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Uneducated Education: Captain Novolin *****

Feb 27 2012 10:49 PM | MetalSocks240 in Media Reviews

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Hello folks. Welcome to something that I would like to bring something into the table called “Uneducated Education”. You might be wondering what’s up with the half-assed photoshoped banner and why I’m doing so. Well let me tell you about something: Do you remember those days when you went to school? Do you remember when you were excited about watching a movie that the teacher was going to show, but instead it turned out to be a twenty-five minute movie about how air planes were made and you got a piece of paper with some questions on it that you need to fill out while you watch the movie? Well I’m not going to talk about it, but let’s talk about the stuff that has to do with cartoons or video games with some educational ideas in it. We’re not going to dwell into Bill Nye’s stuff because that would be a good thing. No, you like me tearing my hair out because of how stupid it is. Okay you can’t really see me, so just imagine it with comedic sound effects.

This is the part where I think of things too early because I haven’t actually planned on anything for the first part of Uneducated Education. Then again there is something that I did want to talk about. Both of my parents are diabetic, and while I don’t know if they got it before or after I was born, I am quite worried about getting it. Surprisingly I’m not diabetic, but the paranoia inside of me forces myself to learn about diabetics and the disease itself. From what I’ve learned by research, or just by doing a quick skim through Wikipedia, all I know of is that you have to take insulin injections because your body won’t produce enough of it if you have high blood sugar, and it causes the person to pee more and might have the need for food and drinks. Either I’m talking nonsense or if I’m actually getting the gist of the idea of diabeted. Either way I still don't know what it’s like to be a diabetic or how diabetes work. This is where this game comes in.

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No, it's not a game starring Beavis as a soda can and Butthead as a box of cereal. This is Captain Novolin. It’s a Super Nintendo game that came out in 1992 and devolved by Sculptured Software, who gave us Super Star Wars and Day Dreamin' Davey. Those seem like familiar titles coming from the Angry Video Game Nerd, but there is something different about Captain Novolin. Captain Novolin is basically an educational video game about diabetes, and the title character is apparently based off of a brand of a kids’ insulin and he is also diabetic. Captain Novolin is a game that teaches children about the dos and don’ts for diabetics, along with having fun while doing so. In reality, this features neither. Interestingly the developers interviewed a number of children that had diabetes for the game, so I guess they got at least some research. The problem is the execution for what the game gives us.

There is very little story into Captain Novolin. You are basically a super hero, with unknown powers other than having diabetes. In comparison this makes Bubble Man look like a bad ass. The plot for the game is that the Mayor of Captain Novolin’s town was kidnapped by an alien named Blubberman and his minions of mutated junk food, so it’s like Bad Dudes only without Duke Nukem briefing you in and there’s no ninjas. It’s only up to our diabetic hero, Captain Novolin, to save the day. Of course, I don’t usually talk about these old games other than that one Mega Man board game video game, but there is something about Captain Novolin that always bothered me. Before we actually talk about the game itself, there’s something odd to point out and it’s this screen right here.

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This is what happens after you press start on the title screen. You have to put in some sort of code that your doctor gave you. This isn’t one of those “Enter a password to continue from last time” codes; it’s just this three digit code that you have to put in. Now believe me, I have tried many random guesses and I tried to look up these codes on Google. Nobody, not even in the deep parts of the internet, found a working code for this game. A reason why no one found any codes that work is that people never really bothered to waste hours on trying hundreds of combinations and rather just play the game, or at least what’s left into the game. I’m only assuming that the food in the levels get changed, but it remains a mystery that may not be unfolded unless we have somebody who has a lot of time to waste putting in all of these code combinations. Who knows, maybe chances are there’s only one working code and it’s not really worth it. We’ll never know for sure.

Since we’ve got that unsolved mystery of that out of the way, let’s talk about the educational part of the game, since there’s very little to talk about the actual game itself. The educational part of the game are these little quiz boxes that you jump into. You basically get a fact about something like the difference with Type-1 or Type-2 diabetes, or “checking you feet” which I did not misspell, that’s actually from the game and since it’s an educational game it’s always right. You get these facts early on each level and at the near end of the level, you get a quiz. It’s really simple if you paid attention to the early fact or it’s just common knowledge. Most of the questions are more about health related questions than diabetes, and they’re mostly just easy to answer like why it’s good to eat or how many minutes you need to exercise daily. I know they’re supposed to be simple for children, though only one out of twenty kids would care about the questions for learning. The only thing you get for getting these questions right are just some extra points, which enough would give you one life.

Throughout the levels of Captain Novolin, you are given to eat certain food. Before playing the levels you get doctor’s orders from not-Carl Winslow for your meals like having peanut butter toast and milk for breakfast, to your midnight snack being a turkey sandwich and milk. I know that you can eat certain foods for your diabetes, which you need to eat healthy or not eat too much junk food. Well there is no junk food to eat since all of the enemies are candy bars and soda cans, so it’s all healthy stuff. The thing is you cannot eat the same food twice. If you do it for more than three of the foods, you will die. I’m sure that won’t happen in real life, unless you can. I don’t really know since playing this game is actually making me dumber by the second I play this.

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Another doctor that gives you orders before some levels is not-Courtney Love and she gives you insulin and a colored matching mini-game, which must be a hassle for people and kids who are color blind. She also has the scariest face in 16-bit history.

The game itself is unplayable. For a superhero, Captain Novolin can only get up to four hits before he kicks the bucket and there are no health items to get, despite there being tons of food on the floor or just floating around the level that would count as health pickups. The levels are very simple side scrolling levels. There are no bottomless pits, no natural danger other than the final level, and there is not one single floating platform to jump on. It’s like somebody played the first level of Super Mario Bros. and thought it was the greatest thing on the planet, and he decided it would be a great idea to make an entire game as simple as that level is. The only things that are standing in your way are the enemies and good luck trying to kill them. They like to jump around making it impossible to hit them, and they might throw projectiles at you which will become more of a challenge. The only way to kill them is not jumping on them, but you have to hold down on the d-pad while you’re jumping on them like a downward stomp. Otherwise you’d just get hit and maybe again thanks to the short invincible collision. That or you’re laughing at how goofy the enemies look and your controller is on the floor while you’re bursting out laughter. The levels in Captain Novolin are quite short, but there are as many as twelve levels in it. If you can get by all of those levels, it may just take an hour to complete the whole game. For a Super Nintendo game, it's very short. I'm pretty sure you can go shorter than that in Super Metroid by doing some weird stuff in it, but a full game should not be an hour long, even if it is an odd educational game.

Captain Novolin is a game that is hard, but not because they made it hard. It’s hard because the game developers cannot make a game playable. It’s a wonder how they got from this to Super Star Wars and while that game was hard, it was still playable. Perhaps lessons were learned. We really never see Captain Novolin after this game. The only thing that he is on is a “Check You Feet” shirt you can buy off of the same guy who made tons of Mystery Science Theater 3000 shirts. You can say that I dug this at the bottom of the barrel with all of the goo and mold, but I’m really saving the best for the last.

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If you’re lucky enough to get to end, this is the final boss. This and the “Check you feet” message are the only redeemable parts of Captain Novolin.

So class, have we learned anything? I didn’t! I still don’t know what diabetes is or how it works. I only know that if you eat the same food twice except milk you will die, all junk food are really aliens, you can learn that you’re not color blind and checking your feet is important. I’m pretty sure the children the video game developers interviewed didn’t know a thing about diabetes and I’m sure they were taking heroin instead of insulin. Captain Novolin might not even be a hero, but just some creepy middle-aged guy with diabetes who got a hold of an underground base and a goofy suit. There was nothing to learn in this. I’m pretty sure if they made a game about the dangers of smoking, they’ll get a ton of facts wrong and it’ll just be mostly about “The devil smokes, and if you smoke you’ll go to hell!” Then again that would be a Christian game and we all know how those work out. All and all, Captain Novolin might as well be about an escaped asylum inmate killing people because he thinks everyone is an alien, because if this game really did teach you about the basics of diabetes, then The Tester is a documentary on how to make video games. Now here’s your worksheet and answer these questions before the third bell.