Great idea, bad timing.
The game basically starts out with a scene where you see a guy named Sketch Turner finishing up a new comic book he was making himself. I think he lived in New York at the present time, which back then was around 1995. The comic's story and characters were based on dreams and nightmares he kept having. As he was finishing the comic there was a storm outside. Sketch was just adding the finishing touches on one of the vilians of his story when all of a sudden, lightning struck outside, and Mortus (the main vilain of the comic) comes out of the paper and grabs Sketch. Mortus then replaces himself inside the comic by trapping Sketch there in his place. This set Mortus loose in the real world while Sketch was stuck in his own creation.
You find your self starting in the future in a resistance base in New World Empire. The resistance team was trying to defend themselves from invading aliens. Sketch quickly realizes that hes become a part of his own story and must find a way to get out of the comic so he can stop Mortus from destroying the real world. You also meet Alissa Cyan who thinks that Sketch was some chosen hero that was sent to protect them and end the struggle once and for all. She tells you the basic idea of what you need to do to help them and has supplies for you to take such as a health item, a knife, and an explosive. There are a few other items in the game like a super powered fist that lets you temporarily turn into an altered super human version of yourself with a costume to go with it. This allows Sketch to slam his fist into the bottom of the panel and destroy all on screen enemies.
The visuals were good for the time. It really looks like a comic and fits the setting of a post-apocalyptic future. You will see things such as the destroyed statue of liberty's head on the ground. As you move to the edges of the screen you can see what the next panel is going to look like to a point. This helps to give a heads up of if the scenery is going to change and if you'd need to be ready for it. The enemies themselves don't look too imaginative though. They look different enough to fit the alien renegade idea, but they just don't look like they had enough thought put into the designs. Also every now and then you will get to a panel where Mortus will draw in new enemies for you to face. These moments were often saved for when you encounter newer tougher enemies for the first time. You'd finish one, and Mortus would draw an exact replacement for it.
The game worked basically the same as most beat-em-up style games. Once you clear a panel of all enemies, you move to the next one by jumping around the boarder. Some of the time you got to pick which panel you wanted to go to next. The different paths did have different results. In the first level, one path lead to you pet rat Roadkill who was affected by the transfer into the comic world. You could use the rat as an item and he would shock certain enemies or would find hidden items by sniffing them out and tearing open the page to let the item drop out. Sketch and the enemies would also get speech bubbles above them when they were fighting or when certain events were activated. There were also a few voice sounds for each character.
The potions screen allowed you to pick your special move. Once you picked it, you'd have to be stuck with that as your only special for the rest of the game. The only bad thing was that they drained you health for using them. health was a huge issue in this game. It seamed like everything you'd do hurt you. You have to break through doors at certain points. You could use an explosive and save your health, but if you didn't have one with you, you'd have to sit there and punch it repeatedly until it broke. This would force you to watch your health slowly drain away just so you could progress. There were a ton of obstacles like this in the game which made it very frustrating when you go to the tougher levels.
There were a few platforming areas in this game too. You had to make certain jumps to ropes or just across things or else you'd fall and instantly die. One level featured Mortus setting the page on fire and you had to keep moving through the panels before the fire caught up to you and killed you. There was a few inside jokes hidden in here as well. There was a way to make a paper air plane weapon out of the panel, but it drained a ton of your health since you were part of the comic now. This also just happened to be the best weapon in the game.
There were 6 levels. All of them had their own different looks and play styles. One being whats left of New World Empire, a mountain training temple, an abandoned shipyard, and such. There was 2 parts to each area. The second part always had the boss character. The end of the levels had something that was never quit explained though. At the end of a level you reach the end of the page. At this point Sketch would momentarily turn into a hero version of himself of about a few seconds and change back. This is the same form seen when using the fist item. The only other time you see this is one the hero percentage meter page when you get your progress results for how much of the game you finished so far. The thing I don't get is, why isn't this in any of the story other than the end of the levels? I really expected it to be part of the final fight or somethin like that, but it doesn't make any other appearances.
Anyway, you eventually make it to the end of the comic. You find yourself at a nuke that was on the last page Sketch was coloring when he was trapped in the comic. Alissa is here telling you that she is trying to disarm the bomb so that Mortus cant use it to destroy what is left of her world. Of course Mortus sees this and becomes part of the comic once again to stop them. He traps Alissa inside the nuke and starts to fill it with some kind of liquid (I honestly forget what it is). The main goal was to finish Mortus and flip a switch to stop the liquid before Alissa drowns. This is the only part of the game that affected which ending you got. If you are too slow and she dies, you get the bad ending where Mortus is defeated and you are taken back to the real world. Sketch then contemplates what hes just done and put himself on a guilt trip about how her death is solely his fault. The game then has a cliff hanger ending where it tells you that you can always try to tell a different story and fix things. This obviously was refering to playing the game over again and trying to get the other ending.
The other possibility was that you beat Mortus, save Alissa, and you and her are both thrown back into the real world. At this point Sketch doesn't really question a drawing of a girl he made up becoming real or anythin like that. Instead they decide to sell the comic and Sketch becomes a huge artist. Him and Alissa start a relation ship and live together. This ending also featured a cliffhanger ending with something like "everything was back to normal until..." I always took this as sega tryin to say there was gonna be a sequal to this game. I honestly would have loved to see more of the story since this one is so short.
The biggest complaint I have about this game is the difficulty. As a kid I could never make it past level 2. As an adult I cant make it past the second boss at the end of level 4. I honestly could never beat this game without the invincibility code. The game hasn't held up as well as i hoped it would. Theres alot of 90's lingo in the game that just feels really stupid. Since it was suposed to be set in 1995 it fits the game, but it just makes me feel bad knowin people actually acted like that back then, myself included. If you bought this back in the day on the Genesis, you got an exclusive demo CD of random artists from the record label "American". I dug out the CD just to see who was all on it. the American CD came with songs like "Going Down To Die" by Danzig and "44 Robbers" by Laika. The games actual soundtrack featured a real 90's grunge/ rock feel to it. I was a big Nirvana fan as a kid so this was really a natural soundtrack to me. Even know the music in the game wasn't that bad. The look of the pony tailed main character and the mid-90's MTV lingo do seem really dated though.
Overall, the game was hard back then and is still hard now. It is alot of fun as a comic fan to play it and if you like games like Streets of Rage or Maximum Carnage you might like this one. The original has become kind of rare over the years. You might not be able to get the included CD or the included comic book if you get it used. If you find it for a decent price of around $15 its worth getting for the Genesis. It was also recently released on the Virtual Console on the Wii so it might just be easier to buy it there if you wanna play it. I personally prefer the real thing over that emulator for almost everything though, but thats just me.