Spinmaster review by Bobak
Spinmaster: The Definitive Review by Bobak!
As you may have guessed from the screenshots, Spinmaster is not a DJ simulation. It was released in 1993 by Data East, along with Dashin' Desperadoes for the Sega Genesis. Both had the same characters, possibly as a failed attempt by Data East to create a lasting franchise other than Karnov. It is interesting to note that Spinmaster bears a striking resemblance to a successful, short-lived Data East franchise Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja (which spanned several arcade and home platforms in the early to mid '90s). The box even goes so far as to say "A comical-action game in the tradition of 'Joe&Mac: Caveman Ninja.'"
By far, Spinmaster's most amusing aspect is its story. Not because its good or bad, but because there seems to have been no consensus over the storyline. In the US home cart version used for this review, neither the manual authors, insert writers, or game programmers seem to agree with each other on the plot. Since this creates a sort of Neo-Geo Rashomon, lets take a look at each:
-The Manual Authors
A game like Spinmaster usually relies on the manual authors to give all the action on screen some kind of underlying story. From the Spinmaster manual I'm also guessing that they get some kind of time-related bonus for finishing early.
To save time, here is the story, word-for-word, typo-for-typo from page 2 of the manual, with my editorial comments in brackets:
"Many years ago, a large treasure was hidden by a mysterious guy on an uncharted island [Not pirate, not wizard, but 'mysterious guy' -why not just call him 'contrived guy'] . The guy of mystery drew the location of the treasure on a map [so he drew it on another map?] and hid it deep in the forest of the island. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to years, and years turned to decades. The guy who hid the map disappeared, never to be seen again [how mysterious]. During this time, the map became dirty and weathered, eventually tearing into five pieces which were scattered about the corners of the world [so the world is a pentagon].
"One of these pieces wafted its way into the possession of the young adventurer Johnny. Living with this girlfriend Mary [in sin! ;-)] and his rugged sidekick Tom [translated: his 'bitch'], Johnny dreamed of the day when he would some day [sic] find the ancient treasure on the hidden island of the mysterious guy.....
"Then one day, the greedy, treasure-seeking mad scientist, Dr. De Playne [somebody's been watching 'Fantasy Island' too much] appeared in Johnny's little town. Seizing Johnny's piece of the treasure map and kidnapping Mary his girlfriend, Dr. De Playne set out to find the treasure and buy up all the toys and candy of the world, plunging the children of earth into a bitter darkness of continuous study and well-balanced meals [Ack! Its the Hulkster!]. But wait! Hot on the of earth into a bitter darkness of continuous study and well-balanced meals. But wait! Hot on [yes, your seeing correctly, they repeated an entire line twice] the heals [sic] of the mad Dr. De Playne come Johnny and Tom with their yo-yos. Will these two be successful in this wonderous adventure? Will they foil the evil plans of Dr. De Playne? The future depends on you- -so read the instructions carefully!"
That last line is the real kicker. If they expect us to read the instructions carefully, we should expect them to write them carefully (and come to some agreement with the other plot lines, but I digress). After careful examination here are some other highlights from the instruction booklet:
Page 4: For no apparent reason, the English translators neglected to translate an entire line of instruction out of Japanese in the "Controls" section. Was it important? I'm not sure, probably not... maybe.
Page 6: The writers add the word "tromp" to the English language. Apparently, once you jump on an enemy you can continue to "tromp" him to death. I can imagine the authors discussing it over spellchecker: "Well, it -sounds- right... Let's use it anyway!"
Page 7: The boxing glove icon isn't a "glove," it's a "globe."
Page 13a: The manual says level one takes place in an American airport, yet the actual game distinctly shows the Spanish flag and the words "Madrid Airport" at the beginning of the level.
Page 13b: In describing the levels, the game notes that you are to stop Dr. De Playne before he "gets his sinister paws on the proud Mary." All right now, wait a moment. Does this mean that Dr. De Playne has sexual intentions for Mary? Or does it imply that the evil doctor hasn't captured Mary yet? If the latter is the case it would mean it not only contradicts the game programmers' story, but also the story mentioned earlier in the same manual. Oh well...
The insert writers were apparently in their own little world when Spinmaster came around. Ignoring both the manual and the game, they wrote this description on the back insert:
"You are an adventurer in search of pieces to a secret treasure map. But beware of the evil Dr. Dokked. He and his henchman are out to stop you, and will do anything to get to the treasure before you do! Use your yo-yo to put an end to Dr. Dokked's plans!"
Hmm... Okay. Now maybe I missed something, but in both the game and the manual, the evil doctor is "De Playne" not "Dokked." I have a feeling that the insert designers had never seen the game before and with only a vague idea of the plot decided to make up a story (hence the whole tag line referring to Joe & Mac).
Well this group of blokes seems to have come up with their own variation of the story. First of all, the characters in the game call the evil scientist Dr. Anda, so I guess we'll never know his true identity (I'm guessing its Dr. Wiley). At the beginning of the game you see Mary being carted away in a camouflaged VW bus in the standard platform scenario: save the significant other. Then by the end of the level you are also greeted with part of the stolen treasure not mentioned before in the actual game. "But wait!" you say, "It was mentioned in the other documentation." Well, sort of: In the manual, only one part of the map was stolen (the game makes it sound like all of it was stolen) and according to the insert no part of the map was stolen. (Not exactly a case that can be brought to trial...) As an added "bonus," the final map in the game does not specify were the treasure is: you must pick from three choices that will either give you a happy ending or a sad ending. How cute...
Johnny and Tom can attack with their yo-yos (or other weapons they may pick up), jump to clear obstacles or attack (thus 'tromping' their enemies), slide tackle across the ground, or use a special bomber attack which clears the screen of minor enemies and seriously damages bosses. In addition, they can 'spirit' charge their normal yo-yo attack by holding down the button until charged. I have found that the spirit charge isn't very effective in comparison to the normal shot and that the slide tackle almost always puts you were you don't want to be.
The graphics for Spinmaster are big, colorful and well animated. They retain the young-at-heart cartoon feeling found in the Joe & Mac series with slightly bigger characters. As the second Neo Geo platformer (the first was Blue's Journey), Spinmaster makes an amazing leap in terms of graphics. Even at game's sometimes very high speed, it is visually seamless. While not the best to have graced the Neo Geo, they score Spinmaster's highest points. (Personal favorite: one of the bosses changes heads -one of which is a giant pot, hence he becomes a "pot head!" Get it? ... Okay-okay, I'll stick to the review.)
As soon as Spinmaster is turned on you are greeted by an annoying, shrill, heavily accented voice screaming "Speeeenmasta!" Fortunately, the game drops it down a notch once you start playing. The music is appropriate for the levels -nothing more, nothing less. The sound effects are also sufficiently at par with other Neo Geo games from the time. There really isn't much more to say about it, so lets move on...
The controls are great. In fact, because of the games low difficulty, you feel almost -too- in control as you bowl over your enemies. This is a curious thing to note about Spinmaster: While the game can be played slowly, moving forward at a steady pace to collect hidden bonuses, it can also be played at an absolute breakneck speed. I have cleared areas in seconds by just charging forward -shooting and hoping my way to the finish line. Since the Genesis incarnation of the series (Dashin Desperadoes) involved racing each other, it seems that the same techniques carried over to the more traditional Neo Geo platformer, not necessarily helping its longevity.
As noted earlier, there isn't much challenge to Spinmaster. I think any seasoned gamer will have utterly mastered in a few hours. There are a number of different weapons and hidden bonuses to uncover along the way, the keep the game pleasant, but don't add too much to its replay value. If you take the game slow its too easy, if you try dashing though its way too short. The whole game consists of 5 themed levels, divided unevenly into a total of 12 areas. It sounds much longer than it is; the game can be completed in about twenty minutes. However, it is a fun game to play with a partner and could be good for a quick game.
Then again, while Spinmaster's low difficulty may make it perfect for the younger gamers. If you have a younger sibling or child who finds your other Neo Geo titles ridiculously difficult (barring the universally cheap Zankuro, Rugal, and Dr. Muckley), Spinmaster may be a good choice.
What is the final verdict on Spinmaster? Visually impressive, fun and simple to play, but its too short and too easy to warrant any accolades. If you have a situation with younger players, I recommend it. Otherwise, I'd be patient and see if you can pick it up for a reasonable price. For the added humor, try and pick up the US home cart for the story conflicts.
Replay: Over age 10, low, under age 10, high
-Run Lola, Run! (err... I mean Johnny). You'll be surprised how easy the levels will fly by if you just charge through. By running you take the occasional hit of damage, but you'll save your self from the more prolonged abuse of taking a level slowly (more potential for cheap hits). However, if score it your interest, then hang back and take a leisurely stroll through the levels.
-The Glove is by far the most effective weapon in the game. Not only is it powerful in its normal usage, but used in its bomber attack it lets you run a little as it clears the screen -thus clearing even more enemies and letting you get through a level even faster!
-Unless you want to be disappointed, pick "A" at the end of the game.
Bobak!: is human encyclopedia, particularly on topics of history, international affairs, architecture, movies, and video game history & culture...
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