It’s been quite some time since I got around to my X-Men in Video Games feature, but I was set on having the Paragon Software PC games be the next ones covered and that meant Madness in Murderworld. But to play the game, I had to figure out the controls, which needed my wireless keyboard for my laptop, and it took me a while to get it back. So finally I got around to it and here we are.
This game launched in 1989, the same year the rather horrible NES debacle did, but this game is superior in every single way. That’s really not saying much – the NES game was a failure on almost every level (in it’s defense, it did have music) – but Madness in Murderworld is a decent game…assuming you can play it well. And you can’t. Because the game is hard and it cheats. And it hates mutants.
In a nutshell, Professor X has been kidnapped by Magneto and the X-Men have to head off to Murderworld to save him. Why did Magneto kidnap Professor X and take him to Murderworld, you ask? I have no idea. It’s an X-Men video game from 1989. The plot usually involves a stack a villains, a location, and a goal to find. In this case, Professor X instructs the X-Men to find clues to some kind of device that will free him from Magneto’s control. Or something. There’s your plot – off you go into Murderworld!
Much like the X-Men Arcade Game (which we’ll get to shortly), the cast of this game seems to have been pulled from the Pryde of the X-Men cartoon pilot, explaining why Dazzler has been lumped in with mainstay X-Men Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm and Cyclops. I still do not understand the appeal of Dazzler 21 years later, even after she has returned to the team, but whatever.
Unlike the console attempt at an X-Men video game, MiM actually attempts to present an innovative gaming experience for Marvel’s merry mutants. The aspect of teamwork and using abilities to solve problems are all present for the player to enjoy. Unfortunately, the presentation leaves something to be desired. Putting it simply – the game is ridiculously difficult. And that’s assuming that you manage to figure out the controls, which is no easy process since the game has been out of production for over two decades.
Starting from the opening screen, you move in towards Murderworld (helpfully labeled with a large sign) guided by Professor X’ s giant head.
The first screen allows the player to figure out the controls. The character is steered with the number keys, allowing them to move, jump, back up, move around, etc. When the space bar is pressed, the ten bottom icons can be selected for other commands. Those are team status, switch team member, drop item, pick up item, use item, check inventory, save/restore game, scan with Cerebro, turn music on/off, and use mutant power. Simple enough, right? Now it’s a matter of figuring out which one to use in which situation. Chances are you’re going to guess wrong.
With that done, you can move your X-Man one screen over and come face to face with a random enemy to fight. The first up is usually a Sentinel:
Combat is a tricky bitch in this game because the computer AI is a dirty whore. Does that seem harsh? Oh, I’m sorry – it may be because I typed that after I lost half my team to the first frickin’ enemy I came across in the game because I couldn’t figure out that I had to hold down Ctrl while pushing the movement buttons to attack. One screen in, I’ve lost Cyclops, Wolverine and Nightcrawler to a Sentinel and have only a green key to show for it. Yee.
On the next screen I come across my first example of a mutant power puzzle. There’s a locked door to my right and an adamantium cage before me. The key to the door is within the cage. The solution for this puzzle is using one of the X-Men’s mutant abilities outside of combat – in this instance it would be having Nightcrawler teleport into the box and retrieve the key. Unfortunately, Nightcrawler was one of the X-Men I lost trying to defeat the ridiculously difficult Sentinel one screen earlier and thus my first attempt at this game ends – with Storm, Dazzler and Colossus staring at a locked door.
I’m assuming that with skill, time and patience this game is a fulfilling experience of puzzle solving and mutant combat. Eventually, I might even go through it and try to beat it. Until that point, I leave Murderworld unexplored with my sanity intact. Sure, the game might feature neat tricks like Dazzler illuminating dark passages, Storm flying through passages, Colossus slamming through walls, and tons of items and whatnot…but that’s a story for another day.
Until then, Magneto and the various villains will just have to wait.