By 1996 the Game Boy had done just about everything it could possibly do. It had been around for seven years and the limited technology had been showing its age for years. But none of this stopped Acclaim from trying to port Iron Man/X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal to Nintendo's aging portable.
Originally a first-generation title for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, Heavy Metal was criticized for its terrible gameplay and ugly look. This was one of Acclaim's earliest polygonal action games, a technique they hadn't quite mastered in 1996. The characters were a muddled mess of colors and shapes, while the world was often too dark to see. Worst of all, the control was about as responsive as yelling at your television. This Iron Man game triggered horrible memories of Rise 2: The Resurrection (yet another "classic" from Acclaim).
Instead of taking the Game Boy's technology into consideration, the developers decided to push the polygonal look to the limit. What we're left with is one of the worst looking Game Boy games of all time, a questionable action game full of broken gameplay mechanics and unrecognizable characters. You don't play Iron Man so much as you guide a blob of mass around a labyrinthine landscape.
The game lets you choose between two characters -- Iron Man or X-O Manowar. Both characters are largely the same, which means both can fly and shoot guns. Each character has their own unique skill, but it really makes no difference which character you choose. The idea is to shoot up the enemies and find your way through the maze-like level designs.
The problem is that traversing mazes isn't very exciting. What's more, it's not the kind of thing I would expect Iron Man to be doing. Why would he have to look for the right door when he can just blow down the wall? And because there are no checkpoints along the way, players that die are forced to start the level all over again. This is an especially nasty surprise if you die at one of the numerous bosses.
Ignoring the horrendous graphics, the gameplay is largely uncontrollable. Players have a very limited set of moves and the character doesn't always do what you want. For example, Iron Man can't even crouch and shoot for more than a few bullets. I found that he constantly stood up, even when I was clearly holding down on the D-pad. Flying is also spotty, since you're almost always constrained by low ceilings. At no point did I feel as mighty as Tony Stark.
Iron Man/X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal bites off more than it can chew. What could have been a reasonably enjoyable action game is marred by terrible controls, random level designs and the worst graphics I've seen on the Game Boy. And I thought Iron Man 2 was bad.