Saving the planet, one preachy lecture at a time.
DEVELOPER: Chris Gray Enterprises
RELEASE DATE: September 1991
Captain Planet and his teenage slaves known as the Planeteers were part of the weird “get kids into recycling” phase that happened during early-to-mid Nineties Saturday morning/weekday afternoon programming. Most memorably, the “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse… AND CLOSE THE LOOP!” commercial ran for a solid ten years, at least. Least memorably, “Camp Candy,” the show starring John Candy as a camp counselor and teaching kids how to respect and love Mother Earth. I miss John Candy as much as anyone, but I definitely don’t miss that show. Looking back, I’m not sure what kids would have recycled, other than hundreds upon thousands of soda cans. Recycling hadn’t become the craze/norm that it is today, so why drag children down into such a boring adult process? Anyways, I never fell for Captain Planet when I was a child. Even then, I recognized it as an agenda-based cartoon – and I liked my cartoons to be simple, often sordid fun. Besides that, Captain Planet himself was only in each episode for about five minutes; enough time for him to show up, make some mock speech about loving the planet, then sweep the literal/metaphorical trash under the earth’s rug and fly away. And yeah, they made a game about him.
The goal of the game is to bring down Hoggish Greedly, an evil pig in a business suit; subtlety was never the cartoon’s strong point. You blast and mast your way through five worlds, with two stages in each world. In the first stage in each world, you play as all of the Planeteers smushed together in the form of an helicopter, airplane, or some other flying device. Your weapons are fire, wind, water, earth, and heart respectively, and you’ll only ever want to use fire. The rest are pretty useless, and you have a limited amount of times you can use your weapons. <———- DID YOU JUST READ THAT LAST SENTENCE BECAUSE I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST WROTE IT?! Unlike, say, Mega Man where each weapon has its own power bar, all five of your weapons are connected to the same bar. Once your bar is depleted, you’re on your own. It’s stupid: just because this is a video game about saving the planet doesn’t mean I want to conserve my resources/weapons
In the second stage, you call upon Captain Planet to save the day. From here, the game turns from a shmup into a platformer where your main character floats and has to avoid every little thing. Seriously, Captain Planet is a wuss. Running into ooze slathered on a wall will kill him instantly, and other enemies will deplete his life faster than a solar-powered vehicle… well, maybe that’s not a good analogy. Anyways, his life depletes fast, which means his forms of attack should be awesome. Unfortunately, his main weapon is his fist, and his secondary weapon is to turn into the elements, whether it be fire, wind, water, etc. As expected, the fist is useless, and while turning into the elements looks cool, it doesn’t really hurt anything and it drains your power bar which, in the Captain Planet stages, doubles as your life-bar. It’s not fun, and the more I played, the more I hated Mother Earth.
It’s a shame because, for a split second on the first stage, I thought the game could be average. It had decent graphics, an entertaining musical number that constantly repeated, and, besides the lousy hit detection, some half-way decent controls. The farther I got, though, the more I realized that the programmers must be working for Big Oil or something. How else to explain the maddening difficulty and sheer evil that power this game’s cells? Also, even though I could care less about the cartoon, it’s a crime that the Planeteers are actually more powerful in the game than Captain Planet.