Congo's Caper
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Data East
  • Publisher:
    • Data East
  • Released:
    • JP 12/18/1992
    • US May 1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 70%

This review was published on 07/31/2017.

Congo's Caper is a side-scrolling platform video game published and developed by Data East for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on December 18, 1992, North America in May 1993, and Europe in 1993. The Japanese title of this game is Tatakae Genshijin 2: Rookie no Bouken, which roughly translates to Fighting Cavemen 2: Rookie's Adventure. As can been seen by the 2 in the Japanese title, this game was meant to be a sequel. The original Tatakae Genshijin began as a coin operated arcade game that was known outside of Japan as Caveman Ninja, but it got ported to various home platforms under the title of Joe and Mac. In other words, Congo's Caper is supposed to be the sequel to Joe and Mac. However, Congo's Caper has so little in common with Joe and Mac that it doesn't feel even remotely like a sequel. That's probably why its name outside of Japan dropped the 2 and made no reference to Joe and Mac. The one thing Congo's Caper does have in common with Joe and Mac, though, is that it's pretty average.

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Joe and Mac are nowhere to be found in this game. Instead, Congo's Caper stars a character named Congo. You probably won't be able to guess this, but Congo goes on a caper in this game. I know, right? Anyway, the opening cinematic shows a gaggle of monkeys celebrating the joining of a male and female monkey in holy matrimony. Then, suddenly, two mysterious rubies fell from the sky and landed on top of the two monkeys, magically transforming them into humans. The transformation wasn't complete, though, because they still had tails. Shortly after this, a malicious winged demon swoops in and attacks Congo, transforming him back into a monkey. Immediately afterwards, the demon kidnaps Congo's girlfriend, who's now a full bodied woman thanks to the ruby. Just as all hope seemed lost, another ruby fell from the sky and transformed Congo back into a mostly human being. With this powerful new form, Congo set out on a caper to rescue his luscious little lady friend.

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Naturally, you play as the titular Congo. Despite there being a two player option on the title screen, two players can't simultaneously play the game together like in Joe and Mac, as they take turns controlling the same character instead. Anyway, controlling Congo is quite simple. You duck and walk around using the d-pad, jump with the B button, and attack with the Y button. Like Joe and Mac, you can jump extra high if up is held on the d-pad during a jump. You can also use most enemies as makeshift platforms to reach higher areas. If you jump off an enemy's head with the right timing, you'll do an ultra high jump. Additionally, holding down after doing a high jump will make Congo do a downwards dive attack. Likewise, holding down while descending slopes will make him slide down, eventually going into a destructive roll that can defeat enemies. He can also hang off branches. Unlike Joe and Mac, Congo's sole weapon in this game is a short ranged club. Holding up while attacking will allow you to swing the club upwards, and it's possible to attack while ducking, too. In stark contrast to Joe and Mac, the controls are responsive and movement is quick.

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Taking a page out of Super Mario, Congo reverts back to a monkey whenever he gets hit, and he dies if hit while in his monkey form. Other than that and the change of physical appearance, there are no differences between Congo's human and monkey forms. He can still attack with the club as a monkey and perform all the same moves, but he's more vulnerable due to only having one hit left to live. Similar to getting a mushroom in Super Mario, collecting a ruby as a monkey will turn Congo back into a human. However, collecting three rubies as a human will further power him up, making him glow yellow like a Super Saiyan. When in this state, Congo's high jump goes even higher and he can slow his descent in the air by repeatedly pressing the B button after a high jump. Also, he'll have a life bar that'll allow him to take up to three hits before turning back into his normal human form, and he can replenish lost hit points by grabbing additional rubies. On top of all that, any extra rubies he collects while at full health in his super form will be converted into 1ups. Suffice to say, rubies are good.

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After completing the first world, you'll be taken to a stage select screen. Well, it's more like a world select screen, because the individual stages within each world must still be done in order. The order in which you tackle the worlds doesn't matter much, but each one does introduce a different theme. There's more variety to the themes here than in Joe and Mac, as the game branches out from the caveman theme after the first world. These themes include a jungle, mountain range, pirate ship, volcano, and ghost town. There are some water levels in this game with actual swimming, too, which is something else Joe and Mac lacked. Congo's Caper isn't totally devoid of references to Joe and Mac, however. The end of the first world mimics portions of the final stage of Joe and Mac, with Congo beating a big dinosaur boss and then entering its stomach to fight a demon. There's more to the stage design in Congo's Caper than in Joe and Mac, but not by much.

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While the stages in Joe and Mac were completely straightforward, the ones in Congo's Caper focus a bit more on exploration. They're still mostly linear, but there are often secret passages that lead to goodies. Many of these passages are accessed via destroying breakable blocks using Congo's club. Besides the rubies, the main goodies you'll be finding are diamonds. Akin to the coins in Super Mario, gathering 100 diamonds grants you an extra life. Sometimes you'll find friendly pterodactyls that transport you to bonus areas filled with countless diamonds to collect. There are also sapphires, which activate a slot machine at the top of the screen when collected. If the slot machine matches three symbols, you'll get even more 1ups. However, the slot machine usually fails to give you anything, so getting sapphires is rarely rewarding. Still, diamonds, rubies, and 1ups are enough motivation to explore your environments, adding a tiny bit of depth to stages.

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Neither Joe and Mac nor Congo's Caper are particularly remarkable games, but Congo's Caper is the marginally better one of the two. This is mostly due to the improved controls and more in depth stages. However, one thing that Congo's Caper lacks that Joe and Mac had is charm. Saving cute cave babes as two silly cavemen that resembled surfer dudes just had a strange 1990s charm to it that is completely absent in Congo's Caper. That doesn't necessarily make Congo's Caper a lesser game, but it does make it less memorable. You could certainly do worse than Congo's Caper, but you could also do better.

Word Count: 1,216

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