Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – NES
Release Date: January 1992
Reviewed by ChronoSloth
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is an NES platformer based on a 1990 cartoon of the same name, which is based on a movie of the same name, which was so bad that it probably didn’t serve as good background noise for your parents to bang to at the drive-in when it was released in 1978. As to not insult your intelligence, I’ll assume you aren’t well versed in Killer Tomato lore. It’s alright, though; the game’s intro does an adequate job of filling you in on the story. Some villain plans to annihilate “San Zucchini” with a tomato missile and also wants some boy, the player, dead for who knows why. What I gathered from this drawn-out introduction with terribly repetitive music is that vegetables are apparently a big deal in this world, as there are cities named after them, and that I need to defeat this guy and his gross, sentient gang of tomatoes.
Like most NES platformers, the point of the game is to make it to the right side of the screen. The enemies in your way are extremely varied, but all tomatoes: tomatoes that hop at you, smaller tomatoes that hop at you, some kind of stringy tomato bat, tomatoes wearing armor that resemble Sir Cutter from Kirby, tomatoes that spit gunk at you, and more. One frustrating design decision is that the basic, oversized tomato enemy you fight turns into two small, non-hostile tomatoes that hop away when you jump on it. There are also small, deadly tomatoes who look almost identical to these that come on screen and go for your throat. It’s easy to get the two mixed up when there are plenty of them trying to cover you in cold, gross, tomato stuff. Other obstacles include slippery platforms, dripping sewage, and awkward directional control after you’ve jumped into the air.
The walk speed in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is satisfying, as is the standard “tap to hop, and hold to leap” jump system. However, the ability to control the momentum and direction of these jumps is a little off. If you leap forward and change direction at the vertex of your jump parabola, you fall the other direction with the same speed. This leads to odd zigzag jumps you’ll be performing in a futile attempt to squish the fast approaching edible enemies, and lead to you losing your three hit points fairly fast.
While not much fun to play, the game is fairly nice to look at. The title screen, thrown tomatoes creating the game’s credits, and the first level’s color and use of light stand out as a few graphical high notes. Enemies always stand out, and the normal tomatoes are a satisfying bright red. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is definitely one of the better looking NES games compared to some of its competition (8 Eyes comes to mind). If only the level design and mechanics could match the art.
With minimal story, frustrating jump controls, and boring levels and enemies, there isn’t much motivation to save, or even visit, San Zucchini. The best thing to happen to the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes franchise so far was being mentioned in the excellent Deadly Premonition. This game is probably better left to rot.
*This review is not influenced by the fact that I think tomatoes are tasteless, watery, wastes of vegetable
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