Poor Michael Jackson has had a rough string of luck lately. He’s gone from being the undisputed King of Pop, to some kind of universally feared, whacked-out man-child. The allegations of child molestation against him stand to be the next “Trial of the Century,” and everyone – absolutely everyone – is out to make a joke at the guy’s expense. Seriously, it takes a brave soul to lay off the Jackson jokes and just let the dude be. And we brave pioneers here at JGR wouldn’t dream of capitalizing off of his misfortune for a cheap and dirty laugh.
That is, until we found Moonwalker.
I had never even heard of the movie Moonwalker, which this game is clearly based off of. So I had to do some research. Apparently, it is an 80s film collecting some of Jackson’s concerts, and featuring a short film with him as the star. In this film, Joe Pesci plays a drug kingpin who wants to hook all the country’s children on smack. Jackson goes on a quest to save them, that somehow involves morphing himself into a car and a spaceship. Someone decided this would make a perfect game – and you know what? – in a way, they were right. But they had to wait until 2004 for the real glory of this game to take flight, when, armed with our knowledge of current events, we could look back at a game where Jackson chases after children locked in closets, and laugh our asses off.
As Static eloquently put it, this is like shooting ducks in a duck.
In Moonwalker, you play as a snappily-dressed Michael Jackson, who smoothly slides across the screen and does battle with various drug goons. You fight them by kicking outward, which releases a sparkle of magic from your shoes, and knocks your foes across the screen. Occasionally, ladies in heat will grab you, but no, no. Michael has no time for the ladies. You will also be accosted by dogs and cats, who are also easily dispatched with a flick of the ‘ol magic glove. In the meantime, you open doors, windows, car trunks – anything that could potentially hold a small child within. Luckily, Jackson should be an expert in sniffing them out. When you release them, they shriek “Michael!” and scamper away, refilling a small amount of your health. Please, please, please don’t ask why they refill your health.
The goal is to find all of the children hidden within a level. Once you do, the screen fades and Michael Jackson’s pet monkey flies in on a bolt of blue light. That’s right, Bubbles has a cameo. He perches on your shoulder and points you in the direction of the boss, who I presume is Mr. Big. He looks nothing like Pesci, but reminds you every time: “HA HA HA! You’ll Never Catch Me!” Despite the fact that it appears you have indeed caught him, Michael allows him to walk away, and then fights a rather large group of goons. When they are properly magic-ed to death, a final child appears, gleefully yells “Michael!” and the screen… fades… to black. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!
However, we try (though not very hard) to be a respectable review site. So I must acknowledge that this game came out back when Michael Jackson was pretty fucking cool, and it is the definitive “Awesome-Era Michael Jackson” simulator. Awesome, you ask? Well, not once in my life had I ever considered what I would want in game where I played as M. Jackson. But once I started up this game, I realized that the developers had done all that thinking for me ahead of time.
The magic thing is a little hokey, but you’re able to do some pretty smooth stuff, and some trademark Michael moves. Pressing Up has you stand on your toes and yell “Hooooooo!” – and Jackson was the only guy in the world who could make that look cool. The A button controls your magic/life. If you hold it down for a short time, Jackson spins around and throws his hat like a boomerang, killing any enemies it hits. Holding down the A button for about five seconds will possess any enemy around you, and is especially useful for huge groups and boss fights. They’ll line up in backup dancer formation and mirror you in a short routine, which changes each level. At the end, Michael will grab his crotch, give us a “Whoooooo!”, and the enemy dancers will collapse around him. I’m sorry, but that’s fuckin’ harsh. If I had that ability, I’d use it all the time.
Besides, this is the only game in the world where a goon in a zoot suit will pull a gun on you, and you can kick a chair into him from across the room, spin around in victory, and moonwalk across the keys of a piano. If you think that sounds dumb, then maybe it’s just an 80s thing. I find it pretty rad.
Moonwalker’s graphics are pretty average. This was one of the earlier Genesis games, as I recall, early enough to be featured on the packaging for the console. They get the job done, and they’re kinda vibrant by Genesis standards, but they’re not the main focus of the show. The music, definitely, is. Five of Jackson’s songs have been duplicated in MIDI format for the game. They’re still just electronic beeps and boops, but they are spot on and instantly recognizable. Digitized speech clips also sound great, if rather funny, such as all of Jackson’s “Ooohs”, “Aaahs”, and “Who’s Bad?”s. If you want to see the capabilities of Genesis sound, this is a great place to start.
Michael Jackson is an easy target to joke about nowadays, but there was a time when he was in his prime, and this game hails from that era. It perfectly captures the Michael Jackson persona from his videos, and contains some pretty laugh-out-loud moments, because the character you’re controlling is doing exactly the kind of stuff Jackson would on MTV. The game is short, which works in its benefit, as the game never rises above the find-the-children mission level after level. If you hate the game by the first level, you can stop. Though, if you still remember 80s Michael Jackson, this game is worth playing for some great nostalgia.
Perfectly captures the music video persona of the King of Pop. Great Genesis sound.
Michael Jackson from the 80s, of course. You know it.