Comix Zone – Retro Journey

Comix Zone is a game released towards the end of the Mega Drive. Developed by Sega Technical Institute, it’s the brainchild of one man. Peter Morawiec. He had the idea in his head for quite some time whilst working at Sega TI, but between higher profile projects such as the latest Sonic The Hedgehog games, it was hard to put the time into his idea to bring it to the attention of SEGA big wigs. An early version of Comix Zone can be seen here, it’s a demo piece for the Commodore Amiga titled ‘Joe Pencil Trapped In The Comix Zone

I picked up Comix Zone when I was a kid during a sale at a local games store near me. I remember picking it up based on the box art at the time. I remembered thinking as a kid “Whoa, this guy looks like Rob Van Dam.” and getting it on that basis, not caring what the game had to offer. I just saw something that reminded me of Wrestling and I could afford it with what allowance my father let me have to go shopping. I’m not quite sure I would of picked the game up if I had seen the Japanese box art though! I find it to be a bit eyebrow-raising to say the least.

Seriously! What is this? JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure?

So when someone suggested I pick up Comix Zone again, I found myself pretty happy. As a kid, I never managed to finish it. I remember it being quite difficult actually. But I chalked that up to my feeble young mind unable to understand how the complex mechanics of something like Comix Zone works.

Surely, at my age now. I could beat a simple side scrolling action game right? I set out to put my skills to the test, rather than play the game on my return journey back to lovely Sheffield after finishing work, I decided I’d give Comix Zone a shot on my way into the office instead. So as I sat on a train from Sheffild heading to Doncaster, I started my Retro Journey for the day!

Comix Zone sports a lovely level of character. The style is overall very pleasing. I’m not sure if it was due to the life cycle or anything, but I really feel like the sprite work in the game is quite polished and there is a clear level of care and love put into the design. You are Sketch Tuner, and you get thrown into your own comic book creation and have to battle the hordes of baddies and escape! Simple plot and it wastes no time in throwing you into the game. I personally love this quick start. No 20-minute cutscenes or over-complicated character building segments, it’s just “It’s a video game, have fun.”

Have fun I did. The blend of comic book tropes made me smile so much! Hitting an enemy through the panels of another page, changing into a super hero version of myself at the end of a level, everything just felt so nice and like a comic book. Controls might leave something to be desired for some people. I’ve had a few friends tell me that Comix Zone does not control well. I personally don’t understand where they might get that idea from, as it seems pretty straight forward.


Or so I thought. See, I felt pretty comfortable at the start of the game and even managed to clear the first level with ease. But as I progressed through the second level, I started to realise just how tough Comix Zone could be. Swarms of enemies and chip damage managed to lead me into a death, and the lack of saves had me start from the very beginning. I just buckled down and got through it and made it to the boss this time around, careful to not repeat my previous mistakes.

But again, I died. I was partly to fault, as I wanted to damage the big baddie with the bomb I had saved. Yet the mechanics to use it were less than ideal. I didn’t get the option to chuck it at them. Instead I set it down on the ground, got hit by the boss a few times, and then it went off. But my health took more of a hit than the boss, and without realising it. I was dead! Frustrated, I started over and kept going. My third outing faired better. I played a bit more carefully this time and used my down kick more often and jumped when needed.

Sadly I had reached the end of my journey, so I closed my GPD XD and considered my session with Comix Zone done with.

CONTINUE?

Would I continue playing Comix Zone?

No. I would not. Not because it’s bad or anything. But I actually didn’t have fun with Comix Zone like I had previous games. Alien Breed left me wanting more, even if it did dissapoint. Aladdin made me want to prove myself with my skills. Comix Zone felt like a chore.

It was a well-polished chore. Stylish, made me smile. There is some real presence with Comix Zone. But when I started over and found myself playing the ‘safe’ way, I realised I didn’t enjoy playing Comix Zone. I was simply playing it to beat it so I could say I did.

I played the game how I felt it should be played, how it looked like it should have been played. A stylish action platformer with loads of fun to be had. Instead, I buckled down and tried to just make it to the end, played it safe. For that reason, I won’t be continuing Comix Zone.

NEXT GAME

My next game has not been decided! I’ve had a great week writing these experiences, and have had a few suggestions over the week which I can choose from! But I’ve decided I won’t be deciding on a Friday! Instead, you guys let me know if there are any other games you want me to play and I’ll pick them up first thing on Monday!

So don’t hold back! If you want me to play a specific game next week, let me know and I’ll feature your comment and let you know what I think of course!

Check back next week for my next Retro Journey!

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  • Krillarbran

    I too never beat Comix Zone, later levels proved to be very testing for my young mind. Beautiful game, especially for the Mega Drive. I will always remember it just not for it being fun.