G.I. JOE / Konami / Arcade
Usually, the licensing of a cartoon or movie franchise is just a move to make a quick buck, without having to expend too much time or effort in quality game design. The one lone company that stands out for actually trying to make a decent game out of their licensed properties is Konami - maybe not so much anymore, but in the 1990s Konami got the licenses to most of the major cartoon hits of the period, and created a series of arcade games that were not only fun to play but actually pushed the envelope in both presentation and gameplay. If only all publishing houses would put forth the effort they did, with games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons, licensed games wouldn't be the running joke that they are.
G.I. Joe is another in this 90's franchise lineage, and while it's not one of their very best arcade games, it has its qualities and overall represents a pretty good effort at making an entertaining run-and-gun. The graphics are colorful and taken directly from the designs of the characters and vehicles of the cartoon, which G.I. Joe buffs should get a kick out of as they play through.
Up to four players can participate at once, choosing from Snake Eyes, Duke, Scarlett or Roadblock. The view is from behind the player as they run forward, essentially making this a rail shooter. You move from side to side, and the vertically scrolling crosshairs for your gun stay aligned parallel to you as you move. Basically, mass waves of Cobra troops and vehicles come at you, and you gotta either dodge them or gun them all down. There's three long levels that take about fifteen to twenty minutes each to clear, punctuated here and there with boss battles featuring famous Cobra lieutenants such as the Baroness and Destro. It doesn't really seem to matter which Joe you pick, as they all have the same guns and screen-clearing special missiles, so you're free to ogle either the tight buns of Miss Scarlett or Roadblock depending on whatever your personal preference is.
As mentioned the graphics are pretty nice by 1992 standards, with the game taking a quasi-3D approach. While most of the graphics are actually 2D, some objects are actually rendered in a style resembling the Super NES's "Mode 7". Particularly noteworthy is the sudden and unexpected 3D rise into the skies of Cobra's airborne battle platform towards the end of the game. The music is the usual solid Konami effort, if a bit forgettable, and the sound effects are adequate.
The game can get a bit repetitive if playing by yourself, but it's a pretty fun romp for multiple players. Fans of the Joe cartoon and toy line will also probably enjoy going up against the gamut of Cobra characters and vehicles from the series.
* Gameplay Video