You Need To Play A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ Inspired Game On Nintendo Switch ASAP
It’s incredible what a second chance can do. In the case of Norwegian ’80s band A-ha, they got a second chance after a video for their synth-pop single “Take On Me.” The video was generic – a cute 80s band playing a cute 80s song – which meant it got lost in the shuffle. But a music director felt the band could be a hit if packaged properly and recruited director Steve Barron to make another video.
Barron wanted to use rotoscoping, an animation technique that had fallen out of favor by then, associated with classic children’s works like Mary Poppins and Cinderella. The technique would allow animated sequences and real life to interact with each other, and one day Barron would say yahoo in 2020, the perfect concept “suddenly came to mind: an animated hand reaching out from comics to the real world”.
The “Take On Me” video would become one of the defining visuals of the decade. Beyond its many parodies, it also inspired a 1995 Genesis platformer that expanded the concept of the music video into something very clever. It’s called Comix areaand it’s available now if you’re a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscriber.
Comix area wasn’t the first game to explore gaming through a comic book, but it was the first to fully commit to the concept. The player takes control of Sketch Turner, grunge rock musician and designer. Like the “Take On Me” singer, Sketch is sucked into a comic book. But unlike “Take On Me”, it’s a post-apocalypse of Sketch’s own invention. In the very first panel, the head of the Statue of Liberty is visible on the ground.
fight in Comix area is relatively straightforward, although it’s a bit tricky to figure out how the buttons in this Genesis game are mapped onto a Switch controller. Although Sketch’s punches and kicks are fairly basic, the game gets creative in its use of items. Sketch has a three-slot inventory and can pick up health drinks and various single-use weapons. The only item he can keep for multiple uses is what he holds most dear: his pet, Roadkill the rat. Roadkill is absolutely adorable, and what Comix area does the best is the same as any good comic: getting the reader to explore each panel.
The backgrounds are the real draw Comix area, and the game keeps the player engaged by making them interactive. The interactivity here isn’t just enemies popping out of the backgrounds, although that happens. One floor features powerful fans ventilating an underground, impossible-to-drill tunnel. It’s not until Sketch releases Roadkill that the little rat can sneak under the fan and turn it off. Sketch can waste his health by breaking certain doors with punches, or he can use dynamite to open them.
The game’s panel system is easy to understand, moving like a classic beat-’em-up with arrows pointing the way, but giving Sketch multiple paths through each area or page. As the gameplay gets a bit repetitive, trying to figure out what will happen on the next panel is enough incentive to keep playing. Sketch speaks and thinks in bubbles that never lose their charm. Beyond the brilliant visuals, there’s a consistent ’90s-style edginess to Comix areawith its rat sidekick and rock-influenced soundtrack, a far cry from the system’s familiar chiptune.
Comix areaSega’s creativity was enough to drop for a patent for a “video game system for creating a simulated comic book game”. But the promise of his style had rotten timing. The game was originally pushed back to develop the 1993 pinball game Sonic Spinball, and any Genesis game released in 1995 had two very big hurdles to clear. The first was the new Sony PlayStation and the second was Sega’s new system, the Saturn.
The gaming industry was moving into three dimensions, and there was no room for innovative 2D games like Comix area. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a game unlike anything else and a lot of fun. And thanks to the Nintendo Switch, there’s a second chance to play.