Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mr. Gimmick review in EGM July 1992

I've been prepping an article on Sunsoft's excellent Famicom title Gimmick!, which very almost made it to the United States back in 1992 under the name Mr. Gimmick, but was cancelled. However, it was released in Scandanavia in very limited quantities, and it was reviewed in the July 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly. (The NTSC prototype ROM has also been dumped, but apparently you can only play it for now by purchasing a $45 repro cart.) At any rate, I was curious what EGM had to say about the game, but couldn't find anything on the net other than the scores, which were surprisingly low. However, I found the mag in my stack o' mags in the attic and scanned it, for all to be ashamed at what a terrible magazine it was back then.

The full text is transcribed below:

Mr. Gimmick is Sunsoft's latest NES title. You play the part of Mr. Gimmick, a green blob with special magical gifts. His main weapon is a mystical star that forms over his head to seek out enemies. Collect bottles that give Mr. Gimmick new powers like fireballs, invincibility, and powerful bombs. The five levels are beautifully detailed with pastel colors while the bosses will present quite a challenge to Mr. Gimmick.

Steve: Here's a game with a cool theme that could have been explored in a hundred different ways. Instead it's a repetitive attempt at the action genre with difficult that is obviously geared to the wee sprites. Kids games don't have to be completely lacking, however, and more time could made this one a winner. 5

Ed: OK, so it looks cutesy and seems like a great game for a 7 year old, but wait. Instead, you get a very challenging game that requires a great deal of technique. It starts off easy, but that is only practice. Get farther into the game and you'll have quite a challenge. Definitely a sleeper. Give this one a try! 8

Martin: Mr. Gimmick has a few cool options to the game play and the cute theme will attract younger players. I can't get excited about moving a little booger around the screen though. The graphics are OK and the sounds are decent but other that that [sic] the game play is very simple and needs more variety. Not bad, but not great. 5

Sushi-X: Mr. Gimmick is one of those games that the kiddies can relate to. The levels are nicely detailed for a NES game but with only five levels the variety just isn't there. The music is kind of catchy but wears this after a while. The game plays rather well however. The score would have been higher if it wasn't so easy. 4

Okay, you have to understand that most of the above is factually incorrect. Gimmick! is not only a brilliant game (if you can't wait for the article, then watch this excellent annotated longplay), but it's also ridiculously difficult. Like, up to the levels of Ninja Gaiden and Battletoads difficult. Three out of the four reviewers clearly didn't play the game for any length of time, if at all, only to dismiss it as "kid" stuff because it looks bright and cutesy. There are also six levels (seven if you count the hidden final stage, which requires incredible skill to get to) so they seemed to have based their review off an incorrect fact sheet of some kind.

This attitude was sadly rather common in the magazine, which at the time was very dismissive to 8-bit games in favor of flashier 16-bit titles. (The forgettable Super Bowling for the SNES in the same issue got a 7, 8, 8 and 7, for context.) You also have to remember that this same magazine actually gave numerical scores to each system in their yearly buyer's guide, which is possibly the biggest thing you could do to troll readers back them. Of course, there was no internet to complain, although that was one of the specific reasons why myself (or, rather, my father, since I was ten years old) subscribed to Video Games and Computer Entertainment over EGM.


  1. Very nice catch. And I thought EGM was awesome back then. But I guess I should go back and read them now!
    Hey, at least they let you know the game has 3 Megabits (that didn't even mean anything back in 1992).

  2. I always thought EGM was a bit off, especially back when Herzog Zwei came out, they gave it the lowest scores of all time of all video games they ever reviewed untill The Ooze came out on the Genesis that took over the new record. But then years later, they credited Hergog Zwei as being one of the top 10 Genesis games of all time when it was still ranked by their scores as the 2nd worst video game ever...... morons indeed.

  3. >The music is kind of catchy but wears thin after a while
    I loved the music in Gimmick, but since they were reviewing the NES version of the game (without the extra Sunsoft sound chip), I can understand where they're coming from. What I've played of the PAL version didn't sound nearly as good as the Famicom original either.

  4. Yeah, I particularly despised EGM back then. Not only was the magazine's style and editorial voice fairly obnoxious, but they would run 16 or more page advertisements masquerading as content. Worst of all is that style of magazine is what most video game websites appear to aspire to. VG&CE wasn't as exciting or visually appealing, or polished for that matter, but one did get the sense, in the earlier days at least, that they employed actual professionals instead of random 20-somethings who liked playing games.

  5. I liked the visual coverage in EGM better, but even when I was like eight years old I found the review content way too scant. Up until 92/93 VG&CE was really damn good, content-wise. They also didn't have the loudly proclaimed SNES bias that EGM had. (I was a Genesis kid growing up.)

    I think the PAL Mr. Gimmick sounds alright. It's definitely inferior to the FC release, but not markedly so - it's still on the level of Sunsoft's other games.

  6. There's a big flaw with that 4 opinions concept. Unless it's Super Mario World or something, 3 out of 4 will always have played the game for like 10 minutes. It's just an unrealistic concept as a regular feature in a monthly magazine.

  7. Living in Scandinavia, I remember playing this game as a kid, and still love it to this day. Same thing with Ufouria, definitely a hidden gem that one too.

    Easy? Hahah!

  8. One of the best magazines ever (when they called Super Metroid the greatest game of all time, they won my love forever), but man did they ever suck before issue... oh... 65-ish (X-Men cover, with a 550-page issue. Jesus!). They were on a roll after that, though, and produced MANY fine issues, at least until Milkman took over from Shoe and the magazine began to look horrible and the content was boring as hell. God, remember the "Blu-Ray Bungalloo" shit they came out with near the end? It didn't help Milkman had a horrible taste in films... but they covered PC Games and Blu-Rays and had tons of ads and still only managed to make issues that were like 80 pages long! For, like, $7.99 and issue.

    But really, back in the day, they were awesome. Gamefan had better games (their Snatcher article back in the day was too awesome... remember when they RIGHTLY said Contra Hard Corps was the best Contra ever? Even their anime coverage RULED, I remember ordering all the Evangelion tapes... they made a few too many issues where they were clearly all hooked on crack, and their love of the atrocious Hermie Hopperhead was sad... but aside from that... yeah).

    Ah, I miss video game mags though. I did get the new GamePro, which looked cool. Two questions:

    1) Did GameFan ever cover the excellent LITTLE RALPH and INTERNAL SECTION? God those games ruled.

    2) What did EGM give ICO, the best PS2 game ever? I know they later called it "one of the most overrated games ever", but Shane Bettenhause also said Killer7 and Lumines sucked (two of the best games ever, btw).

  9. That review seemed about right. I always followed Ed Semrad for his scores as he seemed to be the most on it reviewer before he left the mag. He gave it an 8 which seemed about right from watching the footage of the game. Ed Semrad was probrably my favorite EGM reviewer of all time really. I for one loved EGM's review system.