I had heard of Smash T.V. for only one reason: that originally, it was thought to be so difficult to finish that a final bonus stage that was referenced and mentioned throughout the game, known as the 'Pleasure Dome', simply wasn't included for players to reach.
That's not all I know about Smash T.V. however. It's a twin stick shooter set in an alternate reality 1999 where gameshows about surviving massive hordes of enemies intent on killing you are the only thing on telly, and, naturally, the luckiest folks in this future scenario get to run through as much of this gauntlet as they can. That means you, the player.
But you'll have weaponry on your side. Lots of weaponry. And a few power-ups. And as many continues as you can afford. Whenever you're ready, just go through the door...
The first port of call for me was the Sega Mega Drive port, where it becomes immediately apparent that you can't really do twin stick shooters on a controller that doesn't have two sticks...
Don't worry, though, as there is the option to use multiple controllers, one for movement, the other for aiming your weaponry. It sounds like a solution, though I don't know how good it is, having not tried it. No, instead of faffing about with a second controller, I just opted for the one player, one controller mode and had a shot at that setup.
Here, the A button allows you to shoot forward, aiming wherever you're heading, B allows you to shoot backwards, aiming wherever you've been, and C shoots... somehow. I wasn't quite sure, though I think it locks to one direction and allows you to strafe and side step and whatnot. Not sure, because I found that shooting where I've been felt the most natural, and stuck with that.
It didn't really get me too far. There were times when I forget where I was, even though I could see. There were times where I moved in such a way that aiming at whatever was behind me was useless and would hit nothing. Somehow I got through a few rooms, but most of the time I just pushed the limits of my extra lives - hence why the screenshots are more often than not taken right after I've respawned from yet another death.
And there are a lot of deaths, though most of mine were of the silly variety - walking onto very obvious mines, for example. It's not a 'one hit and you're done' game, though, so the bullet hell - or perhaps more accurately the body hell - isn't too extreme, even if you make the smallest or slowest of forward progress.
After a run on the Mega Drive, I tried Super Smash T.V. on the SNES, which has the remarkable property of having enough face buttons to match the number of directional inputs it offers, meaning that you could - kinda - play Smash T.V. like you could in the arcades - with two sticks. Only without the sticks. Obviously.
But seriously, that one extra face button allows you to fire up, or down, left or right, or on the diagonals, however you see fit, whenever you need. It's not perfect, and I found myself sticking to the cardinals more than the diagonals, but I got through a lot more of the game than I did on the Mega Drive.
Each room is loosely themed but is essentially one giant kill box with you locked inside it until there aren't any more enemies swarming towards you. They're not all carbon copies of each other, each having a mix of tactics and weaponry, but they are all targets, no matter what they look like.
You'll always have a weapon to keep them at bay, and through power-ups, you'll be able to swap out for temporary spread weapons, as well as grenades and rockets, which are of great use when coming to the boss characters - not that I survived my first attempt. Sure had fun getting there, though, and still had fun watching life after life get lost to this guy.
I've watched an arcade run through the game since, and it does get more colourful, more hectic and more ridiculous in its action, which is all you could ask for and then some when it comes to a game like this.
I couldn't play it with sticks, the Sega Mega Drive port didn't handle too well, the SNES port sounded a bit garbage but played well enough to enjoy... I had fun with Smash T.V., but, yes, it does ask for a bit of dedication to get the most out of it.
It's a simple game. You could argue that it makes statements about this or that, but I'll just take it for what I see - one room, a hundred foes, infinite ammo. Thank you very much, let's see how far I get.
Have a blast with Smash T.V. yourselves. It probably won't go down as one of the best, but it's fun while it lasts.
If there's a hint of Robotron: 2084 in Smash T.V., it'll be because they share a designer, Eugene Jarvis. If there's a hint of The Running Man in Smash T.V., it'll be because those developers enjoy watching Schwarzenegger movies. Probably.
Smash T.V., developed by Williams, first released in 1990.
Versions played: Sega Mega Drive, 1992, vi emulation.
SNES, Super Smash T.V., 1992, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1990 (MamePlayer)