Release Dates: Japan - December 1992 North America - February 1993 Europe - June 1993
Tiny Toon Adventures was a popular children's cartoon that aired from the late 1980's until 1992, as a series based on the lives of younger protégés of Looney Tunes characters attending university. A number of cartoons and toy franchises made the leap into games in the heyday of the NES and SNES, such as Bucky O'Hare, Captain Planet, Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers and Monster In My Pocket. What was different about Tiny Toons though was it's enduring legacy. It was so popular that it spawned many games across multiple systems right up until 2002, and some of them were pretty good as far as those type of games go. It was also the first collaboration between Warner Bros. and legendary director Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, which would also produce Animaniacs and Freakazoid.Tiny Toons captured much of the humour and tone of the original Looney Tunes but with a new generation of fans to enthral.
Readers of previous posts on this blog (all five of you) may be aware of my paranoia about licensed material being used for video games. Tiny Toons certainly had very mixed results as a video game, and unfortunately Buster Busts Loose! epitomises this trend.
Released in 1993, after the show's original run on television ended, Buster Busts Loose! is a platform game but with a couple of unique innovations to distinguish it from the crowd. The biggest difference between this and most platformers is that you can use the shoulder buttons to dash, which will send you running up walls to reach important items and solve puzzles. The second stage in particular makes heavy use of this feature, and you can move pretty fast across levels, so you have to be careful when using it not to bump into enemies. You can attack while dashing by pressing down on the control pad, but this attack can be risky. Standard attacks are done by pressing the Y button, which causes Buster (sadly the only playable Toon in this game) to do a somersault kick.
Stages are subdivided into sections, and every one of them has a theme. The plot is very simplistic, and most stages are based on popular films like Star Wars or Back to the Future Part 3 that were referenced in specific episodes of the series. The various themes mostly keep things fresh and interesting. What's more, in between each stage is a roulette that grants you the chance to play a mini game for extra lives. Another high point is that, in the middle of all this jumping and dashing (although with zero context given), there is a stage which sees you playing a brief game of American Football in order for Acme Looniversity to beat their hated rivals, and besides the runaway train in stage two, is the most exhilarating part of the main story. I found myself going back to this level using passwords just because it feels so fresh compared with the regular challenges the game offers.
Buster Busts Loose! is a very short game, and won't last more than four or five hours. There are three difficulty modes, although in true Konami style, the easiest mode is a bit pointless as it removes both bosses and the ending. If you want to experience the game properly, normal difficulty or higher is recommended, although it's not particularly taxing anyway. There is also a password system where you match up three characters from the show, although you will rarely need it except to access mini games.
The most unusual thing about Buster Busts Loose! is that the most entertainment to be gained is from the mini games, each one represented by a character and colour on the roulette. These include a maze, sliding puzzle, bingo, squash and an odd game where you have to outweigh your opponent. The bingo and scales games just boil down to luck and aren't much fun. The sliding puzzle is decent, but nothing special, and the maze game, as much as I enjoyed it, is far too difficult as there are three enemies wandering around, two of which move quite fast. If you get hit by any of them it's game over. The highlight is Furball's squash game, in which you rebound the ball against the wall. After a certain number of hits it will give you a one-up, but also make the ball speed up, making successive on-ups harder to achieve. Other characters will appear, and hitting them will give you power ups or additional one-ups. There is a password that let's you access these games without having to finish a stage and it says quite a bit about the game that I probably used that password most often.
Buster Busts Loose! is a colourful and gorgeous looking game, with detailed backdrops, such as the art room featured on
the first stage. The character sprites look exactly like their cartoon series counterparts, and a generous number of characters make an appearance, from series regulars Shirley the Loon and Hamton Pig to more minor characters like Bookworm and Montana Max's buff bodyguard, Arnold the Pitbull. Most characters are unfortunately relegated to bit-part roles, either as antagonists or NPC's. The soundtrack is not the most memorable but the animation is top notch for a 16-bit SNES title.
Overall, Buster Busts Loose! is a pretty short game, and it's over before it really gets going. It's a shame, as it draws from it's source material extremely well, and would benefit from a couple of extra stages and an extra playable character. The mini games and football stage do give it some extra replay value. If I was going to recommend a Tiny Toons game, it would probably be it's 8-bit NES counterpart, the not-so-imaginatively titled Tiny Toon Adventures. It may not have the enjoyable mini games, but it does feature more than one playable character and a greater challenge.
+ Quite faithful to the cartoon series
+ Mini games are a lot of fun
+ Some good variety in the levels
+ Gorgeous character sprites and backgrounds
- Very short game
- Lacking in challenge
- Platform gameplay could benefit from more than one character
- Saying it has a plot would be generous