a certain fun in being in on a secret. Knowing something that most
people will never discover, feeling sorry that they missed out.
I graduated high school in 1991, the year when underground music
of all styles suddenly seemed to break, all at once. Most kids were
stuck on the crummy "hair metal" power ballads; if you
were wise, you knew about the Seattle sound, just before it got
1989, Nintendo introduced their Gameboy at the height of their powers.
I shouldn't have to tell you how successful it has become - the
Nintendo handheld remains the most successful games system ever
made. Who wouldn't love to take Tetris and Mario
and Zelda on the road? Gameboy had its charms, but for
the true videogames lover, there was something much better: Lynx.
Lynx was the creation of Epyx, one of the great classic game studios
whose games should be required playing for everyone. In the late
'80s, the designers of the Commodore Amiga set out to create the
first color handheld, capable of displaying brilliant colors and
amazing visual effects far beyond anything seen in a home console.
Epyx eventually needed to sell their machine due to waning finances,
and found a suitor in Atari.
released the Lynx in 1989, alongside the Gameboy, but could never
compete against the Nintendo name and army of games (Tetris
probably sold more systems than anything else). To the faithful
fans, Atari was just running Lynx into the ground; the resentment
towards the Tramiel family (who owned Atari Corp.) was almost personal.
Such was the devotion for this little unit. The Lynx, you see, was
Seattle; Gameboy was hair metal.
wrote six launch games, which are all excellent, and a few others
later on; Epyx eventually faded away, but went out on a high note.
Today, I want to highlight a personal favorite, Todd's Adventures
in Slime World. This title perfectly captures both the charm
of Epyx and the spark that made Lynx great. Here is a clever, imaginative
game that literally oozes with curiosity and invention.
World was written by M. Peter Englebright, who was responsible
for Gates of Zendocon, a great shoot-em-up. Zendocon
was an early showcase of the Lynx's abilities, featuring wonderfully
animated alien bugs, plants, and cells. Slime World built
upon that concept by offering a whole world of strange creatures
of all weird shapes and sizes. In the game, the hero (Todd) travels
and explores the underground caverns of a world entirely made of
green, red, and brown slime. Every inch on the screen bubbles, gurgles,
and sways with life; this is the most animated game world ever created.
Everything is so wonderfully vital, so fluid, that you feel like
a microbe in a giant intestine.
World is probably closest to Metroid, with its many
underground areas to explore, but this game is entirely its own.
It is also a surprisingly large game; during the six different scenarios,
it's easy to get lost in the muck when trying to find that elusive
exit. And, oh yes, this is a messy game. Todd absorbs gobs of green
slime when struck by aliens; it looks like he's being sneezed on.
Thank goodness for the occasional pool of water, where you can wash
clean. All through the game, you have to endure slime waterfalls
and puddles, bugs and snakes and disembodied heads and giant pimples
and endless swarms of maggots. The whole game is one big booger
main weapon is a - what else? - Water pistol strapped to his back.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the water cannon resurrected by
Shigeru Miyamoto for Super Mario Sunshine, twelve years
later. Imitation is the best form of flattery, you see.
a 2D showcase for the Atari Lynx, Slime World is without
peer. Not only does this easily surpass anything visually on the
Gameboy, but it is more animated than anything in the 16-bit era
(a Genesis port was embarrassing by comparison). You can see Epyx's
eagerness to discover just how far the Lynx could be pushed, to
see just how many things could move and bend and explode in a pile
of goo. Another challenge is to create different scenarios for exploring
the caverns. In one level, you only need to explore and find diamonds
while fending off invaders. In another, your pistol is damaged,
forcing you to rely on your wits. In another, you need to capture
mushrooms to keep the planet from melting.
me, the biggest challenge is to not yell out when the giant teeth
jump out of the ground and swallow me whole. Those haunted dogs
in Resident Evil have nothing on the giant teeth. I feel
like a sucker every time I get chomped by those damn things.
then there's the multiplayer mode. While Gameboy allowed for two
players to compete, Slime World offers eight, the most
in any Lynx title. Friends can explore together, or better yet,
hunt each other down; it's deathmatch before deathmatch had a name.
Thankfully, today, a Lynx and some games can be found on EBay for
$30 - here I am, in 2003, looking on the Internet for an obscure
game on a little-known system. Of course, if there was any justice,
Lynx would have been far more successful, and games like Englebright's
Slime World would be widely seen as classics.