#722 – Whomp ‘Em

                                                               

                                                                                                                           Yeah, I know.

 

                          

                                                              The ghost of H.P. Lovecraft did some design work here.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Jaleco

DEVELOPER: Jaleco

GENRE: Platformer

RELEASE DATE: March 1991

 

Perhaps the only Mega Man-inspired title to feature a Native American protagonist, the abhorrently titled Whomp ‘Em doesn’t break racial boundaries inasmuch as it mindlessly uses them to gloss over the game’s original premise. In Japan, Whomp ‘Em was known as Saiyuki World II and was based on the forever-popular Chinese novel, “Journey to the West”; instead of playing as Soaring Eagle, you controlled Sun Wukong, the King Monkey. Most Westerners would be unfamiliar with any Chinese novels, popular or otherwise, so I can understand Jaleco wanting to make the game easier to comprehend for U.S. players. It makes little sense, though, to add a Native American character among settings and enemies that are clearly Asian in origin, just to… provide more context to an American audience? I’m not sure what Jaleco was thinking with the ol’ character switcheroo here. Thankfully, it doesn’t detract from Whomp ‘Em‘s playability. Just knowing that Soaring Eagle used to be Chinese will provide you some context when you’re fighting bears in a bamboo forest.

 

Whomp ‘Em‘s gameplay is standard B-tier platforming on the NES: enjoyable enough to play, but lacking the essence of the “perfect” platformer. Your time is spent avoiding falling projectiles, climbing through mountains and trees, and spearing anything that moves. Like Mega Man with his arm cannon, Soaring Eagle lives and dies by his spear. After you slay each level’s end boss, you’ll acquire upgrades like a mini-flamethrower, a rock-breaker, a cloud-former, etc. Use the upgrades as much as you want. Unlike Mega Man’s weapon upgrades, these have unlimited uses. Just don’t be surprised when you continue to use the traditional spear more than any enhancement; they’re more to acquire hidden items within the stages themselves, rather than assist you in taking down bosses or enemies. Also, for whatever reason, you scroll through the upgrades with ‘Start’ and pause the game with ‘Select.’ It was a good half-hour before I had gotten used to this button arrangement.

 

Whomp ‘Em isn’t as polished as the Mega Man series, but I’d wager fans of the Blue Bomber would praise this game’s difficulty. One life (unless you find extra lanterns hidden throughout the stage), a few hearts (collect a lotta gourds from fallen enemies to get more hearts), and unlimited continues are Soaring Eagle’s lot. My time with the game proceeded as follows: play through a stage, get hit a few times, have two out of five hearts remaining, make it to the end boss and die after they hit me once, then use a continue to start over and begin the cycle anew. Progression is possible, but one must carefully go through the levels and collect as many lanterns as they can find. After the introductory level and the level known as Sacred Woods, the difficulty increases significantly.

 

Whomp ‘Em has a fittingly bizarre style that I miss in our current one-note era of gaming. For example, when Soaring Eagle dies, he makes a large crying face, splits into three parts, and explodes. The enemy and boss designs are inspired, ranging from drugged-out snails to dancing frogs to Crash Test Dummy lookalikes. If anyone tried to do this stuff today, it would probably be written off as weird for weirdness sake. In Whomp ‘Em, and other similar (mostly Japanese-developed) 8-bit games, this aesthetic just works. Unfortunately, it’s a case of style over substance. While I enjoyed my time with it, I’m hard-pressed to remember much about any of the levels, besides their ever-increasing challenge. If I take anything away from Whomp ‘Em, it will be the character Soaring Eagle and how he was once Chinese.

 

B-

 

The following two tabs change content below.

Latest posts by Dylan Cornelius (see all)

  • FieryReign

    Darn… looks like your quest is almost over… Hopefully you can continue on a few side-missions? There are quite a few good Famicom games that were never released stateside, would love to see your opinions on them. How about a couple review requests? Adventure Island IV and Ufouria, I think you would enjoy both…

    Never played this particular game, looks average as can be…

    • DylanCornelius

      Hey FieryReign, thanks for the support! Yeah, I could tackle a couple requests. I'll put Adventure Island IV and Ufouria on the list.

      I have a big project announcement coming in March after the NES reviews are complete. Please stay tuned for that.

      • Jeffery McDaniel

        Also add Mr Gimmick!

        • Every Atari 2600 game, we can hope!

        • DylanCornelius

          Jeffrey – Yes! That one's definitely on there. Along with Sweet Home.

          Beau – I think you should tackle that one. No one man can review every game.

          • Don't back down… By the time you're old, you could very well be known worldwide as the man behind “The Quest to review every game ever released”… You would be the Dana White of the Video gaming world. Fancy that! 😉

          • DylanCornelius

            I think the Video Game Critic will probably beat me to that. But I appreciate the support!

  • Guest

    Whomp 'Em is a pretty fun game I haven't played it in a while. Thanks for the review. 🙂

    • DylanCornelius

      My pleasure.

  • Lurkish Moarison

    Whomp 'em is actually pretty sought after now and is considered to be a poor man's Little Samson. I believe this is more accurate than comparing straight up with the Mega Man. Like, Mega means million, man.

  • Bobolicious

    I didn't know “Journey to the West” was a novel… I recently watched Stephen Chow's movie of the same name, which I assume was based on said novel. I'm still not sure if I liked it… it was weird as hell but a little too much at times. I absolutely loved Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer though.