Ah yes, the Adelaide Fringe Festival. It comes but once a year and lasts a good couple of weeks. It’s one of the few life-bringers to the city of Adelaide during the year, when every bar is full of happy folk enjoying the atmosphere that the festival brings. The festival presents a plethora of events of all descriptions, but the one event I have managed to catch so far, and which I’d like to share with you all today, is a peculiar one indeed.
Battletoads Challenge starring Matt Vecchio of the local Adelaide band Pink Noise Generator, was created by Matt basically because he used to play Battletoads when it came out back in the early 90’s and his mother put a wager down that if he beat the game, she’d give him $20.
Before I continue with the review of the show, let me first give you a bit of a run-down on what Battletoads is for those of you who haven’t played any of the Battletoads games, or didn’t know what the meme meant about ringing up video game stores asking for the game. It’s a 90’s beat’em up with platform levels featuring anthropomorphic frogs with gross names (Zits, Rash and Pimple). It has been deemed to be a hard game (that part I agree with unless you memorise the pattern of the enemies and the pillars and obstacles that you have to dodge in the racing or flying stages). There was also the gimmick of over-sized limbs changing into items like anvils when hammering enemies into the ground or ram horns when head-butting.
Bear in mind, that a lot of games in the 90’s featuring anamorphic and anthropomorphic protagonists were very much the “in thing” (thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Of course Battletoads started on the NES, with a Game Boy version released shortly after. Then when the SNES made its debut, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs was released which was practically a 16bit port of the NES version. Mind you it did come out on the SEGA Master System as well, which brought back that classic 8-bit look. Due to the success of the console releases there had to be an Arcade version made, with the end result a significantly darker and more violent feel to the game. Afterwards the franchise melded with the Double Dragon universe, resulting in the limited release of Battletoads VS Double Dragon, which followed suit with a similar atmosphere to both aforementioned games. But enough waffling about the franchise, you want to know how the show was right?
The show was located at the recently erected bar The Soul Box over on Hindley Street West, which used to be the local laundromat in the area. There’s a great set up to the place where the bar is at the front and the stage is at the back. Upon entering the venue, the projector looped the Battletoads’ intro and the band (dressed up as characters from the game) were playing covers of tunes from the game. By the way, the music in Battletoads is damn good too! Matt entered the stage dressed up as Pimple and a whole heap of other (averagely made) costumed folk then followed. Turned out that they were all the characters from the game including the bosses and of course the Dark Queen! Matt delivered a spiel on the
background behind this show and shortly after the start button was pressed and the challenge was underway!
Commentary was not easy to pull off whilst concentrating on playing a video game, but Matt somehow still managed to throw out the funnies to the crowd! Each time a boss would appear in the game, one of the folk from the stage would get up on the microphone and throw dad jokes and turbo puns at Matt with little-to-no emphasis, adding to the humour behind how corny such dialect was from the 90’s era. The costumes were comical, imaginative and low-budget and the commentary was dry, but reflected exactly what the game and its era was all about, and so the overall challenge was done with no sweat broken.
I was told that on the first night Matt managed to defeat the Dark Queen with one life left which would have made things much more exciting. However, despite this I did of course thoroughly enjoy the show as in itself Battletoads is not an easy game unless you are able to memorise it (or as Paul calls it- having the “Rick Dangerous Syndrome” meaning you can easily clock a game by memorising where things are). Maybe it’s also because I’ve recently watched the Battletoads special Game Center CX (parts 1, 2) together with the fact that it’s a regular non-gaming joe playing a video game, not to mention seeing both the successes and failures which added the life and entertainment to watching somebody play a video game. Regardless it was a very well presented gig, lots of people came and cheered him on and left satisfied, including myself!