Score Rundown


Overall: 2 (Swill)

Ratings Explained

Total Recall









It's pretty much common knowledge that games based off of movies suck. This couldn't be any truer than with Total Recall. Let's look at it in contrast; you're a movie producer with an R rated Sci-Fi thriller about to hit theaters. You want to merchandise it, but you can't make toys and action figures for the kids. Who do you turn to? Video games of course! You give the developers a strict deadline to coincide with the movie's release, and four months later you have an extra revenue stream from a lackluster product that somewhat resembles the events in your movie. Job well done, now you just sit back and wait for the royalties to come in. While this was the norm in the early days of gaming, there seems to be a sort of movie game renaissance happening with the release of Chronicles of Riddick last year and Warner Brothers punishing companies by taking more royalties for lackluster games will hopefully end the trend of the “movie cash-in” soon. But I digress…

Total Recall is an action platformer that loosely follows the events in the movie. You're Douglas Quaid, a man on the run from mysterious people who are trying to kill him (including his wife) after getting a memory implant. It's up to you to get to the bottom of all of this and find out the truth…on MARS!

Total Recall has to be one of the worst movie-based games ever, falling into the same category as ET for the Atari in some respects, just not with an interesting back story and the fact the game is almost impossible to play rather than a two minute cakewalk. Impossible in the sense that the sluggish, clunky controls make it extremely difficult to get anywhere. Combine that with the lack of any kind of battery backup or password feature to continue from certain points and makes Total Recall much less a game as it's a nice way to encourage mail pattern baldness, because you'll be pulling your hair out by level two.

You'll be battling and jumping through cities, apartments, subways, and ultimately, a city on Mars on your quest for the truth. Along the way you'll have to deal with midgets dressed in pink, soldiers in riot gear, dogs anxious to have relations with your leg, and what game would be complete without traps devised of people punching you through holes in fences. Wait a minute…that can't be right.


It's true! Behold, the worst trap in the history of video games. There have been some bumbling villains over the years, but that has to be the worst idea for an obstacle ever. What kind of evil genius are we dealing with here, anyways? A clever and dastardly one, that's what. One that is guaranteed to show Quaid a bitter end by any means, thus making an obstacle such as punching through a hole in a fence the ultimate element of surprise. Kudos to you, Vilos Cohaagen.

Vilos doesn't stop at holes in fences as he's spared no expense in training his minions dark arts beyond any comprehension from the feeble minds of you and I. Every enemy encountered will run at you, attack, jump over your head when you're close, then run away only to repeat steps 1-3 again and again. This simple strategy works in conjunction with the game's poor hit detection where you'll punch right through enemies if they're too close. They have to be at the right distance to register a hit; this way, even the lowliest midget decked out in his best pink suit can take the hulking Governator down easily.

In addition to punches, you'll also pick up guns here and there, though these don't make the game any easier or enjoyable for that matter since enemies will jump around randomly to dodge your bullets. They're also harder to take down since you'll have to pump about seven rounds into them before they'll go down. In the meantime, it only takes a couple of punches to take them out in other levels.

For a game sporting the Total Recall name, it's apparent the developers really wanted to do a game based off of the Terminator. This game boasts more Terminator references than the Terminator games themselves. When you lose a life, Arnold says “I'll be back”. Instead of game over, you'll get “Your game has been Terminated”. I wouldn't be surprised if the Sharon Stone representation in the game was actually Linda Hamilton.

Total Recall was released in 1990, which was pretty much the coda of the NES. We had already seen some games that had pushed the envelope of what the NES was capable of, and by that period in time, games should have been technically superior to anything before 1986. Total Recall seems to debunk the theory all together. First of all, Quaid looks like he has the upper torso of a woman and moves like he has a stick in his ass, though it makes him look like he has great posture in the process.

On the plus side, some of the game's backgrounds look neat like the apartment with the giant TV in level 2. Environments are also varied, though the level design is lacking. Some of the game's cut scenes also look good with all of the characters looking like they were pulled from a cartoon version of the movie and feature moving mouths as well as expressions.

There are no positives to the sound, however, as they all sound like they were emulated from an Atari 2600. The game also has the same song playing throughout the game (from main menu to god knows when) which you'll be sick of by the end of level 1.

I sincerely have pity for anyone who paid full price for this game fifteen years ago. It's bad enough that you have to try to play through it over and over, and while you'll initially assume its lack of skill, you'll quickly learn that the game is at fault. You'll want to give up after three attempts at passing level 4. This is the first time in a long while that I've actually complained that I have to play and review a game. Nobody said reviewing games is a glamorous job after all.

- Brad Hicks (aka Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media

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