Pink Panther in:
Pink Goes To Hollywood
The horrible Mega Drive version
I apparently like to hurt myself. Not with knife stabbing, foot stomping, arm chewing or anything traditionally masochistic like that, no. I harm myself with the belief that maybe, just maybe, games based off cartoon licenses won't leave me bitter, frustrated and disappointed.
I'm sad to say I think I'm beyond help.
Technical data run-down! Pink Goes To Hollywood was released in 1993 for both the SEGA Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo, both published by TekMagik. Coincidentally (presumably!), a Cool Spot game titled Spot Goes To Hollywood was also released in the same year for the same consoles, also by the same people! Okay, that's a lie, it was released in 1995 and by entirely different people. The rest of the game is true, though. I just wanted to express the knowledge that I know a game with that title exists.
I picked up the Mega Drive version around 1995 or 1996, and although I'm uncertain about 93, I'm pretty sure there was some attention being paid to him in those two years - there was a cartoon show where the Pink Panther, heaven forbid, actually spoke; I can't remember anything else about it aside from having a remarkable lack of capers and one episode featuring a Donald Trump joke, but I'm guessing Pink Goes To Hollywood is either cashing in on the cartoon or cashing in on the frenzy that spawned the cartoon in the first place. Either or!
The game, in both incarnations, is a 2D platformer. That spells it out that what little story there is can be summed up in one sentence: Pink has gone to Hollywood to audition for a role, but his nemesis isn't too keen on that and chases him through the MGM sets. Cue variable video game scenery!
Y'know, I thought the Pink Panther's nemesis (the little moustached guy in the coat for those of you unaware) was Inspector Clouseau, from the films. But no, Wikipedia tells me he's simply called The Man. Political subtext ahoy!
The titular panther can walk, run with a double-tap of the D-Pad, jump, and bop things with his boxing glove gun; collectible items include stars for points, hearts for health, an upgrade to the boxing glove's length, paw tiles for invincibility, and various symbol-bearing pink cards. If you have one of those and find a telephone booth, you can insert it to get a benefit of some variety - an umbrella to rise to high places, a magic carpet to fly anywhere within a designated area, or a staircase or platform made to reach new areas. Also in a shocking attempt to break the mould, Pink gives you a hub with seven stages to choose, and you can enter them in any order you please, though once you've entered you can't leave and choose another until it's finished.
I'd like to say that so far it doesn't sound too bad, but it's in such basic detail that it'd be hard to find anything truly negative about it. Like, I could say, "you can jump in this game," and unless someone has an outright loathing of leaving the ground, then I can imagine there being much to object about it. Likewise, Tom & Jerry for the SNES, in bare detail: "You run around, jump onto platforms and throw crap at enemies." Not bad! Then expand the detail. "You run around nondescript and unimaginative levels, hop onto platforms with awkward jumping physics and throw crap at non-threatening enemies." That's more reason to feel disappointed.
If there's a plus to start us off with, the levels are kind of interesting. A Robin Hood stage with killer squirrels, archers and nefarious eagles. A level set inside a fridge with food that hurls itself at you, and extended sequences inside a stuffed turkey and a cup of tea. A haunted house with killer trees, elevators that crush you and the headless ghost of The Man. And there's a pirate ship level that pits you against... small, non-descript, bipedal possibly-lizards that spit at you. The game as a whole bears a kooky, abstract art style, much akin to the often absurd nature of the original cartoon shorts; the cowboy stage doesn't have floating clouds, it has floating cows, and enemies are similarly bizarre, from the aforementioned spitting lizard things to walking shoes, frantic tourists and flying roast chickens.
The problem with this art style is that while it makes the backgrounds look nice, it doesn't work all the time. The Hot Pink Roof stage is nice due to its purple clouds in the distance and colourful rooftops to hop across, but the food stage is really rather grotesque, and the pirate ship stage, since most of it is spent in the air (of all places!), there's not much eye candy going on. Not to mention that it simply doesn't work for the sprites - the Pink Panther himself looks nice and animates slickly, but everything is oddly-proportioned, abstract, and have dire animation. The pirates you face have a whole three frames of animation if I recall, and while they permanently bear a face full of rage, it simply doesn't look good when he only hops up and down and animates only for his legs and sword coming down. Similarly, the archers move stiffly and look unnatural. The designs are very clearly cartoony and exaggerated, but their animation isn't. If they were done in an age that allowed for more space for animation, I'm sure their simple motions could look great and vibrant, but as it is it feels like a world that's populated by a slick feline and a bunch of bouncing cardboard stand-ins.
A major aspect of a game where there's lots of jumping going on is for the jumping physics to work. Pink Goes To Hollywood has physics that theoretically work, but not in the game they belong in. As mentioned earlier, Pink can walk and run - walking is a solid pace that's unaffected by external means; he'll still be moving at the same rate on the ground or in the air. Running, however, brings in acceleration and deceleration, requiring to stop a moment before where you want to stop and other such pleasantries. On the ground, this isn't a hassle, aside from how running is more like to make you run into an arrow or something. In the air, though... a walking jump is good for accurately controlling your jump so you know exactly where you land, and the only downside is that it doesn't go far.The running jump, however, seems to be tailor-made exclusively for blind jumps into areas you can't see - if you're aiming to land on a small platform just out of range of a walking jump, good luck!
The game loves to throw you onto tiny platforms and expect you to cross lots of other tiny ones, and put them all out of reach of a walking jump, or makes them periodically retract or something to urge you to keep up the pace. The prehistoric stage (that has no other hints of being prehistoric aside from a pterodactyl that likes to mess up your jumps) has you working your way down to the bottom of the stage, across tiny platforms with piranhas and over a blind leap or two, for the sole purpose of picking up a staircase tile, then to go back all the way to the beginning to put it in the telephone booth, and then to fight the boss. You can jump down from platforms in precise areas to get a mild shortcut, but to traverse the whole thing carefully takes around five minutes. The boss, meanwhile, can only be hit in a short window of time before it slinks away and becomes invincible, and continuously spits enemies at you that limit your available working space. If you die at any point, you've got to play the whole level again.
Although the fridge and haunted house stages are split into multiple areas and restarts you at the beginning of each area when you die, the rest are just singular stages with no gap to break it up; and in those ones, if you die anywhere, back to the beginning you go. It is not pleasant.
The length of the levels constantly fluctuates, and it's a constant hassle. The haunted house and fridge levels are long, especially in the latter's case, and although they're broken up the fridge is just a constant torture. The first segment is little more than context for the second area, inside the stuffed turkey, which just drags on and on and is constantly bombarding you with spikes through the floor, projectiles from nowhere and platforms that sink into boiling gravy. When it finally ends, you go through another short test of projectile avoiding, and then you land in an extended maze of wedged-together candy you must swim through; at the end is The Man in a submarine whom you must defeat, of course. Fail and go through the maze again. And for no reason but to just dick around with you, you've got to get past a completely bizarre but mercifully short ice cube riding segment that makes no sense before you can finally end the level. You begin at the beginning of each segment when you die, but each one is so ungodly painful that the simple fact you just can't choose another level seems like it's taunting you.
Meanwhile, Hot Pink Roof starts, has some devilish moments of cloud hopping above gaping pits, and then ends without fanfare. It still boots you to the beginning when you die, but... it's just not bastardly enough to make you cry about it, y'know?
The game's difficulty relies heavily on platforms above pits or dangerous substances, throwing crap at you before you can react, or taunting you with loss of progress. Pinkin Hood has all of these. You must scale tree branches and rocks to cross a river, with archers and nut-throwing squirrels appearing from nowhere to kick your ass sideways. Although the river doesn't kill you or harm the panther at all, it's still highly unpleasant to land in, as it drags you backwards. Jumping doesn't help, and although there are a scant few places you can land on to not suffer too badly from it, if you're not lucky you'll be dragged all the way to the beginning of the level. The loss of progress is arguably worse, as although you're back at the beginning, you've still lost whatever health you have, meaning you're unlikely to even make it to the end.
When it isn't doing that, it's designing the level in such a way that you're going to be repeating parts unnecessarily. The pirate level is quite wretched in this aspect - you've first got to swim under the ship to the other side, climb up, get an umbrella tile, swim back, get onto the ship, make your way to the deck and then use the umbrella to float to a higher part. Then you have to pick up a tile from that area, jump off the other side, get another umbrella, swim back to the beginning, go back up again with the umbrella, and then finally get to use your staircase tile. And that's only the first half of it. You'll still have to repeat it all if you die! The western stage features a long sequence of riding mine carts over pits, and then riding a cow cloud to the other side of the level - if you go left, you'll go the correct path and be able to end the level (so long as you don't die!), but if you go right... you'll have to repeat the mine cart bit and all that comes after it. Again.
Given the game's sparse presentation, I was hardly expecting a satisfying ending at the end of all this, but I will admit I was expecting something a little more than...
This is a game that thrives on the tortured souls of troubled youths.
Pink Goes To Hollywood is like being repeatedly slammed against a slab of concrete. Each slam hurts pretty hard, but each time you're reeled back is a mild relief as you might finally be let go by your tormentor. Usually it's just to make each slam hurt a little harder, though. It's a good thing you can just stop playing the game anytime you want!
I always have interesting feelings when I play a game I made no progress with years ago and then, long after, finally get to complete it, or at least make significant progress.
Pink Goes To Hollywood... well, I'm glad I saw more, but I could probably live happily without having to endure some of those inane challenges, really.
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In getting these screenshots I was able to complete the game in 40 minutes and find it fairly simple, though having access to a health refilling and save states was probably a huge help.