Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure Review

Bill & Ted

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure on the NES may very well be the worst video game I have ever played. It’s right up there with Wizard of Oz on SNES and Superman 64. It’s a game that’s so bad, that I can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone involved with it could have thought any of its aspects were anywhere near finished. It’s a broken, unplayable disaster.

The game serves as something of a sequel to the 1980s comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The film was not exactly a classic, but it’s a fondly remembered and pretty entertaining comedy about two idiots (Bill and Ted, obviously) who are about to fail their history exams, and go back in time to find historical figures to help out with said history exam.

It’s not the worst concept for a movie to be turned into a video game, but boy, the execution is nothing short of abysmal.

In this video game quasi-sequel, Bill and Ted are informed that space-time rebels have gone back in time and put historical figures in different time periods. Why they did this is anybody’s guess, but the grand crescendo of this crime is that it means Bill and Ted’s band, the Wyld Stallyns, will miss their big concert that will make them big stars in the future. Bill and Ted are then sent back in time to restore the historical figures to their proper time.

Here’s where things go completely off-the-rails. Like in the movie, Bill and Ted travel through time via phone booth, so there’s an in-game phonebook to flip through featuring the different historical figures and their phone numbers (don’t ask why Cleopatra would have a phone).

Now, you would think that this would work like a stage select screen. You’d call a number, and go to that level. But that’s asking for way too much from this game. You still have to go through the levels in a linear order (making the whole phonebook kind of pointless), with the only time period you can even travel to at any given time being the one with a blinking phone number under the normal phone number (making these phone numbers utterly pointless as well). What is the point of any of this?!

"The most pointless segment of any video game I can remember."

“The most pointless segment of any video game I can remember.”

After you dial the number, you aren’t taken right into the level (of course you’re not). Instead, you go to some bizarre mini-game where the phone booth bounces around the place, and you have to try to navigate it to reach the numbers that match the phone number you just dialed! Again, I have to ask why this was even remotely necessary.

It is possible for this section to play itself if you wait long enough (again, pointless), but that takes away some of your coins, which are required to dial future numbers.

If you actually have the patience to make it into the stage, you are thrown into a somewhat isometric viewpoint, with the stages in a 45 degree slant. Words cannot describe how awful the controls are here. Walking on the pathways feels so incredibly awkward. Your character seems to walk around all over the place when you’re just trying to go in a single direction.

What’s worse is if you get off the pathways. Sometimes, you can walk just fine when going off the path. Other times, you are stuck in place, and have to continuously jump to get back on the path. But being off the path means your jumping distance is greatly reduced, and you fall flat on your ass whenever you land. It is an unnecessary hassle that defies all reason in the realm of video games.

So how do you find the historical figures? By luring them out with bait, which take the forms of different objects based on whatever figure you’re currently after. You find this “bait” by randomly jumping around the place. You can find it by jumping on the path, off the path, on a rock, on a tree, it doesn’t matter. You have no visual or audio cues as to where the objects are, you just keep jumping like a madman and hope to get lucky.

"Okay, now which way is south???"

“Okay, now which way is south???”

You can talk to passersby to get hints about where to find the bait, but the hints are as useless as anything else in this game. People will tell you to search in directions like north or south, which doesn’t help in the slightest as there’s no map or compass, and again, the stages are in 45 degree slants, so good luck figuring out which way’s which. They’ll also tell you things like “look around the four rocks” even if there are multiple quartets of rocks on the stage. It’s nothing short of atrocious that the developers would think any of these “hints” could possibly help the player.

To make matters even worse, you talk to people by running into them, but many of these people will also punish you for running into them by taking coins or throwing you in jail (which you can simply walk out of, but still). And of course there’s no variety between NPCs in a stage, so you just run into them hoping they’ll help out (not that they really help, anyway).

Even worse still, there are some NPCs that chase after you, and if they catch up, they’ll throw you in jail for the hell of it, which becomes a recurring nuisance. You can slow these grabby-hands down by throwing your coins, which distracts them, but again, you need the coins. Or you can temporarily send every NPC on the stage into a dance craze if you find a cassette tape and throw it on the ground.

On the subject of music, the game has an entirely forgettable soundtrack, and the music awkwardly stops after a single loop (though “escaping” from jail will lead to another loop). And to top it all off, it’s just a really ugly game to look at, with eyesore environments and indefinable characters.

I wish I could accurately describe just how truly horrible this game is. Every one of its aspects could be described as a crime against game design. It’s broken, cryptic, clunky, awkward, ugly, and it’s dumber than Bill and Ted ever were.

The only thing “excellent” about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure is how excellently it out-sucks just about any other bad game I’ve ever played.

 

1

Ghostbusters (NES) Review

Ghostbusters NES

Unlike the mediocre 2016 reboot, the Ghostbusters of the 1980s was a cultural phenomenon, and became the most successful comedy of that decade. With video games also growing into prominence during the 1980s, it only makes sense that Ghostbusters would find its way to the world of video games. With Nintendo in particular becoming a powerhouse in the gaming industry, a Ghostbusters game of course found its way on the NES.

Too bad it really sucked.

Ghostbusters on the NES is one of the most tedious and monotonous video games ever released. In fact, it barely resembles the film in which it’s based at all.

As soon as you begin the game, you’ll find what’s in front of you to be nothing short of baffling. You have a screen that is supposed to represent a city, but instead looks like disjointed green boxes with pictures of buildings in them. In the center of this “map” is a building labelled “Zuul” (attempting to be named after the film’s villain, which is inaccurate as Gozer was the name of the villain, Zuul was one of his followers). You’ll also notice a shop, gas station and the Ghostbusters’ headquarters on the map.

Because the game can barely contain what is present on the screen, don’t expect to control the classic Ecto-1 car. Instead, on the map screen you control the Ghostbusters logo. Before you think you simply move the logo to a location and select a stage, you first have to buy the Ghostbusters equipment at the shop (don’t the Ghostbusters make their own equipment?).

So first you head over to the shop, but instead of going straight to the shop, you first have to finish a driving stage. These driving stages are played from a top-down perspective, with their fast movements and ugly graphics quickly becoming an eyesore. Here, you actually control the Ecto-1, but it looks more like a cube with a tiny Union Jack on top.

During these driving stages, you have to collect canisters of gas, which show up so spontaneously you’ll probably miss them. All while avoiding reckless drivers who go out of their way to bump into you, which results in you having to pay for the damages. If you run out of money, you can’t buy the Ghostbusting equipment, and the game is over. And if you run out of gas, two Ghostbusters come out of the car to slowly push it to the gas station, which is an absolutely needless addition to the game that only serves to make it all the worse.

Once you (finally) get to the shop, you have a variety of items to buy, but you can only hold four at a time. You can buy beams to hold on to the ghosts and well as traps to capture them, as well as ghost armor and ghost bait which are used at a later point in the game.

After the pointless shopping section, you are back on the world map, where you must find one of the squares that’s flashing red. You can enter these red squares, which will immediately take you to another driving stage. Once the driving section is over, you get to do some ghostbusting. Or, at least, an approximation thereof.

You move two Ghosbtusers, one drops the trap and shoots his beam directly upwards, while you can continue to move the other from side to side to shoot his beam at the ghosts. You just need to snag the ghosts, bring them to the trap within an incredibly short amount of time, and that’s it. Just a single screen of monotonous ghostbusting.

Each ghost you successfully capture gives you extra money, which you then need to buy more items (the first traps you can afford need to be emptied via trip to Ghostbusters HQ, but if you have enough dough you can buy one that doesn’t need to be emptied, making the original traps another useless element in the game). Thus the process repeats itself again and again. It is beyond tedious.

This formula already makes the game an absolute bore, but after maybe an hour of keeping this up, the “Zuul building” finally unlocks, which is where the formula finally changes, though not exactly for the better.

Once inside the Zuul building, the Ghostbusters must ascend an absurdly-long staircase while avoiding ghosts. In order to move the Ghostbusters, you must tap the A button non-stop, and press B to backtrack should the ghosts come closing in. If you get hit three times, the game is over, and you have to start the whole thing from the beginning.

This stair segment is when the aforementioned armor and ghost bait come into play, but they don’t do a whole lot. The armor only adds a couple extra hits to the Ghostbusters, while the bait only temporarily keeps the ghosts at bay, as once the screen scrolls upward as the Ghostbusters continue their ascent, the bait disappears and the ghosts are back on your tail.

If, by some miracle, you actually make it up the stairs, you have a dud of a final encounter against Gozer, followed by one of the most infamous ending screens in video game history.

Ghostbusters on NES is simply a disaster of a game. Everything about it is tedious and boring, with many of its elements feeling utterly pointless. On top of all that, the graphics were ugly even in their day, and the music consists of a single, out-of-tune loop of the Ghostbusters theme, which plays during the entirety of the game, non-stop!

Ghostbusters was one of the most iconic films of the 80s, but its NES adaptation should go down as one of the all-time lows of licensed games.

Ghostbusters NES

1.5

Gyromite Review

*Review based on playing the game with two human players. No R.O.B.s allowed!*

Gyromite

Nintendo is widely known for the many innovations and quirks they bring to the video game medium. Though most of Nintendo’s outside-the-box thinking has lead to memorable experiences, others have fallen short of their visions.

One of the early examples of Nintendo’s failed experimentations was R.O.B. the robot, who was supposed to work like a second player for select games. The idea of having a cute robot play video games with you certainly is appealing. Unfortunately, the limited technologies of the time meant that R.O.B. rarely functioned how he was supposed to, and when he did, he did it at a snail’s pace.

Only two NES games ended up being made that utilized R.O.B., one of which is the puzzle game Gyromite. In all fairness, Gyromite is actually a decently fun game if you’re playing the game’s two player mode. Though it does lack replay value, and the fact that playing single player requires the use of R.O.B. (which not only doesn’t work, but is expensive these days) means that it’s a mode that you probably won’t want to touch.

The game consists of small stages in which one player controls Professor Hector, while the other player (or R.O.B.) controls the red and blue gates found within the stage. The goal is to have Hector collect all the dynamite in a stage while avoiding the villainous Smicks, strange bird-like enemies.

The trick here is that Hector can’t jump, and the red and blue gates must be raised and lowered by the second player/R.O.B in order to help Hector out. In a sense, it’s somewhat like Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, only it’s actually fun and some of the game’s puzzles can be quite clever.

Unfortunately, even if you’re playing with two human players, the game still has a few drawbacks. Namely, it’s possible to get trapped in a number of levels, and if you’re in a position where the second player can’t squish you with one of the gates, or a Smick is nowhere in sight, you’ll have to wait for the timer to run out in order to try again. That may not sound too bad, but because the game needs to take the slower-than-slow actions of R.O.B. into account, you have quite a lot of time on the clock. So if you get stuck, you’ll be doing nothing for a good amount of time while you wait for the clock to run out to try again.

I have to repeat that Gyromite actually provides some decent fun, albeit it’s short-lived with only 40 bite-sized stages. There’s not a whole lot of replay value, but what is here, while far from great, is not bad. On the downside, I feel I do have to place it on the lower half of my grading scale, since playing the game “as it was intended” with R.O.B. would basically ruin the whole experience. Still, if you have a friend by your side, Gyromite provides some classic Nintendo charm.

 

5.0

Super Pitfall Review

Super Pitfall

Super Pitfall is one of the worst video games of all time. It is cryptic and glitched to irredeemable levels, making it an unbearable, unplayable gaming experience.

The original Pitfall on the Atari 2600 is seen as one of the most fondly remembered games from the era, but its NES sequel deserves no warm feelings of nostalgia. It’s a game so broken that its only real accomplishment is that it gave the video game medium its most ironic use of the word “super.”

In Super Pitfall, players take control of Pitfall Harry, who must navigate a labyrinth to find a lost princess. It sounds pretty standard, but its execution is far below even the most basic of games.

Pitfall Harry has two basic actions: Jumping and shooting. The game manages to fumble even these most basic of gaming actions. The jumping feels awkward and stiff, and Pitfall Harry can only shoot directly in front of him, which does very little good considering almost all of the enemies crawl on the ground. So unless you time a shot just right when a frog is jumping towards you, or manage to be standing in the right spot when an incoming bird or bat are flying by, you aren’t hitting squat. So the main character’s basic controls don’t work. That alone would ruin the experience. But that’s only the beginning.

The entire game is just cryptic beyond belief. The whole thing evokes the worst kind of trial-and-error, with flat-out unfair enemies and traps (the very first ladder in the game leads to an automatic death). There’s never any indication of where you’re supposed to go or what you’re supposed to do. It’s just a big guessing game, one in which most guesses lead to death.

Even worse still, things like ammo and secret items that are required to beat the game are all invisible, and located in the most random of places. Even if you manage to reach the princess, nothing happens unless you have all the secret items with you. And backtracking to find them is such a hassle you’d be better off restarting the game (though the best option is to not play Super Pitfall at all).

"Gold is the only item that isn't invisible, and all it does is give you a few extra points."

“Gold is the only item that isn’t invisible, and all it does is give you a few extra points.”

So how do you make these invisible items appear? By jumping in certain spots next to the items. Are there any visual or audio cues to know where these spots are? Of course not. So you’re basically jumping around all over the place like an idiot, blindly hoping that one of the items is nearby. All while avoiding enemies that you can’t hit but can kill you with a single touch.

The game’s cryptic qualities don’t even stop there. Super Pitfall contains secret warp zones to fast travel to different areas of the labyrinth, but once again, there’s no indication as to where they are, and you’ll probably just fall or jump into them by pure accident. One of the game’s most notorious moments is one such warp zone that’s found by jumping into a particular enemy bird, which looks no different than the other enemy birds that kill you when touched. So the game isn’t even consistent with its rules.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Super Pitfall is also glitched to high heaven. Jumping will often lead Pitfall Harry to get stuck momentarily, and I kid you not, I even died by jumping in one instance (much to my utter confusion and the delight of my friends watching). Just in case the intended gameplay weren’t torturous enough, the glitches ensure that Super Pitfall is downright unplayable.

Combine all of this with the game’s ugly, uninspired visuals and grand total of two musical tracks (both of which are irritating, seconds-long loops), and Super Pitfall is one of the worst things to have ever happened to the NES and, most assuredly, one of the worst video games of all time.

 

1

Ask Me Anything! 2: The Sequel

Peach Bomber

I did this only a number of months ago, and didn’t plan on doing this again. But seeing as I now have over 450 blogs, the 500 blog milestone is my next stop. Seeing as that’s the halfway point to 1000, this seems like the biggest milestone so far. So I thought why not try this again?

And by this I mean an “ask me anything” kind of this. I didn’t get a whole lot of questions last time, nor do I expect a whole lot this time. But it would be just another fun thing to do.

So yeah, feel free to ask me anything you’d like in the comments to this post (or another post even, just specify that it’s for this AMA). You can ask me about my blog, my opinions on stuff, my progress on game-making, the eventual video game I hope to make, stuff like that.

I will then answer these questions as part of my 500th blog, which should be within the next couple months if I keep this pace up.

So, if you have anything you’d like to ask me, feel free to ask it. And thanks for putting up with this filler blog post.

The Lego Batman Movie Review

Lego Batman

I did not like The Lego Movie. While just about everyone else was singing its praises, I found it to be kind of insipid. Its hyperactivity was more exhausting than fun, its visuals lost their charm within a short amount of time, and its message of everything being special was just too naive to resonate (I’m sorry, but not everything is awesome). I would even rank it among the most overrated animated films alongside the likes of Akira and the How to Train Your Dragon series.

That’s why it’s a very welcome surprise that I enjoyed The Lego Batman Movie as much as I did. By trimming all the fat and simply focusing on the best aspect of the original (Batman), The Lego Batman Movie easily outshines its predecessor with a more memorable cast of characters, a more honest message for its target audience, and more laughs per minute.

Lego BatmanIn The Lego Batman Movie, the Joker (Zack Galifanakis) is up to his old tricks, and plans a hostile takeover of Gotham City with the help of pretty much every Batman villain in the book (from Bane – who speaks in a voice that parodies Tom Hardy’s performance in The Dark Knight Rises – to the Condiment King). The villains are once again stopped by Batman (Will Arnett) who, much to the dismay of the Joker, claims he doesn’t need anyone in his life, even an archvillain like the Clown Prince of Crime.

The Joker, heartbroken that the one person who gives his life meaning doesn’t have mutual feelings of utter hatred for him, hatches a new scheme to unleash the supervillains contained within the Phantom Zone upon Gotham City. Meanwhile, Batman has to deal with familial issues when he accidentally adopts a young orphan, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera) and butts heads with his father figure in his butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes).

From the get-go, it’s obvious that The Lego Batman Movie is primarily two things: The first is a hilarious comedy that wants nothing more than to put a smile on its audience’s faces (the movie begins with a black screen because, as Batman bluntly narrates over it “all important movies begin with a black screen”). The other thing it is is a love letter to all things Batman. The movie frequently references Batman’s previous silver screen outings (from the “two boats” segment of The Dark Knight to the Bat-nipples of Batman & Robin), pays tribute to the Caped Crusader’s past animation exploits, and tips its hat to the frequently-changing nature of the comic books.

What’s really surprising is that, despite its comedic nature, The Lego Batman Movie is also a great Batman movie in its own right. And in a time when DC’s movie adaptations are becoming more “dark and edgy” at the expense of quality, The Lego Batman Movie is a refreshing change of pace.

Lego BatmanThis, of course, brings me to what may be the film’s biggest triumph. It essentially rewrites the book on what a franchise film can be. Seeing all of these classic (and some not-so-classic) Batman characters presented in Lego form, with lighthearted interpretations of their personalities and frequent meta-gags that reflect on the franchise, the film may open the door for other studios to try their hand at something similar. I’d love to see Disney make one of their animated princess features set in the Star Wars universe, to name an obvious example.

I’m not sure if its the change in setting to Gotham City, but I also enjoyed the visuals of The Lego Batman Movie much more than the original. Maybe it has something to do with this being the second such Lego Movie, and so the visuals no longer seem like a gimmick, but I didn’t get tired of the Lego aesthetics like I did the first time around. It gives the characters a kind of mock-stop-motion sense of movement, and seeing Gotham transformed into a child’s plaything makes for a fun combination of darkness and bright colors.

Once again, I also feel The Lego Batman Movie has something more meaningful to say than its predecessor, about the importance of letting others into your life – along with Dick Grayson and Alfred, Batman also finds a new member of the Bat-family in Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) – and to not let the harsh reality of tragedies rule your life.

Overall, The Lego Batman Movie is just a really fun, feel-good movie. It does have some parts that drag on a bit, and the third act kind of repeats its message a couple of times. But The Lego Batman Movie is a great improvement over its predecessor, one that’s filled with humor and a few surprises (I won’t spoil the identities of the villains of the Phantom Zone here). It’s cute and charming in a way I didn’t feel about the original Lego Movie, and just a whole lot of fun.

In a time when most “comedies” are just trying to out-raunch each other, The Lego Batman Movie is a reminder that the funniest humor comes from smart writing, witty commentary and a good dose of creativity. Perhaps most notably of all, The Lego Batman Movie may have just created its own sub-genre of franchise films.

 

8.5

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle Review

Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle

The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle has to rank among the worst NES games for its utter monotony and repetition. Sure, there are a handful of more broken NES titles, but perhaps none that match Crazy Castle’s lack of variety.

In Crazy Castle, players take control of iconic Looney Tune Bugs Bunny. Each level is a simple chamber within a castle, where Bugs must avoid enemies and navigate doorways to find every carrot on a stage. And that’s basically it.

Bugs Bunny can’t jump, so really your only real input is using the d-pad to move Bugs around. But words really can’t do justice to how poorly Bugs controls. He slides wildly all over the place, putting one foot on a stairway means Bugs will automatically continue along the stair’s path, and sometimes pressing directions on the d-pad seems unresponsive. It’s a mess to control.

One thing that really through me off with the controls are the doorways. Doors that lead upwards have a visible staircase behind them, while doors that go downward do not. Basic video game instincts would have you think you need to press up on the d-pad to go through any doorway. But you’d be wrong. You have to press down in order to use the downwards doors. I suppose it makes sense to some degree, but it goes against a basic rule that pretty much any decent video game would abide by.

Honestly, there’s not much else to say about the game, other then you’re likely to run into more than a few inescapable enemies, as they track Bugs’ movements and many of the stage layouts work against the player. You can find boxing gloves or invisible ink to defeat the enemies, but more often than not you’ll find yourself unfairly trapped by Sylvesters and Yosemite Sams (and, of course, by bad game design).

This is a game that you have figured out by the end of the first stage, and it continues for seventy-nine more without changing things up (except for some different environments and music, but the graphics and sound are ugly and bland all the same). There’s just nothing to the game, and then it continues to do the same thing over and over again to the point of madness (I guess that’s why it’s called “Crazy Castle”).

Perhaps most baffling of all is that this game managed to spawn a small army of sequels over the years on various platforms (it even made it to the Game Boy Advance, if you can believe it). I don’t even know how you could stretch this concept that far. It’s just so mind-numbing and bland.

 

1.5