenever they came up with Balrog.” But then you remember: This isn’t Mega Man, it’s, uh, Whomp ‘Em boy!

The controls are pretty good, the graphics are well done for the time, the controls are tight and the music is a treat. If the game had just been called “Mega Man Clone #478” and starred a drunken, walking pencil or some kind of cute animal mascot, I wouldn’t feel nearly as horrible for playing it.

Apparently, this is what magic forests look like.

Oh well. Nintendo proves once again that righteous rage can be appeased by sweet gameplay.

FunFact: Remember the TV show Video Power? For its first season, it was a cartoon. But then in 1991 it morphed into a gaming game show. The winner was allowed to run through a video game gauntlet, sticking games to his or her Velcro-covered chest. Everyone who ran through wound up with AT LEAST five copies of Whomp ‘Em. And sometimes they gave away copies of Whomp ‘Em as consolation prizes or to members of the audience. It’s like Jaleco drove a dump truck up to the Queens studio where Video Power was taped and poured every unsold copy of Whomp ‘Em right on host Johnny Arcade’s head, kind of like what Atari did with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in that New Mexico landfill.

Actually, being dumped on Video Power contestants is just as bad as being dumped in a New Mexico landfill, now that I think about it.

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