Comix Zone is a 1995 arcade-style beat 'em up video game, originally released as a Sega Genesis exclusive. An unusual feature of the game is that it is set within the panels of a comic book with dialogue rendered within talk bubbles and sprites and backgrounds possessing the bright colours and dynamic drawing style favoured by superhero comics. This style had been used in video games previously, for example Ocean Software's Batman: The Caped Crusader in 1988, but Comix Zone stretched the idea to such an extent that Sega applied for and were granted a patent for a 'Videogame system for creating a simulated comic book game'.
The concept for game originated from a Commodore Amiga demo video animated by Peter Morawiec titled 'Joe Pencil Trapped In The Comix Zone'. The video was made in 1992, displaying the animation of how the gameplay and the comic book elements would blend in.
Sketch Turner, a 'starving artist' and freelance rock musician living in New York City, is working on his newest comic book, named the 'Comix Zone.' Comix Zone is the story of the New World Empire's attempt to defend Earth from an invasion of alien renegades, with inspiration coming from Sketch's (oddly vivid) dreams and nightmares. One night, while Sketch is working on Comix Zone during a thunderstorm, a lightning bolt strikes a panel of his comic. In this instant, the main villain of Comix Zone - a powerful mutant named Mortus - manages to escape the comic book's pages, desiring to kill Sketch so he can become flesh and blood and take over the real world. Because he does not possess any power in reality, Mortus sends Sketch into the world of his own comic, freely drawing in enemies attempting to kill him.
Inside the comic book, Sketch meets General Alissa Cyan, who believes he is 'the chosen one' who came to save their post-apocalyptic world from the evil of Mortus and the alien invaders. Ignoring Sketch's protests, Alissa sends him on his mission, keeping in touch with instructions and hints via radio. It is up to Sketch to stop Mortus' evil plans and find a way out of this comic world.
The game has two possible endings. At the end of the game, Alissa attempts to defuse a nuke, when Mortus comes into the comic and throws her into the chamber, which starts to fill up with liquid. Mortus then battles Sketch. If the player defeats Mortus and the Kreeps he summons quickly enough to drain the liquid and save Alissa, an ending occurs where Alissa comes to the real world with Sketch. Comix Zone is a huge success, being sold out on its first day, and Alissa joins the army, eventually becoming Chief of Security for the United States. Roadkill is given a vast amount of mozzarella cheese, and spends a lot of time exploring the city's new sewer system when not sleeping under a pile of Sketch's dirty socks.
If the player defeats Mortus after the chamber fills with liquid, Alissa dies. Sketch comes out, but his comic is destroyed. The last sentence in the cutscene says 'Will Sketch recreate his adventure for a happier ending?'
Comix Zone is an action platformer in which players control Sketch as he progresses through panels of his comic book, hoping to reach the end and escape before his own creations finish him off. Each level consists of two pages and secrets are discovered by shredding the paper and revealing items. Along with standard attacks such as punching, kicking and jump attacks, Sketch can store up to three items in his inventory to help him overcome obstacles. Along with weapons such as bombs and knives which can also be used to destroy obstacles, Sketch can pick up iced tea to restore his health, and a fist that transforms Sketch into Super Sketch, dealing a powerful attack on all screen enemies. His pet rat Roadkill can discover hidden items and access areas that are too dangerous for Sketch to reach.
Sketch can also tear off the backdrop into a paper plane to throw at enemies, but this costs health and can also hurt Sketch if he's not careful. In order to progress through the pages, Sketch will often have to either successfully solve a puzzle, or defeat all the enemies within that panel. Arrows will then appear, allowing Sketch to jump to another panel, with some areas offering multiple routes.
Sketch's health is determined by a health bar, which is diminished when Sketch is damaged by enemies or obstacles. It will also diminish as Sketch punches through breakable objects or if he uses his paper plane move. If Sketch loses all his life, or falls down a bottomless pit, the game will end and Mortus will take his place in the real world.
However, the player can gain extra chances by clearing the first and second chapters, which will allow Sketch to resume from the beginning of the page should he die. Comix Zone is designed to be used with the 6-button gamepad: buttons X, Y and Z correspond to the three inventory slots Sketch has. If used with a 3-button gamepad, button C cycles through the items, and button A activates the item. Button C on a 6-button gamepad is used for a custom action, blocking by default - on a 3-button gamepad, Sketch blocks automatically.
How to play:
Click on the joystick icon in the Comix Zone online emulator to see how to control the Comix Zone game