This is another one of those games that came out of nowhere and blew me away.
There are certain games that scream classic from the moment you start them up. And this is certainly one of them.
Let's start with the basics.
Harmful Park is a very cute, hilarious side scrolling shooter in the same wacky style as Parodius. The setting is an amusement park where all kind of crazy things happen.
There are 6 levels or attractions:
1: Opening Field
2: Horror House
3: Animal Zone
4: Coaster World
5: Ray Night Parade
6: Central Castle
Plus a score attack level called:
Each level has it's original cast of enemies. Each one crazier than the next. there are Mamesu, the parks "mascot" characters if you can call them that.
They are these little blue guys with yellow antenna's which keep on popping up, floating on balloons, disguised as ghosts or lobster "thingies", riding in attractions, etc.
There are clowns, flying gumball machines, panda's, even bats with baseball bats!?! and many more.
The weapon system is as follows: You can choose at any time from 4 different weapons. The Potato Vulcan, which basically is a normal Vulcan cannon.
The Ice(cream) Laser, which is, as you can probably guess a laser. Tada! -_^
The next one is the Pie Spread, which launches tasty pies at the enemies. Ones a pie connects, it explodes and is able to do more damage. The last one is the Jelly Boomerang, which are a collection of colorful homing jelly beans.
These can all be powered up 4 times by collection hovering "P" items.
Each weapon also corresponds to an individual special attack.
The scoring system is very well thought out. Using the Vulcan weapon, you will be able to kill enemies rather quickly and accurately. But if you want to get high scores, you will have to learn how to use the other weapons efficiently.
For example, the Pie Spread. When using this weapon, you can be left defenseless when you miss your target. On the other hand, when you hit an enemy and the pie explodes, other enemies can then be killed by that explosion, creating a combo. While this is going on, you have a small time window to throw other pies at enemies and extend the multiplier combo, scoring big points in the process.
It is possible to create combos with he Vulcan, but the result in nowhere near the same as with the other weapons.
Besides this combo system there are also these green diamonds that appear when certain enemies are killed. The first one gives you 500 points, the second 1000, and so forth up to 5000 points. But when you miss one diamond, you will have to start again from 500.
In each level there are also hidden bonuses, worth 50.000 points. These can be obtained by shooting a certain location until the bonus pops up.
Did I mention this game looks wonderful?
No? Then let me take that back. This game not only plays incredible but looks fabulous doing it! From the wonderful backgrounds, to the ships, enemies, explosions, weapons, special attacks and the all around imagination.
Where else will you find robots that make popcorn, that when the popcorn is ready, it explodes towards you? Enemy crafts with slides on their back where some of those little Mamesu creatures slide off from, only to find themselves dropping down on parachutes towards a big bowl of liquid chocolate that's underneath them. And when they land in it, blobs of chocolate splash upwards.
This game is made with so much love and attention, it's sad to see so many people will miss out on it.
Even the explosions are beautiful, with little puffs of pink smoke and bright stars. The starting screen from the 2nd level looks to me like it was pulled right out of one of the best looking PC Engine games. It has that certain style and quality to it. When you first see it, you won't know what to look at first.
To be honest, there are way to many memorable thing to say about this game. I could write a whole website full, if I wanted to try to describe all the wonderful things this game offers.
Luckily I won't. ^_^
But I will give a few more details about encounters and structures that I myself found very memorable.
I've always been a sucker for original bullet patterns. That's one of the reasons why I love Winds Of Thunder much more than Gate Of Thunder. Harmful Park also makes use of some very original bullet patterns. Like The gumball machines which spit out a ray of little colored balls, which when they hit the floor, bounce up in a wave like pattern.
Another great moment is the midlevel boss of stage 2. You come into a church, where a wedding ceremony is taking place. All of a sudden, the bride's true love bursts through the door. They run towards eachother and start kissing, while the other guy bursts into tears.
Now, while trying to defeat the boss (a giant heart that is hanging at the back wall of the church) you must shoot down the smaller hearts comming from the lovers, while also avoiding the tears flying all over the place from the other guy.
Talk about wacky. ^_^
Another unexpected encounter awaits you at the end of level 1, when you discover the boss is a rubber dinosaur that is being inflated right in front of you by 2 cute little blobs.
If I am forced to look for a negative point to Harmful park, the only thing I could come up with is that it might be a bit on the easy side when played at the default dificulty. But hey, that's why we have option settings. -_^
If you thought that this was it, you would be mistaken.
The game also features 3 independant mini games!
The first one is Punch Ball.
This one can be best described as Pong meets air hockey. The object is to get the ball into the goal of your opponent by hitting it with your upper or lower hand (or both) to make it go the way you want it to. It also has to be played by 2 players. Sounds simple but is very fun.
The 2nd one is Sky Circuit.
This is a horizontal race where you have to finish 3 laps as fast as you can. You find speed boost and speed reducers all over the circuit along with lots of obstacles. You can play this with 1 or 2 players and have the choice out of 6 levels.
The last one is Tank Battle.
You can play this with up to 4 players and choose 4 different battle grounds.
You play from a topdown viewpoint and you can control the tank in 8 different directions. Your weapons are a laser which bounces off walls and mines which become invisible after they have been placed.
The mines explode when a vehicle runs over them or when you shoot them with your laser. The last one alive wins.
This one reminds me of Death Tank, even though the games have very little in common.
Well, finally that's it for this review. You can finally stop reading and start hunting down this absolute little marvel of a game. ^_^
Andy De Wilde