I mean… that poor bird.
GENRE: Arcade action
RELEASE DATE: 1990 – (US)
And Sega’s 1990 ends, not with a bang, but a bounce. A trampoline bounce. Terrifying? Hardly. Amusing? Sort of. You control a futuristic-looking dude named the Trampoline Terror. According to the instruction manual, “You are not afraid of heights. You can run, jump and maneuver where ordinary men dare not go. The alien invaders only make you laugh. Ha!” (https://segaretro.org/images/2/20/Trampoline_Terror_MD_US_Manual.pdf). Basically, you’re a real tough sort who’s… not afraid to bounce on trampolines? Let’s explore.
To the switch! And then… freedom? Maybe?
The Terror doesn’t live like us ground-based folk. His home is high up in the sky. His sidewalks are a mix of floating blocks, switches, and yes, trampolines. His companions/enemies are an alien menace comprised of grinning disembodied heads, snails, UFOs, robotic bunny rabbits, and clones that mimic his movements. Truly, his is a strange and unsettling universe.
When smashing switches goes wrong.
But it didn’t always used to be that way. In order to Set Things Right (destroy the aliens, restore order to chaos, etc), The Terror must bounce his way through 32 stages and step on each switch he can find. The switches come in red, green, blue, and yellow colors. You can step on them in any order you choose, but if you step on 2, 3, or 4 of the same color in a row, you’ll receive anything from extra points to an extra life to a screen-clearing bomb.
This, friends, is a green switch surrounded by blue trampolines and green tiles.
Trampoline Terror! starts off slowly. Too slowly, in fact. For the first nine stages – nearly 1/3 of the game – I didn’t use a single trampoline. Given the title of the game and the fact that each stage contains numerous trampolines within its construction, this seems odd. In fact, if you don’t have to bounce from one area to the next, it’s often easier to just walk across the trampoline and save yourself the headache (once you start bouncing, you can’t stop until you hit a block or a switch).
“Goodnight everyone!… wait, there’s 27 more of these?… *extended sigh*”
Trampolines do eventually become more integral to traversing in later stages – sort of. You’ll jump over a chasm here and there, maybe leap over a couple of enemies, but that’s about it. You can’t jump on enemies to kill them. Instead you use a puck-like item known as the P-Ball. The P-Ball isn’t available in every level, and this is why the game gets difficult. Later levels are teeming with enemies, and if you don’t have a P-Ball to take them down, you’ll be easily overcome.
NOTE: Trampoline Terror died on the way back to his home planet.
Then there are the switches. At first, I felt compelled to step on multiple switches of the same color. This is clearly how the game wants you to play, and I enjoyed being rewarded for my efforts. Once the levels grew larger and the enemies grew in number, I stopped caring about the switch order and my goal became to get out of the level as quickly as possible. While ignoring the switch order made me less stressed, I was also less satisfied. Like I had taken the easy route, but it didn’t matter because the game didn’t penalize me for not playing by its suggested rules.
We can creep if we want to. We can leave our friends behind.
There’s nothing offensive about Trampoline Terror!‘s bouncing and switching gameplay, but there’s not a lot to recommend either. What little depth the game has is optional. You don’t have to hit the switches in any sort of order unless you want to, and you really don’t have to bounce on trampolines unless you’re forced to.
So you walk around, avoid aliens, and step on switches. You don’t have a bad time, but you wonder why there isn’t more. And you wonder why what little is there isn’t implemented in a more fulfilling way. You wonder why the game didn’t come out in 1987 on the Master System, ’cause even with its flaws, the game would have fit nicely on that system, during that particular time. But in 1990 on the Genesis? Next to blockbusters like Castle of Illusion, ESWAT, and Thunder Force III? Trampoline Terror! plays like a tremendous bounce backwards.