Retro Reflections: ReBoot (PS1)

ReBoot

A small mix of antagonism towards a friend and my usual love of awful television had me watching ReBoot: The Guardian Code recently on Netflix, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as so many led me to believe. I had understood it to be a reboot of the ReBoot franchise, but it is in fact some awkward continuation aimed at a younger audience—and better than a lot of the later Power Rangers seasons. This had me wanting to re-watch the original show though and a different friend reminded me that there was in fact a licensed game on the PlayStation, a title that I remember playing at their house in high school.

I realized that this game didn’t leave much of an impression though, but that might not be a bad thing. Most people write-off licensed games early on as being extremely disappointing, but if I had no memories of the game, perhaps it was mediocre or even just simply acceptable, without being good enough to recall. Now I had to find out.

Revisiting this franchise was a blast for me, but to anyone who isn’t familiar with the show the premise may seem odd. ReBoot was a series about programs inside of a computer, “the 1s and 0s of Mainframe,” who have to fight off viruses, mend tears, and participate in games to protect their home. The particular CGI art style may look like it was made for original PlayStation graphics, but the show was in fact ahead of its time by being fully computer generated. The game starts with a full fantastic cutscene to give some story, and surprise, there are plenty, as these scenes put together are considered to be an ‘exclusive episode’ of the award-winning show. It is a cool little bonus, acting as a prequel story to the show properly. The rest of the aesthetics are fine, in the sense that it all fits the show perfectly, with the only true eyesore being some of the in-game cinematics. The sets and enemies immediately put me back in the show, and my only curiosity is why they didn’t use a few brighter colors.

Similarly, I wish they had done a little more with the instruction booklet, as it isn’t bad, but I was hoping to see some large images or cool backgrounds. Also, it may sound weird that the opening menus delighted me so much, as most don’t even talk about such things, but I love it because the start screen completely looks like it fits the game, simple and clean, while being incredibly easy to navigate, but bold enough to see clearly with no unnecessary flare. It really is the little things.

The back of the box boasts fast-soaring Zipboard action! This is the device that Bob, the main character, rides around on, with some truly awkward floaty movements that took me quite a while to get the hang of before I could claim any precision with it. Boasting again, the back of the box says it has analog controller support, which for a 1998 game, was still a bit big at the time. There are some who can’t imagine a PlayStation game without being able to use the sticks, but I’m not sure how much this helps the player. Controls are not easy to master, especially with a hair trigger auto aim and movement in general being wonky. Learning to strafe and how to flow with the board is difficult and necessary. The biggest examples here are the tears that Bob must mend, as they damage him, but the player must get close to do it, creating some ‘fun’ accidental deaths. It’s probably no surprise that the camera is also an issue, often being too close at points to limit the field of vision, or moving at the most inopportune times.

Things like that make the game quite difficult. Sure, there are power-ups and a good supply of health in the beginning, but extra lives are tucked away in hard to reach places while many sections are timed, and continuing can actually put the player in a worse spot. The concepts for ReBoot as a playable experience are quite simple, but I’ve never been able to beat the game. There are some interesting cheats for those who want them, no god mode, but it is neat to be able to play as Dot or Enzo.

The game is nowhere near great, but I found it fun for a short time and kept pushing on to see more of the episode. It is best at how truthful the whole experience is to the show, with the environments that look like Mainframe, using large portions of the actual soundtrack, getting the original voice cast, and going as far as turning the game into its own episode. It isn’t hard to see that true fans will give ReBoot more of a chance than someone just looking for a random title to play. Electronic Arts Canada worked closely with Mainframe Entertainment (now Rainmaker Studios) to make sure this happened, making it stand out above so many licensed properties. It also isn’t too expensive for anyone wanting to pick up a copy, but this one can be a bit harder to find, as there was a smaller number produced, meaning I don’t see it out in the wild as much.

With all of that said, a current show could perhaps mean it is time for a new game, based off of The Guardian Code. Something better than what I just played, at least where the controls, difficulty, and mechanics are concerned, but I do want to see what those updated graphics would look like. Okay, I’m not sure that is a great idea, but this franchise deserves at least one more chance in the video game world. Until then though, I suppose reviewing this title means I eventually have to do Beast Wars: Transformers (another cartoon by Mainframe Entertainment) since I own a copy now and don’t want to.

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