THE LAWNMOWER MAN
If there’s one movie I never expected to have a good retro game attached to it, it’s The Lawnmower Man.
You remember The Lawnmower Man, right?
Of course you do.
Sure the virtual reality plot device lends itself to obvious possibilities game-wise but really, the best I was hoping for on Sega Genesis was a lame side-scroller at best. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like the movie in all its dated, silly, 90’s glory, but it is one goofy-ass flick and a hard one to take seriously so a game could have been a disaster of Alf-like proportions.
But as patchy as this game is… I kinda like it!
I know I might be alone on that one but come on, think about it, when you’ve seen the film the game is based on, this is a pretty solid effort from Sega. It could have been much, MUCH worse.
I like The Lawnmower Man on Genesis because it really takes its source material weirdly seriously and tries to deliver on several different levels. One second you’re Pierce Brosnan side-scrolling around machine-gunning people Contra-style, the next you’re floating at break-neck speed through a first person virtual landscape shooting at red demons, then you’re flying through some of the most seizure-inducing backgrounds you’ll ever see. It’s a bit of a mind-melt but it’s a hard one to get bored by, the game never ceases to throw things at you.
One thing you should watch out for is those “Access Denied” bubbles you find at the end of every side-scroller level: Shoot them. You’ll tear your hair out trying to exit a level unless you know to shoot those darn things. Trust me, the first time playing it I was walking back and forth for ages trying to figure out how to leave that bloody screen until I realized you could just exit by shooting random floating words.
Surely walking through a door would have been a little more, shall we say, straight-forward?
It’s a minor thing but it could save your life one day.
Or a couple of minutes of it at least.
Getting through the VR levels, of which you’ll find 4, isn’t too hard but demands deep focus and a LOT of patience because chances are you’ll be slamming into cyber walls loads. It’s a trial-and-error deal so depending on how willing you are to put yourself through some crazy 3D flight simulator you’ll either get absorbed by it or curse its name over and over.
The Cyber Run and Cyber Tube (“tube” lol) third-person flying levels near the end are pretty relentless and as well as avoiding incoming obstacles you’ll need to shoot some also. Unlike the Cyber War level where you stopped floating for a moment and shot a bunch of cyber imps Arcade-style before flying off again, here you’re made to multi-task which isn’t always that easy especially when you’re fighting off Jeff Fahey’s adorable CG head!
Jeff Fahey’s CG head is always hilarious.
Look at these graphics, aren’t they just amazing for a 16-bit console?
Wait, that’s a shot from the movie itself?!
Anyway, the game stays as close to the film as possible with the main locations being represented except maybe… the lawn?
Just a thought: If this had been an Atari game the WHOLE thing would have been Jeff Fahey mowing his lawn. Basically four pixels making bits of the light green background a little less light green. Almost like Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to think of it…
But I digress.
I like the game because it does at least attempt to give you an experience resembling the movie. Hell, you even have cyber bees you gotta fight! That’s just awesome.
Although why that Christmas tree is also a gun I… I’m not sure about.
You also get to “battle,” I use the term very lightly, a couple of snake-like gas pumps which might sound a tad silly but seeing as this is a game based on a film about a mentally challenged lawnmower man who gets “smart” by playing video games and ends up cyber mating and turning into an evil VR genius who looks like something a floppy disc would poop if it contained an Elmer Fudd jpeg and the right digestive system… this is pretty standard stuff, frankly.
You collect upgrades to your weapons throughout the game as well as data discs which, eventually, once you have a bunch of them, become some kind of Virtual Suit which acts as a shield for a bit. It’s not always clear when you’re plugged in and when you’re meant to be in the real world but it doesn’t matter, I like to think of it as a Matrix meets Johnny Mnemonic meets Keanu Reeves’ ass type of thing.
There is an SNES version of the game also which does improve some of the graphics, especially in the VR levels, as well as a Game Boy version which…
…is clearly a poor transfer.
Doesn’t THAT title screen look exciting?
Much like that Batman Forever Game Boy ignominy, you can’t tell what the hell you’re looking at half the time!
Is that the letter “E”?
As in… Jeff FahEy?
Anyway, just play the Genesis or SNES ones. If you liked the movie then chances are you’ll enjoy this game: It’s just as silly, random and surreal as the film itself. You’ve got variety in terms of gameplay, fun graphics, clever references to the film, a cool soundtrack, maybe it’s a guilty pleasure but I like it.
I’ve heard there’s a Lawnmower Man 2 game on PC…
Hm, I’ve seen Lawnmower Man 2…