Inspector Gadget
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • AIM
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • US December 1993
Score: 65%

This review was published on 08/20/2015.

Inspector Gadget is a side-scrolling platform video game published by Hudson Soft and developed by AIM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was exclusively released in North America in December 1993 and is the first and last Inspector Gadget game for the SNES, presumably because it didn't do well enough for a sequel. No, the developers of this game have nothing to do with AOL Instant Messenger. This game is based on the cartoon of the same name, which was created by DIC Entertainment and originally ran from 1983 to 1986 and remained in syndication throughout the 1990s. The cartoon starred an incompetent cyborg detective named Gadget, who is a human being whose body has been enhanced with various bionic gadgets. Perhaps he'd get along well with the Bionic Commando. Historically, licensed games have usually not been very good, and Inspector Gadget's SNES game is a good example of that phenomenon in action. The game is conceptually interesting, but is held back by being well below average in quality.

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The general premise is that Inspector Gadget is a police inspector tasked with foiling the plans of Dr. Claw, a mysterious villain who never shows his face and is the leader of an evil organization known as M.A.D. Despite being armed with countless gadgets and superhuman abilities, Gadget is a bumbling idiot incapable of performing even the simplest of tasks. Because of that, the two characters that actually solve all the cases are Gadget's niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain. Both Penny and Brain are far more intelligent than Gadget and they secretly help him out on all of his missions, completely unbeknownst to him and the rest of the world. Unfortunately for Gadget, the plot of this SNES title is that Penny has been kidnapped by Dr. Claw, and it's now up to him to finally do something competent and rescue her. Each stage is preceded by a short story sequence at Gadget's house, where he receives a secret self-destructing message from his boss, Chief Quimby. Mirroring the running gag from the TV show, Gadget always absentmindedly tosses the explosive paper back at his boss, causing the message to literally blow up in Quimby's face. It's a nice nod to the show, but the dry text and drab animations don't do a good job of capturing the humor.

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You control the titular Inspector Gadget as he courageously travels the world in search of his niece. He walks, jumps, and ducks like any normal human being could, but his bionic parts allow him to do far more extraordinary things. Mister Gadget can extend his hands and feet to punch and kick enemies, and he can propel a punching glove out of his hat to hit aerial foes. The man can even extend his head to head butt baddies in midair! Also, when ducking for a while, Gadget will pull out a magnifying glass that reveals hidden blocks. As for how he stays alive, that's where his jacket comes into play. This game takes a page straight out of Ghosts 'n Goblins with its life system. Upon being hit, Gadget will lose his jacket, forcing him to run around in his boxers. If he's hit while in underwear state, he'll die. You may find additional jackets lying around to clothe Gadget if he's bare, but he's only able to wear one at a time. All of this is fine, except for how stiff Gadget feels when performing various actions. Attacking in midair is particularly unresponsive. The controls could stand to be better.

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Gadget's main draw is his many gadgets, and no, I'm not talking about his extending limbs. During his quest, Gadget can pick up additional gadgets to add to his arsenal. Most of these gadgets will pop out of Gadget's hat when used. These include plunger arrows that stick to walls and can be used as makeshift platforms, a hand that allows him to hang from hooks, a propeller that enables him to glide across short distances, bombs to blast enemies, miniature Inspector Gadgets, lanterns, and more. You can conveniently switch between gadgets with the shoulder buttons. Collecting multiple copies of the same gadget will upgrade its effectiveness. With the exception of the plungers and grabby hand, all of the gadgets only have a limited amount of uses, which is determined through hats. The hats are kind of like a universal ammo system for the gadgets, as they're all powered by your hat supply. Some gadgets use up more hats than others, like how the propellers use two instead of one. You need to constantly collect hats to continue using Gadget's gadgets. Being able to use all of Gadget's cool toys is one of the few fun things the game has going for it, but this system is honestly a little convoluted. It also takes forever to switch between gadgets when you have too many.

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On his journey to rescue Penny, Gadget will visit many different parts of the world, such as England, Switzerland, South America, and Egypt. All of these locations also appeared on the television show. Typically, each stage will start in an outdoors area and slowly progress into an indoors one. For example, in the first stage, Gadget starts off in a rainy forest, but eventually makes his way into Dracula's Castle, which is oddly located in England. The graphics are pretty decent and the environments are nicely varied. I also like how comic book styled word bubbles with "ouch" appear whenever you hit enemies, though this also strangely occurs with inanimate objects. Sadly, the stage design is lacking. Many of the stages are all over the place, with tons of passages leading to mostly pointless collectibles hidden inside breakable blocks. As a result of the unintuitive design, stages can be confusing to navigate. That tends to be the hallmark of a bad platform game. To add insult to injury, the second stage already comes at you with slippery ice physics; this is far too early for an ice level. The lazy screen scrolling also makes navigation frustrating, since it can frequently lead to you running into unseen enemies. Platformers need good stage design to be good and this game lacks that.

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The boss fights in this game are all super duper lame. Similar to Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Claw is the boss of every stage. Well, it's technically just a hand attached to a chair that he controls remotely. What is Dr. Claw a doctor of, anyway? In any case, most of the fights revolve around Dr. Claw's chair flying around and attacking with dangerous weapons. A couple of the battles will use the SNES' nifty Mode-7 effect in an attempt to wow you with fancy rotations, but they're pretty uneventful otherwise. The first boss battle is a perfect example; it literally has you fighting a candelabrum that occasionally shoots fireballs like a piranha plant in Mario 3, and the only cool thing is that the room rotates using Mode-7. Annoyingly, all the boss fights take place over precarious footing, so you can get instantly killed by being knocked into a bottomless pit. On a side note, Dr. Claw actually reveals his face during the final fight, which is a big deal considering that never happened in the cartoon. I'm not sure if this is considered canon. If only the boss fights were actually good.

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Fans of the show that bought this game back in the day were in for a rude awakening. Inspector Gadget's sole SNES outing is choke-full of disappointment. The controls are stiff as a board, the stages are dull, the bosses are dumb, the music is mediocre, and the game is too short. On the bright side, the graphics are solid and the gadgets, while overly complex, are fun to tinker around with. Those positives don't salvage the game, as it's still an overall fairly mundane experience. There was a lot of potential to make something good here, what with the seemingly unlimited amount of gadgets at Gadget's disposal on the TV show, but that potential was squandered in this game. This game has neither quantity nor quality.

Word Count: 1,372

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