Sometimes you have to ask yourself: why does this game exist? SkullCracker is a case in point.
Created by Mac developer CyberFlix, the folks behind Jump Raven, Dust, and Titanic, SkullCracker proves the old adage that little good can come from a Macintosh. SkullCracker was a clinker when released for the Mac back in the Pleistocene age of computer games. Several years later, ported to Win95, it's just a puzzlement. Who looked at this and thought it was worth releasing?
The premise is mildly amusing and might be a fair setup... for another game. In an alternate universe a gruesome assortment of monsters, zombies, and freaks are a common sight on the streets. These critters are kept down by a corporation called MEI (for Mortality Enforcement, Inc.), the people who help the dead stay dead. But business is getting tough for MEI, since monsters are starting to organize and demand civil rights. People are so used to zombies in the streets that they're no longer worried about them. At the same time, the critters are getting restless because of a mysterious substance known as goop, which makes them mean. Average Joes and Janes are also being converted to monsterhood because of this goop.
You enter the picture as one of two freelance toughs: either Mortis "Skullcracker" Rigor, or Penelope "Bonebreaker" Jones. A loose narrative with several cartoon characters sets up the missions to follow and offers tips in between. Neither the characters nor the silly story woven throughout the combat are particularly important.
Most of the game takes the form of a side-scrolling fighting game - and, boy, is it wanting. Your character can walk either left or right, jump, climb, and crouch. She can also kick and punch. As she strolls through a series of bland levels, she comes across different monsters who need to be dispatched. Power-ups for health, extra lives, extra points, and so on are scattered throughout the levels. Several special weapons - such as a flame thrower, flare gun, and supersoaker filled with holy water - are also available, though regrettably scarce.
There are four main missions, each taking place in a given location, each lasting about four levels. These include the woods and playground, shopping mall and arcade, graveyard and cathedral, and MEI lab and headquarters. Each of these features boring, poorly rendered backgrounds that roll by with astonishing monotony. I could doodle on a roll of toilet paper and get a similar effect.
The action that takes place in front of these backgrounds is little better. The characters look like paper cut-outs, and have almost no animation. There are two attack moves: a punch and a kick. If you have a weapon, you can use that instead of punching. (Whoopee.) The monsters are equally lame, with a big boss at the end of each mission that's supposed to give it a big finish. It just doesn't work.
Bad art, poor animation, limited controls, no decent action, lame gameplay. If it weren't for these problems, SkullCracker would be a winner. As it is, though, the bargain bin is too good a fate for this turkey. Landfill would be a more appropriate use.