As a kid, I absolutely adored Tiny Toon Adventures. It was one of my favorite shows during the time it was on the air, and the kind I'd rush home to see. I'd curl up in my chair and watch the fun filled shinanigans of Buster, Babs, and the rest of the cast. One episode was never enough. I always wanted more. Thankfully, the NES game and the frequently rented Genesis one filled the gap. However, there was always something missing. I didn't own a SNES. As a result, I was unable to experience Konami's 1993 release of Buster Busts Loose. This created an air of mystery around the game, as I tried, through reviews and screen shots, to piece together what the game was like. What I imagined was a game very much like Buster's Hidden Treasure but better. So, is Buster Busts Loose anything like I imagined it, or was I a little loony?
The story of the game is actually fairly charming. Rather than being a grand adventure like in Hidden Treasure, Busts Loose is actually a collection of episodes that the characters are filming. Each level, usually, opens with a small scene of Buster talking to one of the other Tiny Toons cast members. These short snippets inform the player of the setting and give a little bit of background information. As the level is the episode, the conversations feel more like one that actors standing around a set would have before filming.
As one can tell, one of the biggest additions to Busts Loose over the other games is that this version actually manages to capture the charm of the show. As a result, many of the scenes have a humor that the other games were lacking. The dialogue is the most obvious place this shows, but one can't forget the facial expresions, which closely mirror those of their drawn counterparts. During the opening of the Western Level, while Max is ranting about how he's the star, the camera pans to show the disgusted faces of Plucky and Buster.
As one can tell, the game is very attractive. The colors are bright and vivid. The sprites are detailed and well animated. Even the enemies have changing facial expressions depending on their actions. The levels (Acme Looniversity, the wild west, a horror level, a football game, a sky stage, and a space opera) are also extremely attractive and are all varied and distinct.
Of course, beautiful games can still be lacking when it comes to gameplay, but I'm thankful to say that the controls are spot on, at least when it comes to movement and jumping. Buster handles exactly like one would want him to so the player is rarely left with the feeling that a death was caused by bad controls. On the other hand, unlike Hidden Treasure and most other platformers for that matter, Buster has an attack button. When the X or Y buttons are pressed, Buster will either preform a short hop into a drop kick if he's on the ground or a flip kick if he's in the air.
This is a bit jarring at first, because it feels unnatural. Whether jumping on an enemy or kicking them, Buster is still landing on said enemy. Drop kicking also has the added handicap of taking control of Buster away from the player until he lands on the ground. Though Buster is invulnerable during this period, I have had a few untimely deaths due to attacking an enemy near an edge, which caused me to plummet to my death. Thankfully, this is rare and there are mercifully few times that the inability to move actually hinders the player.
Another of Buster's abilities is that he can dash by pressing the L or R buttons. This move allows Buster not only to perform long jumps but also climb walls and extend the reach of normal jumps. The dash drains a meter at the top of the screen, so it can't be used for long. Luckily, it can be replenished by either collecting Gogo Dodo status or just allowing it to slowly refill.
As I stated, most of the levels are slightly different from each other, which causes there to be some variation in quality. For instance the train section of the wild west level would be an awesome section of platforming greatness except for the fact that the level auto scrolls, has jumps that one must already know about in order to make correctly, and will kill you if you fall too far behind. Not only that, all three of those points combine into a couple of frustrating jumps late in the level.
On the other hand, the football level is absolutely excellent. Playing out like an actual game of football, the player is charged with marching Acme Loo down the field in order to score one last touch down before time runs out. There are two plays that can be called: pass or run. The run play is exactly as one would imagine it, while the pass play tasks the player with actually catching the ball before dashing off. As Buster makes his way down field he must either go over or under the other team as they charge, leap, or hop in order to stop him. Making a huge gain in this level is an awesome minor victory, one which is rewarded with stars.
Stars, much like coins in a Mario game, grant the player with an extra life for every hundred collected. There are other collectibles as well, such as silver and gold carrots that refill Buster's health as well a diamond one that increases his life bar by one.
At the end of each level, a roulette wheel is spun to see which of five mini games the player will attempt in order to gain extra lives. In most of these, the player will actually control a different cast member. Plucky catches the balls in a game of bingo. Sweetie (The pink bird) plays a game with scales where the player must assign characters to be weighed. The winner is determined by the heaviest. Hampton runs, slowly, along a path in a sliding tile puzzle in order to collect apples. Furball plays a game of racket ball. Babs, though, has probably the most enjoyable of the games. Her's is a Pac-Man-esque run through a maze to free her friends. Players are almost guaranteed to earn a few lives in these minigames, which will come in handy during the final sections of each level.
Not every level ends in a boss fight. Some like the Sky and Western levels end with challenging bits of platforming, which are fairly frustrating until one knows exactly how to proceed. The boss fights, though, are a treat to play. More than just a one on one show down to see who can hit the other the most, the bosses usually require alternate methods to defeating them, such as stuffing them full of food or knocking the metal bolts they throw back into a machine. This keeps the boss fights inventive and slightly challenging, while also being extremely nonviolent.
The music in the game is good, but unfortunately, it is themed to match the levels. As a result, each song sounds derivative and are completely forgettable. It does have the theme song and a few reimaginings of it, which are nice. The sound effects are good, but the sound the game makes when Buster hits an enemy is a little muted compared to the others.
In the end, Buster Busts Loose is a fantastic game. It does something things a little awkwardly, and it is, unfortunately, short, but it's definitely the best of the 16 bit era Tiny Toons games.