MAD MAX / Mindscape / NES

The Mad Max NES game is a concept that actually could have been pretty good if it was executed much better. We roam the broken streets of post-apocalyptica in Max's Interceptor looking for fuel, loot bandit caves to get it (and other supplies), and compete in demolition derby arena matches. That's a lot of good ideas to work with, but this game manages to botch pretty much all of them.

The game's main portion, in which you roam the overworld looking for gas, is the big problem. You start the game with a nearly empty tank, and it's constantly dwindling even if you're sitting still. So you need to know exactly where the next fuel is and go right to it, or you'll just meander around until you run out of fuel and die. The car is actually quite durable to enemy attacks, but you have only a few sticks of dynamite which act as both your only means of defense and the only means of clearing roadblocks.

I couldn't find a fuel source in four tries, and had to go to YouTube to find out where it is. There are caves about that contain fuel and other goodies; Max explores them on foot in an overhead run-and-gun style that is a little bit better because there's no extreme resource conservation to worry about. The caves are unrealistically thick with enemies, but they're poorly-armed dumbos that never pose much of a threat and you seem to have unlimited ammo. It's pretty much a crummier version of Snake's Revenge.

In addition to gas, the caves contain Golden Tickets that let you into the arenas. These are probably the most entertaining portion of the game. You stay in your car and take on other cars, but you're in some Zelda 3 dungeon with pits opening and closing in the floor that you have to ram or trick the enemies into.

Win at the Arena and you fight Lord Humongous in a side-scrolling battle, but you have to have collected several crossbows in the caves to have enough ammo or you have no way of beating him. Nice little "gotcha" to spring on you at the end after putting up with all this other BS.

I actually kinda like the car's handling, and they wrung a nice deep bassy engine noise out of the NES's humble sound chip. Also appreciated the tire forts strewn around that lob Molotovs at you. At its best moments the game is just subpar and bland, however, and at its worst it is infuriating. Without outside help, you're asked to just blunder around and die numerous times discovering where everything is. And then the ultimate payoff is a cheap tacked-in boss battle followed by a really lame static one-sceen ending. This could have actually been kind of a fun action-oriented primitive version of Fallout with a better map and resource distribution, and instead of just the arenas maybe some towns to do stuff in. What we ended up with is one of the most tedious titles on the NES, unfortunately.


* Gameplay Video