Thursday, August 08, 2013

Graduated Gamer Reviews Captain Novolin

This review is going to be an issue for me because it’s going to be a fine dance between ripping a bad game and trying not to alienate a large group of people. That group of people would be diabetics, and the reason is because I reviewed the horridly designed and tackily named Captain Novolin.

For those of you unfamiliar with this game, Captain Novolin was created by the drug company Novo Nordisk who manufactured Novolin-brand insulin. Now the premise is, on the surface, admirable on the part of this multi-billion dollar corporation: use video games to teach kids with diabetes to eat healthy, stay active, and avoid pitfalls that can lead to unsafe blood glucose levels. However, using the name of your brand of insulin in the game title sort of starts us off on the wrong foot – even 7-Up named their game “Cool Spot” after the mascot, not the product (although I guess having an insulin hormone as your mascot would be sort of weird, huh?).

Anyway, back to the purpose of this game. It was intended to be used as a way for children with diabetes to not only learn how to control it, but also teach their friends about the disease in the form of a video game. However, all these good vibes immediately go out the window as soon as you start playing this tripe.
The game starts out silly enough, with the mayor captured by an evil alien who has also unleashed enemies in the forms of sugary foods. Their goal is to take over the world, but worst of all is the mayor is running low on insulin and you must get to him! Let’s get this straight – a small town mayor might die and that takes slight priority over saving the Earth? Sounds legit, let’s do it.
However, before you even get to the action, Captain Novolin needs to get tips from some terrifying renderings of humans in a cartoon world. One is apparently some nurse from the parts of hell where they keep clowns and those people from Soundgarden’s video for “Black Hole Sun”. Seriously, she’s scarier than any of the donuts or sugary drinks you’ll face later in the game: 

Are we sure she’s not the alien trying to enslave all of humanity? 
Dear God those eyes are burning a hole into my very soul!
Simply terrifying. Anyway, before you go after Blubberman (the creative name for our nemesis) and save the world rescue the mayor, you have to go through some trivia about managing your diabetes. This is where the game finally integrates the educational aspects with the gameplay. Before each stage you have a grocery list of what you should eat to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Oh, and you have to shove a needle into your veins…

I have yet to fight a single bad guy, and I have had to 1) memorize some healthy foods to eat, 2) stare down a clown-nurse form the bowels of hell, and 3) awkwardly inject an electronic needle of insulin into my body. Yea, that’ll make your diabetes less awkward to explain to your friends:

“Hey Jimmy, let’s play Super Mario Kart!”
“Sorry Tommy, I gotta take my electronic insulin and fight donuts. Wanna watch?”
[In case you’re wondering, Jimmy no longer has friends.]
Now granted, you never actually see the injection of insulin, but the thought of it in a game like this for children is just a bit weird. Also, how do we know that’s really insulin and not heroine or something worse in that bottle? You just can’t trust satanic nurses like you used to.
Finally after the after-school special Captain Novolin is ready to kick some ass! To be honest, our hero looks like he could maybe be a badass. Sure he’s got a perpetual dopey grin on his face, but he’s ripped and looks like he’d do well in a fight. Here are your controls: walk and jump.

No punching. No kicking. No magic, or flying, or laser vision, or injecting enemies with “insulin”. You can walk along the road, and jump. Jumping is your best weapon as most of your enemies come at you in a straight line from the side of the screen. Still, I guess I can get over the fact that our world-saving hero is just some ripped dude who has diabetes and can jump really high (hell, for all we know Mario has diabetes and he’s chubby), but what I can’t get over is how he simply dies by touching food. It’s not like the food is jumping down his throat or anything, it’s just coming into contact with him. Don’t let that milkshake touch you three times, or you’ll collapse facedown into the gutter like a drunk – just like real life.

Honestly, at this point, I was beyond caring about any redeeming qualities anymore. The graphics were sub-par at best with bland backgrounds and repetitive character design, the “action” was non-existent, and on top of all that, the game was extremely difficult. Jumping was unresponsive and, if not timed just right, would cause you to come crashing down on your enemies, and although the enemies followed patterns, you were too concerned with not eating too much bread to see that box of sweets barrel down on top of you. But honestly, with a game this bad, the two best words you can see are Game Over.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t beat Captain Novolin, but can you blame me? I’m not a child, I’m not diabetic, and I’m not used to playing terrible games. I know that the game was created to help children, and I can’t fault anyone who made this game with that in mind (except for Novo Nordi$k who we know made thi$ to pu$h their brand of in$ulin). However, I doubt this game did anything more than terrify children and make them question their parent’s love for them (“Why would you make my play this, mommy?”).
I normally don’t do a rating system, but since I wrote this for Review A Bad Game Day, I gave it a score of 2/10. I would normally award it no points (and ask God to have mercy on its soul), but somebody has to think of the children. Please, for the sake of your health, stay away from this game.

[Note: Graduated Gamer has nothing against people with diabetes, just terrible video games.]


  1. Great review man! Shew, what a stinker to pick for Review A Bad Game Day. I remember seeing this game advertised in several game magazines back in the day. Even then, I was confused. Were kids with diabetes going to pick this game up and say, "Yes, finally!" Diabetics are just as normal as everyone else. They don't need their own (crappy) game to make them "feel special."

    1. Thanks for reading, Dylan! I was a bit too young to remmeber this game back when it was released, and since I don't have diabetes it would have never been on my radar. I applaud the idea, but as it goes with so many edu-tainment titles throughout history this just suffers from so many terrible things: graphics, gameplay, mechanics, physics, etc.

      I also agree that a game like this would do more to "alienate" (for lack fo a better word) children with diabetes than help others understand the disease.


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