Head Games: ThunderCats, The Lost Eye of Thundera (1987)
Did you guys know there was once an officially licensed ThunderCats video game? I sure didn’t. I also never realized that “Cats” is spelled with a capital “C,” but apparently it is. Seems as though I’m re-learning a great deal of ThunderCats-related knowledge in light of the show’s return this Friday on Cartoon Network. However, it often becomes apparent that some things are worth forgetting… like this game.
As one of the first cartoons I can vividly remember watching when I was younger (He-Man: Master of the Universe and TMNT being the others), ThunderCats holds the distinction of being one of the precursors to my strange kid geekdom. Debuting in 1985, the show merged sci-fi and fantasy into somewhat of a new frontier for animation (at least in my adolescent mind) that saw a young boy (Lion-O) struggling with becoming a man and a leader to his people.
While the series had its fair share of toy line tie-ins and kid-centric apparel, I can’t really remember any sort of video game ever being released. Chances are its because I was only 4 years old when the first one, ThunderCats: The Lost Eye of Thundera, came to home consoles (PC, Atari, ZX Spectrum)… or it could just be because it sucked so hard. I prefer to think it was the latter.
Developed and published by Elite Systems Ltd (Paperboy, Joe and Mac), The Lost Eye of Thundera just stinks of bad. In a very similar vein to BAR-BARIAN!, which came out the same year, the game was a side-scrolling hack’n'slash adventure that saw players take on the role of Lion-O as he searched for the aforementioned Eye of Thundera which Mumm-ra in all his evil wisdom stole from the ThunderCats. How Mumm-ra was able to steal the Eye is a total mystery since it’s part of Lion-O’s Sword of Omens, but I bet whoever was on guard duty that day really got a taste of Tygra’s whip.
The graphics and soundtrack are repetitiously nauseating on every platform even considering the limited standards of video games in the late 80s. Throughout the game players get to choose from one of two weapons, Lion-O’s sword or a laser gun, but neither provide any real advantage over the infinitely respawning enemies or random “glitches” that occur when running or jumping throughout the 14 various levels. As a final insult, you don’t even get to face Mumm-ra directly as he appears above the screen throwing “magic spells” at you through a given stage. So how do you defeat him and return the Eye of Thundera to its rightful place? Simple, just fly to the end of the last stage and you’re awarded with this:
Looks like there have been a few more recent attempts at making a ThunderCats game. Back in 2009, Collider reported on two Flash-based online games released by Kids WB called The Rescue and The Orb of Madness, both of which are still playable and actually not that bad. They’re not that great either, but at least they give gaming fans some options for getting their ThunderCats fix.