Last Action Hero: The Game

ESRB:RP/Unrated
ONLINE:N/A
INSTALL:N/A
RELEASE DATE:October 1, 1993
PLATFORM:NES, SNES (Reviewed), Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear, Amiga, MS-DOS
PUBLISHER:Sony Imagesoft
DEVELOPER:Bits Studios
ONLINE PASS:N/A

Look. I don’t know why I’m doing this. Last Action Hero: The Game has been the bane of my existence since I was 7 years old. I have tried, for years now, to review it – but have never been able to get more than a couple of hours into it before wanting to chuck the cartridge (Or, in this case, ROM) off the nearest cliff or into the nearest river. But I finally did it. Nightmare Slain.

Additionally, let me start out by saying: I generally don’t like to cheat in a game that I’m trying to review, unless it’s part of the game and adds something fun. Cheating just to get through it, though? No. Not so here, though. This is a game that I have never been able to beat on my own – so I feel no shame in saying, I broke out the Game Genie codes to get to the rest of the game – and even then, some of the codes just don’t work sometimes.

Gameplay Video



Story


One of the best parts of the game is definitely the story – only because it follows the movie almost exactly. A rarity in a tie-in.

Probably the only other good part of the game – right off the bat. The plot of the game pretty faithfully follows that of the movie by the same name. Danny Madigan’s father dies, and following that, he finds solace and comfort in watching action movies starring his favorite generically-named action cop, Jack Slater (Played by one Arnold Schwarzenegger.). One day, the manager of the theater gives Danny a magical golden ticket, once owned by Harry Houdini – because plot – to see an early preview of the latest Jack Slater movie. With this ticket, young Danny is sucked into the world of the film he is currently watching, landing directly in the middle of, and interrupting Slater during a car chase.

The movie…isn’t great, but it’s fun.

The game, as I mentioned, follows the movie to a T. The story in itself is fine. I have no real qualms with it – other than it being pretty basic. It’s a popcorn movie – turn your brain off and just have fun.

I just wish the same could be said for the game.


Presentation


Last Action Hero looks…okay. The SNES was capable of some very pretty games – even by 1993 – but this game isn’t one of them. Not that I expected it to look all that great in the first place – it’s rare for a licensed game that wasn’t a Disney-based IP at this time to really look all that great.

Character sprites barely look anything like the characters they represent, the color pallette is extremely bland with lots of blues and browns.

The music is probably the highest of the high points regarding the presentation. I might even call it the best part of the game besides the story. It’s not terrible. Repetitive, just like the rest of the game, but decent.

At the very least – since I’m honestly grasping now for things to find good – the game actually performs pretty well on the technical side. No real framerate problems, even with a bunch of enemies on screen.

That all said – it’s not enough to really elevate this game above anything other than tepid tap water. I’ve played quite a few games that were pretty boring overall, but at least had something that could be called “personality”. Something that could make the experience at least slightly enjoyable.

That’s not here.

Gameplay


Oh boy! By far the worst part of the game, hands down. Lame, boring and repetitive enemy designs. Boring level layouts with no real challenges or interactivity. Bland, hyper simplistic gameplay.

I am punching him in the face – but it doesn’t count. This screenshot depicts all of my animosity towards the game.

There is honestly nothing here outside of an unfair amount of challenge. The game is definitely hard – but not because it’s an old game, or even a “NES hard” title. It’s just bad and poorly designed overall. Hit and hurtboxes, for instance, are super stupid.

I’m honestly not one to blame a game for my failure to do something. 9 times out of 9.5, it’s entirely my fault because I’m doing it wrong or missing something. That’s not the case here.

One pixel off? Your attack won’t hit. Standing too close? Your attack won’t hit. Enemy stading just off screen? Your attacks. Won’t. Hit.

It’s bullshit – and you guys know I don’t really swear in my reviews. It really is. Keep in mind that Final Fight came out in 1989. Streets of Rage, Double Dragon, Captain Commando and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles The Arcade Game all existed for years before this game came out. The beat-em-up genre was alive and kicking, and developers knew how to do them right. There was no excuse for this to be as bad as it was. All of the problems Last Action Hero has were all solved years before.

He’s right there. You can see his knife.

Jack Slater has 2 attacks…and that’s it. No combos, no desperation moves that drain a small amount of health, no weapons that he can pick up and use. Nothing but a dinky punch and a kick. I also hear he has a low kick, but I could never get it to come out if it exists.

This, honestly, would have been fine. However – the combat itself draws attention to the fact that your moveset is limited. There’s no up or down plane to travel along – the game is purely 2D and you travel from the left side to the right, or from the right to the left. Enemies approach from either side of the screen, slowly. To start, you face off against such memorable foes as “knife guy”, “bat guy” and “firebomb guy”. They each have one attack.

It’s manageable early on when you’re only dealing with one or two enemies at a time. However, the game starts to send 4-5 enemies at you at once as the stages progress. This is a problem, as all of your attacks knock enemies away from you and out of range to hit them. This ends up leading to you kiting enemies to one side of the screen to then start hitting them, walking up to them and then hitting them again – repeat that loop until dead. The problem? The screen isn’t very wide, so often times enemies go off screen before you can kill them – where they become invincible, even if you can see part of them onscreen. So you end up having to kite them again to get them fully onscreen so you can hit them some more, slowly.

I honestly don’t understand the method to this madness. It’s not fun, and it makes fights drag on for way longer than they need to.

Also, this is only half of the game. That’s right – the game has a second level type! And it’s just as bad as the beat-em-up type!

This is the first boss of the game – he’s just as boring of a fight as the regular enemies.

If, somehow, you manage to make it through the slog that is the first stage and beat the first boss – you’ll find that the game actually has more levels. It even has variety as these other levels are completely different to what you just played! You get to now play a really mediocre driving game!

Just like the fighting stages, the driving stages are boring and uninspired while also being infuriatingly difficult for no real reason. Though I can say these stages are the only time the up direction actually matters. The stages seem chaotic – as you’re driving, enemy and pedestrian cars are zipping past you all the time, dropping debris, slamming into you and otherwise being annoying. There are also ramps all over the roads for…some…reason, and they do nothing other than launch your car into the air – sometimes allowing you to jump over hazards in the road, like white tanker trucks.

The most annoying enemy to deal with in these stages, though, is definitely the parked car. Yes. A parked car. Due to the way the driving sections work, you don’t have much control – you can increase or decrease your speed, and move up and down. Unfortunately, the car isn’t super responsive – moving up and down is really slow, so unless you know something is coming up well ahead of time, chances are good you’re going to slam into the back of one of these many stationary vehicles, resulting in an instant death, loss of a life and restarting the stage. Lose all of your lives, and it’s game over.

Just like the rest of the game – the car stages aren’t fun.

And guess what? That’s it for the entire game. Every stage is either a boring, dragging beat-em-up, or an annoying race/driving stage.

There are 8 total stages – and the game never improves across them. In fact – you only get introduced to 1 new enemy after the first stage – “gun guy”. A beat-em-up with only 4 enemy types.

There are bosses – but they’re just as boring as the rest of the enemies. Except for the helicopter – which is the most ridiculous fight in the game, reminding me of the NES Lethal Weapon game. Punch the missiles back at the choppah.


Replay Value


There’s nothing. Absolutely nothing. There are no difficulty modes. No unlocks of any kind. Not even a multiplayer mode.

Yes. A beat-em-up that doesn’t even have a 2 player mode. That’s probably the biggest sin the game commits. Maybe, just maybe, a 2 player mode could have added some fun here.

There is absolutely no reason to play the game again – there’s barely a reason to play it even once.


Final Verdict


Do I really need to say more? I generally don’t hate games – even some of the worst, most boring games I’ve played, I’ve gotten some enjoyment out of. Duke Nukem Forever, PAIN, Batman Forever – they’ve all at least had something enjoyable in them.

Last Action Hero has nothing. The semi-decent story doesn’t save it. The semi-decent music doesn’t save it. The game has nothing to offer in terms of actual entertainment – you’d do better just watching the movie. Even if you’re a fan of the film – there’s nothing for you here. If anything – the game might actually sour the movie for you.

Boring, barely functioning combat. Boring levels. Boring character designs. The game is just boring, and frankly – I’m glad I’ve finally gotten this review done – so that I can never, ever, touch this game again.

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PROS CONS
  • The music is actually pretty decent - if a bit repetitive.

  • The buttons do things when you press them.

  • I'm...really grasping for things to say that are good here, guys.
  • Extremely repetitive enemy designs + boring stage design.

  • Awful, nothing gameplay that just drags on and on for no real reason. Final Fight existed for 4 years by the time this came out. There's no excuse.

  • All of the challenge comes from the game being so limited in its combat. It's not even a case of it being a "NEShard" game - it's just bad.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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