Retrospective: Mad Max NES

Posted on 21 May 2015
By James Brookfield
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This year sees two expansions on the Mad Max franchise; a new film, entitled Fury Road, was released earlier this month and a new video game, using an original story, is set to launch in September. The latter is the most interesting as there has not been a Mad Max since 1990 on Nintendo Entertainment System.

Usually tie-in video games follow the same pattern in that they are mostly bad representations and or cash-ins of the films in which they are trying to recreate. This Retrospective look at Mad Max NES will examine if it follows the same trend.

Developed by Mindscape, Mad Max NES aimed to combine elements of the first three Mad Max films into one game. Following the opening screen players see a scrolling text screen that is very similar to the beginning of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Unfortunately that is where the similarities end.

The game begins in the iconic Pursuit Special and the objective is to survive the wasteland by searching for food, water and petrol (or fuel for our American readers). Almost immediately this is a frustration for numerous reasons, the first being is the setting. The colour scheme is very similar to that of the wasteland’s, however it is so bland that everything almost intermingles making it difficult to know where the player is meant to go or what the objective is.

This is hindered by the fact there is no map and the car has very little petrol to begin. Also when driving, there are no visible landmarks to distinguish areas from one another. Furthermore there are a lot of enemy cars trying to run you off the road and gun towers attempting to blow you up.

It is not uncommon for multiple enemies at one instance in video games but it is almost constant to the point of being detrimental to the overall enjoyment. To defeat these foes the player must throw dynamite in their direction yet there is no indication of how much ammo you have or a full control of direction.

This becomes another problem as dynamite should be reserved for blowing up blockades to explore further sections of the wasteland. One positive is the driving controls; they are surprisingly simple but tedious.

Despite the annoyances of exploring the wasteland, Mindscape does make an attempt to vary the gameplay by alternating between driving with and on-foot mine/arena levels. In mine stages the player sees Max armed with a shotgun taking down human enemies in search of supplies. Again this is a positive aspect of the game and if Mindscape focused more here than the driving sections then it would be a better experience.

Upon completing this, you trade these supplies for an arena pass, from the game’s only shop, to then find yourself in the arena to combat more enemy cars in a demolition derby style scenario. Fundamentally the formula of the game is very repetitive; drive around finding a shed, enter the mine to kill enemies, drive around looking for a shop, drive some more to find the arena and repeat. This must be done three times, that’s if you can be bothered to do it twice more.

The reward at the end is a final boss fight wherein Max engages in a one-on-one crossbow duel. Though this is a good boss fight, the game still manages to disappoint one last time with a very abrupt, short ending.

In closing Mad Max NES is, like most film tie-ins, a disappointing, short game that does not utilise the
source material. Both the gameplay and experience is lackluster, containing more negatives than
positives.

It is a shame as any of the Mad Max films would be perfect for a game but sadly Mindscape does not deliver. Hopefully the upcoming Mad Max game in September will be a positive addition to the franchise.