Developer: Sega Technical Institute / Publisher: Sega / Release Date: JP: 22/09/95, NA: 09/1995, EU: 12/1995, AU: 1996 / Format Reviewed: Sega Mega Drive / Other Formats: None / Players: 1
“It can be pretty frustrating to get most of the way through a level, adding slime to your puddle of ooze as you go, ending up like a massive slimy lake and thinking your the dogs bollocks, only to get one hit in your little round green head from some joker with a laser killing you instantly. Yes, pretty frustrating indeed.”
Seemingly inspired by 1950s B movies such as The Blob and developed by the Sega Technical Institute development studio in the US, The Ooze was the brain child of Dave Sanner. Dave was the lead programmer of The Ooze and was also the man behind the game Sonic Spinball. First released in September 1995 the game was an unusual concept in which the hero is basically a pool of slime controlled by the player, and it’s an interesting take on the classic platformer genre.
“So where did this puddle of slime come from?” I hear you ask. Well it turns out that a research scientist call Dr Cain, working at “The Corporation”, was becoming a little suspicious of some shady research being conducted behind closed doors and decided that he would wait until the plant closed one night, and sneak in to have a look through the computer files. After hacking into file after file Dr Cain finally discovered the terrifying truth!
Having developed a hybrid plague that had the potential to wipe out humanity and having the only cure for the disease, The Corporation were planning to infect the entire planet by contaminating the world’s water supplies before extorting billions of dollars from the governments around the world to supply them with the antidote to the plague. Just as he discovers this information the director of the facility bursts in the door with a couple of big nasties by his side and catches Dr Cain red-handed, snooping through the computer files.
Realising that the good doctor was on to their diabolical plan the director barks an order at the two bruisers accompanying him and they swiftly jump on the poor doctor, restraining him while the director injects him with a huge syringe of glowing green chemicals. After passing out Dr Cain awakens to discover that his body has transformed into the toxic green goop that was in the syringe. Sure that the director and his henchmen had meant to kill him and that something had gone wrong, the doctor vows to destroy The Corporation and stop the plague whilst somehow gaining back his humanity in the process.
The graphics in The Ooze are impressive for the time, with a great attention to detail in the backgrounds and character designs. The slimy green blob that you control has a lot of personality, with a continuously morphing shape and distinct sound effects to accompany it’s movement. The enemies that you encounter are also well-designed and unique, each with their own attack patterns and weaknesses.
The gameplay in The Ooze is where things get really interesting though. Rather than jumping and running around like in a typical platformer, you control the slime blob by manipulating its shape and movement. You can grow your blob by absorbing the remains of fallen enemies but the blob splits into smaller pieces when hit by enemy fire. You can however, re-absorb those pieces again by moving into them. You can also squeeze and stretch through tight gaps like water because of your fluid state and can attack by spitting pieces of your self like projectiles, or by forming your goo into a large directable fist.
This unique gameplay mechanic sets The Ooze apart from other platformers, and adds a layer of strategy and creativity to the game.
The major downside of The Ooze is that the controls can be a bit finicky and cumbersome at times making your blob difficult to control precisely. This can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths and restarts. The lack of a save feature also means you will have to start from scratch every time you play. This can of course be overcome by using an emulator with save states available but this will detract from the overall challenge of the game.
This game received a pretty negative reception by reviewers back in the day but overall, The Ooze is a unique and interesting game that offers a fresh take on the platformer genre. The graphics are impressive, and the gameplay mechanics are innovative and engaging. While the controls can be a bit frustrating at times, the game’s overall creativity and charm make it a worthwhile addition to any Sega Mega Drive/Genesis collection.