October 10th, 2012 | By Dominic Tarason
Now here’s an unusual game with a convoluted history. Once upon a time on a console that many people remember, there was a cartridge released called Action 52. It was awful, as highlighted by the AVGN here - 52 of the worst games ever made (and some that didn’t even load correctly) all crammed into one piece of plastic and sold to impressionable kids at the preposterous price of $200. One such game on the cart was Streemerz, a hideous, barely-functional clown-themed platformer with a potentially interesting but largely wasted movement concept. Behold:
From awful origins comes something great. Many years later, Arthur ‘Mr Podunkian’ Lee organizes a game-jam to remake Action 52, repairing it in the process by taking the threadbare concepts of the games and expanding them into something great. Arguably the best thing to come out of it was Streemerz, a lovingly crafted NES-style parody of Bionic Commando and – oddly enough – VVVVVV. With clowns. Today, Streemerz comes home to the NES, sprite-flicker and all.
While the game is still available in standalone and flash-based formats, the NES edition feels like the most complete and authentic version of the game. They’ve done a great job porting it over, with every feature and bit of content intact, as far as I can see. Not sure if they’ve snuck in any new elements, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had. One of the biggest perks of moving to the NES is that the game now gets to use that iconic old sound chip for maximum retro nostalgia. Good times.
There’s quite a lot of game to get your teeth into. While it’s not hugely long, the main campaign (a mostly-vertical climb through some rather cruel deathtraps) comes in Normal and Easy variants. There’s not much more to it than mastering the not-entirely-intuitive movement, but there’s a good challenge to be found here. On top of the regular story content, there’s a time-attack mode set in a series of extra-tough levels, and a full parody of VVVVVV, where you need to navigate the original campaign using the gravity-flipping gimmick of Cavanagh’s 8-bit hit.
It also contains a whole lot of sassy indie game scenester humor, poking fun at Derek Yu (of Spelunky fame) and Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV) among others. The humour alternates wildly between borderline-offensive in-joking, ridiculous parody of poor NES-era translations, and some painfully bad puns. A nice mix, really. A lot of it might fly over your head unless you actively follow indie gaming and it’s more notable faces, but I think the jokes work on multiple levels.
The NES version should run on just about any emulator you throw it at – I do wonder whether it would work as intended if dumped to a real cartridge, though. Anyone tried? Either way, it’s nice to see ‘authentic’ retro development like this still happening, and the old hardware being repurposed for indie and hobbyist game creation. Lastly, don’t forget that 22 other Action 52 games also got remade in the dev-jam, and most of them are worth a play, too!