Review by Tony Bueno




Overall: 2

Upon learning that Wacko was available on MAME, I looked forward to playing this all but forgotten arcade title from my youth.  I remembered reading in Video Games and Computer Entertainment that many had actually been recalled due to the game’s asymmetrical cabinet.  Maybe that’s why you (or at least I) never see any of these even in the retro section of the arcade.  Given the overall quality of Wacko’s gameplay, however, this is really no great loss.

At your disposal is a little androgynous green alien who merrily flies around the screen in his/her single seat saucer.  You must blast a variety of presumably unfriendly aliens resembling dragons, vampires, werewolves, and hunchbacks, among others.  The twist here is that there are always two of each enemy on screen, and these two must be shot in sequence to dispose of them.  After level two, if the monsters are not shot in order, they become “mutants,” which are monsters with mismatching half sections.  Mutant pairs can be shot for extra points or unmixed by firing on them again.  Get rid of all the monsters to go on to a level with more monsters at a faster rate.

That’s really all there is to it.  Unfortunately, nobody seemed to realize that this would inevitably get real old, real fast.  But the vices of Wacko don’t end here, however.  Graphics are below average all around, but uneven in that the creatures have an almost passable appearance (eerily reminiscent of, although inferior to, Tapper, Timber, and Domino Man’s sprites) and the backgrounds are just pathetic.  Done in unattractive colors and taking place in very, very unimaginative settings, it’s like they just didn’t care about this aspect of the game.  Despite the varied appearance of your adversaries, not one of them has any special characteristics to distinguish themselves from any of the others.  As the game progresses, they all split into mini versions of themselves, which may only be killed once the large ones are all disposed of first.  The game then quickly digresses into dodging and destroying all the lil’ monsters and sometimes their eggs as quickly as possible.  On paper it actually sounds like fun, but even the best premise can be ruined by poor execution.

I’d now like to take this opportunity to offer a few ideas that could have made this one halfway decent.  To be fair, I didn’t play very far into Wacko, so I may or may not have seen everything it has to offer, but bear with me.  First and foremost, give the enemies their own personalities and powers.  Shouldn’t dragons be able to breathe fire?  And shouldn’t vampires only be susceptible to certain attacks?  Rock men (a la The Thing) should definitely be tougher than most other beasts.  And why not have them attack at different speeds and in less predictable patterns?  A few power up items to your ship would be nice.  Maybe a bonus treat for points?  Say, why not a special item which could be used to temporarily freeze all bad guys?  Oh wait!  I’ve got it!  A special “indestructible” adversary who pops up at inopportune times and threatens everything in its path!  Not too original, granted, but hell, why not?  The ship itself could contain a special cannon with limited ammo to eliminate monsters with one hit and could be used to free up space on the screen.  How about a bonus stage between levels?  Intermissions wouldn’t hurt.  Making all characters smaller would eliminate the overcrowding of the screen.  Simple interactive background items, like rocks, mountains, or trees could offer cover.  An attract mode naming some of these characters would give the game more appeal.  Any one of these suggestions could have easily been implemented to make this a better title.  Wacko shows a striking lack of innovation and imagination on behalf of the programmers.  I mean, Timber may be a bad game, but at least it’s playable. 

Inscrutably, the main character in Wacko also appeared in another game, Kozmik Krooz’r.  Why anyone would want to further the adventures of this uninteresting, unimaginative, uncharismatic, and otherwise uninspired character is… well… unclear.  Games like this support the notion that we have indeed come a long way in electronic entertainment, and Wacko deserves to rank with such losers as 10-Yard Fight, Sonson, Mikie, The Wiz, Leprechaun, and Section Z as an arcade game best left forgotten.


Editor’s note: Dave G. and his brother Tony B. are usually seen terrorizing arcades together with their wonder-twin-like powers. However, Dave disagrees with Tony on the issue of Wacko, stating that to him, Wacko is a 9 and is in his personal top ten favorite game list.


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Last updated: Sunday, September 25, 2005 04:28 PM