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CONSOLE: SNES DEVELOPER: Sculptured Software PUBLISHER: Raya Systems
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 1992 GENRE: Action/Edutainment
// review by SoyBomb

I'd gladly take a needle in the eye.

Diabetes is no laughing matter. As a result of overly high blood sugar content and the decreased production of insulin, a hormone that affects human metabolism among other processes, numerous ailments can develop, including blindness, nerve damage, and kidney disease. So I can't really poke fun at the disease itself; that would be pretty heartless. But when a company has the gall to develop a video game ABOUT the trials of diabetes is released, that's when the gauntlet is thrown to the ground. That's the case for Sculptured Software, a company who has been known to make a few stinkers here and there... Okay, MANY stinkers, particularly that one Star Wars game where Darth Vader keeps changing into animals for some reason. This game was created in conjunction with the relatively unknown and currently defunct publisher, Raya Systems, who also released several other medically sound games, including one about an asthmatic dinosaur and another diabetes-based title starring two diabetic elephants. Sounds neat, right? (I didn't even mention the game about tobacco use...) "Captain Novolin" was also sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturers of Novolin-brand insulin, so you can imagine where the inspiration for the game's title came from! This is the triad of power, and with your support and absolute patience for a mediocre video game, they can fight diabetes! Oh, but not without the aid of a superhero. No, not Captain Novolin. A hero is YOU!

I'm going to give you a general look into the game, although I will tell you a bit about the less-than-stellar gameplay momentarily. But just the introduction alone requires careful examination to prove that this game should not have been developed. When the game loads, you're immediately bombarded with an off-key title theme, so just press Start and get past the ossicle-curdling bucket of noise. You will also be asked to choose your language of choice (so being able to speak only Spanish will not be your sweet salvation here, so take that, "Capitan Novolin"), as well as to input a password if you have one. Afterwards, you get a warning:

I would be quite surprised if someone actually used the advice given in this game in lieu of their doctor's precise instructions. If they do, something is wrong with them, and they should seek the aid of a physician (or perhaps Raya Systems has released a game I don't know about that can help with mental symptoms). The bottom line is that you should make sure that you don't take this game seriously. And how could you possibly do that with the aid of this storyline, which can only be described as pathetically cheesy:

Captain Novolin then proclaims that this looks like a job for himself and gets off his treadmill for some real walking. But before I can head off into the sunset to try and keep my blood sugar down, there are more people who want to give me sound advice:

How can I possibly resist the wiles of the goddess and the adonis physician pair? Hey, wasn't that guy the father on "Family Matters"? And is Captain Novolin actually talking to them, or is he daydreaming about having a pair of doctors tell him how to control his diabetes? No time for daydreaming when sucrose extraterrestrials are on the loose! Anyway, the female doctor will remind you that taking insulin is apparently important if you're diabetic. Okay. And the male doctor will inform you of several menu ideas for each meal and snacktime of the day. I can tell from the above screenshot that he sure enjoys his chicken legs -- check out that sexy extra chin he's sporting! Yum. ...wait a second! Who has cherries with dinner? That is one exotic guy. After hearing that vixen talk about taking insulin, you'll be required to actually take it:

This is your first real interactive segment of the game. You'll be required to pull back the needle until you have the "usual" dose of insulin that Captain Novolin can inject himself with. Fortunately, you don't have to think very hard because when you press the button, it will automatically fill up to the necessary amount so that you don't have to measure anything. Ah, if only life were like that. You'll next be given the menu for a specific meal period, and then it's off to the streets and alleyways to rustle up some grub. You can find the meal items that Dr. Badass suggested on windowsills or on the ground. Don't be afraid to drink a glass of milk you find on the ground: it's crucial to your survival! Let's go!

When Captain Novolin first hits the streets, he will have a certain time period in which to get from one end to the next. Along the way, there will be food items to pick up. Make sure you don't pick up all of them or your sugar level will be higher than recommended! (You also get a bonus for being within the normal sugar level range at the end of the level.) But all your adventuring doesn't take place in the streets. There are also excursions in a motorboat and in the forest, both of which bearing the same basic goals. However, a game where you only have to pick up food wouldn't be very exciting. Along the way are some mean aliens posing as delectable sugar treats that want to take you down... to the intensive care unit! Anthropomorphic examples of donuts, sugary cereals, sundaes, and chocolate bars all parade the areas, trying to get you to devour them and eradicate any possibility of a normal blood sugar content level! Mwa ha ha ha! They are very difficult to dodge -- especially the donuts, due to their ability to mimic your jumping pattern -- and although your travels are timed, I recommend taking things a bit slow to ensure you don't accidentally run into a charging pack of gum. I found out later on that if you press down while jumping, you can stomp on them. It works and makes life a little easier for us all, but those bastard confections are still a bit too rough. Masticate with caution, kids. After a day's work of snatching food off the sidewalk and overdosing on insulin, you have to do it again. And again. And again. If you actually play this for the amount of time they probably desire, you will miss an insulin shot in real life and will need to seek medical attention. Thanks, Captain Novolin!

I look at this game, and I can easily tell that not much effort was placed into its development (which is fair, considering that they probably already knew that this would only sell ten copies -- that total includes the eight copies the programmers brought home to their parents). The graphics have that cut-and-pasted feel to them, as though they used a basic drag-and-drop style program to plunk down all the elements together. And the graphics aren't great to begin with either. It's mostly bland, repetitive backgrounds. The characters and enemies are fine for a childish edutainment title such as this, but it certainly doesn't stand up to some of the other titles released around the same time. The only saving grace is the portraits of the doctors -- aren't they attractive? The music and sound effects also leave me feeling soured. The music is uninspired and sometimes off-key. The sound effects are just strange, and oftentimes they are also too loud; someone should have adjusted the volume on those things, especially the ones when you are measuring your blood glucose meter with colour coding at bad angles. Look: I understand that I am too stupid to read a colour chart, but do they have to buzz at me for getting something wrong? Get a grip. And what is that noise when Captain Novolin jumps? I don't need to hear a high-pitched "Sproiii!" every time he wants to hop.

I don't know why anyone thought that they could make diabetes seem cool and exciting by creating a superhero based on a drug company's product and slap him into a video game. It ended up being more of a mockery of diabetes than an educational tool. The game engine is broken, and the game itself is less than pretty to look at or listen to. I'm pretty certain that (and this may be a horrible thing to say), but any gamer who was unlucky enough to get this game as a gift would probably rather throw this game away and just keep the diabetes. Nevertheless, Captain Novolin isn't the worst game I've ever played, but it sure boasts one of the most confounding concepts I have encountered in my gaming travels. You would be better off trying out a real game, one that doesn't try to subconsciously shove a pharmaceutical company's views down your throat.

Fight, Captain Novolin, for everlasting chicken legs!


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