• Matthew Cobb

"Martian Alert!: Marvin Strikes Back!' Review

Updated: Apr 20, 2020


Marvin the Martian is one of the most fearsome enemies present in the Looney Tunes franchise. The soft-spoken Martian battles Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck with laser guns, rocket ships, and his trusty companion K-9. Marvin once attacked Earth and Bugs Bunny had to gather the help of toons from all over the land to help fight him. If that doesn’t sound like a familiar Chuck Jones cartoon, don’t worry. It isn’t. That’s the story of ‘Looney Tunes Collector: Alert’, a game released for the Game Boy Color in 2000 to a very small audience.

This is a review of it’s sequel, ‘Martian Alert!: Marvin Strikes Back!’



‘Marvin Strikes Back!’ sets its premise with an impressively high quality cutscene. Marvin is watching a movie starring Daffy Duck. The movie depicts Marvin’s attack on Earth from the first game. Marvin is, of course, portrayed by the lovable Porky Pig, and Daffy proceeds to fight off his invasion and embarrass the alien. This leaves Marvin very angry. Very angry indeed.


THE GAMEPLAY

'Marvin Strikes Back!’, also known as 'Martian Revenge' plays out like a mixture of ‘The Legend of Zelda’ and ‘Pokemon.’ The player controls various Looney Tunes characters, starting with Marvin and his trusty dog, K-9. Each character features unique abilities. Marvin utilizes a bubble gun, and K-9 is able to jump. Along the way, more characters are encountered, and if they’re useful – or rather, famous – enough, Marvin will imprison them for their own abilities. Road Runner can run across gaps. Elmer Fudd can use a shotgun.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UYSpU2WKU


Many of these characters have really fun mechanics. The dog Marc Anthony in particular features a well-utilized punching mechanic which can be used to deflect projectiles and fight bosses. But many others are redundant or even rendered obsolete by later characters. There’s little point in using Speedy Gonzales’ speed when Road Runner’s speed completely outclasses him. The character Papa Bear of Goldilocks fame sticks out even more. Listed in the instruction manual as being able to throw gumballs, Papa Bear is unable to be used for the entire game. This is despite him being the fifth character unlocked, and every time he is selected, the player is treated to Papa telling them a variation of “Oh no, you don’t need me out there,” or “That’s too scary, pick someone else!” His character slot makes one wonder about what the intended plan for him was, and why he was even left in.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UYSpU2WKU


Fortunately, the game does well with its puzzles and level progression. The player is given clear objectives across the world. They might have to find a magic lamp in the desert, or collect runaway sheep on a boat. Castle Black stands out for this. At the beginning of the mission, the player is offered a fork in the pathways in front of them. If the player goes up, like assumed, they meet with a dead end but can see a key on the other side of a wall. After backtracking, they locate the castle, which is locked. Thanks to the earlier route, the player knows that key rests behind the lava pool the castle rests in and are able to reach it with Marvin’s saucer. The rest of the level is intricate and winding, reminiscent of a ‘Legend of Zelda’ dungeon.

PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.retrogameage.com/shop/game-boy-color/looney-tunes-marvin-strikes-back-game-boy-color/


The game doesn’t do as well with platforming. K-9 and Bugs Bunny are able to jump around bottomless pits, but the controls are very finicky with little room for error, especially since many of these areas are places the player has traverse repeatedly. This can be alleviated through careful use of Road Runner or Marvin’s saucer, but these alternatives are not always viable.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UYSpU2WKU


This theme of inconsistency extends to the game’s boss battles. Many of the battles are extremely entertaining, needing careful use of items and abilities. The fight with Casanova skunk Pepe Le Pew is a favorite, requiring the player to capture him with Marvin’s bubble gun and push him into the water. But for every great battle, there’s a boss that’s completely uninspired. Many bosses are a variation of jumping on their head repeatedly or shooting them a lot with Marvin’s gun. Daffy Duck is perhaps the most frustrating. The primary antagonist of the game, his fights consist of him splashing the character from a pool. He moves very quickly, has no flinching or real opportunity for dodging, and attacks from several directions. The player has no choice but to spam Marvin’s gun and healing items and hope to end the fight quickly.


PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UYSpU2WKU


The biggest missed opportunity was in the bonus levels. Several extra missions are unlocked after the final fight with Daffy, featuring characters like Tasmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn, and Tweety Bird. These each provide their own small scenarios before building to a larger ending and epilogue to the game. To unlock them all, the player has to trade with another player through the Gameboy Color’s Link Cable system so they can unlock all of the characters for each mission.


As a reviewer, I have been unable to find any sales data for this game, nor any information for how many copies exist. The closest is with the top result for the game on YouTube, a walkthrough of the game which boasts a measly 7000 views and 23 comments over four years. This is anecdotal, but I first played this game twenty years ago, and other than my sister (who played the same copy I did), I have never found that has ever even heard of this game. I didn’t even know the ending until I found said the prior-mentioned walkthrough.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UYSpU2WKU


This is an ending that features the “I Love to Singa” owl summoning a spaceship and a psychic baby Martian named Mot. The player has to travel inside K-9’s brain and remove viruses in a map that looks like it was designed by David Cronenberg. This is followed by an escape from an exploding lair, and if the player fails, the whole thing blows up. There is an ending to this game where the Looney Tunes characters are vaporized by an explosion.

PHOTO CREDIT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8UYSpU2WKU


THE VERDICT

This game is a very uneven experience. There are many examples of good level design and great puzzles. The art is fantastic and it’s a blast to play as Looney Tunes favorites. Therefore it’s a shame that the experience is held down by many lazier puzzle and boss designs, a failure to utilize characters for both gameplay and story, and an endgame that is completely inaccessible to most players. If Marvin Strikes Back! is discovered in the wild, it’s worth a few hours of enjoyment. It’s fun and a nice distraction. But don’t seek it out. There are more satisfying games on the shelves.

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