Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hany on the Road


Face was an assemblage of "mad scientists"; the craziness and creativity they poured into their work served to ensure that their customers would be in for interesting experiences (if not always positive ones). Unlike the cut-from-the-same-kooky-cloth oddballs at Wolf Team, they never did manage to crank out a masterpiece; their catalog boasts no El Vientos, though a few of their releases went beyond "experimental" and actually wound up being enjoyable. Hany on the Road is one of the fairly fun ones, a redemptive effort for its cucumber-like protagonist, who'd previously starred in a rather horrible overhead-view shooter. Clearly more at home in a sidescrolling context, Hany runs, jumps, and utilizes a backflip-based kick-attack to clear his path of foes. Actually--and here's the "big twist"--he typically has four paths to travel down and switch between as he makes his way through a level.

With four planes scrolling along at different speeds, Hany on the Road has a distinct, not at all unappealing look about it. Excellent color choices solidify its status as a graphically strong title.

You'll have some decisions to make as you journey through the nice-looking lands: the intermediary map screen occasionally allows you to "choose your path" a la Darius. The stages seldom feel redundant, and almost all of them are worth checking out, making multiple trips through the game worthwhile.

The miscreants inhabiting all those realms are interesting both in appearance and in how they attempt to take you down, especially in stages where environmental hazards exist. One challenging late-game strip pits Hany against a band of small yellow fools who try to latch on to him and hold him back as the road crumbles beneath his feet. To combat such wily foes, you can occasionally grab hold of weapons or, in very rare instances, undergo unexpected transformations.

No such drastic measures will need to be taken against the bosses, who are a little less crafty than their minions. Though they're interestingly bizarre design-wise, most of them can be destroyed simply by booting their own junk-shots right back at them. The last battle features a really neat twist, though.

Simpleton bosses are not the only problem here. Hany is a speedy, slip-sliding sort who's sure to crash into enemies or stumble off platforms despite your best efforts to avoid collisions and remain on solid ground, and his backflip technique has very limited range. Some of the stage designs seem, at least initially, to demand tighter, Super Mario-style controls and a more reliable primary attack. Practice and memorization will help decent, dedicated players overcome most of the gameplay issues. A tough desert stretch with quick-tugging quicksand and lots of dangerous cacti seemed rather irritating to me until I developed a feel for the board--and it ultimately became my favorite level in the game.

Similar salvation cannot be found in every unpleasant incident, though. Some stretches just feel sloppy, and some deaths just seem unavoidable. But if you find a path through the levels that you feel comfortable with and that contains but a few potentially irritating moments, you'll have a unique adventure that boasts some very nice graphics on your hands. And even if all else disappoints, the cool cover art alone makes the whole package worth acquiring.

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