Terminator 2: Judgement Day (SNES) Review

Terminator 2: Judgement Day remains one of the best action movies ever made, as well as one of the best sequels in film history. This, of course, made it ripe for the pickings when it came to video game adaptations. Numerous Terminator 2 games were released, with perhaps the most famous one being the mindless-but-fun arcade shooter which was ported to consoles under the title of Terminator 2: Judgement Day: The Arcade Game, to avoid confusion with the many other “T2” video games that bore an identical name to the film.

One of these games, featured on the SNES, was by none other than LJN. The same publisher which rushed one cheap movie tie-in game after another to pollute the NES library was still up to their old tricks during the 16-bit era, and it may be one of the worst games LJN ever produced. No wonder the arcade game wanted to distance itself from it…

In this version of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, player’s take control of Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, the T-800; who is sent back in time to protect John Connor, the boy who will grow up to lead the human resistance against the machine uprising.

If there’s anything positive to be said about this T2 game, it’s that it follows the story of the movie decently well, with the game’s eight main stages recreating famous scenes from the film. Though I also have to give some ironic points to the game for making the T-800 look like Hank Hill, which I get a kick out of.

The controls for the standard levels are basic stuff. You can jump, use an undefined punch/knee attack, and use a pistol and shotgun, once you pick them up in the first level. The control layout isn’t bad, but the T-800 controls somewhat sluggishly, especially when you encounter steps, and can’t consistently get ol’ Arnie to go on the desired path (you would think you could just press down to continue walking on ground level, but the T-800 just seems to randomly decide when he wants to continue forward or go up stairs).

During these stages, you have the consistent goal of collecting what are unceremoniously referred to as “future objects,” by means of finding the canisters they’re contained in, destroying them, and picking up the object inside (which resembles the famous Terminator skull). But each stage also presents you with other objectives as well, all of which must be met in order to move on.

The first stage, for example, requires you to pick up your firearms from fallen enemies, as well as find John Connor’s home address by means of phone booth. The stages inform you of these objectives at the start of a level, and through the pause screen. But here’s where things start to get messy.

For one thing, the text which explain the objectives can be difficult to read, being written with thin, close together letters all spelled out in a garish hue of red (which can often clash with the colors of the background, with the brown building on the first level making things all the harder to discern). Far worse still is the fact that these objectives are only barely explained to the player. When the game tells you to “collect future objects,” it says nothing about them being hidden in canisters that you need to blow up. Nor does it tell you how to get John Connor’s home address, with my mentioning of a phone booth in this review being more generous than any advice in the game.

These vague explanations only get worse as the game goes on. The evil T-1000 will begin to appear starting with the third level, but he can actually show up on level two if you take too long to complete it. Not that the game tells you that or anything.

But I haven’t even touched on the worst aspect of the game yet, and that would be the driving segments. In between the main stages are driving sections. And – my lord – they are unplayable. The T-800’s motorcycle (unidentifiable from the enemy motorcycles who try to stop you) seems to only have two speeds: Dead stop, and ludicrous speed. To say it’s difficult to control is an understatement. You don’t even have enough time to avoid oncoming cars because you’re going so fast. And should you take enough damage and die, you have to start the game over from the beginning.

To make things worse, the motorcycle is an utter mess to control. The driving stages take place at a 45 degree slant, with you needing to find your destination by following the directions of a compass. But this compass is barely any help, because it only shows you the broad, general direction you’re supposed to be going, but the scenery all looks identical, so simply telling the player to go west doesn’t exactly do a whole lot of good. As if this weren’t all bad enough, actually turning the motorcycle is a chore. You’d think just pressing a direction would be good enough to change course, but instead, you have to hold down the Y button and press a direction at the same time. And even then, it seems wildly inconsistent, with the motorcycle unable to turn in certain directions at certain times, and sometimes it doesn’t even respond to your button presses at all.

To put it bluntly, Terminator 2 on SNES has the absolute worst driving controls I’ve ever experienced.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day even stumbles in aesthetics, with bland, ugly backgrounds and – if the Hank Hill-esque Terminator weren’t indication enough – character sprites that don’t resemble the characters in the movie at all. Not to mention the ear-grating, repetitious music.

I think the simplest way to sum up Terminator 2: Judgement Day on SNES is that it’s an LJN game. It takes a beloved movie, and turns it into a game riddled with bad controls, level design and aesthetics. At the very least, this one follows the plot of the movie a bit, which is more than you can say about something like LJN’s NES adaptation of Back to the Future. But does that really mean anything when the game itself seems to actively be trying to create an unenjoyable experience?

Hasta la vista, bad game!




Friday the 13th (NES) Review

There really aren’t a whole lot of movie franchises that can keep going strong after more than two or three entries (with Star Wars being one of those exceptions, though even it had the hated prequel trilogy to overcome before the franchise got back on its feet with The Force Awakens). But that doesn’t stop studios from overexposing movie franchises, even long after they’ve wrung dry. Horror franchises in particular, have a long history of never knowing when to quit, and Friday the 13th may have been one of the worst offenders, with ten total films in its original series, plus a crossover and a reboot during the 2000s. That’s a lot of mileage for a series that essentially boils down to little more than a madman killing a bunch of campers. Friday the 13th was one of those horror franchises where, much like its antagonist, it just wouldn’t die.

The 1980s were an exceptionally busy decade when it came to milking horror franchises. Another relic of the 80s came in the form of taking virtually any conceivable movie and turning it into an NES game, whether it had any right to be one or not. It only makes sense that both of these dreadful trends would eventually cross paths. Enter LJN’s NES adaptation of Friday the 13th.

In all fairness, Friday the 13th isn’t the worst LJN game I’ve played, but that isn’t exactly saying a whole lot. This is still a game that seems more cumbersome and convoluted than anything else, and still deserves its frequent ranking as one of LJN’s worst creations. But at the very least I suppose it bears the name of a movie that feels like a product of its time, as opposed to taking a classic like Back to the Future or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and turning it into a monstrosity. The downgrade in quality between movie and game simply isn’t as extreme here, if nothing else.

With that said, the game still isn’t any good. The whole goal of the game is to defeat Jason Vorhees, the ski-masked murderer from the film series, before he kills all the camp counselors. You take control of six different counselors, which have minor gameplay differences between one another (some are faster, others jump higher, or throw offensive rocks in different arcs), and the player will select a different counselor upon the death of the current one.

Admittedly, the “different characters as different lives” setup was original at the time, and some of the game’s other aspects, such as traveling through “3D” space in the different cabins, were also decently bold for their time… even if their execution leaves a whole lot to be desired.

The game revolves around the player moving around the campgrounds, finding lighters to light the fireplaces of the cabins, and slowly chipping away at Jason’s seemingly never-ending health bar whenever you come across him. Most of the game is played in a 2D side-scrolling perspective, with the cabins, once again, having a go at three-dimensional space.

Friday the 13th features a map screen (which you awkwardly open by pressing start and select at the same time), which shows your current location on the campgrounds. Every once in a while, an alarm will sound, informing you that Jason is on the prowl. During these times, you can also see where Jason is on the map, and you have to get to that location and combat him before a timer runs out, otherwise another counselor dies.

Here’s where things really start to get hairy. The time you have to face off with Jason is very limited (I don’t think it usually reaches the minute-long mark), and oftentimes Jason will spawn on the complete other side of the map. And seeing that most of the gameplay is on a 2D plain, discerning which direction during gameplay takes you which direction on the map isn’t always easy (or consistent).

In short, it’s easy to get lost, and even easier to lose multiple counselors to Jason before you even have a fair chance at reaching him.

Should you manage to locate Jason in a cabin, however, you are pitted in a battle against him that looks like something out of Punch-Out!!. You can slowly deal bits and pieces of damage to Jason, but he does considerable more damage to you, meaning you’re far more likely to lose a character to Jason than you are of sending him away for the time being. I will admit though, when you actually run into Jason upon entering a cabin and searching its every corner, his reveal is actually successfully startling.

Sometimes, you can even come across Jason in the 2D sections, in which case you simply try to pelt him with rocks (or knives, should you be lucky enough to hold onto them for a prolonged period of time), while avoiding his attacks. Slowly but surely, you can eat away at Jason’s health with every encounter, in hopes of eventually depleting it entirely and finishing the game.

Dare I say the idea of solely fighting Jason Vorhees may have made for an interesting game under the right hands? Like I said, when you do come across him, it’s probably as scary as the game could have been for its style and time, and the fact that he can run across you just as likely as you can come across him is a pretty suspenseful idea. But of course, this is LJN, so the concept becomes more than a little ruined.

On top of the confusing layout and navigation, the entire process just grows far too tedious. And more likely than not, you’ll probably lose all of your characters before you take out even a fraction of Jason’s health. And even the suspense of Jason possibly being around any corner is ruined by the inclusion of zombies, wolves and bird enemies. Sure, these enemies drop items like the lighters and the knives, but their inclusion seems unnecessary. Like they’re only there to fill out the map. But the game probably would have benefitted from a smaller map with no enemies, where maybe you had to find the items through puzzles or something, all while Jason is on the prowl. But, again, this is LJN. Shouldn’t expect too much.

In the end, Friday the 13th just ends up being another example of LJN’s almost shocking ability to produce rushed and unfinished games. Though some of Friday the 13th’s concepts were novel at the time, the horrendous layout and arduous nature of the game make it a complete bore.



Back to the Future (NES) Review

Ignoring director Robert Zemeckis’ trilogy of uncanny valley heavy motion-capture films released in the 2000s, the famed filmmaker has had a pretty solid resume. Many of Zemeckis’ films have received high praise, and are remembered as classics of their respective decades, such as Forest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Perhaps the most beloved Robert Zemeckis film, however, is Back to the Future. With its unique blending of genres (a time-traveling/buddy comedy/high school drama), tightly wound storytelling (a movie about time travel that makes sense!), and its memorable characters, Back to the Future is one of the quintessential “80s movies.”

Like so many other beloved films of the 80s and early 90s, Back to the Future received an NES game courtesy of the now-defunct LJN, who became infamous for their ability to take seemingly any movie, and create a rushed, broken game out of it. And LJN’s treatment of Back to the Future frequently ranks as one of their biggest crimes against beloved movies.

Basically, the game works like this: You play as Marty McFly, the hero from the film famously portrayed by Michael J. Fox, and you make your way across rail-like stages, where you have to avoid enemies, collect clocks, and make it to the end of the stage with as much time left as possible. In between each series of walking stages are levels where you have to throw root beer floats at bullies, or collect hearts from love-struck high schoolers (or something).

In other words, it has nothing to do with the movie.

Mistake number one – which has been pointed out time and again – is that Marty bears no resemblance to the film’s main character. Sure, this was NES and developers could only do so much, but when the character’s red life vest and brown hair are replaced with a sleeveless black shirt and black hair, you get the impression they didn’t even try.

That’s actually the least of the game’s faults, however, as the actual gameplay is much, much worse.

In the walking stages, Marty automatically moves forward, with the player needing to guide him away from obstacles and enemies (which range from bees to hula girls) and grab the aforementioned clocks. There are two timers at the bottom of the screen. One of them, the more obvious timer, simply counts down how long you have to reach the end of the level. Every time an enemy hits you, you lose time on this timer. If it reaches zero, you lose a life. And however much time you have left when you reach the end of the level is multiplied into points.

The second timer is presented as a picture at the center of the bottom of the screen, and is suppose to represent the photograph of Marty, his brother and his sister from the movie (the one where each figure in the photo slowly disappears as Marty keeps inadvertently altering time). This timer works over the course of the walking levels, with the pictured characters slowly disappearing. For every 100 clocks you collect, you reset this timer.

Okay, things may not sound all that bad from that description, but where things really begin to fall apart are with the way Marty himself plays. For one thing, Marty’s standard jump is completely useless. If you try to jump over an enemy or obstacle, you just smack right into it, leaving you wondering why the jump was even included. You can, at times, find a skateboard (hey, something from the movie!), which allows you to move faster, and even makes the jump successful in leaping over some obstacles, but it also makes Marty move so fast that it becomes really easy to run into walls, and to miss out on collecting the clocks. So it’s a power-up that actively works against your goal.

To make matters worse, the enemies are all over the place, and most of them move much faster than Marty (of course). The worst are the bees, who will continuously follow you for a good while before they fly away. You can fight back enemies by picking up a bowling ball (remember the bowling scene from the movie? Me either), but if you get hit once, you lose the bowling ball as well as precious time.

As one final middle finger to the players, the clocks, skateboards and bowling balls are often placed directly in front of walls which will knock you down and steal time when touched. No point in even attempting to get those items, since you’ll just be punished for it as soon as you grab them, so then why are they even there? Back to the Future on NES was trolling before trolling was a thing.

Perhaps the worst bit of all is the music, which is just an obnoxious, sporadic loop of noise that repeats throughout the majority of the game. From the title screen and any level that features music (save for the final stage), it’s just the same scratching loop over and over again.

You may think that when you finally manage to get to one of the stages that doesn’t involve automatic walking, you are getting some kind of reprieve (not only are they different, but that awful music is muted as well). Sadly, you’d be wrong, as these stages may be even worse than the walking ones.

In the first such level, the one where you are throwing those root beer floats at bullies, Marty is confined behind the store counter. You can move up and down, and throw the delicious beverages at the oncoming bullies, who will charge towards Marty in different rows. Marty must continuously move up and down to make sure he’s in position to hit the closest bully. The problem is it’s incredibly difficult to make out when you are and are not in the right spot until the bullies are right in front of you. And should even just one of them make it to the counter, you not only lose a life, but go back to the previous walking stage! 

Keep in mind that you have to successfully defeat 50 bullies in order to finish this level alone, and said bullies increase in speed, and even start showing up in packs as you defeat more and more of them. I doubt most players would have the patience to continue with the game past this levels, but if they do, they can look forward to more walking stages, capped off with levels of similar difficulty to the root beer one. It’s a mess.

Back to the Future on NES should rank among the worst licensed games ever made. Up there with LJN’s own Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure. It not only has virtually nothing to do with the beloved film it’s based on (save for the title), but even without the mockery of its source material, it would still be a flat-out terrible piece of game design.



Beetlejuice (NES) Review

The opening level in Super Mario Bros. is so expertly realized in introducing players to the game’s fundamental mechanics, that it’s largely taken for granted. From the opening screen that presents Mario is the basics (blocks to jump into for coins and a power-up, a Goomba enemy to avoid or defeat), all the way up to its secret areas and ending flagpole, stage 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. remains a case study on how to properly ease players into the game ahead.

On the complete opposite end of that spectrum, we have the opening stage of Beetlejuice on NES, which is so cryptic, convoluted and unfair that it serves as a means for everything a game designer should avoid when trying to introduce players to the game. Though I suppose for a game this terrible, the introductory stage may actually compliment the rest of the experience (though that statement in itself is certainly no compliment).

Beetlejuice is based on the Tim Burton film of the same name, and like so many ill-fated licensed games on the NES, it was published by the notorious LJN. And like all the other movie-based NES games from the (thankfully) now-defunct publisher, Beetlejuice fails as both a game and in representing its source material.

By definition, Beetlejuice is a side-scrolling platformer. Though in execution, it can barely handle being that. Beetlejuice’s jumping is sporadic and slippery, and his only means of attack his a little stomp, which naturally doesn’t harm enemies, but instead is used to crush tiny beetles that pop out of holes in the ground to get points. Beetlejuice can then use those points to purchase “Scares,” the game’s power-ups.

Though you can continuously farm the beetles for points, it proves to be an arduous process: you have to be incredibly precise with your stomps to hit them, and they only give 10, 25, 50 and 75 points (depending on the color of beetle, though even that seems inconsistent, with blue beetles sometimes giving 25 points, other times 50). Considering that it costs hundreds of points to buy even a single use for a Scare, and you’ll often needs multiple copies of a Scare in order to finish a level, you’ll find yourself spending a good deal of time stomping on beetles like an idiot. Sound fun yet?

“The shark fin in the tub can kill you. The torches can kill you. Even that umbrella thing can kill you.”

Another problem with the game is its unfair difficulty, which stems from three primary sources; the first of which being that Beetlejuice is sent flying when touching an enemy or object, which will frequently send “the ghost with the most” careening around the place like a pinball, bouncing from one damaging object to the next until he’s dead. The second issue is that, when traveling vertically, any previous ground that is now off-screen works as a one-hit death trap. The third issue is that you can rarely tell what can and can’t hurt you. Early in the first level, for example, you’ll find yourself inside a house with some torches, which look like simple background decorations, but actually hurt you when touched (even when they’re off-screen).

Combine these three issues with Beetlejuice’s aforementioned slippery jumping, and the game is utterly unenjoyable to play. And all of these issues are at the forefront of the very first stage.

This first level sees players traveling across a small town, where they are soon greeted by an enemy they can’t kill, but one that can easily kill them if it bumps into Beetlejuice and sends him into a nearby pit. Shortly thereafter, the player will enter the torch-riddled house, in which Beetlejuice has to continuously travel vertically which, you guessed it, means you’ll often get hit by a surprise enemy or object, and fall back to what should be a previous area, which instead kills you. After that you’ll find an area where you’ll waste time stomping on beetles (while avoiding another enemy you can’t kill) just so you can enter the nearby building to purchase power-ups. You’ll soon come across a beehive which can only be destroyed by using the skeleton power-up and throwing a fireball at it, which then gives you access to a cloud platform (a baffling scenario which the game never even hints at). Then when you finally make it to the first boss, you’ll find that he’s practically invincible, and can only be killed by spamming the skeleton power-ups and throwing enough fireballs at him to send him to the right side of the screen (once again, the game never tells you to specifically buy the skeleton power-up for the boss, so if you buy anything else, you’re just wasting your tediously earned points). Naturally, this boss can kill you in a single hit, which will either send Beetlejuice back to the first house area of the stage (despite other deaths taking the player back to the spot they died), or you’ll spawn right back at the boss. If you respawn at the boss, you’ll keep doing so. So if you didn’t purchase enough skeletons, or used them up and died, you’ll have to reset the game entirely, because you’re trapped in an impossible scenario.

Again, first level. And it doesn’t get better from there.

To top everything off, the graphics are ugly to look at and, though the music can be somewhat catchy, its upbeat and bubbly tone is anything but reminiscent of the dark comedy on which the game is based.

Beetlejuice is perhaps marginally better than LJN’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure –  if only because Beetlejuice’s bad controls are a relative step up from the unplayability of Bill & Ted – but it still since alongside Who Framed Roger Rabbit on NES as one of LJN’s greatest crimes against the most beloved of 8-bit consoles.



Pictionary (NES) Review


Video games based on board games rarely ever turn out well. The nature of board games is just too different from video games to make a direct transition, so often the video game ends up barely representing the board game it’s based on. Pictionary on NES – from the notorious LJN – is but another example of this.

Pictionary is a simple enough board game: one player draws, and the other player tries to guess what they’re drawing. Somehow, that simplicity was completely lost in the NES adaptation.

In the NES version of Pictionary, players are placed on a game board, with a roll of a six-sided die determining how far you move. The spaces come in different colors, with each color seemingly taking you to a different mini-game when you land on it (I say ‘seemingly’ because, though this seemed consistent for some playthroughs, the color of the spaces didn’t seem to coincide with the mini-games after some games went on for a while).

The mini-games are few, with each one serving as a means to reveal pieces of a picture, which you then must guess. It’s a little…overthought.

The most relatively engaging mini-game is one that places you in the role of an astronaut, who must collect blue orbs on a series of platforms (every orb unlocks a piece of a picture), all while avoiding two odd things that pop up and reduce your time when they make contact with you. A second mini-game sees the player trying to carry boxes from one side of the screen to the other (again, each box reveals a fragment of the picture when successfully delivered), all while avoiding more bouncing things (I honestly don’t know what they are), which eliminate your boxes and take away time. This mini-game quickly becomes infuriating, as you need to go to the left side of the screen, then hold left on the D-pad again to stack up on boxes, and then make your way to the right side of the screen to score each box, with the bouncing things being harder to avoid if your stack of boxes is too tall.

Sadly, the game only features two other mini-games, and they aren’t much better than the box-stacking one. A third mini-game features the player trying to catch people out of a burning building. As you probably guessed, every person that hits the trampoline completes a small part of the picture, and every missed person reducing time. Like the box game, the fire mini-game feels unfair, as oftentimes people are jumping from both opposite ends at the screen at once, making it literally impossible to get them both.

Finally, the last mini-game is like an inverse space invaders, with the player controlling a paint bucket at the top of the screen, and dropping paint on the weird enemies making their way upward. Every defeated enemy, you guessed it, reveals a part of a picture.

The fact that there are only a total of four mini-games means things grow stale incredibly quickly. And with unfair elements in the box and fire games, it really makes things unenjoyable.

“Of course it’s not even a guess. THAT’S not even a picture!”

Here’s where things really go off the rails. When you reveal a piece of a picture, it’s completely random which piece it is. What’s worse, in many cases, the drawing in question only takes up a portion of the frame, with the remainder consisting of pitch blackness. Some pictures are even more vague, with arrows pointing to a smaller portion of the picture (for example, if the answer is “small” the arrow may point to the smaller of two stick figures). But with the randomness of how the pictures are revealed, you’ll frequently only have a small amount of the drawing revealed before it’s time to guess, making the answer unknowable to the player.

Then, just to add insult to injury, typing the answer is as unpolished as anything. You control a pair of shoes who walk across the alphabet, with the controls being way too sensitive. It’s annoyingly slippery to control. And just for the hell of it, if you fail to guess the correct answer, said answer is never revealed, leaving you to ponder at its identity for all eternity.

“I have a finger I’d like to give this game.”

When playing Pictionary, I was largely reminded of Win, Lose or Draw, also for the NES. Both games involve “drawing” and trying to guess what the drawings are. And both games fail to represent their source material (in the case of Win, Lose or Draw, the game show of the same name). Between the two, I’d say Pictionary is marginally better, since the mini-games – while lacking in depth and basic gaming competence – at least add some gameplay to the equation. But that’s not exactly saying much.

Honestly, Pictionary is just another entry in LJN’s library of unfinished NES blunders. A curious time-waster from a bygone era of gaming. Just stick with the board game.





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.