My quest to find a retro handheld Looney Tunes game that doesn’t suck can finally end. Besides the too short Sylvester & Tweety and admirable platformer effort Looney Tunes on the original Game Boy, the Looney Tunes Collector games are actually worth digging into.
Yes, that’s right, it’s games—plural. Infogames released two cartridges, one called Looney Tunes Collector: Alert! in June 2000, and another called Looney Tunes: Marvin Strikes Back (or in Europe, Martian Revenge) six months later, in January 2001. This is one of those rare instances where the European release was first—probably because the developer was based in Lyon, France. While the latter is officially called the “sequel”, I’d argue they pulled a Pokémon here. In both games, you collect Looney Tunes members. In both games, there are exclusives (both unlockable characters as more of the world to explore) that only can be unlocked by combining both games using a link cable.
As far as the plot goes, the Martian tries to destroy the earth, and all Tunes with it, and it’s up to Bugs Bunny and his crew to put a stop to his evil scheme. Each Tune you “collect” has a special ability, and you can switch characters on the fly to overcome obstacles. For example, Bugs is your starting character and can jump, but soon enough, Elmer Fudd and his shotgun joins, allowing you to shoot and destroy pesky enemies. Then there’s Daffy Duck that can swim, unlocking more areas you couldn’t explore before. Instead of gaining abilities like in Metroidvania games, you gain crew members that each have their strengths.
Besides defeating and collecting Looney Tunes characters, there’s plenty of other stuff to collect: coins to buy more stuff in town (and even play a few mini games), carrots to replenish your health (although I was surprised to find Witch Hazel and Elmer Fudd happily nibbling away. Earthy!), and various sorts of ammo—for example for Elmer’s shotgun, the Martian’s bubble zap gun thing, and even a jar of bats to make Hazel’s broomstick fly a few more seconds.
Since the first game is focused on battling the Martian, it contains a different set of characters than the second game, where your main protagonist is the Martian himself, and the second one you collect is his dog, which can jump and enter holes—the same abilities as Bugs has in the first game. In the second, your space ship is crashed and you need to recollect a couple of pieces scattered around the world.
Speaking of world, the games are longer than your average Game Boy Color game, clocking in about four hours each if you chase every dark corner of the map. It has a bit of a Zelda vibe to it: the perspective is top down, the map consists of interconnected tiles of which each is a single screen to explore, and you can come back after collecting another Tune to fly over those spikes or swim across that lake. Don’t expect too much depth though—it’s more of a cheerful and colorful game than a complex one.
As a kid, me and my sisters played the Looney Tunes Collector games, although we never tried linking up. I kind of regret that now, as it would most certainly introduce even more fun. There aren’t a hundred Looney Tunes to collect, so it’s not as complex as Game Freak’s Pokémon games. Pokémon Crystal, the GBC iteration, was released in July 2001, a good six months later, but it’s obvious that Infogames' inspiration came from the 1998 GB original, albeit with less focus on combat and breeding. What would a Daffy + Bugs child look like anyway? There are no random encounters or stats, the world is set and more puzzle platformy than RPGy. And that’s a good thing.
I haven’t even talked about the music yet. The tunes are a perfect compliment to the game: both cheerful and memorable. Entering a dark castle starts the appropriate 8-bit tune that announces imminent danger, entering an underground hole comes with a dampened musical track, while the sunlit farm roads immediately increases the cheerfulness levels. The credits indicate Bit Managers was involved in creating the soundtrack, the same folks that did Sylvester & Tweety, Turok 2, Carrot Crazy, and a bunch of incarnations of French comics.
The controls feel snappy, and there wasn’t a moment where I was unsure if my button presses would result in the right actions in-game, like in Tom & Jerry. Of course, since it’s a top-down action adventure game, this is less off an issue compared to hardcore platform games.
As for which game to get: get both! At only
€10, they’re still pretty cheap and criminally overlooked entries in the retro handheld Looney Tunes saga.
Verdict:/5 I really liked it!