I really miss Tiny Toons. Today’s generation really missed out on a brilliant reinvention of the classic Looney Toons characters and their humor. The characters themselves were more than just stand-ins for their older counterparts but unique unto themselves. And just like the older Looney Toons they lend themselves to pretty much any situation, perfect for video games. After a solid but unremarkable NES platformer Konami struck gold with Buster Busts Loose, a fantastic game that is just irreverent as the show itself.
Buster Busts Loose follows the primary conceit of the show, that these are Looney Toons in training. There was no real overarching plot and the same applies to the game. Rather than creating a boring plot centered on Montana Max the game plays out as a series of lost episodes from the show. That allows it a ton of freedom, which Konami has used to craft some truly incredible platforming moments. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the game is so good but in my opinion it is up there with some of the best platformers of that generation.
Mechanically the game is incredibly simple. Buster surprisingly lacks the platform staple butt bounce. Instead he has a drop kick that is….weird in practice. The actual animation is confusing and in most cases it looks like you’ll miss. However Buster is invincible until he lands and will damage or kill enemies during the whole process. Aside from life bar extensions, health and extra lives you’ll find no other power-ups. But they aren’t necessary as the game is built on one mechanic.
At the touch of a button Buster will enter a mad dash, bowling over enemies and even defying gravity. While dashing you can run up sheer walls as long as the meter is still full. Many of the game’s best moments are built around this mechanic and it is extremely fun to play around with. Once you’ve mastered dashing you‘ll navigate the game’s harder sequences in one smooth run. It’s like poetry in motion to see and will leave you wanting more.
Admittedly you’ll hate it at first. The game asks you to leap from wall to wall and your first instinct will be to press in the direction you want to move. This results in a swift drop and takes time to forget. Simply pressing jump will do; once you learn it the platforming is sublime. The best moments in the game involve rapid dashing through elaborate setups such as the end sequence in Buster’s Sky-jinks. But the game isn’t a one trick pony either.
If there was one design ethos for the game it had to be variety. Each level is framed as an episode which is brilliant for a few reasons. It allows for a diverse number of settings and for the entire cast to make a cameo. They really dig deep with obscure characters like Barky Marky and Melvin the Monster making an appearance.
What I like most about Buster Busts Loose is how it switches mechanics in almost every level. The halls of Acme Looniversity are probably the only traditional level and acclimates you to the core gameplay. The Wild West is almost completely focused on dashing as you hop from train to train to catch Montana Max. My favorite level is Acme Looniversity Football. Here you are in the final minutes of the game and must score one last touchdown to win. Nearly all of the rules are implemented and it is insanely fun. I probably like it so much as it is based on the Acme Bowl episode which was also my favorite in the series. For the finale they once again turn to the show for inspiration. The obvious Star Wars parody is based on A Quack in the Quarks. For a game with no major antagonist it seems fitting.
Even on normal difficulty the game is pretty easy. Your life bar can be expanded to five hearts very easily in every level and life restoring carrots are plentiful. You can easily rack up extra lives in the bonus minigames between levels as though the game is afraid to challenge you. It has its moments; any segment that requires continual dashing can be frustrating. But as a whole most will have little trouble with the game. I would recommend playing on hard but it goes in the opposite direction. You have one heart which leaves no room for mistakes. I suppose that is the point but I do think it is a bit rough.
Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose is a fantastic game and one of the better licensed titles of that era. Stellar production values and diverse gameplay combine to create an awesome experience regardless of whether you like the license or not. I recommend it wholeheartedly.