It was an undertaking to translate the original Turok: Dinosaur Hunter into an 8-bit handheld game, yet somehow developer Bits Managers managed to make an experience that very much felt like the N64 classic. But how does one adapt a game like Turok: Rage Wars, a piece of software built around fast-paced, twitch multi-player action into a Game Boy Color game? The answer is very similar to Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, also on the Game Boy Color, and just disregard the source material and make a wholly original game that just happens to have the same name. Though it has no option for more than one player, Rage Wars on the Game Boy Color, much like the N64 game, is a radical departure from the two games that came before it, but unfortunately that is not a good thing. This third Turok Game Boy outing continues the downward spiral of quality that started with the disappointing Turok 2.
Continuing with the story started in Turok 2, Rage Wars sees the unfortunately named Amaranthine Accordance discovering a portal that allows them to venture to new worlds. Their goal is to use the technology to create more Bionosaurs and take over the earth, a plot that Turok must stop. Much like the last Game Boy game, and for the most part all of the Turok games with the exception of the third chapter, the story just exists to connect the levels and has nothing to do with the console game’s weak narrative.
Whereas the first and second Turok Game Boy outings were 2-D side-scrolling action games, Rage Wars plays from a side-view almost like a beat-em-up or from a top down view with a heavier focus on action. Gone are the tricky jumps as the only leap you have is a tiny hop used for skipping over tiny gaps in the floor or over obstacles like lava or acid. My biggest gripe in the last two Turok’s have been with the live-eating jumps you had to do, an issue that’s reduced in this game, though not eliminated entirely. Most of the areas where jumping is involved are in the overhead levels and it’s sometimes difficult to line up the where to jump from to make it from one side to another, leading once again to lost lives that are even more precious in this game, or health in areas where you’re jumping over hazardous obstacles like lava.
As much as the platforming got frustrated in the side-scrolling Turok’s, I’d gladly trade those for Rage Wars frustrating focus on action. The game is made up of four stages, each with about four sections and a boss. Stages are either made of levels where you’ll scroll left to right, killing enemies along the way; running around in an maze or annoyingly long self-scrolling stages. This game carries over the same controls from the previous two games, and it never feels right, in fact, this game suffers from the lack of inputs on the Game Boy. Weapons now come with multiple ammunition types, making it even longer to cycle through your weapons, which is a problem given how furiously the enemies attack you.
A new feature in this game is the ability to upgrade your weapons and equip different shield types that are resistant to different types of damages. Both seem like they’re very helpful, but like most of this game, it’s yet another feature that feels underdeveloped. The game doesn’t give you enough ammunition to replenish your shields, and as each type only gives you immunity to one type of damage (bullets, hits, fire, etc), they fail to be useful. Weapons can be upgraded to a second level, granting increased power or a different function like the shotgun which allows you to shoot in three directions, but you have to level up your weapons each time you enter a level, making you wonder why they just didn’t put in more weapons or allow you to upgrade a weapon beyond a second level. In the case of the shotgun, the upgrade is actually worse because it eats through ammo much faster, and like shield power, it’s also in short supply.
You can pause the game and pick the weapon you want which helps a lot, but it also serves to slow down a game that feels like it should be a twitch action game like Super C. Speaking of Super C, the overhead action stages feel a lot like that classic game, only way worse. Your character’s position on the screen when scrolling is too far to the edge, allowing enemies to either shoot you and take away your power, or just simply run into you with the same result. What I feel would have perhaps made this game better is if it were tried on the Game Boy Advance with the extra should buttons allowing you to lock your position in one direction to move, strafe and shoot at the same time, something that is just impossible on the Game Boy Color.
Compared to the other two games, which ranged from really good to okay, this game is just frustrating to play. It took me a long time to even beat the first level until I learned that for this game the key to success is playing a level, dying and reloading with a password until you learn where an enemy is going to come from so you can prepare accordingly. A lot of classic NES games, both MegaMan and Castlevania come to mind, were also like that, but the difference being those games were fun to learn enemy patterns and here it’s just annoying. I should also bring up that I was playing this game on the easy difficulty.
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil received the colour treatment however as it was a game that was also compatible with the original black-and-white Game Boy, it came across looking a little undercooked and lacking in necessary detail. The best thing I can really say about Turok: Rage Wars is that as it’s the first in the series to be a dedicated Game Boy Color cartridge, it’s a very nice looking game. The backgrounds, unlike Turok 2, are much more easy to decipher and the colours are much more vibrant. The character model for Turok remains the same, just again with a splash of tan on his pants, but he still animates very nicely and stands out nice against the colourful environments.
While Turok 2: Seeds of Evil felt like a downgrade compared to Battle of the Bionosaurs, it was at least still enjoyable to play, which is something I can’t say for Rage Wars. The focus on action is in line with the theme of the N64 game, however the controls and overall level design make the experience frustrating as opposed to fun. When I booted up Rage Wars I was hoping to get another at least enjoyable platformer, but the game I got was a shocking surprise, and not in a good way.