And now, Scary-Crayon presents...


A chronicle of pain SNES game review.

by: Wes

In the leap from technicolor to 16-bit, I'm sad to report that "The Wizard of Oz" ends up much like Dorothy in the resultant SNES game: impaled on spikes or otherwise plummeting to her painful death. It's pitiful, really, but it's easy to see where the magic was lost -- in addition to the game sucking awfully and the once wondrous and friendly land of Oz having become a terrifyingly otherworldly and decidedly unfriendly place, Toto has been mutated into a horrible cat monster and the Munchkins live in trees. I really like the movie, and the book wasn't bad, but I can't say that I like this game at all. Yeah, we may not be in Kansas anymore, but if Kansas is a place where this game is nonexistent I sure wish Dorothy would click those damned slippers together and get the hell back there already.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly (and maim and kill).

Unbeknownst to Dorothy, those very same bluebirds also swoop downward to kill
people and peck out their eyeballs, though not necessarily in that order.

As expected, the game's story follows that of the classic movie has little to do with the classic movie. The main character is named "Dorothy", she has a pet named "Toto", they get transported to a place called "Oz", and I suspect that the main characters are all represented -- but that's probably where the similarities end. In the movie, I seem to recall Dorothy having a lot of family issues and wanting to run away from home with her dog Toto, etc., before a tornado hit Kansas and knocked her into Oz (or unconsciousness, as you like). The game, on the other hand opens with Dorothy lazily relaxing in a field, whining about rainbows and bluebirds while Toto the alien cat monster hangs over her slobbering. Then it apparently gets windy enough to convince even the cows in the background that it would be a good idea to go inside, but Dorothy just lays there like a plump slug while the cat monster starts barking/trying to eat her.

TAKE THAT, SHREDDER!!!!!!!Vultures and cactus cats and blue bows, oh my!

Finally, the tornado does its best "TMNT IV" impression and throws Dorothy at the screen in a horribly pixelated affair and we end up in Oz. The disembodied head of the good witch approaches and babbles something about ruby slippers, then the head of the wicked witch babbles something about getting the slippers, then the wicked witch supposedly steals the cat monster and I think Dorothy embarks on a quest to get it back. She never says anything to this effect, though; the game just starts. Along the way, I think, Dorothy is also supposed to rescue the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and also the Lion. The game never says anything to this effect either; you just sort of stumble upon them.

Reduced to a pile of straw.

Death by bluebird.

Given the enemies to be found in this game, I'm guessing the creators confused The Wizard of Oz with Alice in Wonderland. In addition to the fact that Dorothy had pigtails in the movie, at no point in the film do I recall the wicked witch recruiting all of the creatures and even some inanimate objects in Oz for her evil army. The animals out to kill you in the first level include the freakin' bluebirds and bug-eyed hoppy toads, and in the plant department there are lemons that grow sneering faces before commiting suicide, dropping to their deaths when you walk underneath them. Furthermore, even if they miss you, these acidic bastards can injure you still when lemon juice from their fatal impact with the ground splashes against your ankles! But the treehouses of the Munchkins contain even greater horrors: upon entering, Dorothy finds herself attacked by rampaging armchairs. At first I thought to myself, Wtf? Then I decided I'd be pissed too if psychedelic tree-dwelling chipmunk-voiced Garbage Pail Kids kept pressing their dumpy asses against me, after which I thought to myself, Wtf?


Of course, enemies become even more bizarre and dangerous as you progress through the levels. The second level is filled with cats made out of cacti, vultures, and even sentient clouds. SENTIENT CLOUDS THAT LOOK LIKE SPERM!!! They're not very effective enemies -- I never fell once due to their interference and walking into them takes no power whatsoever -- but the entire time I was playing the game I kept thinking to myself, Self, whoever made this game can fucking blow you. And then the clouds showed up and proceeded to do just that, and then I thought, Wtf?

The third and fourth levels pit you against bouncing thornbushes and pumpkins, mice, crows, and green pepper-throwing cornstalks on unicycles (Wtf?); the fifth level contains hummingbirds and bees almost as large as Dorothy herself. I gave up and started writing gothic poetry in my blog around the sixth level, which was fraught with shin-scratching cats who took two kicks to kill and trees that hurl apples at our protagonists at random intervals, in addition to more evil birds and our old friend sour acidic kamikaze lemon.

Seven enemies on one screen. Count 'em.

This is what I call a fair game.

To fight off basically everything in Oz, Dorothy has a $1 plastic glow-in-the-dark star wand and a fierce ridiculously weak ruby-slippered kick that barely reaches above her waist, making it very useful all but useless for beating back the multitude of airborne foes that she encounters along the way. The wand is worthless by itself, but powerups can be found that will enable it to shoot golden bricks, stars, bubbles, and so forth. Other powerups abound; blue ribbons will net Dorothy extra lives, winged ruby slippers will enable her to hover in the air during jumps, purple crystal balls will restore a good amount of hit points, and gold bars do nothing whatsoever except keep Dorothy bling-blingin'. I suspect that 100 of them will net you an extra life (I didn't get that many, so we'll never know), but that too would've most been useless since it would only net you an extra life in the game and not in real life. Oh, did you hear that? That sound means it's time for a warning message...

This game could cause you to remove your own heart. (Scan from ''Beetlejuice for President'', by B.J. Specter)

WARNING: Playing this game for extended periods of time could result in the development of suicidal tendencies. If you are suicidal already, do not play this game. Or, play this game but know that you have been warned, and afterwards come visit me in the mirror and I will say your name three times, after which we will depart on wacky adventures in the Netherworld and discuss great films and crappy games, much like we are doing now, except that beyond the mirror our companions will also include Winona Ryder and French Freedom skeletons. Thank you.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Following their rescues by Dorothy, other playable characters join the team in the persons/mutants/machines of the Scarecrow Jacko, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. I didn't make it to the latter two, but the Scarecrow is pretty similar to Dorothy, except instead of attacking with a wimpy kick he does so with a badass pitchfork! Unfortunately, he only swings the pitchfork at chest height, making it not only useless for fending off airborne enemies but for low-lying ones as well. Using the same items that empower Dorothy's wand, however, he can shoot things from his pitchfork, though he can't benefit from other items reserved for her such as health or extra lives. Moreover, from what I've read about the game, apparently the Tin Man, unlike grasshoppers and Spud Webb, is unable to jump, and the Lion is apparently even weaker than Dorothy. This means that in a game where you can play as a plump and slow adolescent girl from Kansas, a straw-stuffed incarnation of Michael Jackson, a cold and heartless robot, and a goddamned lion, king of beasts, the girl is the best character in the game. It also means that the game bloody sucks.

Apple tossing trees and evil cats on the march!

Like in "Street Fighter II", Dorothy's eyes bug out when she gets hit,
but fortunately she does not vomit on the yellow brick road.

So I came nowhere near beating the game, but I can pretty confidently state that there are more than six levels, linked together in a hub not unlike that of just about every platform game following "Super Mario Bros. 3". Dorothy and friends, whenever she finds them, traverse various lands along the yellow brick road, such as the village of the tree-dwelling Munchkin people, some random desert cliffs where no yellow brick road is visible, farmlands overrun with demon vegetation, the forest from "Mortal Kombat II", and other such places that obviously served as a template for SCEA's "MediEvil", which was a much better game in every way (and will not make you want to kill yourself, but then again it won't let you talk with me, Winona Ryder, or French Freedom skeletons).

Big pimpin' C.R.O.W.E-vil Chair-y O!

Considering that the witch still had Toto/cat monster and the Tin Man and the bitchass Lion were still in need of rescuing, I'll go out on a limb and guess that there were at least three more bosses after the one I fought. So I'll just mention the first boss here -- straight out of The Wiz, Dorothy is pitted against an old-timey pimp crow while Scarecrow Jacko's freedom and person hang in the balance, metaphorically and literally speaking, respectively. Once rescued, he will be of no use to you whatsoever and will furthermore impede your progress by making sad faces at you when you kill the winged monkeys, assuming that there are even winged monkeys in the later levels. I sincerely hope so, since winged monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz" make a hell of a lot more sense than cactus cats and living armchairs. Actually, winged monkeys don't make a lot of sense either, but at least they were in the movie and cactus cats and living armchairs weren't. If this were a game based on "Pee-wee's Playhouse", maybe the living armchairs would belong, and as a result they'd probably be less angry with the world.

-- Wes --

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