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Pick up your plectrum and prepare to groove into Hell in this rendered rock 'n' roll arcade adventure, starring the ultimate hard-rock guitar hero, Johnny Bazookatone, pitting his power-chords against El Diablo and the fiendish hordes of Hades.
~ from the back of the box

Nairy a woodland critter could escape the anthropomorphic lure that were the 90s mascot platformer. There were so many that it became increasingly difficult to stand out amongst the beavers, hedgehogs, and bobcats. Arc Developments tried just that with a guitar-toting, music-loving Elvis impersonator named Johnny Bazookatone. 
Prior to this, the company's main moda operandi was as a ports-for-hire with the odd forgotten sports title thrown in there. The UK-based company have cut their teeth on platformers before, including the unique Genesis version of The Hurricanes based on a Soccer-themed Saturday morning cartoon and an Amiga oddity called Beavers. While not particularly remembered well, neither of these are without merit, but it would be Johnny Bazookatone that this team of ex-Elite Systems employees would be best known for.
Aiming to release in 1995 to coincide with launch window of the cool new CD-based consoles (as well as DOS, naturally) it didn't quite make it, instead coming out in early 1996. Nevertheless, Johnny's design is very of its time. He sports shades, carries an over-sized guitar and has hair quiffed into a pre-rendered purple blob. It screams mid-90s cool and if that doesn't convince you, how about the budget Designers Republic logo? Or the thumping soundtrack featuring the saxophonist of M.People and alumus from a band called Sad Café? The game was advertised everywhere too, with many advertising pages dedicated to it in almost every gaming magazine I read that winter.
When I eventually played a demo of the game, my enthusiasm waned somewhat, and playing it again now, I can see why. This game is hard from the very first stage and it just gets worse on each level. It's not even a fair difficulty, with blind jumps, dastardly placed enemies and precious little health. None of the game's mechanics - which are insteresting - are explained, leaving you stumped as to what to do. It's like the first stage should've come a few levels in so you'll already have an idea of what it asked of you.
While interesting, the mechanics aren't exactly conventional. Johnny still has his basic jump, run, spin attack, and a guitar that doubles as a machine-gun but this magical musical instrumanet can also suck or shoot a blasting power-chord. Sucking is not explained at all, and is in fact used to pick up and use items such as keys. Strumming a power-chord gives off a blast of damaging energy, but it's slow to wind up making it close to pointless in most situations. There is also a button that will activate lifts, but that's on such a small number of stages you'll forget it exists by the time you come to need it.

On top of this, Johnny can hover, but with four to five button presses needed to perform, it's cumbersome, particularly on a keyboard. You hold Alt to run, tap Ctrl to jump, then hold down and the spacebar to shoot beneath you slowing your fall. You can move mid-air with the left or right arrow keys if you want to move with it, which will be necessary. Mastering this ability is a must is you want to get anywhere.
The camera view is also more of a hinderance. The path ahead is restricted as Johnny tends to hug the last third of the screen which means you cannot easily see what's coming up. Running will mean heading straight on into danger so you'll find you won't be doing it so often, instead inching ahead hoping a cheap hit won't deplete all of your precious health by the time you get to the end. Nevertheless, running is necessary. It will make you jump higher and further so you can land on that tiny platforms that are more often than not placed above a death pit you'll inevitably fall into. Couple that with some stages where the path ahead is so obtuse you just sit there scratching your head and it becomes easy to see why the game isn't better remembered. Not even the otherwise interesting levels and inviting pre-rendereed graphics could save it.

These niggles ruin what could otherwise be a very good 2D platformer. With a few tweaks, it could've sat alongside Rayman or Gex as a great example of what the genre can do in the 32-bit era. Instead it's been moslty forgotten. I'll leave you to decide whether Johnny Bazookatone deserves it or not.

To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the Enhanced Community Edition (ECE) build of DOSBox 0.74 to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. MP3 Origional Ssoundtrack included as a separate file. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 183 Mb.  Install Size: 234 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Johnny Bazookatone is © Arc Developments & U.S. Gold
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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