The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.


We all know who Michael Jackson is, right? That singer guy who decided to change his face for whatever reason, made the most successful album ever and was absolutely bat shit crazy to the point where he declared himself Peter Pan and looked after children in his mansion full of pictures of him as a king for 10 years…and then he died and everyone forgot about all that and just went “Yeah, that Billie Jean is a good song”

Now, I’ve never been a Michael Jackson fan. Ever. Sure, a couple of tracks slip through the haze to be considered “It’s not too bad, I suppose” but most of them come across as annoying and the later stages of his career, pretentious or whiny. If Michael Jackson has a problem with people picking on him, as Leave Me Alone suggests, why did he decide to get a diamond encrusted glove and a fairground in his back garden?

As most of these things do, Michael Jacksons soaring popularity during the 80’s led to him being featured in other media. Unfortunately, one of those were video games.  What have I done to deserve this…? Oh right, that thing in Ikea which I’m not allowed to mention legally.

Loosely based on the film of the same name, Moonwalker is a 2D platformer on the Sega Mega Drive, or Genesis if you’re in America, that surprise surprise, has you playing as Michael Jackson in levels and levels of platformy goodness…can you feel the hate boiling up?

The game kicks off with Wacko Jacko firing a coin into a jukebox, kicking off a painful 16 bit interpretation of Smooth Criminal that will be out background music for the next 3 levels. This is a problem. A lot of modern pop songs aren’t played with the design of “LET’S PLAY THE SAME SONG AGAIN RIGHT NOW!!!” and Smooth Criminal is boringly repetitive after a while. The same can be said for the later tracks in the levels, such as Beat It, Another Part Of Me, Billie Jean and Bad. Which is a shame because I’d have liked to hear a instrumental Michael Jackson track without that annoying vocalist they keep hiring. Sadly, we also get irritating high pitched voices as he does anything. It’s all been midi-fied and just sounds horrid and I’m pretty sure the fact that my ear was bleeding was a good indication of this. Or I just haven’t been taking my medication, which I don’t need.

So what’s the plot of this? Well, mobster Mr Big (who was probably named by a child) has kidnapped god knows how many identical little girls and instead of, you know, the police being on it, Michael Jackson shows up and dances his way to rescuing them. I personally would like to see someone attempt that in a hostage rescue, mostly to see how quickly they get shot. So, Taco Jacko has to save a certain amount of children in one level to move onto the next one. They don’t even sound glad to be rescued, they just say his name in a casual sense and zoom off with the speed of light, whilst it begs the question why didn’t they just do that in the first place instead of waiting for the most famous man on the planet. I mean, when I was kidnapped and tortured by a russian mob, where was Gary Barlow to help me? WHERE WAS GARY BARLOW???  WAS PAITENCE JUST SOME SICK JOKE TO YOU GARY????

The first thing that’s a major concern before you start playing is, how does Michael Jackson attack through dancing? Well, magic. No seriously, that’s the explanation. Whenever he attacks, pixie dust or something flies out of him, hurting enemies. For a man who thought he was Peter Pan, it’s reasonably appropriate, I guess. He also has a boomerang fedora attack that sometimes makes enemies self combust and if you hold one of the buttons long enough, EVERYONE on screen, including dogs and spiders join in. It’s stupid and I hope it never appears in a game again. Oh yeah, then they all…die. Imagine that happening on Strictly Come Dancing. Of course, because some designer somewhere in Sega’s dark cavernous labyrinth thought it would be simpler to just have ONE bar, doing costs you lots of health. Yay.

Anyway, so you rescue all the children of The Flash and Michael Jacksons beloved pet chimp…yeah, he had a monkey…Bubbles, who handily also has taken the genetic shot as the kids and has super speed, jumps on your face and points where you need to go to fight “the boss” then just fucks off. I want my faeces throwing monkey assistant! Anyway, at the end of every level, Mr Big shows up and proclaims that you’ll never catch him and gets some more cronies to fight you, whilst he disappears…somewhere. It’s the Moonwalker equivalent of “Thank you, but the princess is in another castle,” if I gave a rats-ass…

I could mention the mecha robot that Lacko Jacko turns into at some point in the game, and I could talk about the fact the last level has nothing to do with the rest of the game and is just “ON RAILS SHOOTER!!!” (Where Michael, who is secretly an Autobot obviously) transforms into a spaceship and shoots Mr Big…in space, but thinking about this game more is making me devalue all human existence even more so than I usually do, so I won’t and will sum it up with the same logic as the Star Wars prequels.

This game is awful, the voice clips are annoying, the music’s painful, the whole premise is dumb and Michael Jackson is an awful video game character. The only reason there’s still interest in the game is because of nostalgia and since his death, suddenly everything surrounding Michael Jackson is sacred. Obviously Michael Jackson fans will love it because…well because it’s Michael fucking Jackson and they act like he was the second coming of Jesus. It’s just an awful film license that proves that pop stars and celebrities should never make video games based on their egos.  Unfortunately thanks to the fact that dead people are better than living people, his record company are effectively whoring out his image meaning shitty “comeback” albums and you guessed it, more Michael Jackson video games. And people complain when I tell them I’ve lost all faith in humanity…


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