Blues Brothers 2000
When compared with the movie of the same name, Blues Brothers 2000 contains some inaccuracies. Does this matter? Not really. But what the hey, why not mention it? There's not much else to say about this dud of a game.
In the film, our hero Elwood is released from prison. In a cheesy videogame move, presumably included in order to create some action, Elwood must fight the evil warden and his thugs in order to escape Joliet. After Joliet, he has three more levels to look forward to – Chicago, The Spooky Graveyard, and the Swamp. He is collecting not only band members, but blues notes for some almighty powerful tunes. You can't blame the creators; after all, the plot of the movie – gathering together the band members to compete in the Battle of the Bands – is not exactly standard action-packed game fare. The more you play, the more this becomes painfully apparent.
The BB 2000 manual says Elwood has been in jail for six years. You can tell from the perky cartoon that he's definitely aged well. (Why do I care? The game gave little else to care about.) The manual also told me to "straighten my tie, adjust my hat, and slide on the shades," so I suited up in armor for some killer action. All I could think while playing was, "Why did they make this game?" That, and the fact that the bouncy little man in the black suit looked nothing like Dan Aykroyd. A perverse side of me started to wish they'd made a game from the original film, so I could see how Belushi would bounce – but not really.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The controls and interface for Blues Brothers 2000 are remarkably similar to Super Mario 64, only worse. Movement works the same, but with fewer options – no triple jump, swimming or flying. Point of view is virtually identical to Mario 64. The same holds true for combat. You fight like Mario, but with fewer options. Overall, the game interface could be considered a technical prequel to Super Mario 64, which says quite a bit.
Along the way, you fight roughly four types of enemies featured in the level, pick up the ten musical notes for the world song, and defeat the boss of the level. The levels are full of flimsily-justified enemies, such as electrified zombies in the prison and a woman in the city who insists on attacking you for no discernible reason. Some of the items you interact with are a bit of a stretch, such as riding on clouds in Chicago to get to higher points on the buildings.
This game is chock-full of things to jump on, but it just doesn't give much satisfaction. It's like one giant kid's puzzle that shouldn't have been created. Everything is spelled out oh-so-very-clearly. Stand on one of the many gold records lining the floor, and you get a nice useful little tip. Get stuck there during a fight with some nondescript goon, get paralyzed on said record, and read nice tip spelled out in large blocky kid letters over and over and over.
Unfortunately, you also encounter people who will teach you dance moves to help win the Battle of the Bands. You might think that competitive dancing might be dull. You would be right. Since this portion of the game consists of manipulating the control stick and pushing the A and B buttons without any real action on screen, it gets monotonous quickly.
Why the designers felt it was necessary to add a multiplayer mode at all, I have no idea. They seem to have chosen the worst part of the game for multiplayer treatment. Doom-style deathmatch it ain't. It's… drum roll, please… competitive dancing! After approximately one minute, I was ready to pull my hair out from boredom and I think my adversary's eyes glazed over. It doesn't exactly get the old adrenaline racing. For that matter, it's not much of a test of skill or coordination either. I have a feeling even a 5-year-old would be bored with this.
The graphics hurt my eyes. They managed to combine bright, angular and grainy in just the wrong way. Aesthetically speaking, the high degree of contrast was nice, but it wasn't suited for long minutes of gameplay. The overall effect was garish and cartoony, but initially it put me in a happy, jumpy little mood. Alas, it was a quick fix that dissipated well before the loss of all my nine lives.
Ah, the music – the basis of the game (a bad sign). The longer I played, the more tinny and repetitive the music became, like scratching an itch that is never quite relieved. There's something profoundly dissonant about some Mario-nette in a suit jumping and bouncing around to blues muzak – something that crosses all the circuits in your brain. The repeatedly sung phrase "cheaper to keep her" became particularly irritating after hearing it for the 100th time.
The sound effects were fun and crisp, lots of boings and smacks, though I wondered why Elwood made the same bouncing noise with the spring shoes on as he did normally. Couldn't they have added unique sound effects for just this one item? Hmmm?
I much preferred the voiceovers, particularly the prison lunch lady who droned, "Do you want some of THIS?" in a voice resembling a vulture with a head cold, while hurling lumps of indistinct green mush your way. If there's one thing this game has going for it, it's the humor.
I found the dancing portion of the game both quite original and painfully dull. Pushing the A and B buttons and operating the control stick as directed was slightly less exciting then playing Simon. Most of the things that were unique about this game were unique in the wrong way. If asked my opinion by the designers face to face, I'd have to say, "It's, uh, original," and put on a nice sincere smile.
The only things this game had going for it were the imaginative and quirky bad guys and bosses, which stood out even more thanks to the ultra-bright graphics and repetitive, hypnotizing soundtrack (I can't figure out another reason for them to have made this. Maybe it was a front for secret government experiments). These included a giant alligator that looked like a dog and a spider colored to resemble a football jersey. I was actually scared by the woman in the city who charges you with her purse, and the prison nurse with the needle was a nice queasy touch. The Venus flytrap monsters made me want to hold imaginary conversations with them for my own amusement.
The whole experience soon became surreal and dreamlike. I'm not sure that was what the designers intended. They seem to have been going for a nice kids' game. I feel I have to give the designers credit, but I'm not sure what for.
This game suffers from genre identity problems. Jumpy kids' games like Mario and Donkey Kong are usually much more rooted in fantasy. To make up for this, the creators of BB 2000 jazzed everything up, creating cartoon oddities out of real life, and occasionally throwing in an electrified zombie or a giant plant or two. While it's creative and amusing in places, it really isn't enough. Games like this require actual world-building to make an enjoyable atmosphere. This means not just coming up with interesting enemies, but a progressively increasing variety of them as well. That the movie didn't translate well is no excuse; it's clear from what the developers accomplished that they could have done better.
The subject matter of the Blues Brothers 2000 movie is fun, but gritty. I could, perhaps, imagine a game being made based on it, but not this one. I expected something with more action, a little racing, more of a comic book feel – something for older children or adults who might actually get the humor (one of the movie's main characters is, after all, a bartender in a strip club).
I could find no walkthroughs on the web, and only one measly hint aside from the Gameshark codes – which seems indicative of the game's popularity. I keep wondering, why bother licensing the game for a mediocre and none-too-popular movie?
After playing, I felt like a victim of a sick joke. Sure, I laughed, but is this really how we want our video games to make us feel? I am still shaking my head, trying to dislodge the image of Elwood stepping left to right to learn his "dance moves," waving his big ol' mitten-like hands about ineffectually. I cannot for the life of me figure out why this was supposed to be entertaining. While not a terrible game, Blues Brothers 2000 suffers in comparison to similar games on the market. I wouldn't buy this one, but I would rent it for a day or two just to witness its weirdness.