If Super 3-D Noah’s Ark was made today, it would be a small indie title, made by hipsters at a game jam, who would try to explain that it isn’t blasphemous whilst looking smug and failing to realise that nobody actually gave a crap in the first place. As things stand, Super 3-D Noah’s Ark was not made today, it was made in 1994 and as such it is none of those things, it is shit. It was shit in 1994, it is shit in 2017, it is simply a big pile of shit. Read on for more insight in our Super 3-D Noah’s Ark Review!
Before we get into the meat of the Super 3-D Noah’s Ark Review let’s just briefly discuss that title. I am happy to overlook the fact that this game is not Super, but surely it should have been “Super Noah’s Ark 3-D”? Also since when was 3D hyphenated?
Super Noah’s Ark 3-D had an interesting development. It initially started life as a an adaption of Hellraiser for the original Nintendo Entertainment System using the Wolfenstein 3D engine. The decision was made to abandon the Hellraiser idea and development shifted, bizarrely, to a Christian themed game for the Super Nintendo. The game is the only non officially licensed game released for the SNES, meaning it had to have another cartridge plugged into the top of it, like a Game Genie, in order to work. There are rumours the Id Software were unhappy with censorship of the SNES version of Wolfenstein and aided development of Noah’s Ark as a way of giving Nintendo the finger, but these rumours are unconfirmed and sadly probably false.
Loading up Noah’s Ark you’re immediately bombarded by cartoon graphics and happy music. This hides the horrors that you are about to face. The first warning sign comes at the episode selection screen, which allows you to pick from one of six episodes all of which conclude with a beast from the depths of hell itself.
Once you load up the game you are thrown into the very wooden environment of the Ark itself. I think it’s only fair to tell you that I chose to fill in some of the gaps in the story for myself, I felt it would give a fuller Super 3-D Noah’s Ark experience. So in my game, you awake just as you leave Noah’s bedroom, whilst the other human occupants of the ark remain asleep. Immediately it is clear that something has gone very, very wrong.
It would seem that Noah has mistreated all of his animals, in particular by neglecting to feed any of them the dozy bastard, which has sent all of them into a frenzied rage. Broken cages show how the horror unfolded, and the moment you encounter your first animal (and every subsequent one) they immediately rush you with murderous intent. Again, the game also takes an indirect approach to story telling, Noah was supposed to bring all of the animals two by two, but instead he seems to have brought an almost exclusive collection of goats and sheep. Reading between the lines, I think that the animals behaviour, numbers, cages Noah’s lack of proper animal care and that creepy grin plastered to his face can only really mean one thing: Noah is a sick pervert.
Fortunately there is a solution to Noah’s problems: he can use a slingshot to fire his stock of Rohypnol laced feed directly into the mouths of these animals to subdue them. Presumably at a later date he will come back and return them all to their cages, before his human companions awake and discover Noah’s dark secret. Later stages are made more tricky as we venture deeper into Noah’s red room and discover his more exotic interests such as gazelle and ostrich.
You’d expect with a set up as bleak as this that the game would be punishingly difficult, and you’d be right. This might have something to do with the dodgy hit detection but animals take quite a bit of Rohypnol to put down. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the game down not render any projectiles at all, making both firing and dodging enemy shots a game of guesswork. This led to frequent deaths, even on the easiest setting. Dying triggers a terrifying moment where Noah uses his last few gasps of life to turn and look directly into the eyes of his hooved killer.
Noah starts off with a simple sling shot, that acts like a pistol, before upgrading to a machine gun sling shot (I swear I’m not making this up). If you run out of ammo you revert to throwing handfuls of feed which is the substitute for Wolfenstein’s knife. Not only is this completely crazy but by reusing the animation from Wolfenstein it also looks unfortunately like Noah is furiously masturbating. The animal AI seems to be mimicking the actual intelligence level of the animals it represents: simple. Once, in my desperation to finish the game as quickly as possible I tried just running past all the enemies, unfortunately the extent of he AI being “once you see Noah – CHASE” resulted in me turning around at the end of a level to discover a hoard of ravenous livestock behind me.
At the end of each episode there are boss creatures, which are based upon the list of ceremonially unclean animals from Leviticus. I give full marks for research here and these animals are pretty tough to defeat. Killing a camel at the end of the first episode also unlocked he pleasingly named Steam achievement “Over the Hump”. The only other gameplay mechanic is finding bible questions scattered throughout some levels. These didn’t appear to serve any purpose but in fairness this could be because I got every single one wrong.
I was surprised to discover that there are actually some improvements to the Wolfenstein engine – in particular textured floors and ceilings. However whilst researching this review I learnt that the game is running on a community created port of the engine called ECWolf. It seems these improvements are linked to this updated engine which runs the steam version, and original screenshots of the SNES version have solid brown floors and ceilings. Improvements to the map and better resolution scaling are the only other improvements we have to show for 22 years of progress. The original inherent limitations of the Wolfenstein engine are also apparent – there are only right angled walls and everything exists on one level, although the game explains this away by having the exit to each level be a set of stairs. The environment design is terrible, and I suspect some of the textures were created in a 1994 version of MS Word. It’s also possible that these are updated textures in this “remaster”, in which case god help us all.
To be absolutely clear, I think that any work to keep classic games running is a good thing, and this is led by some fantastic community efforts. ECWolf is one of these, and from looking into it I understand that ECWolf gets a lot of the profits from the Steam release of this game – this is something to be celebrated.
The sound design is absolutely dreadful. Picking up fruit (for points, naturally) results in a stock steel drum sound, damage sustained reuses the doom guy sound effect, and I’m pretty much certain that the noise for picking up a key is the sound of a microwave pinging. By contrast the music is fantastic – chirpy in places and foreboding in later levels. Granted the novelty wears off before the end of each level but the overall effect is of being stuck in a cheerful, europop inspired elevator.
Well, that’s it. Six short episodes with six bosses, 5 animal types, three weapons, various shades of brown and one horrendous subtext.
In reality Super 3-D Noah’s Ark would not be remembered at all if it weren’t for the weird juxtaposition of a Christian game and the fact that it is a Wolfenstein 3D facelift. Thing is, it’s both of those, so it will go down in history as a weird footnote in the history of Id software. Taken on its own merits, it’s a bizarre, tedious, confusing game that is far less enjoyable than the games it is ripping off, but I have to give it enormous credit just for the sheer balls to attempt to Christianify Wolfenstein 3D.
What would Jesus do? He would say for the love of me don’t play this.
Position at the time of writing?
5 – Bottom of the pile, and this one’s going to take some beating.
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