Lost in Time: TinStar

Back in the 16-bit generation, new intellectual properties were a very common thing. Established names like Mario, Sonic, or Donkey Kong hadn’t been established all that long, so new brands would pop up all the time. A few of them stuck around and became classics, but the vast majority of them simply went away. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, since society is probably better off without continued installments from the likes of James Pond, Awesome Possum, and Bubsy the bobcat. But some of these forgotten IPs are a real shame. And whenever I think of IPs that were undeservedly lost in time, TinStar is one of the first that comes to mind.

Look at that smile. Who couldn't love that smile?
Look at that smile. Who couldn’t love that smile?

TinStar tells the story of a robot sheriff named TinStar and his sidekick Mo. East Driftwood is under attack by the Bad Oil Gang, and TinStar has come to clean up that there town. He also has a robotic horse named Aluminum, an impossible jaw line, and is basically The Tick if he were a robotic sheriff in a sci-fi western. In case you couldn’t tell from this brief description, this game is goofy as all heck, and it’s got some genuinely funny jokes in it. The dialogue is surprisingly well done for a game of its time, and I distinctly remember laughing more than once at the conversations between TinStar, Mo, and the various other goofball inhabitants of the game world. And what a colorful world it is. One of my favorite things about the Super NES was its color palette, and TinStar remains one of the most boldly colorful games on the system. From the stark red title screen, to the dusty yellow desert, this game is a cartoony sight to behold. 

The colors in this game are brilliant
The colors in this game are brilliant

But what does it play like? Well, it’s part shooting gallery and part on-rails shooter. You control a cursor on the screen and basically just point and shoot at whatever you want, not unlike Hogan’s Alley or even Duck Hunt. But it’s got variety that those games could only dream of. The most basic levels are your traditional shooting gallery stages, where a first-person camera pans left and right and you try to shoot the bad guys without shooting the good guys. Then, you have levels that look like a 2D platformer. TinStar runs and jumps through the level automatically, and you just aim his shots. This still essentially boils down to the same thing as before, but it looks so different it actually winds up feeling different too.

It says here
It says here “Never shoot women and children.”

Then you have the quick draw segments, which are fantastic. Again in first-person view, the screen shows your opponent at the end of a dusty trail in the middle of town. As quick draws work, you have to wait till you’re told to draw to shoot your opponent. How this works in the game is an image of your gun cylinder will appear in one of the 4 corners of the screen. You have to move your target to shoot the cylinder, and then shoot your opponent before they shoot you. This leads to some very intense situations, because you never know which corner the gun cylinder is going to appear. The later in the game you get, the faster your opponents get. It’s tough, but damn rewarding.

I love how the stagecoach driver is using a remote to control the horses
I love how the stagecoach driver is using a remote to control the horses

When it comes to controller options, TinStar is a jack of most trades. It’s one only a few games that’s compatible with the standard SNES pad, the Super Scope and the Super NES Mouse. In my opinion, the mouse is definitely the way to go, but it’s perfectly playable with all 3 forms of control.

Nobody’s heard hide nor hair of this game since its release. The game was developed by the now-defunct studio Software Creations, who were also responsible for games like Maximum Carnage, 2002 FIFA World Cup, Silver Surfer for NES, and even Blaster Master 2 (which we’ve mentioned in this series before). The one thing all their releases seem to have in common is the fact that not a single one of them has been re-released in any way shape or form. Most of Software Creations’ properties were bought by Acclaim, and with that company having also shuffled off this mortal coil, TinStar’s fate could be forever sealed. Still, TinStar was published by Nintendo, and it’s possible the big N still owns the IP, so who knows? Either way, the game is pretty easy to track down, and very affordable once you do. If you’re looking for a little something different for your Super NES, take a trip to East Driftwood. It’s guaranteed to at least make you crack a smile. 

Kris Randazzo

Kris is the Content Supervisor of Geekade. As an avid consumer of all things video game, Kris spent his formative years collecting cartridges, CDs, discs, and assorted paraphernalia in an effort to amass a video game collection large enough to kill an elephant. He works with Stone Age Gamer, writing for their blog and hosting the Stone Age Gamer Podcast right here at Geekade. He's also the host of the WaveBack Podcast, co-host of This Week's Episode, and can occasionally be found in the pages of Nintendo Force Magazine.

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