Written: 7.30.15 Acquired: 2.13.06 Status: CIB with poster Price: $8
Pub: Hi-Tech Expressions
Dev: Visual Concepts
For as long as I can best remember, I have always been fascinated with the oddball video games. The games which fly under the radar, fails to garner much mention and quickly fades into obscurity. One game that fits this description to a T is Harley's Humongous Adventure. And with ANT-MAN crawlin' into theatres just 'bout two weeks ago, I can't think of a better time than now to put this quirky title under the microscope. It deserves the spotlight... even if only for a moment Like Ant-Man, Harley proves there's a little hero inside each of us
YOU SOMEHOW ALWAYS REMEMBER THE "LITTLE" GUYS...
Back in 1993, video game magazines were thriving. It was a BOOM time for the industry. One of the best was Electronic Gaming Monthly, or affectionately better referred to by us as EGM. I'll never forget issue 43, February of 1993. The cover jumps out at you!Bubsy was being hyped to the moon and the bold red and orange colors made it impossible not to stare at. But best of all was inside this issue there was a 59-page (!) preview of SNES games recently released or coming soon. I wasted hours reading that section over and over again. I saw so many intriguing games I wanted to play to varying degrees. Sadly, many of them I never got around to play at the time. And one of those titles was Harley's Humongous Adventure. I often say one of the best things about this hobby is one's ability to play these long lost games once and for all. There's something gratifying about putting a childhood curiosity to rest, even moreso when the game turns out to be good or better. There was something refreshing about the game. Maybe it was the claymation. But I think really, it's the fact that Harley wasn't out to save the world, rescue a princess or even battle his bitter long time rival (hell, the boss is his PET rat). He simply wants to return to his normal kid size before getting devoured by a hungry ant or tick. It's a simple "small-scale" (pardon the pun) adventure that works in its own weird way. I love epic games but there's always room for niche ones too
This game fascinated me a lot thanks to Honey I Shrunk the Kids
Saturday morning. 4th of July, 1 AM. I was staying up to witness the special "Beast in the East" event live on the WWE Network. I had roughly 90 minutes to kill so I mulled over my collection to pluck out the next title to play. My eyes saw Harley's Humongous Adventure and right away I was reminded of the early parts of 1993, where I as a little kid then couldn't help but wonder how this game played. It was time to find out, once and for all, after over 22 years of curiosity. I spent the next hour or so traversing Harley's madcap world and would eventually beat it later that weekend. While it wasn't anything mindblowing, it certainly was memorable. After all, few things are better than beating a game you never played before (but always wanted to) in one sitting. On top of all that, I even got to interview Brian Greenstone (Harley's programmer) the very next day to talk at length about his game. The interview can be read at the end of this review. It was the perfect way to cap off a 22+ year curiosity and I'll surely remember that weekend fondly for years to come. Thank you, Brian!
I just couldn't miss seeing this live special emanating from Tokyo
It was fun watching Brock Lesnar decimate the New Day at 3 AM!
THE STORY GOES...
WHOA BABY. Harley gets shrunken down to about six inches tall. AY CARAMBA
HARLEY FIGHTS BACK
I'M JUST TRYNA MAKE IT BACK HOME BY MONDAY MORNING. I swear I wish somebody would tell me OOH THAT'S ALL I WANT
[I swear I wish somebody would tell ya that's "45 seconds" there, not 4 5 Seconds, you git! -Ed.]
Yeah I'm 4 5 seconds from wildin'. And we got 3 more -- OK sorry
Each weapon icon you collect gives you 10 more of that weapon
Control scheme works like a charm and each weapon has its use
Say what you will of this game but c'mon you CAN'T hate on this
Running is fine. So is jumping. Doing them together though, no
"IT'SSSS ALLLLLLL RIGHT COZ I'M SAV" -- [SNIP! Don't... -Ed.]
It's a bit reminiscent to another SNES action title from '93: B.O.B.
You're free to play at your own pace with no timer on most levels
This malpractice makes you wonder... what kind of kid Harley is!
I wish there was more variety but hey, the rat sticks in your mind
Or maybe... it WAS dad's choice. Hey, nothing wrong with pink...
Reminds me of that Lego house I'd built as a kid back in the day!
Hey nice job here Brian Greenstone; you saved me from an ulcer
But after a few practice runs of trial and error, you'll figure it out
[Pretty sure Harley boy there is standing on the edge, duh! -Ed.]
Sometimes it's better to avoid them than to engage them in battle
The firecracker is the least useful weapon, but it has its moments
He walks and runs well; turning takes him a slight second though
In the end, after taking down your pet rat for the third and last time, Harley grows back
IF YOU NEED A BOOST BEYOND THE JET PACK...
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
HARLEY'S HUMONGOUS ADVENTURE would earn mediocre to solid reviews with the critics of the time. EGM gave it scores of 8, 7, 7 and 6. GameFan gave it ratings of 80, 77, 69 and 65%. Super Play rated it 69%. Interestingly enough, both EGM and GameFan reviewed the game on two separate occasions. EGM's sister publication, SUPER NES BUYER'S GUIDE (a bi-monthly SNES-exclusive magazine that ran back in the early-mid '90s) rated it an 8, 8 and 7. GameFan reviewed this game in its very first issue, giving it marks of 85 and 78%. It holds the distinct honor, this games does, of being the ONLY Super Nintendo game to be reviewed twice each by EGM (technically speaking) and GameFan. At least Harley has that "claim to fame." He's no Mario or Sonic but I think there IS a place for guys like Harley: the underdog. The uhh, ahem, little guy [You have been itchin' all review long to use that line, huh... -Ed.]
Super NES Buyer's Guide's color ratings on the side was quirky
Heh, I like this dude's review handle. How long he think of that...
Ahh, good old Super Play. Once again, we're both in agreement
As I sat there admiring the preview in EGM some 20+ years ago, something told me this probably wasn't a humongous adventure, but that it wasn't an awful one, either. Fast forward some 22 years and I'm happy to say my gut was right. This is not a spectacular game by any means, or perhaps even a good one. But it is plenty playable with some interesting gimmicks and enough levels to entertain you for a weekend. It's not particularly hard, although a few stages require some trial and error. I love the various weapons you can use, and switching them on the fly with the shoulder buttons is a match made in Heaven. Harley controls reasonably well enough, except for jumping while running (he gets a little too crazy) and turning on a dime. It takes him a second to turn around, so in the heat of the moment that could lead to unnecessary damage. Visually, the game has a striking look with its claymation, although it's hampered by its bland backgrounds. Animation's hit or miss; enemies move smoothly but Harley's sort of a mess. The tunes aren't memorable and are just there. But the game does have this unique quirky charm
There is a solid variety of things to do here besides jump and fire at enemies. There's a tank level, a jet pack flying level and even sections where you have to parachute your way on down, or ride a bubble up. There are 18 stages in all. None are overly long and you can beat the game in one sitting. Y'kno, I kinda miss games like this: little weird niche titles that were made on a tiny budget and frankly, didn't set out to be anything more than quirky and amusing. You really don't see games like such anymore today for better or for worse. I do miss the 8 and 16-bit generations where lots of these above average platforming action games littered the shelves of rental stores. No, they ain't world beaters or anything but they're fun in their own right, competently made, charmingly quirky, and can occupy you perfectly fine for a night or so. All in all, Harley's Humongous Adventure is not a must-have game but if you love the genre and you've already played the best on the SNES, then this is worth a look. It's not good enough to be classified as underrated or a "hidden gem," but it certainly has an odd little atmosphere that kinda reels you in. If you like the idea of being shrunk having to fend off giant bugs while dealing with normal everyday objects then this game is for you
Graphics: 6 Sound: 5.5 Gameplay: 6 Longevity: 5.5
Me:Harley's Humongous Adventure was your first SNES game. You created and programmed its gaming world. Do you still look back fondly on this experience, or is it one of those things where you're more ashamed than proud of how it turned out years later?
BG: I consider that time the second Golden Age of video games. The first was the coin-op days in the late 70’s / early 80’s when Galaga, Dig Dug, Pac Man, etc. were huge, but the second Golden Age was when the Super NES came out in the early 90’s. It was a lot of fun, and very challenging to develop back in those days. The development devices were usually hand-made and held together with duct tape. All of the programming was straight assembly code, and every cycle and every byte counted. It took really skilled programmers to make those games - it’s not like today where pretty much anyone can make a game.
Me: Describe the origins of this game: how did it come about, what ideas inspired you, and how much of an influence (if any) was Honey I Shrunk the Kids?
BG: My boss at Visual Concepts came up with that idea, and I’m sure Honey I Shrunk the Kids played some role in there, but I think the original Incredible Shrinking Man had more to do with it than anything.
Me: How did the design of the Harley character come about? I find him to be a bit interesting: the spiky hair, the cool sunglasses, heck, Harley even had the letter "H" etched out in his haircut! (Not seen in-game but seen on the box art).
BG: The art design was all up to the artists, and we had a lot of very talented ones working at Visual Concepts. I believe Colin Silverman did the art for Harley, and he was one of the best that I ever worked with. I actually still have a huge framed Harley’s Humongous Adventure poster over my desk right now. I look at it every day, and it’s been here for the last 19 years, so that funky hairdo with the "H" carved into it is always staring me down. Now that I look again, he does seem to have a very late 80’s / early 90’s look.
Here is my poster of the game that came packaged. I love the art!
Me: How long did it take to make this game from start to finish? What were some of the setbacks or challenges?
BG: If I remember correctly, this was about a 9 month project. That’s generally how long it took to make one of those games back then. The main challenges were getting the development devices to work properly. We even had one of the guys at Visual Concepts write a compiler for us since the ones provided were so bad. The company that published the game, Hi Tech Expressions, was a Korean firm that was pretty new to this, so working with them was a bit challenging as we kept trying to squeeze more money out of them.
Me: You used a unique look for the time: (partial) claymation. You might have been the first to use claymation on the SNES. What made you want to do this kind of look? I remember as a kid it definitely stood out in the gaming magazines I read back in the day.
BG: The claymation ideas was my boss’, and the company that did that also did claymation for several of our other games. The best SNES game I did was called Claymates, and it won some awards but unfortunately EA’s decision to name it that killed it. That was not the name we wanted, and "Claymates" sounded idiotic, so it flopped. Also, we did Clay Fighter which ended up being a big hit.
Me: The jet pack was a pretty neat idea. Any inspiration behind this?
BG: The Jet Pack is what Alfred Hitchcock would have referred to as a MacGuffin - a plot tool used to get the character out of holes that the writers got him stuck in. I’ve used Jet Packs in many games, and they’re great for helping the player out of situations that you can’t find any other solution for. Plus, they’re fun!
Me: The game features 18 levels. Was there one you personally enjoyed most? I was particularly fond of Harley's room due to the fact that you can climb some of his Lego sets.
BG: In all honesty, I can’t remember much of any of them. I do vaguely remember the bathtub, mainly because it’s on the poster over my desk, but also because it had some interesting ideas with soap platforms and such. I know we put a lot of neat things in the game, but having not played the game in over 20 years I can’t remember most of it.
Me: How many copies did the game sell?
BG: The game did ok, but not great. I don’t actually remember the sales - for some reason the number 40,000 sticks in my head, but that might not mean anything.
Me: Were you and your team personally satisfied with how the game turned out?
BG: Yes, I was very proud of it, especially considering that it was my first professional game out of college.
Me: Was a sequel ever planned?
BG: I don’t think so. Hi Tech Expressions, the publisher, promptly disappeared.
Me: Why wasn't Harley's Humongous Adventure also made for the Sega Genesis?
BG: As hard as it was to develop for the SNES, the Genesis was actually even worse. Plus, the Genesis didn’t have the customer base that Nintendo had, so we stayed focused on SNES work.
Me: What other SNES games were you involved with, and do you have a personal favorite?
BG: I also did Claymates and Lester the Unlikely for Visual Concepts. Then when I went to work for Mindscape I did three Mario Early Learning educational games based on the Nintendo Mario character. My favorite was Claymates, however. It was all claymation, and was a really neat idea.
Me: Do you still keep in touch today with Scott Patterson, John Manley, Richard Robbins or Greg Thomas?
BG: No, I haven’t heard from any of those guys in over 20 years. I know Greg went on to be some bigwig at EA, but I don’t know what happened to anyone else.
Me: The ending credits were pretty neat. There was a list of people you liked, which was standard fare, but then there was a list of THINGS you guys liked, which gave me a chuckle the first time I saw it. It was different.
BG: I think we were inspired by the credits in the Jim Abrahams / David Zucker movies like Airplane. They would have crazy stuff in their credits like recipes and such, so we did the same in our game.
Once again I would like to thank Brian Greenstone for taking the time. I love hearing about and discovering all these obscure facts about obscure titles like Harley's Humongous Adventure. It isn't the best game around but it has its moments. It's a relic of gaming's past... you just don't see games like this one made anymore. If you miss that, like I do, then this is worth your time
Oh trust me Harley, I ain't gonna say shit, you know what I mean
THE HELL, I hear something? Eh, EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!