Sketch Turner, a "starving artist" and freelance rock musician, is working on his newest comic book, named the "Comix Zone". Comix Zone is the story of the New World Empire's attempt to defend Earth from an invasion of alien renegades, with inspiration coming from Sketch's (oddly vivid) dreams and nightmares.
One night, while Sketch is working on Comix Zone during a storm, a massive lightning bolt strikes outside his apartment, somehow affecting the comic book too. In this instant, the main villain of Comix Zone - a powerful mutant named Mortus - manages to escape the comic book's pages, and hurl the stunned Sketch (and his electrified pet rat Roadkill) into the world of Comix Zone. Mortus intends to free himself by destroying Sketch in the comic book, as he is unable to do so in reality.
Inside the comic book, Sketch meets General Alissa Cyan, who believes he is a superhero ("the chosen one") who has come to save their post-apocalyptic world from the evil of Mortus and the alien invaders. Ignoring Sketch's protests, Alissa sends him on his mission, keeping in touch with instructions and hints via radio.
Now that Mortus has a physical presence outside of Comix Zone, he is free to change the world as he wishes, simply by drawing in enemies for Sketch to face - or in one instance burn up part of a page. It's up to Sketch to fight panel to panel across his comic book before a final nuclear showdown with Mortus.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Roadkill the rat. He has the ability to zap enemies, since the lightning affected him also.
- Art Attacker: Mortus.
- Awesome McCoolname: Sketch Turner and General Alissa Cyan.
- Bottomless Pits: Providing instant death, just in case the game wasn't hard enough already. There's exactly 1 pit that requires pixel-perfect timing to cross, and naturally it's in the last level. What doesn't help is that continues are only available after you beat the boss of the even paneled stages. This gives you at most three tries before having to start over from the first level.
- Your first introduction to these pits appears on the first page.
- Downer Ending: The bad ending, if you take too long to defeat the boss.
- Eek! A Mouse!: Mongoria.
- Evil Brit: The London-accented Mooks.
"Gimme the respect I deserve!"
- Fourth Wall: Sketch and Mortus only speak to each other in person, which probably means that the Fourth Wall is still in effect.
- Fourth Wall Shut-in Story: It's about an artist who gets dragged into a comic book he's writing, and has to take the place of the hero in order to stop the villain who dragged him in there, and who hopes to take the artist's place in the real world by killing him.
- Game Breaking Bug: If you're going to use the Invincibility code, make sure you don't land in lava, as it will lock up the game.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: While you do get a few limited items, most of the fighting is done with your fists and feet.
- Here We Go Again: A rather dark take on it. If you win the game, but fail to save the girl, Sketch will try to recreate the comic world so that he can enter it again to win the right way.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Kung Fung can be made to injure himself with his own exploding fingernails.
- Kill It with Fire: The first stage's boss.
- Logo Joke: Like many Genesis games, this game also has one ("Test, 1, 2. SEGA!").
- Cyber-Cowboy In Manhattan: Mortus.
- Meaningful Name: Sketch Turner is a comic book artist. Also his previous incarnation, Joe Pencil (see below). "Turner" can also refer to the act of "turning" pages.
- Medium Awareness: Sketch, being the comic's creator, frequently interacts with the medium, being able to flip the pages, find stuff behind the paper, and fold the page pieces into paper planes.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Sketch is a comicbook artist/writer.
- Multiple Endings: Which you get depends on whether you can beat Mortus quickly enough to rescue Alissa. If you succeed, you can bring her into the real world with you.
- Nintendo Hard: Just see the entry.
- Paper Master: Sketch can tear part of the page off and make lethal paper airplanes out of it. Mortus's only means to kill his creator is to pull him into the page and draw monsters to attack him.
- The insane damage of the airplane is likely justified in that you are attacking the beings of the world with what equates to the undiluted fabric of their own reality.
- Period Piece: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, comic books, grunge music, Sketch's looks - the game is very Nineties. However, the game doesn't go in the '90s Anti-Hero fad, Sketch is pretty much The Cape.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: Mortus wants to be Real so he can take over the world.
- Puzzle Boss: All of them. The first stage's boss can be killed by setting a flaming barrel under her, the second is weak against his own fingernails, and the final boss can be killed by luring him under the rocket and setting off the thrusters. Naturally, all three can be beaten to death normally, it's just harder (and, in the case of the final boss, will cause you to get the bad ending unless you're ridiculously good).
- Rage Against the Author: Mortus's plan to kill Sketch to become Real. Sketch then rages against his would-be killer by fighting through all the villains he can draw.
- Rodents Of Unusual
SizeAbility: Roadkill is a rat with electric powers.
- Save Scumming: Sega Genesis Collection allows you to use save states. It helps a lot.
- Schizo-Tech: Sketch's comic world vaguely resembles Thundarr the Barbarian, a mishmash of science, sorcery and mutants.
- Sequel Hook: "until..." Also, Super Sketch.
- Show Within a Show: Sketch's comic, obviously.
- Witty Banter
- X Meets Y: Cool World meets Duck Amuck, and they have a baby that's a distant cousin to Splatterhouse.