Chances are that if a mid-1990s arcade game wasn't trying to be the next Street Fighter II then it was trying to be the next Mortal Kombat. Amid a large pile of imitators comes this unreleased dreck from Data East's pinball division: Tattoo Assassins! The convoluted story has something to do with magic ink granting amazing killing powers to anyone tattooed with it. The game had those trendy motion captured visuals, sure, but if a Kombat klone is going to stand out from the pack then it needs to offer something more than the competition. Mortal Kombat had its legendary Fatalities, but the folks at Data East believed that it didn't include enough ways to eviscerate opponents. Tattoo Assassins boasts 2,196 Fatalities. That has to be an exaggeration, but goodness knows I'm not up to the task of exploring the game to find out for myself. Thankfully the folks at I-Mockery were up to the challenge of working through this comically inept masterpiece. Don't miss finishing moves that include killer DeLoreans, flying turkey dinners, fleeing hot dogs, a Burgertime tribute, and even those mythical Nudalities that strip losers bare.
Here's the thing: all that I've told you up to this point is kind of funny, right? If it's not supposed to be, I'm sure some writer must've cried himself to slip every day for the rest of the 1990s. Anyway, as silly as the premise and character art are, the game itself is just plain terrible: the collision detection is awful, the background art would look bad even if you were playing this game on a Sega Genesis, and the sound effects are ridiculous. The soundbank for the game uses a lot of pre-recorded screams for big hits, and the designers didn't bother to separate the screams based on gender, so you've got buxom female fighters whose voices drop two octaves after they take a roundhouse kick. My favorite sound moment, however, came in the jungle stage, when the sounds of battle were temporarily sidelined to subject you to an unnecessarily loud monkey screech. Now that's how you create a tense atmosphere.
One of the characters is named Truck Davis. Truck Davis fer cryin' out loud! They might as well have named him Slab Bulkhead or Fist Rockbone. And some people wonder why arcades are dead in North America. While Tattoo Assassins didn't actually see an arcade release, it's games of this big-hype-little-substance caliber that dragged the arcade market to a slow demise. As for Assassins itself, it escaped into the wild a while back and is playable on the MAME arcade emulator if you can track it down, but, honestly, aren't there better ways to spend your free time?