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Video Game / Comix Zone

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A Nintendo Hard Platformer/Brawler created for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1995.

Sketch Turner, a Starving Artist and freelance rock musician, 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 storm, a massive lightning bolt strikes outside his apartment, somehow affecting the comic book too. In this instant, the main villain of Comix Zone - a powerful mutant named Mortus - manages to escape the comic book's pages, and hurl the stunned Sketch (and his now electrified pet rat Roadkill) into the world of Comix Zone. Mortus intends to free himself by destroying Sketch in the comic book, as he is unable to do so in reality.

Inside the comic book, Sketch meets General Alissa Cyan, who believes he is a superhero ("the chosen one") who has come 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.

Now that Mortus has a physical presence outside of Comix Zone, he is free to change the world as he wishes, simply by drawing in enemies for Sketch to face - or in one instance burn up part of a page. It's up to Sketch to fight panel to panel across his comic book before a final nuclear showdown with Mortus.

Comix Zone came with a de-fictionalized issue of Turner's comic in the game manual. An actual comic book, produced by Sega, was also sold as a tie-in promotion (similar to Sonic and Kid Chameleon).

In August 2022, it was announced that CZ will have a live-action movie version.

See also Unbound Saga, a 2010 game with a similar premise.

This game provides examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: During stage 2-2, Mortus sets fire to the page forcing you to hurry down a vertical panel.
  • After the End: In the comic, the "White Comet" is mentioned as having devastated Earth's civilization.
  • All There in the Manual: The "comic strip" in the instruction manual. The main character is Alissa, who is being lectured on the history of the Comix Zone universe. The strip ends on a panel of Mortus, laughing (and scorched by a lightning bolt).
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Roadkill the rat. He has the ability to zap enemies, since the lightning affected him also, and can also flip switches in places Sketch himself cannot reach.
  • Antepiece: On the final section of Episode #2, you encounter two panels, one with three punching bags and projectile-throwing Styx, and the other with spiked bag that damages you if you go straight into it. The former panel requires methodical jumping over projectiles, while the latter forces you to roll under the bag at the right time. Both well-timed jumping and rolling are necessary to beat the boss that comes next.
  • Art Attacker: Mortus.
  • Art Shift: The final panel is partly unfinished. Half of it is just pencil sketches.
  • Author Avatar: Sketch In-Universe.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: The soundtrack is mostly Rock, Grunge and Heavy Metal.
  • Badass Longcoat: Mortus wears one.
  • Badass Unintentional: Sketch, definitely.
  • Become a Real Boy: Mortus wants to be real so he can take over the world.
  • Big "NO!": Sketch's reaction once the full enormity of his situation hits.
  • Bottomless Pits: Providing instant death, just in case the game wasn't hard enough already. There's exactly one pit that requires pixel-perfect timing to cross, and naturally it's in the last level. What doesn't help is that continues are only available after you beat the boss of the even paneled stages. This gives you at most three tries before having to start over from the first level.
    • Your first introduction to these pits appears on the first page.
    • Be careful in last panel on the third page. Sketch hangs from a rope and has to break through a paper barrier, and Creeps will take the first opportunity to attack. The Power Blast you get right around this time doesn't break the paper barrier.
  • Cast from Hit Points: One of Sketch's attacks tears a tiny section of the page, folding it into a plane and sending it zooming across the screen. This costs a sizeable chunk of the player's health bar and can hit Sketch on its return pass if he doesn't duck under it.
    • Punching inanimate objects takes a sliver of Sketch's health with every blow. It's noticeable in the first stage where you can encounter a stack of drumcans and need to punch them all out to proceed, it's even worse on the third page, where you have to punch out a ton of rocks covered in ice.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: If you linger on the first panel of the game, Alissa gets annoyed and yells, “Just move it, Turner!”
  • Critical Annoyance: When your health bar drops below a certain value, it begins to flash red and an alarm sound plays every minute or so until you get it back up.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: General Alissa Cyan is olive skinned, wears black military gear and black sunglasses, and she's arguably the Big Good.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • If Sketch is crouched and you him flex a bit, he'll periodically fart, both audibly and visibly.
    • If you use a Power Blast during Mortus's tournament on the third page, the official will declare you've cheated and force you to do the round over. Siccing Roadkill on Morgana is still fair game, though.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: At the end of the game, Alissa foiling Mortus' scheme in the comic world is enough to lure him back from the real world, at which point Sketch can proceed to kill him.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: In spite of the tie-in comic, which covers the origin of the N.W.E. in great detail, it's not made clear who Mortus is supposed to be.
  • Downer Ending: The bad ending, if you take too long to defeat the boss. Alissa drowns inside the nuclear bomb's coolant chamber, and the comic is destroyed when Sketch is ejected from it. Obviously very unhappy at how everything turned out, Sketch decides to recreate the comic word-for-word so he can try again.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Mongoria (the redhead with hook-tipped braids) hurls herself out of the page if you sic Roadkill at her. She even quotes the trope word for word.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The paper airplane.
  • Evil Brit: Strigil.
    "Gimme the respect I deserve!"
  • Exact Time to Failure: The very second the capsule within the nuclear bomb Cyan is trapped in fills up completely with coolant fluid, she drowns, and you fail to get the good ending of the game.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Mortus wears a steampunk eye patch over his left eye.
  • Fourth Wall: Sketch and Mortus only speak to each other in person, which probably means that the Fourth Wall is still in effect.
    • Mortus technically breaks it in the comic's world by constantly drawing in new enemies and hazards for Sketch.
  • Fourth Wall Shut-In Story: The game is about an artist who gets dragged into a comic book he's writing, and has to take the place of the hero in order to stop the villain who dragged him in there, and who hopes to take the artist's place in the real world by killing him.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: If you're going to use the Invincibility code, make sure you don't land in lava, as it will soft lock up the game due to it being both inescapable and unable to kill you.
  • Gameplay Grading: Comix Zone actually tracks your heroism. Following each level, you see a picture of Sketch wearing a goofy superhero uniform (tights and all), your score for the level, and a progress meter for the game overall. You only get the last few percentage points if you get the good ending.
  • Genre-Busting: It's properly classified as a Beat 'em Up, but plays more like a Fighting Game. There's also a heavy emphasis on puzzle-solving and platforming.
  • Gladiator Games: Sketch wanders into the middle of these in the second stage.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: While you do get a few limited items and weapons, including throwing knives, grenades and dynamite, most of the fighting is done with your fists and feet.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Sketch and Alissa.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Sketch again.
  • Here We Go Again!: A rather dark take on it. If you beat Mortus but fail to save Alissa from the coolant chamber, Sketch will try to recreate the comic world so that he can enter it again to win the right way.
  • Heroic Build: Exaggerated in the Super Sketch sequences. He's pretty buff outside the comic, though. The guy knows the score.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kung Fung can be made to injure himself with his own exploding fingernails.
  • Invocation: When using a Power Blast.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Played with; punching destructible props causes you to lose about a pixel of health with every blow, but you're still fine with beating up enemies.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Crossed with Non Standard Game Over and Have a Nice Death. Rather than any old game over screen, dying with no continues gives you the worst ending. Likewise, if you fail to save Alissa from drowning in the nuclear bomb's coolant chamber when Mortus traps her inside, the comic is destroyed when Sketch is ejected from it, he's very visibly devastated by how it all turned out, and sets about trying to recreate the world so he can put things right.
  • Kill It with Fire: How you're supposed to kill the first stage's boss.
    • In the second stage, Mortus tries to do this to you by setting the page on fire!
  • Lampshade Hanging: When Sketch takes his superhero form for the first time upon completing the first stage, he immediately wonders what that was about.
  • Logo Joke: Like many Genesis games, this game has one at the Sega logo screen ("Test, 1, 2. SEGA!").
  • Mage in Manhattan: Mortus.
  • Meaningful Name: Sketch Turner is a comic book artist. Also his previous incarnation, Joe Pencil (see below). "Turner" can also refer to the act of "turning" pages.
  • Medium Awareness: Sketch, being the comic's creator, frequently interacts with the medium, being able to flip the pages, find stuff behind the paper, and fold the page pieces into paper planes.
  • Mission Control: Alissa fills this role, often popping up with orders, information, and advice for Sketch.
  • Mook Maker: Mortus himself. For that reason, it's bad idea to go toe-to-toe with him. The screen very quickly fills up with bats.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Sketch is a comic book artist/writer.
  • Multiple Endings: Which you get depends on whether you can beat Mortus quickly enough to rescue Alissa. If you succeed, you can bring her into the real world with you. Alternatively, see It's a Wonderful Failure above.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Sketch can hardly be considered bad looking. He has long hair, a nice physique, and it's a creative guy (he writes, draws a comic book and is a rock musician!) who does it all fairly well.
  • Nintendo Hard: 6 stages, 2 lives (only accessible after finishing the first two stages), ridiculously hard 4th stage boss, time-based ending for the final battle, very few healing items, no save system, and the amazing idea that someone had to make you take damage every time your character punched a non-enemy object, and you were more or less forced to destroy several of them over the course of the game to proceed, sacrificing a good chunk of your health in process. Oh, and the first stage ends with a jump that must be spot on.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Mortus, a trash-talking, pipe-smoking robot who dresses like Lee Van Cleef.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: The justification for the continues; Mortus is disappointed that Sketch went down so fast, and gives him another go.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kung Fung's introduction ends like this:
    Sketch: Nice fingernails, dude.
    Kung Fung: Do you wish I use 'em — dude?
    Sketch: (thinking) Oh dear!
    Kung Fung: (proceeds to attack rapidly) Let me give you a lesson!
  • Paper Master: Sketch can tear part of the page off and make lethal paper airplanes out of it. Mortus's only means of killing his creator is to pull him into the page and draw monsters to attack him.
    • The extraordinary amount off damage caused by the paper airplane is likely justified in that you are attacking the beings of the world with what equates to the undiluted fabric of their own reality. As a consequence, making the paper plane puts a big dent in Sketch's health bar.
  • Precision F-Strike: Sketch has a few, and of course they're censored by comic book typography. Most notably at the end of the first level, where he briefly turns into his superhero self:
    Alissa: Well done, Turner!
    Superhero Sketch: (transforms) OH, YEAH!
    Sketch: (immediately changes back) ...what the ?@!# was that?
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Sketch drops one of these after defeating each boss, saying "You're fired!" after defeeating the Spawn Mutant Queen (even if you don't defeat her with fire), and saying "Thanks for the lesson, pal! Sorry to see you drop out!" after defeating Kung Fung.
  • Puzzle Boss: All of them. The first stage's boss can be killed by setting a flaming barrel under her, the second is weak against his own fingernails and the final boss can be killed by luring him under the rocket and setting off the thrusters. Naturally, all three can be beaten to death normally, it's just a lot harder (and, in the case of the final boss, will cause you to get the bad ending unless you're ridiculously good).
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The bad ending. Mortus is dead, but so is Allisa, and Sketch's comic book is burnt to ashes. The game lampshades that this is "hardly a victory worth celebrating".
  • Rage Against the Author: Mortus's plan to kill Sketch to become real. Sketch then rages against his would-be killer by fighting through all the villains he can draw.
  • Refusing Paradise: Comix Zone takes place in a vague, Fallout-type universe where humans have undergone severe mutations. Society is beginning to pull itself together, but a renegade (Mortus) is rallying an army of robots, aliens, and other mutants to take over.
  • Schizo Tech: Sketch's comic world vaguely resembles Thundarr the Barbarian, a mishmash of science, sorcery and mutants.
  • Sequel Hook: "until..." Also, Super Sketch.
  • Shock and Awe: Roadkill is a rat with electric powers.
  • Show Within a Show: Sketch's comic, obviously.
  • Smart Bomb: One move allows Sketch to take superhero from and perform a Ground Punch to clear out enemies.
  • Specs of Awesome: Sketch has some nice Round Hippie Shades.
  • Starving Artist: Sketch describes himself as this at one point.
    Hey, I'm just a starving artist! Well, I used to be...
  • Symbol Swearing: Befitting the comic book nature, the cursing is done as such.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Grenades to actually throw, and dynamite to set down.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Ice Tea for Sketch, which serves as the main health-restoring item in the game. The ending also reveals Roadkill to be very big on mozzarella cheese.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Even with intuitive thinking and good reflexes, you are not going to figure out how to get through the game with minimal damage. Best you can do is dedicating what traps will be lying ahead to memory along with just when you should use the items you obtain.
  • Witty Banter: Sketch, Alissa, and their respective enemies often find themselves exchanging various witty remarks in both combat and exploration.
  • Worthy Opponent: How the game justifies your continues: apparently, Mortus doesn't find it very sporting if Sketch dies after surviving long enough, and lets him have another try.


Video Example(s):


Comix Zone

Dying without a continue shows Mortus getting a body and proclaiming his plans for the world.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / ItsAWonderfulFailure

Media sources: