Platform: Atari Lynx
Release Date (NA): 1990
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Skweek! Skweek! No, that’s not a mouse you hear. That’s a… um… what? An orange fuzzball? Exactly. Adorning the Lynx game box is Skweek, the adorable orange fuzzy ball thingy, galloping across a disco floor – at least that’s what it looks like to me. If you’re confused looking at the box, wait until you actually play the game. Part puzzler, part shooter, part action, and full cuteness, Super Skweek is an amalgamation of good ideas seemingly gone awry. Or is it?
Super Skweek is a puzzle game at heart but is peppered with various other genres. The ultimate goal of the game is to walk across the blue tiles and turn them pink. Among doing so, you can beat the level. But there’s much more to Super Skweek than that. As Skweek roams the game boards, he’ll encounter various enemies (ghosts, creatures, etc). Using a variety of weapons, he vanquishes his foes creating safe passage to the rest of the stage. Aaaaand that pretty much sums up Super Skweek, for better or worse. While colors abound, I can’t help but wonder if the game would have actually fared better on the colorless Game Boy…
It’s a shame the Lynx couldn’t survive Game Boy’s wrath, because the system really is absolutely phenomenal. Featuring a slew of top-notch computer ports and puzzle games, the Lynx was a true contender in the handheld market. Unfortunately, the Game Boy proved too much for the likes of the Lynx, Game Gear, and Turbo Express, despite all of them boasting one major thing the Game Boy lacked: color graphics.
With the Game Boy, Nintendo proved that a quality library and great marketing could beat technology any day. And guess what… Nintendo is STILL proving that to this very day with the Switch. The Lynx, however, comes from the Atari family, and in 1989 when the handheld system dropped, Atari wasn’t exactly the “cool” kid on the block anymore. In fact, quite the opposite: The changing of the guard had already taken place a few years prior when the NES launched in America. Regardless, Atari was not to be deterred, and so we have the Lynx: my vote for coolest handheld system of the 80s and 90s… That is, until the NeoGeo Pocket Color dropped. But that’s an article for a different day.
Despite the stiff competition and lack of strong sales, the Lynx received a bevvy of wonderful games, one of which is the game we are going over today – sorta. Super Skweek was ported from computers like the Amiga, MS-DOS, and Atari ST and is the follow-up to 1989’s Skweek. Although Super Skweek is a wonderful game in and of itself, it is not so wonderful on the Lynx. Some may disagree, but they are wrong (haha). Super Skweek functions well on the Lynx with great sound and music, but its biggest fault is a lack of depth perception and extremely busy/crowded playing boards.
What was once Super Skweek’s strengths became its weaknesses once it was ported to the Lynx. I’m talking about the colors and graphics. This is seriously one colorful game with numerous colored blocks, sprites, power-ups, and more. The range of colors + the textures on the colored blocks + the low pixel count = an absolute visual mess. Half the time I can’t tell where I am on the screen, or if this block and that block are ones I am supposed to avoid or walk on, and so forth. The screen is frustratingly crowded, and I just don’t know why. Why did the developers decide every pixel on the screen needed so much texture and color?
This is the pit that developers fall into when they attempt to be too faithful in a port. I hate to sit here and tear apart their efforts because it’s truly a wonderful game with awesome development! They put forth a really great effort that I think is beyond noteworthy – it’s worthy of praise. But ultimately they should have curtailed some of the graphical detail to better suit the handheld’s limitations. In defense of the development team, it’s easy for me to sit here 30 years later and tear them apart.
Do we need yet another reason Game Boy was beyond successful? One of the biggest reasons for the Game Boy’s success is because many of their ported games had to be modified for limited hardware capabilities AND for a lack of color. One of the best examples of this is Yoshi’s Cookie (NES) vs the Game Boy port. Yoshi’s Cookie on the NES doesn’t have nearly the colors you’d expect, but each cookie is full of texture with bevels and shapes and the like. Surprisingly, Yoshi’s Cookie (Game Boy) actually looks better on the Game Boy, a rare feat that show’s the developer’s ingenuity while porting it over.
Overall, Super Skweek’s developers ported the game beautifully, pushing the Lynx’s hardware and color palette to the max. Unfortunately, pushing a system’s hardware doesn’t always pan out as gamers were left frustrated in an otherwise fun game. Conceptually, Super Skweek has all the bells and whistles and holds no punches. With hundreds of stages to play, cute art between levels, fun music, and a great action-puzzler concept, the sky should have been the limit here. Computer owners were the true beneficiaries of the developers efforts, not the underpowered Lynx owners. Is Super Skweek worthy of your efforts today? Considering you can find the game CIB (complete in box) for about $15 after shipping (eBay), I’d say YES and NO. YES to the collectors who love to collect for the sake of owning. NO to the collectors who love to collect and honor their collection by playing the games. For the latter, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.