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Hang On and Safari Hunt Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega, Irwin Electronics
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

Here we go again, yet another combo cartridge. This review is going to be a bit tricky because unlike Hang On and Astro Warrior, one of the two games on this title was not released separately. Thus, I need to first factor in the scores of Hang On while at the same time bashing, I mean, analyzing Safari Hunt. Bear with me if that sounds difficult or confusing. Yet again I’m confronted by the question of why. Why did Sega do this? Why did they seem to get everything right in Europe but everything went awry for NTSC fans? At least one of the games on here wasn’t a separate title, that almost justifies a purchase, but not quite.

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In the graphics category, let me just state it now, you have to throw in the sub-par look of Hang On. Read my separate review for details. Now, in addition to this, Sega programmed a pseudo-title screen where you can select either game. Not too bad. They have a nice looking rider for Hang On and some natives carving stone for Safari Hunt. It looks somewhat awkward since it doesn’t really appear like a title screen and more like what you’d find if you turned on the system (the majority of system had this very game programmed into them), but I’ll ignore that. For Safari Hunt’s main title, you find a rather clean arrangement. Nice background color and a lush style. You have a colorful title and some natives carrying a dead alligator in the middle of the screen. Looks good.

The game proper, however, isn’t the best. The first level, which is a lakeside, has some prett half-assed foilage including a tree that looks like it was thrown together in a paint program and a pretty stagnant environment. It just looks strange and doesn’t really feel open, as I think it should. You’re behind this hill sort of thing that obscures your main area of view and it looks, well, not like a place I’d pick to hunt. The next level is some kind of forest area and the final level is a jungle with monkies, spiders, bats and panthers. The animals tend to be animated well but some of them just don’t look very good. The fish in the first level for example, turns into what appears to be a lid on a stick when you shoot it, hardly capturing the feel of a fish head attached to bones. Looks pretty damn bad. If only the title screen spoke for the actual content.

Again, Hang On’s sound, as a separate title, is factored into this score. Hang On and Safari Hunt disappoints at the outset because the game selection screen is completely silent. Hang On has its own problems, and unfortunately Safari Hunt does as well. First, you’re greeted with a unique, original and highly creative track during the title screen. It actually put me in what could be called a hunting mood when I put it in, really fits the theme they were going for here. Unfortunately, the in-game music is essentially nil. You have a decent opening theme before each level that lasts no more than three seconds and a little tune during the between level score tally screens that sounds fine. Too bad that’s generally all you hear. The rest is pure silence, other than the sounds when you fire. If you miss, it sounds pretty close to a bullet, but when you hit any creature they programmed the same, tiresome bit that reminds me of a deep, ball-bouncing sound. Awful. You mean to tell me when I shoot a bear and a fish they both sound like bouncing balls? Man, I was unaware the animal kingdom was so diverse, yet so similar when you shoot at them. Heck, even the spiders have the same rubbery skin it seems. Good one guys.

The real shame here is the gameplay. Hang On has it’s own issues, but Safari Hunt really fails in this area. It can be easily said that this particular title was Sega’s answer to Duck Hunt for the NES, because it carries the same idea: shoot at animals with a light gun. In addition, it was frequently the pack-in bonus suck. You have to get a certain score every level to keep going and have a certain amount of time and certain number of bullets to do it in. They decided to go against the basic format of Dunk Hunt and did something different here, thus the title. Instead of one animal, you get to fire at a bunch of animals. There’s just one problem, some of them don’t make any sense.

First off, this lake level is fine, but isn’t this game called Safari Hunt? When was the last time anyone took a safari to a lake to hunt fish, rabbits and ducks all at the same time with a gun? That’s not a safari. The main problem on this level is the fish. Why in the hell am I shooting fish? Fish? I don’t even need to comment any further on that. Second, you get to the forest. Okay, there’s a bear. Again, this isn’t a safari, but at least it’s big game. But wait, an armadillo? Is it even possible anywhere in the world that these two animals coexist in the same environment? I’m pretty sure it’s not. Finally, you get to the jungle, the first and last actual safari you find in this god awful light gun game. Wait, I see a panther! Thank god, now that makes sense but, wait, wait a minute, monkies? Bats? Spiders?! Why am I shooting at these things? Why aren’t there any lions or rhinos or something? This makes no sense.

So you have the levels, fine, they’re goofy, but what about the actual play? Well, not much here folks. You’d think, since they were competing with Nintendo, Sega would have made this game a lot more intense with extra goodies to discover when you shoot around, hidden targets and perhaps an actual difficulty setting. Nope. You just keep on a firin’ at the same damn creatures over and over again as the game loops. I really don’t care how responsive the gun is, but if you care it’s perfect. The only challenge is that as you progress you have to get a higher score each time to go to the next level. Wow, did you think of that all by yourselves? This game is way too easy, you’ll fly through the levels the first time with no problem and then wonder why you’re still shooting because the action is very tame and uneventful. It never gets any different, nor are there any options to play with. They really should have done something extra with this, it just sucks, not to mention that it’s been packaged with another game that sucks.

Now, the creativity is a big issue for me. First off, and this was serious problem with Hang On and Astro Warrior, this game was the preprogrammed title in the majority of Master System units. Said units sold the most, thus why in the hell would I want to buy this game on a separate cartridge? The only people who’d want to were those that got the other unit with Missle Defense 3D, but since they’re weren’t many of them this title is pretty superfluous. What they should have done is throw together several games for a five-in-one or something like that since they were small to begin with, because releasing a title typically found on most SMS consoles is worthless. Furthermore, I have a big issue with the idea of Safari Hunt. Read again folks if you happen to be someone who’s planning on programming video games and think that people don’t know about words, history and the like. Safari. A safari is, by definition, a hunt that involves big game and typically takes place in Africa. In fact the word safari itself is derived from one of the many African languages. The only big game found here are bears and panthers, the latter of which makes any sense. There is only one jungle environment, the rest is, technically, nonsensical. If they wanted to give a variety of hunting environments, fine, but call the game something like “Hunter’s Paradise” and don’t have a title screen with little, loinclothed natives carrying a damn alligator that doesn’t even appear in the frikken game. They just didn’t seem to have thought through this, and I need to drop the score down pretty low, but again I’m also factoring in Hang On as a separate title so don’t forget about that.

I doubt I’ll ever come back to this game. There is little replay value here because it’s just too tiresome and unengaging to keep anyone’s interest for very long. Sure, Duck Hunt was the same thing over and over, but it had this flair to it to keep you coming back for more. There was potential here to make this interesting, but they didn’t do it. The length is worthless as well, you’ll run through all three levels in a little under five minutes. Pathetic.

In conclusion, the only reason you may own Hang On and Safari Hunt is because it’s likely preprogrammed into the Sega Master System unit you own and you’re cursed into eternity with it. Otherwise, the only real reason to want it is that Safari Hunt is one of a handful of titles released to use the Light Phaser. It’s not really good at all, but it is one of the few so it does have that going for it. I still wonder why I myself own it, and really the only reason is because I’m a completist and the version I own is the rarer, Canadian variation of this title. Otherwise, I probably would have dumped it off at a donation center long ago.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 3
Gameplay: 3.5
Creativity: 1.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 3
Final: 3.2
Written by Stan Review Guide