☆ Retro Review: Incredible Crash Dummies "You could learn a lot from a dummy" ☆ #Retrogaming

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This is one of those video games that I remember seeing at Blockbuster as a kid for rental. I never tried it then, but the subject matter alone left enough of an impression that I remembered it years later and wondered: how did that get a game?
Sure, that’s a thought I have often, but this one stood out for some reason. For many, this will strike some memories of the old PSAs (public service announcements) that proclaimed,
“You could learn a lot from a dummy. Buckle your safety belt.”

These funny little commercials featuring Larry and Vince (and a voice Garfield fans may recognise) were all commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and were created by the Leo Burnett Worldwide ad agency starting as early as 1986.

It was later in 1992 though that Tyco Toys—the people who brought you 'Tickle Me Elmo'—created a set of toys based off of the hit PSAs, but chose to name the two titular dummies Slick and Spin when networks were concerned these helpful ads could actually be promoting products for others. The toys sold well, enough that fans got a short CGI television movie in 1993 and several video games, but let’s focus on Incredible Crash Dummies for the Super Nintendo.
It was made by Gray Matter Inc. (not to be confused with Gray Matter Interactive Studios, which was a part of Activision), a company that was the largest game developer in Canada for a time before the government’s labour disputes forced them to shut down. I remember them mostly for the Wayne’s World and James Bond Jr. games.

The platformer they developed sees the two dummies and their creator, attacked by the devilish Junkman, and now it’s the player’s job to help reunite this odd family in sixteen levels of pure mayhem that will cost an arm and a leg! Bad joke, but one of my favourite parts of this game has to be the use of the dummy limbs as hit points. This not only determines how many times our hero can be damaged but also how they move across the stage. Fear the torso!     
The controls aren’t too bad. I’ve certainly played worse, but the distance jumping did take me a bit to get used to. Not only can the player jump on the enemies to cause damage, but he throws wrenches (spanners?) also, though those are limited. There are several power-ups to help along the way, which is good because this game is kind of hard.
Seriously, those first few levels are pretty easy, but that ends with a quickness. Enemies become numerous and quite troublesome, wracking-up a few cheap hits with ease. The hardest part might be beating the timer though, as each stage must be defeated in three minutes, and time bonuses only grant ten seconds a pop.
The boss fights are timed as well, adding an extra stress. It’s a good thing there is a funny PSA after each of the four fights to help the player de-stress a bit. I didn’t make it to the last boss, but I hear it might be a little too tough if I did.

What sucks the most though has to be that each level does not have a checkpoint system, even if some of them feel a bit short, and there are only three lives to work with. That’s right, no continues, so get good or give up should be the slogan here. There are some bonus levels that see the player driving and avoiding obstacles, but those are still side-scrolling parts, and doing well grants extra lives. I was not necessarily good at those, but they did become fun after a while.
So why go through something that is so hard and lacking on anything exciting or different from other platformers for the most part?
I actually do think the game is fun to look at with some wonderful use of colour at some parts and a few fun designs that my childhood self would have totally been into and the music isn’t bad either, it just didn’t do anything for me—not memorable.
Something kept me trying at it and I honestly think if I could have beaten the game there would have been an incredible sense of accomplishment, but that might be wrong too. For many, there won’t be much fun past those first few levels. Critics didn’t like it, as the game received a slew of negative reviews, mostly concerning bad sound effects and how the real difficulty is from cheap attacks. I think this title is more for people who played it at a younger age and remember it well or those who like a real challenge.

For me, playing through Incredible Crash Dummies has me thinking about the franchise more. There are some other games that use this IP, and I may seek them out at some point to see if any of them are better. I’m not expecting too much though. A modern instalment using the Burnout series’ crash mode would be the perfect avenue for a new game that would base its fun off of huge and completely destructible environments and an overactive ragdoll physics engine.
Taking a step even further back though, why do these commercials no longer exist?
I’m guessing no one wants to pay for safety PSAs anymore, but even if certain fans don’t find these old spots funny, I think we can all agree they were memorable and taught me not to be a dummy.



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