Bonkers
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Capcom
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    • US 10/01/1994
    • JP 01/03/1995
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/22/2017.

Bonkers is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Capcom for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in North America on October 1, 1994, and Japan on January 3, 1995. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Disney licensed Capcom, the company behind Mega Man, to make various games on the Nintendo Entertainment System based on their animated properties. Those properties included DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, and The Little Mermaid. The Disney and Capcom partnership continued onto the SNES with games like The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie, Goof Troop, Aladdin, and Bonkers. Bonkers on the SNES is one of the lesser known games born out of the Disney and Capcom union of the early 1990s, but it's a pretty decent game all the same. There were a couple of other Bonkers games released on different platforms, like the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System, but they were created by different developers and are wholly different games. This review will be strictly about the SNES version.

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As its name implies, this game is based on the Bonkers animated television show by Disney that originally aired from September 4, 1993, to February 23, 1994. There was a preview of the show on The Disney Channel in early 1993. The syndicated run was available by itself and as part of The Disney Afternoon block, where many of Disney's other animated shows aired. At any rate, Bonkers follows the exploits of an anthropomorphic bobcat named Bonkers D. Bobcat. The premise of the show is similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Bonkers used to be a famous cartoon star, but became a cop after washing out of show business, and was assigned to be the junior partner of Detective Lucky Piquel, a human being who is prejudiced against cartoon characters. Together, the two work together to bust criminals in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Bonkers constantly tries to win his partner's approval, but often ruins missions instead. In this game, the plot is that three artifacts from various Disney animated films were stolen: the Sorcerer's Hat from Fantasia, the Mermaid's Voice from The Little Mermaid, and the Magic Lamp from Aladdin. Because Lucky was hospitalized due to a car accident, Bonkers is left to solve this case on his own.

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As with the other Capcom developed Disney games on the SNES, the graphics in this game are absolutely stellar. On top of the extremely vibrant color palette, the sprites and backgrounds are all rather detailed. Best of all, the animations are fantastic, making the game feel just like the cartoon. This splendid animation is seen in all of the game's enemies, but Bonkers is the most animated of the bunch. You'll often see harm be done to him in a slapstick manner, like when he trips over a serving cart and slams into a wall, flattening him into a pancake that then slowly falls to the ground. He also has a few wacky idle animations, though those were pretty standard for the time. The only thing that falls short about the presentation is the music. It's not outright bad, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about it. Some of the sound effects are fairly decent, though. To be specific, the noise Bonkers makes when he gets hit sounds just like his voice from the TV show. That's pretty advanced for an SNES game.

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As expected, you play as Bonkers in this game. Pressing left or right on the d-pad will move Bonkers in those directions, down makes him duck, and the B button causes him to jump. The controls are mostly fine, but jumping takes some getting used to, because Bonkers has a higher velocity in the air than on the ground. Similar to the Konami developed Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose that came out on the SNES a few years earlier, Bonkers has a special dash move. There's a dash meter at the bottom of the screen that slowly fills up over time, and once it's full, Bonkers can dash around like a maniac by pressing the Y button while holding left or right on the d-pad. While dashing, Bonkers can knock away or outright destroy most enemies and objects he runs into, though this will also stop him in his tracks, forcing him to wait for the dash meter to refill before he can dash again. There's a red potion that makes Bonkers go absolutely bonkers for a few seconds, allowing him to dash right through most foes and objects without stopping. Also, pressing down during a dash does a rolling attack. Dashing is awkward, but it speeds up the game's pacing.

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Like Mario, Bonkers primarily dispatches his enemies by jumping on them. However, he also has bombs at his disposal, which you make him toss by pressing the X button. It's a bit easier to demolish enemies and objects with bombs, but Bonkers has a limited supply of them. He can sometimes find more by popping tiny balloons with question marks on them that are scattered throughout the game. These balloons also often contain other helpful items and power-ups, like the aforementioned dash potions, donuts that replenish one heart, cakes that replenish all hearts, extra lives, and police badges. There are also heart containers that increase Bonkers' maximum health, but these are usually found outside the balloons. Police badges are often found outside balloons, too, and for every ten you collect, the maximum amount of bombs Bonkers can carry will go up by one point. This is extremely useful, though your current bomb supply doesn't get refilled whenever this happens. It's a strange mechanic for such a simple platformer, but the bomb system does add some depth to the game.

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Considering Capcom created this game, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a stage select screen opens up as soon as you complete the first stage. Just about every stage is broken up into two halves, and the goal of each one is simply to reach the end whilst avoiding enemies and hazards. Instead of having the typical grass, fire, and water themes of most conventional platformers, Bonkers takes place in a cushy mansion, a film studio, a cruise ship, the downtown of Hollywood, and other urban locations. A single stage will often encompass multiple themes and gimmicks, like how you start off evading attack dogs in the courtyard of the mansion, only to work your way into the dining room where live candlesticks attempt to take your life. As a result of that, each stage has more going for it than is apparent from the outset. Bonkers also gets a rating from the police chief upon completing a stage, with better times getting better remarks. It's a pointless, but cute feature.

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Every stage has a boss at the end of it, and some of the boss fights are surprisingly creative. The first boss is a ghost that possesses various objects in the room, like coat hangers and vacuums cleaners, and you must knock him out of those objects in order to expose his main body. Another boss battle takes place on a cowboy movie set, where you must go up against two criminals from the show at the same time. Both you and one of the bosses are on a conveyer belt that constantly directs you towards the bottomless pits on either side. Meanwhile, one of the bosses is standing on the stage lights near the top, throwing banana peels in an attempt to slip you up. To win, you first must repeatedly bounce on the nearby criminal's head to knock him into the pit. Then, you have to dash towards a switch to cause the stage lights to fall down, dropping the banana peel tossing goon to the conveyer belt, finally giving you the opportunity to show him what for. The other bosses aren't as good, but they're still solid.

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You also have infinite continues, and the continue screen is pretty interesting. When you lose all your lives, a character from the show will do some standup comedy with Bonkers in the audience, and he'll ask if you found his corny joke funny. If you say you laughed, you'll be allowed to continue, but saying otherwise will end your game. It's basically a standard continue screen, but done in a creative and amusing way. He tells a different joke every time, too, and some of them are actually pretty good. Well, good based on my joke standards, anyway. The Japanese version also has a password system, but sadly, such a thing is absent in the North American release. Given the unlimited continues and relatively standard difficulty, passwords aren't a necessity, but they still would have been nice to have.

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Mechanically, this is kind of a weird game. The dash meter and bomb upgrade system both feel a little out of place for a game like this. These mechanics aren't bad, it's just that they don't appear to have a clear purpose in the game's overarching design. Despite that, the game is still fairly good. In addition to the pleasant visuals and detailed animations, many of the stages and bosses are creatively designed. There's a lot of charm here, too. So much, in fact, that even the continue screen is charming. It's a little disjointed, but Bonkers on the SNES makes up for that with its creativity and charm.

Word Count: 1,583

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