Is the 16-bit classic Decap Attack worth playing? Gather your limbs and things, maybe don’t bring a guillotine, and let’s find out…
But first, flip over the game’s case and read the words, the words on the back of the box!
“Max D. Cap has taken control of Body Island by splitting it into pieces. Dr Frank N. Stein has created you, Chuck D. Head, to battle D. Cap’s wave of creatures, and put the pieces back together!”
That’s right! Decap is the name of the villain, and he’s on the attack. Get ready for some bone-chilling action!
Released on the Mega Drive and Genesis back in 1991, the same year as Sonic the Hedgehog, Decap Attack is now available on a heap of dead bodies – I mean dead platforms – and some current ones, and of course, on Sega Forever.
It’s actually a westernised release of the Japanese game Magical Hat’s Turbo Flight! Adventure – trying getting your head around that one – changed due to licensing issues. Actually, completely reworked with new graphics, music, story and some changes to the level design, in particularly, enemy placement. Rather than your typical character found in the Magical Hat, you take control of a mummy with bits missing, specifically his head.
Being from the Japanese developer, Vic Tokai, Decap Attack is one of a number of their games published on Sega consoles – and they made games on Sega systems from as early as 1987, to as late as the Sega Saturn days – and interestingly before Decap Attack, they made some very similar games. Psycho Fox, in 1989, on the Master System, and also, Kid Kool, the year before, on the none-Sega, Nintendo Entertainment System – You can definitely see some similarities to Decap Attack in these games.
So, back to Chuck, and his missing head. He was created by the mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Stein and his trusty assistant Igor, and you set out on your mission to defeat the army of monsters that has been unleashed by Max. D Cap. Who in usual game fashion, is here to take over the world. Your job is to reform the islands he has split up and defeat him. But first you must fight a whole host of creepy bosses.
You move Chuck side-to-side in linear fashion, keeping an eye on how healthy your heart points are in the top left, and with a few lives, you battle your way through a total of 7 areas, and suitable-named they are, such as Abdomainland, Eye Land, and Last Leg Land.
Chuck’s lost his head. And all you’ve got is your trusty face, inside your torso, but don’t worry, you can smash your face into enemies, until you find a statue containing a skull, which sits upon your shoulders, and becomes the game’s best attack. Chucking your head, and taking out enemies is a load of fun,.. And the skull boomerangs back to you each time. The only way you are going to lose it is if you get hit. As in typical platformer style, you can jump and squash your foes with ease until you find a new head again.
The controls of Chuck are good. He’s got a coffin load of abilities, not least a jumping floating one where repeatedly hitting jump allows him to float to further platforms and control his descent, keeping Chuck out of reach of enemies, and avoids the falling into lava pits to your doom. In some levels you’ll be underwater, but thankfully, most of Chuck’s abilities remain intact, though enemies swim about the place, and the game starts to show it’s challenging side.
Throughout the levels, in the same statues where you found your head earlier, you can find potions that, when taken, have game changing effects. Some can be very useful, but more of that in a moment.
While your character has been created well with many abilities, the levels are a more generic affair. Some do look great, but it’s not long until you feel you’ve seen pretty much everything, and there isn’t too much new stuff to see in later levels. The first level keeps things simple, so you can pick up the controls easier, and get a better chance of finding your head, after which the game starts to slowly ramp up the difficulty. But be careful, once you lose all your health, you start back at the start of the level, as there are no checkpoints. But levels are not particularly long and with skill, you can rid the world of its many enemies and send Max D. Cap back to the Underworld.
Though after a new life, all the statues you’ve been to, and their potions, extra lives, and your trusty heads, are gone. Meaning that for new gamers who need an extra hand or leg up, it’s just not going to happen. As you need to make it through without the helpful extra items and abilities, until you are back where you died.
In usual platformer style, you have your more underwater levels, ones with plenty lava, slippy ice, and a welcome lack of bottomless pits – I actually can’t remember seeing one at all! Though fall into the lava and it don’t really matter how much health you had, anyway. Each area is made up of three levels, and in the last level you must find a secret item for your creator, Dr. Frank N. Stein, and I even found that one time I defeated a boss, and I was told I had to go back and explore the level to find said item before being able to continue!
Most bosses are easy enough, and are well animated, but this mole at the end of the area Pumpington, who to me seems a little out of place, as I have no idea how a mole with sunglasses fits the theme… well, let me tell you, this boss, is one tricky son of a severed limb. The projectiles are a killer, and seem almost impossible to avoid. This is where your potions I mentioned earlier come into play. Available at a simple press of a button, you bring up this undead-good shop full of helpful stuff, including the ability to send massive damage to annoying bosses, making the difficulty spike with Mr Mole a bit easier. Although, if you are out of potions at this point, you are out of luck.
Other useful potions can only be used within the levels, and can help Chuck by making him invincible, freezing enemies, increasing the height of his jumps, and so on, and last 10 seconds each. But I found I only used them sometimes, and as much of the time I was concentrating too hard on staying alive I forgot about the potions altogether!
Still, at times you do need them, so exploring levels and finding statues, and collecting coins to give you more chances to get some dead good stuff on the bonus stage, after each area, will make things much easier, as your potions rack up from one level to the next.
One thing I really like about this game is the creativity the developers put into it. Animations are great, and most of the music is suitable, with creepy horror themes. But like much of the game itself, the music becomes repetitive. Though that’s maybe a good thing, as some tunes are catchy, but I’d liked to have heard more variety. The sound effects are okay, to good, at best, with most sounding nice and creepy, but a few you’ll hear over and over sound very loud and a bit lo-fidelity. Much of the areas are detailed, but a number of them seem to look very similar, and there’s definitely more colourful and better looking games on the Mega Drive and Genesis, but of course this game was from earlier in the console’s life. There’s definitely a bit of an 8-bit aesthetic buried somewhere deep in Decap Attack.
On Sega Forever, the game runs quite well, but like with most other games on Sega Forever’s mobile service, it doesn’t play quite as good as the originals, and you are more likely to find some graphical and sound issues, but this does depend on the type of device you are using.
In the ones I tested, there was a little bit of audio lag, but the controls still felt good, and very playable, and graphics looked great. The onscreen controls take a bit of time to get used to, and they do make the game a little bit more difficult, and I find it hard to recommend this way to play, if instead, you can attach a controller to your device, which is what I prefer to do. As always, linking a controller and playing this game on something bigger than a phone, like a tablet, is the best way to play.
And that brings us to Fun Factor. Is Decap Attack really worth your time, and maybe the loss of your head? It’s fun, yes. Mostly! I enjoyed a lot of the more vertical levels, where controlling Chuck’s floating downfall was great fun, and added a bit of variety. Also, quite fun were the chase levels where you have to keep going right to avoid instant death, and make use of Chuck’s head to unleash hell on all enemies in your way.
My main gripe with the game is the enemies themselves. Being taken from the Magical Hat’s game that Decap Attack is based on, much of the enemies are similar in style, just with a little reskinning to make them fit the game a bit more. I would have liked to have seen a bigger effort to make them even more undead creature-like.
Unfortunately, these enemies, when dispatched of, are not dead forever. As soon as you are back in the same area, they have respawned. Literally, you can kill an enemy, fall down the screen a bit, and they’ve respawned, straight away. So you’ll be seeing a lot of the same enemies, and defeating the same ones over and over to proceed. Some are tough too! Like these fish, which I think were the most annoying in the game for me. My advice is try to avoid many of the enemies if you can, as they don’t drop any items or reward you points.
Even in later levels, you’ll be fighting the same enemies over again, and I was surprised that in the last level of the game I was fighting many of the same ones as in the first level of the game. More times than I’d like to remember they were placed in almost impossibly avoidable locations, often just off the screen but directly in the way you are going to be heading, and this kind of brought my enjoyment down a bit, losing lives so easily.
Check out my full video review here:
Head over to the SEGA Universe’s Decap Attack Classic game page to leave a Quick Review, Star Rating, or a comment, and let me know what you think about Decap Attack and my review in the comments section below!