LICENSE TO THRILL?: The Mask (1995)

Jim Carrey’s comedy classic gets a video game makeover in this licensed SNES favourite. Rod puts on his best zoot suit to give it a whirl(wind).

Who made it?: Black Pearl Software (Developer), Virgin Interactive/New Line Media (Publishers).

Genre: Action/Platformer.

Platforms: SNES.

Format: Cartridge.

Released: October 26, 1995 (UK).

The Mask is a 2D platformer based on the 1994 Jim Carrey comedy film of the same name, which itself was based on comic books published by Dark Horse (there was also an animated series, as well as an inferior film sequel). While the game does have a lot of elements carried over from the movie, it has much more in common with the comics, especially the cartoonish graphical style. I was probably about eleven or twelve years of age when this game first came out, and it was one of those unplanned purchases. The day of my birthday, I was taken to one of the local electronic stores by my father, with the hope of getting The Complete Adventures of Indiana Jones for the SNES. That game wasn’t there but The Mask was, and since I enjoyed the film, it was enough to make me want to pick it up. Funny how some things work out, huh?

The video game pretty much follows the same story as the Carrey classic, with certain differences. The first level is Stanley’s apartment, where he first puts on the Loki mask. The end of level boss is the old lady you’ll also remember from the film, who is armed with a shotgun and wearing her green facial-cleansing cream. The second level is out on a street with buildings and construction areas, and the boss is a large man wearing a welder’s mask and armed with a large wrench and blowtorch. The third is a street exterior leading to the interior of a bank (which The Mask robs in the film), with a big bad in the form of a fat man with glasses, who is wearing a shirt too small for him that makes his large stomach bulge out prominently, and is armed with a double-barreled shotgun. The fourth takes place outdoors in a park, where you will battle a boss that’s a strange-looking tall man armed with a leaf blower that blasts out garbage! The fifth is inside a prison (which isn’t in the film, of course), where you will fight an end of level villain who is a muscled prisoner attacking you with a ball and chain attached to each of his wrists! The sixth level has you navigating through the sewers to find an exit, and this is the only one without a boss battle. The seventh and final stage is in a nightclub where you will face-off against the climactic boss of the game, Dorian Tyrell (played in the film by Peter Greene).

There are a variety of smaller enemies you will fight throughout the game, too, such as alarm clocks that jump around and ring continuously until destroyed, unarmed thugs or those carrying knives, men who throw cats out their front doors at you, disgruntled sleepers who fire guns if you wake them, fat clowns, mechanics, construction equipment, gangsters armed with tommy guns, thugs armed with a baseball bat and a trashcan lid for a shield, prisoners, guys with handguns, and trenchcoat-wearing dynamite-throwers. Wow. The enemies can become really annoying whenever you’re hit, though you do have a moment where The Mask will temporarily become invincible, so you have some time to grapple with them.

The animations in this game are excellent. Even the little things make you laugh, like the fact he’s always smiling no matter what you’re doing, even when just standing still. Speaking of which, if you don’t move for a while, The Mask will eventually stand with his heart literally beating out of his chest, or will switch into his Cuban dance get-up, and even take out some maracas to do a short dance! Before the fight with each end of level boss, as in the movie itself, The Mask will scream and his eyes will pop out of his head; his skull bursting forth and his long tongue protruding further still! It might sound gory from that description, just as it might have done in the movie script, but it’s done in such a hilariously comical way. There’s even animations for things like The Mask hitting his head on a low-hanging ceiling when he jumps, as well as bits for falling from a great height. If you fall too far, he’ll get flattened on the ground before slowly peeling himself back up. If you’re standing on the edge of a precipice, he’ll balance on one foot while waving his arms around furiously trying to regain his footing (the funny thing is, you can stay in this position forever and the animation continues). When you lose all your health, the “death” animation is literally Stanley pulling the Mask of Loki from his face. After you defeat Dorian Tyrell, there’s a nice little dance number between The Mask and Tina Carlyle, who was played by the very sultry Cameron Diaz in the film.

The Mask can attack by using the sliding move, punching with his oversized red boxing gloves, and smashing things with the mallet (including cracked floors to get to certain areas), which comes in handy against those noisy, bouncing alarm clocks that you just want to smash into tiny little pieces! There are various special attacks you can do, too, which are actually used by The Mask in the film, such as the small horn that lets out a mighty “Ahoogah!” strong enough to push back enemies that are unlucky enough to be in its path. You can also have an unlikely amount of guns in each hand that The Mask will fire to cause damage to every enemy onscreen. Oh, and he can also turn into a cyclone just like the Looney Tunes character Taz aka The Tasmanian Devil (you remember him, right?). These special attacks will use up a portion of “Mask Points” that you collect throughout each level. These will gradually pile up, but if you’re running low, they won’t necessarily allow you to do the stronger special attacks, but will allow you to do the low-level ones at the very least. Other things you can do as The Mask include the amusingly exaggerated sneaking move, which comes in handy in the first level against those disgruntled sleepers I mentioned earlier. He can also perform a speed-dash by holding the L and R buttons at the same time while you move, but keep in mind that this does use those aforementioned Mask Points.

The game has a great soundtrack which is energetic, which certainly suits the fast-paced gameplay. Sometimes, you just want to pause the game and listen to the music! To accompany the cartoonish visuals, the sound effects also go in that direction. When you do the sliding move, there’s a whoosing sound, and when you sneak, you can hear creaking noises, no matter what surface you’re walking or running on. The sound of landing punches on enemies is also quite satisfying, and well, the SFX packs quite a punch! There’s also some voice samples in this, too – after defeating an end of level boss, The Mask will say “Sssssmokin!”

In the film, The Mask wears his wide-brimmed yellow hat quite a lot, but in the game, the developers decided to keep it off his head, and the hat is actually represented by checkpoints. Something which definitely wasn’t in the film, but is in the game, is the fact that there’s more than one Loki mask – the final level boss, Tyrell, also has one, and so too does Stanley’s dog Milo, who will give you 500 Energy and 500 Mask Points if you collect him. But hey, this a bizarre – in a good way – game and any differences from the source can be forgiven. The whole package from the audio to the visuals is very Looney Tunes, which is, of course, extremely fitting. You will not only have fun playing but will most likely be laughing as well, because it is definitely a very funny game, just like the movie itself. If there is one frustration I could point-out, it is when you are up against an end of level boss who makes you lose all of your health, forcing you to start back at your last checkpoint. Hey, at least you don’t have to start all the way back at the beginning, well, as long as you’ve collected a checkpoint that is! Regardless, this is a game I’d recommend playing to anyone who possesses a fondness for the movie or comic book series.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • The beta version of The Mask played more like a beat ‘em up rather than a side-scrolling action game. Damage in the beta version came in a series of expressions; similar to the various faces used in the 1993 first-person shooter Doom. Different backgrounds were placed in the incomplete version that were scrapped in the retail version. Violent-looking attacks like a projectile-firing gun and a karate-style low kick were deleted from the final version.
  • A version of the game was also in development for the Mega Drive but was cancelled.
  • In one speedrun of the game, designer Matt Harmon said that a carnival-themed level was scrapped from the game. In the stage select screen, there exists an unused level called “Wild Ride”, and it is possible that this is that level.

Rod Petrie

Gamer since 1988 at the age of five. First system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Favourite retro systems - NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, PS1, and PS2.

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