I Was An Atomic Mutant! Review

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Publisher: ValuSoft (THQ)
Developer: Canopy Games

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 400 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM, 3D video card, 200 MB HD space, Windows 98 or more recent operating system

The universe! Vast beyond imagining, it contains everything that ever was, or ever will be. Scientists now know that all matter is made of atoms. To harness their power is to unleash the fury of the universe primeval. There in the desert southwest of America, scientists are tearing the fabric of reality with terrible results. But what unspeakable things may come from meddling with the forces from the dawn of creation? Beware! For mutations great and terrible are awakening from their atomic slumber! Can mankind combat forces from beyond space and time? Find out as you play I Was An Atomic Mutant! Taking B-Movie sensibilities to its software equivalent, Canopy Games' I Was An Atomic Mutant! is a well-produced and straightforward giant monster game, where the only real objective is to destroy, destroy, DESTROY!!! Four different gargantuan behemoths enjoy romps through the Southwest's scenic cities and military installations, as they grind them to a fine powder underneath their scaly, slimy feet.

Seth W. Rosenfeld

I'm a big believer that not every game has to be huge, deep, and slickly produced – primarily because only big companies with fat wallets can realistically make games like that anymore. In most cases, quality games on a smaller scale have been distributed online, as retail is still dominated by the big boys. There are still a few smaller publishers releasing "budget" software, to middling success. Mostly they have catered to the Wal-Mart crowd, with titles appealing to middle-American Deer Hunter sensibilities, or scaled-down first person shooters using second or third-tier technology. This stuff is widely appealing to Ma and Pa Kent, tending not be too risky in concept or design, and is therefore somewhat bland to Joe Gamer.

I Was An Atomic Mutant! is interesting because it is a budget software title released by ValuSoft that seems to break with typical budget software content. It joins the "giant monster" subgenre that has been popular recently (what with recently released Godzilla titles from Infogrames and War of the Monsters from Sony). The developers at Canopy understood that cheesy giant monster movies resonate with low-budget software productions, and they created the B-game equivalent of B-movies. The result is a small, well-produced game that works well on some basic levels but falls a bit short in providing long-lasting game play for more sophisticated audiences.

The presentation of IWAAM stands out as an unmitigated success. Canopy obviously has quite a love of the genre, as exemplified by movies such as 1958's Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. They have captured the bombastic feel of these black and white movies perfectly with brief "trailers" that are used as the opening cut-scene and as "previews" for each of the four monsters in the game. Using grainy, stock trailer footage with their own captions and dialogue, these segments are amusingly written and thoroughly genuine. The menu screens and loading screens are also spot-on, 50s drive-in movie adverts ("BEHOLD!! Gargantuan Scores!!", "FLEE!! To the Desktop!!"), and they carry this aesthetic through to an amusing manual.

There is no story to I Was An Atomic Mutant! – which works perfectly, as none of the movies the game draws inspiration from had stories either. You are simply given control of fifty-foot hellspawn and let loose on an unsuspecting town, city, or military base. Each monster has several attacks that have different special effects but that function similarly for game-play purposes (For example, the She-Beast's eye beams are the same as Reptomicus's fireball).

You have health, you have energy and you have a destruction meter. The objective in every level is simply to fill the destruction meter all the way, and this means laying waste to everything in sight. Each level can be played in a few minutes, and the human resistance never poses too much threat. Various tanks and planes will pester and annoy, but you have to be dumb as a monster to let these get to your health bar too much. The controls do need a bit of work. For example, one annoyance is a targeting reticle that is consistently obscured by your monster whenever you want to target something directly ahead of you. Fortunately, gameplay is so basic that this never becomes a problem.

There is something pure here, in that IWAAM fulfills one of the primal urges of video game players – to destroy and blow stuff up. It's the urge to throw the ultimate temper tantrum and take all one's anxieties out on the environment at hand. This is what has always appealed to me about the genre, making me a fan of the 1960s "Ultraman" when I was a wee lad. In this way, IWAAM may be a more genuine experience than Sony's slickly produced fighter War of the Monsters – which was a great game, but ultimately still a basic fighting contest with a lot of ancillary destruction. IWAAM's problem is that the levels are too short and too repetitive with barely any difficulty curve, even at the hardest settings. The game play is amusing for brief stretches of time, and will likely appeal to younger audiences, who are more keen on repetition and cheap thrills.

All said, that's not a bad thing – I gained my love of all things colossal and gargantuan as a kid, and really, the genre should be geared to kids first – as anyone who has seen the aimed-at-teens and overly self-important Godzilla remake can attest to. Given that, if I had a tyke under the age of thirteen, IWAAM would be a must buy. This type of game should be encouraged, especially at the budget level, as Canopy does have something simple... fun... gargantuan... terrifying.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 25, 2003 7:11 PM.

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