Cheetahmen II is an unreleased NES game, which was due for release for the NES in 1993. The game was developed by Active Enterprises, whose only previous game was the notoriously negatively reviewed NES multicart Action 52. Cheetahmen II was due to be the sequel to the 52nd game on the cartridge by the name of The Cheetahmen. There was also a plan set out by Active Enterprises to release Cheetahmen action figures and a comic book series, but due to the extreme panning that Action 52 received, these plans never saw the light of day. Cheetahmen II was also never meant to see the light of day, but in the mid 1990’s, 1500 Cheetahmen II cartridges were located. The interesting thing about these cartridges is that the casing and the labelling were recycled from unsold Action 52 cartridges, but had a golden Cheetahmen II sticker on the front. This was at the time when the company was facing financial issues before eventually going bankrupt, hence why the cartridge looks exactly the same as the Action 52 cartridge.
The story of Cheetahmen II is that Doctor Morbis created the three Cheetahmen in a failed experiment wanted to destroy them by creating some mutants to hunt down the Cheetahmen and also created the ultimate enemy called the Ape Man. It up to the cheetahmen to find the Ape Man and defeat Doctor Morbis once and for all. The story of this game compared to the Action 52 story actually isn’t too bad considering how little detail was given in Cheetahmen 1 and the story actually makes some sense. I personally think that the intro slates explaining the story actually look well done and have some nice details. I do think for a NES game, the story is solid enough for players to understand and is simple enough for younger players as well.
The players controls 3 Cheetahmen and the Cheetahman that the player controls changes every 2 levels after defeating a boss. Now, each Cheetahman has a different attack and different powers, which really makes each character has their own unique aspects to them. I do think that this was a quite a nice idea because it meant that the player would be able to play 3 characters who play entirely different, something similar to the way that Super Mario Bros 2 has 4 different characters, who behave differently from one other.
However, the gameplay itself is a complete disaster and a buggy mess. For example, when the player controls the 3 Cheetahmen, 1 of them doesn’t even have a health bar, which means that the player has no feedback about how many more hits they can take before losing a life. The other 2 Cheetahmen do have health bars, but the way that they behave is complete different from one another with one health bar seeming to be entirely random. Also, sometimes the health bar clashes with the glitchy backgrounds, meaning that sometimes is really difficult to see how much of the health bar is left.
And speaking of backgrounds, the backgrounds of each of the levels are really badly designed. It might be because of the fact the game was cancelled, but they look 5 times worse than Cheetahmen 1. I just think that the backgrounds look ugly and just doesn’t have any details to make it look anything more than a preset. Everything in terms of the background feels half hearted and lazy in terms of approach.
Sometimes there are objects in the background look like they can be jumped on, but because there is no visual feedback whatsoever, it is almost impossible to decipher whether it is background or something that can be jumped on. For example, the image above shows the fact that the pipe on the left is actually solid, but the red spikes in the background are not. This makes the backgrounds confusing because initially I thought I couldn’t progress, but then I found out the red spikes are background. There are also stages where the player need to jump on some platforms and if the player is slightly short, then they fall through the platform. However, in some situations there are holes that the player can fall down, gain an extra life and got to the next level, which the game doesn’t show which holes can be jumped down.
Now onto the jumping mechanics of this game, which needless to say are extremely broken. With 2 Cheetahmen, if the player times the jump correctly, then the player can jump again, meaning that the player can play through large sections of certain stages without ever touching the floor. However, if the player goes too high on the screen, then the Cheetahman will clip through the top of the screen and instantly kill the player. This glitch was also a problem in the first game, but in Cheetahmen II, you can use it pretty much anywhere.
And finally onto the biggest problem with the entire game, the enemies. Now, the Cheetahmen can not attack enemies that are at their feet simply because the Cheetahmen can not duck. There are some enemies that are at this height, meaning unless the player can time the awkward jump perfectly and evade the enemy, then the player will take a hit and over 50% of the enemies are at this height. Sometimes when I am attacking these enemies, I press down in the vague hope that I can actually hit the enemy whilst ducking, which won’t happen. It could be that the ducking mechanic wasn’t implemented into the game because it is unfinished, but surely the way is designed a ducking feature would be a must.
Overall, the gameplay is terrible and unplayable simply because there are so many glitches, missing mechanics and glitchy sprites, which makes the game look ugly. I don’t understand why the gameplay of this game compared to Cheetahmen I is so much worse and less playable because surely the company would have learnt from the mistakes and problems with Cheetahmen I and aim to fix them, but they didn’t.
Music and Sound
The music in this game is recycled, note for note from Cheetahmen I, which is only 2 tracks, the main title theme and the stage theme. The stage theme isn’t too bad of a composition, however because it is the only composition that the player will hear the entire game, it gets old very quickly. I think though that maybe the music could have been put into the game temporarily and never replaced, which in itself feels like that the developer and the composer had ran out of ideas.
The sound in this game is one of the worst sound effect sets I have ever heard. The sound effects are crushed extremely heavy audibly to the point where the player can even distinguish what the sound is meant to be. Also, there are so few sound effects that it feels like 10 different enemies sound exactly the same, which considering the fact that the enemy sprites are indistinguishable from one another in consistent, but not in a good way. When the Cheetahmen get hit by an enemy, the music stops from a brief moment every single time, which makes the music sound very disjointed to the point that the music sounds like it is getting in the way of the sound effects. Overall, the sound effects and the music are very weak, even though the only stage composition on its own isn’t too bad.
Overall, this game is terrible because it is unfinished and the mechanics are so broken that the game is unplayable. That alongside the fact that the game is designed around mechanics that didn’t even exist in the first place makes the game even more unplayable. The only things that I liked were the intro slates explaining the story and the stage theme because these aspects were good. I just feel that Cheetahmen II is a buggy mess and not playable.
Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use