Old-school gaming was littered with wacky characters in bizarre situations. From the early days of Pacman to classics such as Super Mario Bros and Battletoads - the concepts were more than a little strange. Plumbers eating magic flowers and throwing fireballs, a yellow hockey puck that swallows pills and eats ghosts; there's no denying that while today's games are often based around some exaggerated form of reality (ie: the two-million Call of Duty games, Grand Theft Auto, The Sims,) early games were all about the surreal. So it should come as no surprise that Titus Software's "Power Piggs of the Dark Age" for the Super Nintendo is one big slice of crazy.
Released in 1994, this action platformer lets you take control of Bruno - head of the Power Piggs, on a quest to defend the kingdom from the Wolff Wizzard. Notice a trend with the "Super Kool 90's Spelling?!" The game tosses in a handful of references to fairytales such as the three little pigs and red riding hood and would definitely place pretty high in the "really original concept; if by original, you mean totally insane" contest. Did I mention the Power Piggs are the proud owners of what has to be the only pig-run donut shop in the dark ages? Total insanity.
So how does Power Piggs play? Surprisingly well for a relatively unknown platformer. Bruno has two attacks, a sword slash and a donut throwing attack (of which there are a few varieties.) For the most part, the controls are competent. However, I would have liked a jump action that was a little less stiff. Your Power Pigg just sort of flops around instead of gracefully jumping from platform to platform. This can lead to some aggravating blunders and frequent trips to the spike pit if you're not extremely careful. There are quite a few airducts scattered around that will blow your character to higher platforms and add a fun dynamic to otherwise repetitive platforming.
The graphic style is a sort of mixed bag. The art style and bright, colorful graphics lead me to believe the developers might have been planning a cartoon spinoff ala "Earthworm Jim." It wouldn't be hard to picture a "Power Piggs of the Dark Age" cartoon on the WB or NBC Saturday morning lineup if the game had really taken off and become a franchise. The backgrounds are colorful - filled with candy-cane trees, swampland, and cartoony, stylized buildings. Sadly, in spite of the interesting direction that was taken with the graphics - some things still feel unfinished. I can't help but think a little more time could have been spent on your main character. Bruno just looks a bit, well...off.
Some of the enemies look great - the knight wolf at the end of stage 1, the window hanging wolves, and the giant wolves in the donut factory stage are top notch. However, the archers and "grandma" wolf feel flat and rushed. And why DOES the grandma wolf blow fireballs out of his dress?
Some less than stellar sprites aside, there are quite a few different enemies in Power Piggs and it doesn't feel like you're constantly coming up against the same two boring sprites.
Power Piggs of the Dark Ages is a little known and very original platformer. The cartoony art style works fairly well and the controls don't provide too many "controller-hurling moments." The music's funky and the game provides quite a bit of a challenge (sometimes intentional, sometimes as a result of a less than stellar jumping mechanic.) This game is not without its flaws. However, with a little patience, Power Piggs can be a rewarding action-platformer. So if you're on the lookout for a crazy, relatively unknown Super NES game to amaze your friends with - this one will do the trick.