The 90’s saw a wave of creativity that I believe is unrivaled to this day. Just about anything went in terms of game design. If you wanted to make a game about the dot from the 7-up commercials, you could do it. If you wanted to make a game about an earthworm in a superhero suit, you could do it. And, for today’s subject, if you wanted to make a game about a janitor turned superhero who relies on natural gases (and I’m not talking about Chemistry class) and flinging his own snot to take care of the bad guys, that was fair game too.
Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure is a game that I have a ton of nostalgia for. I had picked it up at a Funcoland when I was about 8 or 9- back when Genesis games could be purchased for pennies on the dollar. I was still at that age where anything that involved belching or farting was pure comedy gold, and I loved action/platformer games, so it was a match made in heaven the moment I saw the case. It’s time to see if, after 15 odd years, if the gameplay has held up.
The feature (besides the fact that you’re literally able to fart away your problems) that is most striking about Boogerman all these years later is the presentation. Interplay went for a style somewhat similar to that of Earthworm Jim. The visuals look hand-drawn and characters have silky-smooth animation, making for a world that looks ripped straight out of a saturday morning cartoon. Everything from idle animations to Boogerman gritting his teeth as he pushes out a monster-destroying poot help in making a memorable experience. The music is also well-done, with some tracks (namely The Pits and Nasal Caverns) feeling as if they could be right at home as background music for a 90’s cartoon. The only criticism I have here is that some of the banter between Boogerman and some of the bosses sounds a little scratchy.
The game itself is an action platformer, with your goal being to get from left to right while picking up various items and dispatching enemies. As mentioned before, burping and farting will allow you to pick off enemies (especially the slower and stationary ones) with ease. As this is a “Pick and Flick” adventure, you can also fling boogers at them. You can upgrade the gas via chili-peppers, which allow you to belch and fart fire as well as rocket around the stage so long as your gas meter isn’t empty. The boogers can be upgrade via milk jugs that will turn them into loogies, which don’t have an arc and make landing hits easier. When both meters are finished off, there’s always the good ol bouncing-on-heads method found in the Platforming 101 Handbook.
In addition to simply getting to the end of each stage, there are 30 or so plungers scattered throughout the stages. Collecting them all will net you an extra life at the end of the stage (and believe me, you’re going to want a good stockpile for one of the later bosses). Extra men are also found in the stages themselves, but they’re pretty far and few. There’s also a toilet hidden in each stage (with the exception of Pus Palace, the final set in the game), which Boogerman can flush himself down to be transported to the sewers in order to find more goodies. Upon re-entering the main stage, all of the plungers and items reset, which can make the task of getting the necessary plungers and additional items a little less complicated.
While the level design is a little bare-bones, I have to commend the developers for allowing the player to shift the screen up or down to get a better view of their surroundings by double-tapping up or down on the D-Pad. The screen feels a tad cropped, and without this feature, the number of cheap deaths would have gone up astronomically as there’s often something unpleasant waiting for the player after dropping down or climbing upward. Aside from some dickish enemy placement in the last series of stages, the levels are fairly enjoyable and offer plenty of secrets for players to snuff out. The only real flaw I could find is that, upon death, you lose all of your plungers and will need to collect them all again if extra lives mean much to you. It can be incredibly frustrating to meet your demise at 28 or 29 plungers and have to pick them all back up again. This problem could have easily been mitigated by allowing the player to keep the plungers they’ve collected at the time of reaching a checkpoint.
While Boogerman is rather forgiving in comparison to other platformers of the time with the standard stages, the same can’t be said for some of the boss fights. At the end of the fourth stage in each of the game’s five worlds, you’ll square off with an equally gross super-villain. At face value, the bosses employ the same basic “wait for an opening and attack” patterns that platformer bosses are known for and in theory, that should make these fights simple. The problem is- the hit detection can be rather off. While it isn’t at noticeable in fighting regular enemies, it’s glaring with the bosses.
The penultimate boss, Deodor-Ant, is probably the biggest offender. His pattern throws a nice curveball as, after a few hits, he’ll start popping up right above you as opposed to the opposite end of the screen. However, you could be on the platform above him or at the midpoint of the arena moving away and you’ll STILL take a hit. Considering that, for whatever reason, this single boss is able to eliminate both your gas and snot meters after a single hit and the fact that this boss takes about double the amount of damage of any other (including even the final boss, who’s a cakewalk in comparison), it makes for a cheap encounter. Jumping on him (sort of) works if you lose your powers, but good luck landing one without taking damage (and that goes for all of the bosses). It’s exactly the kind of thing that comes to mind when thinking about archaic game design. Even if you were born in the generation this game was released in, I honestly wouldn’t blame you for shutting the game off at this point or using save states. On the plus side, at least the password system is convenient (only three characters long) and will allow you to pick right back up from where you left off following a game-over without any need for input.
Despite the occasionally wonky hit detection and one exceptionally flawed boss, I believe Boogerman holds its own in the Genesis catalog due to its charm and fairly solid design. It’s a real shame that the Kickstarter for the reboot of the game (which would have had Earthworm Jim as a playable character) fell through. I’d gladly have taken it over the dozens of Mighty No.9’s that have been crapped out by the crowdfunding platform. Hopefully this gross, goofy hero will get another chance at being on a modern console in the future besides the Virtual Console rerelease. If a certain orange bobcat in a white t-shirt could come back, it would honestly be a crime if the likes of Boogerman and Earthworm Jim didn’t.