Bio Menace: A top 3 Snake in gaming

The others being Solid Snake and the snake from Snake.

Freeware since 2005, Bio Menace doesn’t get enough credit as one of the best PC platformers of its era. Unfortunately, that era – 1993 – also saw the likes of Super Mario All-Stars and Kirby’s Adventure elevating the genre, meaning Snake Logan’s platforming, shooting, exploring adventure was left looking like a throwback even at release.

In some ways, it is. The menu alone recalls Commander Keen: Goodbye, Galaxy, a game released almost two years earlier. The gameplay, too, is defiantly old-school; in a world where Sonic the Hedgehog 2 already existed and Donkey Kong Country was about to change the game, Bio Menace comes off as even more archaic.

Of course, we Nauties know well that “archaic” is in the eye of a very wrong beholder. Evolving games mean evolving standards, and today’s quality of life features are taken for granted. That’s not to say I’d object to a re-release of Bio Menace that ironed out its more annoying quirks – a button to switch weapons and grenade types, for example – but taken as it is, as it was originally presented, it’s a very enjoyable slice of DOS.

After a cataclysmic mutant invasion, Snake Logan, mullet-mopped-megastar, must leap his way through city blocks, forests and underground bases in search of captured hostages. It’s standard in its mechanics, with the ability to run, jump, shoot and toss grenades. Where the game stands out is its complex, careful level design. Every stage was designed by one chap – Jim Norwood – and it shows. There’s a consistency to the game which recalls the ethos of the likes of Mario. Have you heard of the “Mario Sense”? The way that you can look at a particular screen in Nintendo’s flagship series and just know where you’re going to find hidden stuff? Bio Menace tickles the same nerve ending. And you’ll need those secret items, because it’s hard. Not overtly so – it’s eminently possible if you play carefully – but the enemies don’t mess around and failing to pay attention will cost you lives, which are pretty limited unless you’ve got all your eyes open.

The best thing about Bio Menace is that it’s free. It was made freeware back in 2005 and is available for download from 3D Realms and Good Old Games. Give it a try and see what you think.

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