Platform: Sega Genesis
Genre: Side scrolling platformer
No. of Players: 1 player
By: Ken Horowitz
Halloween 1991 saw the release of a pretty unique title called Decap attack. Originally released in Japan as "Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure" (which was based on a cartoon), Sega made some changes and instead gave the game a spooky theme. Why? Who cares? The game is different and tremendous fun.
In Decap Attack, you are Chuck D. Head (yeah, I know), a Frankenstein-type creature with a head in his stomach, as well as the one on his shoulders. I guess the good doctor either had a sick sense of humor or was severely impaired in some way.
The evil Max D. Cap has unleashed his underworld army to overtake the surface. Again we see the benefits of a truly original platforming storyline...Wait...Anyway, you must fight back the hordes of the underworld and save your land from evil by using your head (literally). There aren't any actual difficulty levels you can change; instead you can reduce the number of hearts you can hold during the game.
Game play is simple enough. The B button is for punching with the head in Chuck's chest. Once you find his skull in any of the multiple shrunken head statues you can break, you can launch his head at your foes. Chuck's skull does more damage than his in-chest one, but is lost as soon as you take a hit. You'll then have to go and hunt for it somewhere else in the stage.
The C button is for jumping and pressing it repeatedly in the air allows you to "walk" in air, letting you go farther with a single jump. the A button is used to access an item screen that hold all the goodies you find in the statues throughout the stages of the game. Those goodies include potions for running faster & jumping higher, increasing your punching range & strength, freezing all enemies on screen, among other things. You can accumulate quite a bit of each, and the item screen has a convenient "ask" feature to prevent you from using the wrong one.
There are seven levels in all, each divided into three areas. There are also no continues, saves, or password features. Extra lives are abundant, so after playing for a while you should be able to get through it all in one sitting. That, for me, was the only problem I had with this game. It takes quite a while to get through and to have to play it entirely in one sitting doesn't seem feasible now. It puts Decap Attack in the same category as Kid Chameleon: a great game that's just too long to finish. If you're really motivated though, I recommend playing through as the ending is fantastic, with plenty of cut scenes to detail what happens to Chuck once he's saved the surface world.
Some stages are auto scrolling, like stage 3-1. A huge totem pole grinds everything in its path and you have to defeat enemies while avoiding it. Super Mario Bros. 3 made me hate auto scrolling levels (I was repeatedly owned), so naturally I had a bit of trouble here. Once you pass the third stage of each level, your taken to a bonus stage that uses the coins you collected in the previous areas. You can grab some powerups or even an extra life here.
I like the graphic style of Decap Attack. The quirky Halloween humor is amusing and makes for nice atmosphere. Werewolves, ghosts (of the sheet-with-two-holes-for-eyes variety), bone fish, snakes with mean eyes, and a host of others have a very platformy feel. The game never tries to be scary and reminds me a lot of the Nightmare Before Christmas in how it tries to portray the Halloween theme as normal and every day.
The game does a good job of being colorful, and I had to remind myself that this was before developers started using techniques to give the impression of more colors on the Genesis. The backgrounds are a bit bare, and there aren't any effects or anything of the sort. This is bare bones (forgive the pun) platforming and doesn't really need all the eye candy to be fun.
Chuck and his world animate about as well as you'd expect from a 1991 platformer. I guess this was before Sonic decided you needed animation to be cool. Bosses are large, nicely detailed, and full of personality. The dancing Yeti was hilarious.
I like the soundtrack to Decap Attack. It's quirky, has a good beat, and sounds like the type of music you'd hear around Halloween. You'll end up spending a bit of time in the sound test, as you'll want to hear them all. The sound effects are decent enough, but are pretty routine. They do sound very clear, although some voice samples would have added to the whole scary theme.
You can probably nab a complete copy of this game off ebay for about $10 shipped. If you're looking for some fun action on your Genesis and have the time to play it through, Decap Attack is a definite purchase.