Smash TV
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8  |  Smash TV: "Good Luck--You'll Need It!"
Scoots , 2/5/2003 8:36:07 AM
At the time of its arcade release, Smash TV was certainly one of the most unabashedly violent games of the day. Set in the “future” of 1999, “Smash TV” is the hit gameshow (a la "Running Man" ) where competitors risk life and limb in pursuit of wealth and prizes. Armed with a machine gun, you are assaulted by hordes of baseball bat-wielding thugs, exploding orbs, and gun-firing robots. In a neat self-reflexive twist, the essence of the gameshow mirrors that of the video game itself: the spectacle of violence as entertainment; certainly any storyline we are presented with is subordinate to the pure joy of blasting apart the endless array of enemies.

Given this thematic symmetry, how is it possible to for the game to make a denunciation of the spectacle without making the player complicit in its judgment? I think the answer lies in its honesty and sense of humor. This is not Doom style violence, or GTA style violence. Yes, there’s blood, and there’s shrapnel, but the mayhem here is more closely related to Tom & Jerry, or a Monty Python skit. Other elements contribute to the tongue-in-cheek atmosphere: the cheesy host flanked by two buxom blondes, the absurd prizes (such as toasters and VCRs), the vibrant colors. Somehow I have a real hard time believing Smash TV will be the game of choice for the next Trench Coat Mafia. The fact that this game knows exactly what it is, and is unafraid to proclaim it, goes a long way in defusing any qualms one might have about it’s content. It doesn’t try to hide its nature behind meaningless buzz words like “interactive environments” or “polygon count,” and that too helps to set it apart from some of its seamier cousins.

This is one of the better arcade-to-NES ports out there, losing little in the translation. They even managed to accurately recreate the arcade’s double joystick (one for movement, one for firing your weapon) control scheme by using both control pads (turned 90 degrees so that the directional pad is at the top). The action is addictively frenetic. Power-ups are prolific and vital to survival, especially the spread gun. Keep your eyes open for one-ups, this game is fiendishly difficult and you don’t get a continue. Two players can compete simultaneously (you’ll need the four controller adapter to use the double control option though), but do you really want to share those great prizes with someone else? I didn’t think so…

Although there aren’t many levels, Smash TV is hard enough that you probably won’t see the final rounds without using a level-select cheat anyway. At the time it came out it boasted of having more on-screen enemies than any other game, and I believe it. If you enjoy relentless, frantic shooting action with a healthy dose of dark humor, Smash TV is absolutely first rate. I give it an 8 out of 10.

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