Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure – Sega Genesis
Platform: Sega Genesis
Release Date: 1994
Genre: 2-D Platformer
Nerd Review: 4/10
Reviewed by Greg Mustache
In the 90’s, we had this weird… thing about gross-out humor. In 1992, MTV’s Beavis and Butthead and Parker Brothers’ The Grape Escape (a cartoonishly gruesome board game about fruit murder that most of us probably remember from its infectiously catchy use of Funiculi, Funicula as a theme tune) made their respective debuts, Ren and Stimpy were entertainment icons, and The Garbage Pail Kids, the grotesque parody of the Cabbage Patch dolls, was in its heyday– if it can be called that, anyway; at the very least, the cards were enjoying reasonable success considering the utterly catastrophic failure of its film adaptation’s theatrical release in 1987.
Enter Boogerman, a hop-and-bop platformer destined to become the flagship Gross Video Game, back before we had concepts of sexism and pandering to disgust us and we actually had to rely on bodily functions for all our offending-our-moms needs. Boogerman is the story of a superhero who makes very little sense: a Bruce Wayne-styled millionaire Snotty Ragsdale, who, instead of masquerading as a rich, vapid playboy to disguise his vigilante heroism, is lactose intolerant and doesn’t bathe. When a mysterious figure emerges from a stranger portal and steals the power source of a pollution-fighting machine that sends all waste materials to Dimension X-Crement, Boogerman leaps to the rescue ass-first to get to the bottom of it.
And here’s where Boogerman starts to get weird. On the one hand, it’s gross. That’s the point. Our protagonist is a creepy weirdo in unwashed pajamas, burping, farting and snot-flicking his way to victory in a world of nose-mining goblins and corn-dappled turd thugs (that I suspect must have been a darker brown, earlier in development; that vague beige smacks of “edited to please censors”).
On the other hand, it’s thoroughly gross, almost to a level of perversely charming fine art. Okay, sure, the snails have noses for shells and the ghosts are literally sentient ass-clouds and Boogerman very pointedly opens his mouth as he travels between sinus passages, but these are all rendered in surprisingly detailed animation. I can’t say the designs themselves are exactly creative, but the movements of each character, Boogerman and enemy alike, are full of small details that would fit just as well, if not better, in a proper, traditionally animated short.
The music suffers in favor of sound effects, with most of the game’s sounds being geared toward making the exploding pustules and goopy phlegm blops and trumpeting fart noises sound as… maybe not realistic, exactly, but evocative at least. For the most part, they even succeed, but that leaves the music to pick through the leftover tinny plunkings of the Genesis sound set for the score; the end result is a lot of overused soundboard fodder and forgettable, if competently composed, actual music.
As for the gameplay, I find it weirdly satisfying to have so many weapons available to the player immediately, with power-ups only augmenting the basic abilities for a short time (hot peppers for improved flame farts and ass-based fart flight, milk for extra powerful phlegm) and ammunition being readily available. Of course, the difficulty is in getting any of these attack types to successfully connect with an enemy, as Boogerman’s height and attack range can make that more difficult than it needs to be. Still, the levels are designed well enough and the inclusion of a bonus at the end of most levels, based on how many plungers one collects, gives incentive to try and actually explore the otherwise grotesque and grandma-offending environments.
This is really a game that could only have been made in the 90’s, when this sort of thing was not only accepted as part of kid culture, but weirdly celebrated by adults. This thing even got a creepy, live-action commercial that did nothing but promote the inherent nastiness of the concept. The post-Jack-Thompson world of game culture probably couldn’t shoulder the weight of producing something so obviously, joyously, unrepentantly immature and still insist that video games are not just toys for small children.
As a game, its flaws are pretty damning; it’s playable, but the fun is in the gross-out humor, not the gameplay, and that’s probably why it isn’t exactly heralded as horribly-dated genius. Boogerman represents an historic, if not especially good, entry into the Genesis library, and at the very least, it’s worth a play through.
Just… try not to eat anything before hand.
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