In general when something is thought of as “B grade” it is not looked up very highly. Take meat for example, if there’s even a remote chance a meat product does not consist 100% of the animal it claims to be then humankind flips their collective lid. If said product contains less than “B grade” quality meat then maybe the less said the better. Just don’t ask what happened Slappy the Seal from the local circus. When it comes to movies there are entire communities formed around deriving entertainment from “B grade” movies. Many take pleasure in the ridicule of the set pieces, bad scripts, wooden acting, and all around low budget of these movies. So much so there was an entire television show dedicated to the art of the “B grade” movie riff. You may be wondering what all of this has to do with video games. Well I am glad you do.
You see, I believe I have found a video game analogue to the “B grade” movie experience. Sure there have been plenty of games with corny dialogue and low budget movie like plots, but I mean how many games have barely had a prototype unit released, AND feature a man with a buzzsaw hand? Off the top of my head I can think of one, which is the topic of this review. Part of the appeal of B-movies in the pre-internet was their scarcity. They would be shown on late night tv, or have limited runs in theaters. And if you knew about them then you were cool. Well, in certain circles anyway. It was with that attitude I approached Tattoo Assassins. I recently visited the Louisville Arcade Expo, and heard tale of a prototype arcade game. The arcade game only was said to have only two cabinets in existence, and one was within walking distance of me. After I came to find out the game’s rarity, I knew I had to play it. I also knew it would be terrible. I did not anticipate how amazing the experience would be.
If you remember life in the early 1990s, then you probably remember an arcade fighting game called Mortal Kombat. If you don’t, it is a hyper violent fighting game which featured digitized actors in place of computer made sprites. It was such a big hit that many other companies wanted to cash in on the success of the fighter. Heck, even Capcom made the game adaption of Street Fighter with digitized actors. Enter Data East with their answer to Mortal Kombat dubbed “Tattoo Assassins”. The title comes from the fact that each fighter bears a tattoo, and each tattoo has a special power to keep things interesting. One character blows fire from his cigarette, another has a hand that will turn into an anchor before landing a punch, and lastly my favorite has a hand that will turn into a buzzsaw. I’m guessing the powers come from their tattoos at least, because the button to execute the special moves is labeled “tattoo”. Also at the end of some matches the tattoo will come to life and perform a finishing move on the losing player. One guy has a skull come off of his chest and blast the other player away. Another fighter’s tattoo causes the loser to turn into Whistler’s Mother.
As for the fighting mechanics themselves, I’m sure they’re just a poor man’s version of Mortal Kombat. Fighting games really aren’t my forte though. Each fight is one on one and the winner is determined by the best two out of three. There’s lots of blood, and violence. There’s the up kick, down kick, and punches like in other fighting games. But what really appealed to me was just the ridiculousness of everything. In all honesty, if the game had seen a wider release, was in the same condition, and panned by critics, it may not have had half of the appeal to me. It’s one of those things in which the fact that I was playing on one of two cabinets in existence made it appealing. If you happen to ever come across this cabinet in the wild then
Seriously. It may not be a masterpiece, but I can almost guarantee you’ll walk away with a big cheesy grin on your face, and go to sleep with visions of buzz sawing your enemies’ torsos as you fall asleep.
Thanks to my friend Hannah I bring you this video of all of the fatalities of the game. Enjoy
I took a little bit of video from the actual cabinet.