Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ultra Review Roundtable: Captain Novolin

Ed. -- The Ultra Review Roundtable gang is back, taking on one of the strangest adver-games of the 16-bit era: Captain Novolin!


*Summarized from Wikipedia* - Captain Novolin is a Super Nintendo video game starring an eponymous superhero who has type-1 diabetes. The game became available to the public in 1992 and was sponsored by Novo Nordisk, makers of the Novolin brand of insulin. The story essentially has aliens come down to earth in the form of sugary foods, an enemy to all mankind. It’s up to one man, Captain Novolin, to take on this devious threat as he seems to be the only one who can stop such evil aliens as Blubberman and rescue a diabetic mayor who has been kidnapped by the evil aliens.

Throughout the game, Captain Novolin needs to avoid the alien invaders who have the appearance of junk food items while eating healthy meals to keep his blood glucose within a safe zone. Players can earn bonus points by correctly answering questions that relate to diabetes. In addition, the game has a feature whereby a diabetic player can specify the frequency of their real-life insulin injections. When playing the game, the player can stomp enemies by pressing the directional control down when Captain Novolin jumps, which isn't immediately obvious.

Graphics and Sound
The graphics are large and colorful like something out of a storybook. Having a large main character however does means one thing; a bigger hit box which makes it easier to get hit by enemies. The backgrounds have the same animated feel but nothing outstanding. The music drones on and is almost to the point of annoying just seconds into gameplay. The sound effects are the drab and uninspired things you always hear from poorly produced video games.

"... grade-F clunker of a game." -

“I’m not sure what nightmarish hell most of the junk food enemies crawled out of but they’re actually quite twisted.” -

“Apparently if you get too many items you are essentially overeating and will pass out at the end of the level; such a badass superhero! ” -

I was part of Captain Novolin’s forces during the Big One. He used to leap out of his jeep, wave jauntily to the troops, flash that ever-confident grin, and then collapse into the godforsaken muck, gurgling and mumbling. None of us enlisted men ever knew he had the syphilis. Diabetes, I mean.” -

NintendoLegend from
Worst Game You Have Ever Played: Ghostbusters on the NES (Review can be found at my website)

You know how the movie Superman Returns sucked for a variety reasons but primarily because the superhero never punches anything? Captain Novolin is like that. You know how the early Wisdom Tree games on the NES had portions where the player had to stop gameplay to answer questions pertaining to real life subjects? Captain Novolin is like that. Remember the mid-90's when you could shake a tree and get a half-dozen random "shareware" games to fall out, usually with subpar graphics, very basic sound, limited play mechanics, and pushed by programmers with an agenda? Captain Novolin is like that. You know how educational games always suck? Captain Novolin is like that.

To its credit, Captain Novolin does indeed teach about diabetes and the experience of needing regular insulin shots and blood glucose checks. The problem, though, is that this does not make for a fun gameplay experience. The biggest example is that as Captain Novolin travels through the game, not only is he on a time limit as the day passes, but he must also monitor his blood sugar by eating only certain foods and only certain amounts. This means that either eating too much or too little of the food you find will kill you! In addition to annoying sound FX, alarmingly single-dimensional not-even-platforming gameplay, Atari 2600-level play control (good luck using more than one button), and enemies with less spark than an animated .gif image.

Captain Novolin is a grade-F clunker of a game. There is nothing done well in this game, it's all sub-standard. For such games, I can even forgive it if it's an intriguing idea; but this is a bland platformer. And, for being educational? That doesn't get bonus points in my book, that gets demerits.

0 Passed Out Captain Novolins out of 5

Sushi-Xpired from
Worst Game You Have Ever Played: Hover Strike on the Atari Jaguar

Captain Novolin purports to deliver a dose of diabetes education to children, while at the same time promoting Novolin, a human insulin product from the pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk. The blue-suited, shades-sporting Captain Novolin strolls across the screen, fighting or avoiding an army of sugary temptations and monitoring his blood sugar. The game takes place in a weird world dominated by diabetes awareness. Captain Novolin's mission is to rescue the mayor from an invasion of alien sugary foods led by an evil leader named Blubberman, as (horrors!) the mayor only has 48 hours' worth of insulin and medication on hand (ill-preparedness!). The game is customizable with a code from one’s doctor, presumably to calibrate it to the player’s own blood sugar sensitivities, and before the action gets underway we get to read some advice from digitized/painted models posing as doctors.

This is the best part!

The real trouble starts when the gameplay begins. The action proves surprisingly difficult, if only because in addition to avoiding the over-sized enemy sprites and their screen-filling attack paths, Captain Novolin also has to avoid excess consumption of foods like orange juice, toast and bananas, which place themselves a little too conveniently into his path. Picking up every "power up" onscreen proves a tough habit to break, and it's easy to overdo it and send Captain Novolin into diabetic shock, represented by dizziness followed by a face-first collapse onto the sidewalk. Beyond this embarrassing bit of animation, the good Captain has no extraordinary abilities beyond jumping nearly the height of the screen, which makes him rather ill-suited for his line of work as a superhero. I'd be surprised if any young diabetes patient ever did stick with this one long enough to rescue the mayor.

1 Passed Out Captain Novolin out of 5

ChadMichaelZombie from
Worst Game You Have Ever Played: Karnov on the NES (I have a personal vendetta with it!)

Wow, there is probably a reason I never heard of this game until now. Captain Novolin for the SNES is far and away the most pointless thing ever committed to cartridge. I have a huge issue with the gameplay, the programmers had 6 buttons to use.... they used one. One button! Captain Novolin can jump, do some ineffective stomp while jumping, and look like a total asshole the entire time. Jumping over/stomping the enemies is tough because there is a delay from pushing the button until the character actually jumps.

I'll be honest, I stopped playing this after 15 minutes. I was dying from eating too much. I can avoid the enemies just fine but I thought I had to collect all the healthy food stuffs. I was way off. I ended up putting Ol' Capn' in a coma. So I left him there, laying on the sidewalk slipping into sweet death. I could rant about how awful I think this game is but I think it'll just cause my blood pressure to go up. Maybe there is a game for that too. Who knows, I'm sure it wouldn't suck as bad as this abomination. I can find no redeeming qualities at all with this game.

0 Passed Out Captain Novolins out of 5

Mr.Armitage from
Worst Game You Have Ever Played: Time Killers (Arcade Fighter)

Captain Novolin named after a “popular” brand of insulin is about as much fun as actually sticking a needle in your own arm for your life saving sugar level needs. The game is not all that hard as I beat it in 20 minutes; although the last level does provide some challenging moments. Captain Novolin brings on a hell of a lot of frustration until you learn that all you have jump and push down to kill enemies, something that took me 5 minutes to work out. I’m not sure what nightmarish hell most of the junk food enemies crawled out of but, they’re actually quite twisted.  Too bad any fear is lost on them appearing over and over again. While the message behind the game actually is something that a diabetic child could actually use, the game is quite boring and bland. The color scheme is quite drab, music is not annoying but fairly generic, the controls are sluggish and the challenge factor is minimal. The concept of a superhero with the powers of jump is quite laughable, and I’m not even sure what anyone was thinking by sticking in the boat levels. The inbetween mini-games of match your color insulin levels and administering the right dose of insulin really does nothing. The multiple choice questions are informative but any kid over 5 with diabetes is going to know the answers. The doctor information splash screens are also fairly boring (Minorities Doctors Check).

Now I believe this game was only ever available in hospitals and doctors offices, so I feel very sorry for the diabetic kids that had to play this game as a badge of courage mainly because they had diabetes. Tough break have diabetes and having to play this, but I’m sure the message behind the game actual did help a lot of kids with diabetes. It is just too bad that it had to be like this and so lifeless. Unfortunately the game was probably designed by suits. Raya Systems used the same formula for juvenile diabetes, asthma, and smoking which actually did start to show some improvement by the end of their run. The primary idea behind it is a good one but the execution is terrible. Lets see this game or no game about diabetes? For the children you unfortunately begrudgingly would have had to say go with this game. Captain Novolin heart is in the right place unfortunately that's about it.

If you liked this failed game you would also like Waynes World and Blues Brothers. Captain Novolin reminds me a lot of these two.

1 Passed Out Captain Novolin out of 5

HagenDragmire from
Worst Game You Have Ever Played: Pac-Man on the Atari 2600, ohhh the shattered promises and dreams!

To say this game sucks would be an understatement, a huge understatement. Right from the beginning there are informational icons that you touch that make the day to night transitions in Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest tolerable by comparison. The controls are nowhere near tight and jumping feels pretty floaty. I’m already pissed off by the fact that you have to press down to attack enemies and if you aren’t directly in the middle of the large enemy sprite, you get hit 50% of the time.

So I go through the level collecting all the items and killing or avoiding enemies like in any good platformer. I get to a clock looking icon and immediately pass out on the ground! I then restart the level and do it all over again. I was thinking what the hell is going on? Apparently if you get too many items you are essentially overeating and will pass out at the end of the level; such a badass superhero!

Could the Player Sprite Be Any Bigger?

The boat level that comes next is even worse than the normal platforming. Your boat is even bigger than the Captain himself and harder to control. You jump the boat with a really low clearance and constantly moving enemies which gets very annoying and usually leads to death. I eventually beat the level and the game basically repeats the first level again. This game isn’t even worth playing to learn the difficultly curve, as the quiz questions zap any motivation that you will have after the lackluster gameplay experience.

0 Passed Out Captain Novolins out of 5

Ultra Review Roundtable
Overall Rating
You’d think they would create a doctor without chin rolls.

0 Passed Out Captain Novolins out of 5 (Rounded down from 0.4)
For Shame!

1 comment:

  1. Here is some of what a Youtube reviewer recently said about this game:

    Most kids in the early 90's were looking to ride the blast processing or taste that mode 7 goodness, not learn how to cope with diabetes so there's no surprise at all that Raya Systems folded before the Super Nintendo was off store shelves. With that said though there's surely some value in this for the target demographic and sculptured software did as good of a job as anyone could in the field of educational games. The controls are admittedly way to simplistic and I would have preferred to have a secondary means of attack but the presentation is leaps and bounds ahead of its educational peers, the framerate is smooth and the stage and enemy design is creative. Captain Novolin may be lacking in many departments but it has a certain charm to it that I'm attracted to and its successful enough in what it set out to achieve.

    I'm sure a number of you are questioning my sanity but I'm sticking to my guns and aquitting this odious offender on the same grounds that I used on Crystals Pony Tale, meaning that it's salvagable when taken into context with the other entries in the educational game genre. That of course doesn't mean its worth seeking out and I myself dont even own a physical copy due to the high prices so just do what I did and download a rom to play on an Everdrive or whatever emulator you prefer. Raya went out of business decades ago so its a completely victimless crime to experience one of the wackiest novelties commited to a plastic cartridge