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Disco Duck's Video Game Reviews

Last Updated:
02/27/2007


Welcome, one and all! Here is where you will find reviews of video games written by Disco Duck. Reviewing video games with the wit that he is (in)famous for in the Captain N fandom, Disco Duck quacks the quack on all manner of video games, good and bad alike. Read on and become enlightened, children.


Splatter House

Maker: Namco
Genre: Not as grusome as the name implies
Players: 1 player
Release: No idea.

Rating:
Gameplay: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Enjoyment: 6/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Yet another "what were they smoking and where can I get some?" classic. You play as Rick. Rick has been dead for a while, apparently, and his girlfriend often comes to his grave to mourn. When this game begins, however, she is mourning when a bolt of lightening strikes Rick's grave, causing him to come back to life. Just before the happy couple get to be together again, a giant pumpkin demon kidnaps Rick's girlfriend and drags her off. Rick must battle through monsters to get his girlfriend back. One odd thing about Rick though is that he carries a hatchet with him, and on his face he wears a hockey mask like Jason's in the Friday the 13th movies - except in this case, he's the good guy.

Fairly simple concept, but bizzarely executed. Apparently this is a larger part of a series of games that were much more gory - of course, the NES version isn't terribly gory. It's yet another side-scroller, and while the enemies and bosses aren't as weird as, say, Monster Party's, they're definitely odd. You start out in a fairly traditional graveyard, being attacked by some sort of blue monsters and floating crucifixes that try to impale you. Should you manage to avoid them, your first boss is a disco dancing Dracula. I am totally serious here... he comes up from beneath a lighted stage with his hands in the traditional John Travolta "finger point" pose, with four guys that look like "swamp thing." They do a little dance (thankfully, they do not make a little love - I am grateful for such mercies) before the swamp things attack you. The next boss is a girl that reminds one of Regan from The Exorcist. She is a cute little girl, then the room starts shaking, her head lies off and two chairs are possesed and try to kill you. Another boss involves knives that fly at you, as you battle chickens that pop out of an oven. Yet another has a girl sleeping, when spiders burst out of her chest. Naturally, once you kill all of the spiders, she gets up and walks off the screen.

One thing I really did dig though... an old church with a Satanic altar. The boss is a ghostly magician that summons small winged demons from hell. Once you defeat them all, he becomes a *goat* (which is pretty traditional in gothic "witchcraft"). Overall the bosses are campy but this one was genuinely cool.

Your hit points go down with every hit you take - fortunately, some monsters happen to be carrying burgers and candy, which you can munch on to gain back health. Most of the monsters are fairly non descriped general "monsters." But I did enjoy the shark infested waters at "Diamond Lake," which appropriately enough appears to be a campgrounds; if you don't catch the reference - Camp Crystal Lake was where the Friday the 13th movies took place.

This is actually a pretty entertaining game.

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Castlevania

Maker: Konami
Genre: Vampire hunting.
Players: 1 player
Release: 1987

Rating:
Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 8/10

Ah, Castlevania. What more can I say but "Castlevania"? If you're an NES aficiando at all, you've at least *seen* this game. However, for those of you who have not (and my friend Heather who doesn't play videogames at all ;)), I'll explain.

Simon Belmont is the heir in the famed Belmont family, a family line devoted to destroying Dracula once and for all. Every member of the family has been a vampire hunter, and Simon is no different. Every 100 years, Dracula rises, and a member of the Belmont family must put him down like a wild dog. This time, the job falls to Simon.

Ultimately, the worst thing I can say about Castlevania is that it isn't Castlevania 2 or 3. Really, these are classic games for the NES console. The game takes place within Dracula's castle. Your mission is to go through the castle and hunt down Dracula. There are a total of 7 levels, each one with its own boss. Usually I get agitated by games because they mix and match mythologies - Castlevania is no different. Within Dracula's castle, there is Frankenstein's monster (a literary creation - but then, so is Dracula, but Frankenstein's monster was created, I believe, in Germany), Mummies (Egypt) and Medusa (Greece). Usually this would annoy me, because I am a stickler for accuracy - however, everything in Castlevania is so well meshed, it doesn't really stand out to anyone but a myth geek (i.e. me).

In addition to his whip, Simon can also carry one other "alternate" weapon, always a thrown weapon - there's a throwing dagger, a boomerang, a throwing axe, holy water, etc... there's also a crucifix that will destroy all enemies visible on the screen - a rare example of Nintendo relaxing on its "no religious images" law. In order to use the alternate weapon, one must collect hearts (by striking candles and torches), as each weapon uses a certain amount of hearts - so it is important to keep the collection strong. There are also power-ups for the weapons.

It would have been very easy for this game to fail. It could have become goofy rather than creepy but, fortunately for us, it did not become goofy at all. Konami had the right mixture of suspense and gothic horror in the game to keep the player's interest. It isn't exactly scary nowadays (it is pretty primitive when compared to the Silent Hill games, or indeed the modern-day Castlevania games being produced) but it is consistantly entertaining.

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Castlevania 2 : Simon's Quest

Maker: Konami
Genre: more vampire hunting!
Players: 1 player
Release: 1988

Rating:
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 9/10

Castlevania takes the basic whip-wielding action of Castlevania and mixes it with RPG elements. This too could have proved disasterous, but it did not.

In this game, you still play Simon Belmont - it seems when he defeated Dracula in Castlevania 1, he got struck with a curse. The only way to eradicate himself of this curse is to collect Dracula's body parts - spread throughout the land of (presumably) Transylvania - and re-form Dracula, to defeat him once again.

While Castlevania was basically just another side-scroller with bosses (like Mega Man, SMB, etc..) Castlevania 2 is much more open ended. You start out in a town and must acquire items and buy weaponry to aid you in your quest. Although there are some things you *must* do to progress the plot along, you could conceivably run around and just kill monsters. There are limits to the land (obviously) and there are some things you must do to get to specific places, but overall, the game pretty much lets you roam free to your own devices. Obviously you will want to play the plot, but you don't *have* to immediately.

Another new thing about Castlevania 2 is the day and night dichotomy. The game operates on its own clock, and when it is time for darkness to fall, it falls suddenly. During the day, the monsters are much weaker and easier to defeat. At night, they become more formidable. Furthermore, there is no escape, not even to towns because once night falls, all of the townsfolk go home and zombies roam throughout the towns.

This loses the "second weapon" feature of Castlevania 1, unfortunately, but it's no great loss to me, at least.

Like I said up above, these games are classic games for the NES console. If you've beaten all of the Mega Man games and whupped Bowser's ass for the 30th time in SMB3, but you haven't yet played anything in the Castlevania series, give them a chance. They are great games.

One other thing about Castlevania 1 and 2 (and 3)... most NES games had background music, but until the Castlevania series the music had nothing to do with the games themselves. Sure you may recognize the music to SMB1 - but did it really have anything to do *with* the game itself? Castlevania had different musical scores for different situations (a daytime score, a nighttime score, etc..) and they added to the creepiness feel of the games. Generally, they were also very well done scores in their own right.

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Ghostbusters

Maker: Activision
Genre: Bustin' Makes me Feel Bad!
Players: 1 player
Release: 1988

Rating:
Gameplay: 3/10
Graphics: 2/10
Enjoyment: 2/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 1/10

The first DVD I ever bought was "Ghostbusters." I think that says it all re: my love for Ghostbusters.

When I was a little kid, I had a C64 and one of my favorite games for the C64 was Ghostbusters. I had also played it previously at John's Hopkins Hospital in Balt, MD when I was around 8 years old on an Apple IIe. This is basically the same game, simply ported to the NES with some, er, not so good changes..

First things first - when you boot up the game, you hear a shoddy, extremely low-fi voice saying, "Ghostbusters!" What the hell is the point of that? This was excusable on the c64 version, especially when (using the same sound clip) the Ghostbusters caught a ghost. They'd do a little "dance" and yell "Ghostbusters!" But this clip only happens at the beginning, like you don't already know that you're playing a game called "Ghostbusters."

"Gee, dude, I have a cart/rom here called Ghostbusters. I wonder what's on it?"
"Dude, I bet it's Kid Icarus!"

This shitty sound clip wastes space that could have been used for, say, improving gameplay.

Oh, but that isn't the worst.. the sound on this game is horrible. Now usually, I just turn ROM sounds off anyway, since I prefer to listen to my mp3s and CDs, but I wanted to check out this sound since I'd read such awful things about it. There are little to no sound effects on this game, only a horrible, HORRIBLE rendition of the Ray Parker Jr. original song. Words cannot even begin to describe how terrible this is. From what I've read on the web, this is NOT just because the emulator cannot process the sounds perfectly (like in Maniac Mansion, where the original game had some good music, but the NESticle emulator couldn't really duplicate it). So, like I always do, I cranked my mp3s, in this case, appropriately enough, "Ghostbusters." Who ya gonna call? Winamp.

The sound sucks, but sadly, so do the graphics. Pay very close attention to what I say next: The C64 version of this game has better graphics! Well, at least it does when it comes to the "ghostbusting" and "driving" aspects - I do have to admit that the city map does look better, but that's it.

Don't believe me? Download a c64 emulator (I recommend WinVice) and a rom of this game and find out. In the NES version, the "Ghostbusters" look like characters from an Atari 2600 game, the buildings (in the close-up, "ghost busting" scenes) look awful and an even *bigger* insult is that when you're "busting ghosts," your streams LOOK NOTHING LIKE THE MOVIE. Instead of yellow, slightly animated lines (like in GB on c64) you get four glowing little egg-shaped things that stick straight up (??) as your streams. This makes it impossible to cross your streams (sure, it kills your GBs, but it's fun!). Even the ghosts suck - when you get touched by them, nothing happens. You don't die. You don't get slimed. Nothing. Hell, in the overhead city scenes, the GB logo is flipped around. WHY?

But the actual game and storyline it self is where this game REALLY suffers. If the story line was decent, the graphics and sound would still detract from the game's quality, but the game would still have some play value. I know I'm making a lot of comparisons to the GB game for the c64, but mostly because this game is a lot like that one (except it really sucks). In the c64 version you opened up your own GB franchise. You could choose your car - different cars could hold different numbers of GB tools, could go faster, looked cooler, etc... Because you owned your own franchise, it sort of made sense that you had to buy your equipment rather than make it. In the NES version, you apparently ARE the GBs, but you still have to *buy* equipment. When did the GBs ever have to buy their equipment? They were scientists and they built their own equipment, damnit. And the MOST annoying feature - the fuel tank. This game takes place within a map of like 24 buildings in NYC. And yet you can go from full to empty merely by turning a corner. What in god's name? At least Activision had the decency to put little oil drums on the ground that you can pick up to gain at least a bit of fuel (otherwise, you'd have to keep driving back to the gas station and yes, there is a gas station) but it makes me wonder why Walter Peck was harassing the GBs about their ecto-containment unit when there were a bunch of barrels of oil laying around randomly on NYC streets that he could have been looking into.

I haven't gotten yet to the Zuul part in the game. I can't imagine it making the game any better. The storyline makes no sense, the graphics are crappy and the sound effects suck hard. This is a poor videogame, Activision.

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Rampage!

Maker: Data East
Genre: Fuckin' shit up, yo!
Players: 2 players
Release: 1988

Rating:
Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
Difficulty: 4/10
Overall: 7/10

Rampage has been around for a long, long time. It first surfaced in the mid 80s as an arcade game. It was ported to the Atari 2600 (which had significantly poorer graphics) and the NES.

I have fond memories of playing Rampage!. One of my friends had the cart and he brought it over to my place (we reguarly exchanged carts of games we'd beaten). I had never played it bfeore in the arcade, so it was quite a shock to me that in this game, you play the role of the "bad guy."

The situation is all variations of this game is this - you are a scientist who somehow finds out how to change your body change into that of a monster. In the original arcade game, there were three monsters - Lizzy, a giant lizard, George, a giant ape and Ralph, a giant bipedal wolf. When Rampage! was ported to the NES, Ralph never made it. With this new found talent, you decide to wreak havoc across the United States in grand Godzilla and King Kong tradition. The game takes place within 128 days of chaos and wreckage. Naturally, the army is called out to dispose of you, so while you're climing buildings and eating up women and businessmen, tanks are firing at you, helicopters are charging you and guys in windows (who you can also eat) are shooting at you and tossing firecrackers at you. Once all of your energy is depleted (and it doesn't take too long, because you're very big in the game and it is difficult for a big body to miss small bullets) you change back into the scientist and waltz off the screen.

The game is enjoyable, but not exactly the kind of game you'd want to play a lot. For one thing, it is damn near impossible to even *want* to win. The first few levels are fun, but every city is indistinguishable from the next aside from size and colour of buildings (and the occasional bridge or building sign). This is also how the arcade game plays, unfortunately. The graphics are good - not as good as the arcade version, sure, but that is to be expected. Overall, the game really *is* fun - it's just that everything begins to look the same after a while.

Personally, I really like the idea of Rampage!. There was a videogame for the c64 called "Movie Monsters" that explored a similar theme, except in MM the game designers had more than just two monsters, the monsters had specific missions (that you could choose) and they visited specific towns, complete with landmarks to those towns (i.e. DC had the Washington Monument, NYC had the Empire State Building, Paris had the Eiffel Tower). I'd like to see a combination of the two games. Given that spiraling free-for-all, open-ended cities have been created in games (such as in GTA3 and GTA : VC), it is very possible this could be implemented.

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Friday the 13th

Maker: LJN Ltd.
Genre: Just another bad game based on a popular movie
Players: 1 player
Release: 1989

Rating:
Gameplay: 0/10
Graphics: 4/10
Enjoyment: 0/10
Difficulty: 4/10
Overall: 2/10

Here is a fact that cannot be denied - most videogames based on movies are total crap. There are a lot of different reasons why this is a fundamental truth, one of which is that most videogames based on movies have very little effort put into them - the game designers just want to get a product out there to cash-in on the fame of the movie's name. Another is that most movies do not have enough enemies to make a consistent videogame.

Take Friday the 13th as a great example of this. Let's face it - Jason is the only enemy in the Friday the 13th series (well, ok, not the ONLY one, but let's not give out any spoilers). However, in the game, you have to fight, not just Jason, but zombies - yes, zombies. Zombies which do not exist in the Friday the 13th movies. It'd be all well and good to base this game on "Night of the Living Dead" or (let's get really obscure here) "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" (and if you don't believe there really is a movie with that name, check out http://www.badmovies.org/movies/childdead/ and stuff it) because those feature zombies - a LOT of zombies. But Friday the 13th? Nope! Not a one. Nor do they feature werewolves or evil vultures or any of the other stupid enemies in this game.

But this even isn't what ultimately ruins the game. No, what ultimately ruins the game is the absolutely horrid gameplay. Your first instruction in the game is to go to all of the houses at Camp Crystal Lake (where the movie and game both take place - wow, that's THREE things they have in common!) and light all of the fireplaces with a "torch" (which I could never find - I did however find a lighter that seemed to work). Why this is required is beyond me. The play control in the houses is absolutely horrid. I'm not expecting the sort of 3D control Wolf-3D and its descendants had, but the play control is choppy as hell. I sat there at times holding down the UP arrow, trying to move, and it wouldn't, sometimes I would just lightly tap it and it would move - sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Travelling between the houses, however, isn't as bad since it's your standard side-scroller but this is where you meet up with the zombies and other non-Friday the 13th related enemies and you get to throw rocks - yes, rocks - at them (although you do later get throwable knives, like in Castlevania, as well as a machete, fire, etc..). However, the streets seem to loop (or just go on forever) so you never know when you've reached the end of the street. It just goes back to the beginning of the street again. Why? Also in the cabins are, sometimes, counselors - and sometimes, you meet up with Jason and have to fight him. And he really isn't that hard.

This game sucks, and it sucks hard. Next to Where's Waldo, this is probably the worst game I've reviewed yet - and that's saying something since most of my other reviews have been about religious carts.

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Monster Party

Maker: Bandai Co., Ltd.
Genre: Fire up your Evil Dead 2 DVD (what, you haven't seen Evil Dead 2 yet? You're a cinematic idiot and I feel sorry for you) and drop some acid, baby
Players: 1 player
Release: 1989

Rating:
Gameplay: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
Difficulty: 5/10
Overall: 6/10

Now, why is this - a game that really isn't that great, to tell the truth - winning my praise?

Because it's the closest equivalent to a B-Movie for the NES.

And like every B-movie, it needs a goofy-ass story line. Fortunately for us, Monster Party has this in abundance - while not "All Your Base" quality, the dialogue is also very poorly translated. Coming home from a Little League game, the main character, Mark, notices a star in the sky. He stops to stare up at it and, according to the intro movie, "The beauty of the star made his eyes moist, so he didn't notice that the star fell and landed right in front of him." Yes.. that is actually what it says. When the star fell and landed in front of him, it turns out it isn't a star at all - it is a menacing looking gargoyle named (I am not making this up) Bert. This gargoyle confronts Mark and tells him that his land has been taken over by evil monsters. He desperately needs Mark's help and tells Mark, "with your weapon, we can win." Mark says, "I'm afraid to fight the evil monsters," adding, "this isn't a weapon. It's a bat" to which Bert replies, "Bat! Batter!" Bert grabs Mark's wrist and begins to fly away. Bert then suggests that Mark and he "work together." Then, they "merge together" and "that is how Mark's adventure began!"

It's worth downloading the ROM (or buying the cart for a couple bucks or whatever) to watch this absolutely hilarious opening scene but the fun doesn't stop there. Oh no, my friends. I've been trying to figure out a way to say this politely but I really can't, so all of you youngsters please close this window and go back to trading dirty pictures on ICQ.

This game has some of the most fucked up graphics I've ever seen on an NES game. And I don't mean fucked up in a bad way. These graphics aren't the pinnacle of NES technology (although they're not too bad, I guess). What I mean is, these graphics transcend ordinary categorizations. They are in their own seperate category - the "I-Dropped-Acid-While-Watching-Evil Dead 2-And-Look-What-I-Came-Up-With" category. For example, the continue screen has a shot of a bunch of skeltons sitting in a pool of dripping blood. The actual game starts out innocently enough. It still looks weird (why are there smiley faces all over the place?) but it will get weirder. Half-way through the first level, you pass a large cactus-like object (??). Lightening strikes it, and it turns evil. It looks menacing and the rest of the level also becomes a tripped-out nightmarish hell. The smiling faces become skulls, bleeding from their eyes, your enemies transform from regular-looking monsters (for videogames anyway) to "evil" dogs and disembodied eyes. I'm not too sure if there are any other videogames, horror or otherwise, that have graphics like these. The sewer level has fisheaded men and blood dripping from the ceiling.

The gameplay itself is ok. It's your basic side-scroller; you're not going to find any innovations here, except maybe for one. When you're playing as Mark, enemies often shoot at you. If you hit what they fire at you, you can send it back - depending on how you hit it, you can send the object spiriling off in different angles. I've never seen this in a game before.

Aside from that, you just walk around fighting off monsters with your bat (including the least menacing monsters in a NES game EVER, a pair of struggling legs, apparently from something buried upside down - they don't attack you or anything and stay stationary.. you have to *walk into them* to get hurt). When monsters fire things at you, you can often hit those objects with the bat and bounce their ranged weapon right back at them. The quest of each level is to fight all of the bosses inside rooms you find along the way. You'll occasionally find pills (hmm...) that you can take to turn into the gargoyle. Interestingly enough, the gargoyle fires energy bolts (or lasers, or something) and yet he regards Mark's bat as somewhat superior. In order to progress from level to level, you have to defeat bosses. Unlike other side scrollers like Mega Man and SMB, the bosses are scattered throughout the levels, behind doors you can enter - there are no "end level" bosses per se. Plus, there is more than one boss per level.

This game also has some of the weirdest bosses ever, including a dead spider. When you walk into his room, there's a spider lying on the ground with flies buzzing around him. He says, "Sorry, I'm dead" and disappears - apparently you've defeated him. There is also an evil plant that shoots bubbles at you (and says, "Hey, baby!"), a pumpkin headed ghost that says, "Please don't pick on me" as it attacks you, and (seriously) a bouncing onion ring.

This game is bizzare. It is probably the weirdest NES game I've ever played. I can not imagine what went through the heads of the creators of this game. Were they on drugs? Was this a joke? What exactly led to the creation of this masterpiece? We'll probably never know, sadly - but assuming they were all tripping on something bad adds to the charm, don't you agree?

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Wally Bear and the NO! Gang

Maker: American Game Cartridges
Genre: Drink up. Shoot in. Let the beatings begin.
Players: 1
Release: 1990s (can't find the exact date)

Gameplay: 3/10
Graphics: 7/10
Enjoyment: 2/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 3/10

Keeping kids off of drugs was a big issue in the 80s and early 90s. While not a whole lot of videogames explicitly dealt with drugs in and of themselves, there were frequently messages (on a variety of consoles) before games saying, "Winners don't use drugs!" and the like.

Wally Bear and the NO! Gang (hereafter referred to as "Wally Bear") was created by AGC as yet another unlicensed NES cart. Like the Wisdom Tree and Panesian, AGC created carts that were outside of the mainstream NES topics. Nintend of America generally wanted to avoid controversy, so anything with pornographic or religious significance was usually rejected outright. These carts have become very hard to find but, fortunately for us non-collectors who just wanna play games, there's emulation.

In any case, Wally Bear opens in Wally's house. Strangely, there's absolutely no furniture around, his father is wearing no pants and the wallpaper resembles something you'd see during a really bad acid trip. Far out. There's some pretty lame dialogue ("Stay smart! Don't start!") as Wally learns that his uncle "Gary Grizzly" has been preparing a party for Wally and the NO! Gang. Yes, I know what you're thinking. How can it be much of a party if there are no drugs, no booze or no hot women flashing their tits? Your guess is as good as mine. But Wally Bear is a conscientious boy. He loves his parents and wants to help his friends just say NO! to drugs. Wally's sets out on his skateboard to get to Uncle Gary's house. But alas, things just aren't that simple.

Wally lives in a nice suburban neighbourhood, full of white picket fences and award winning lawns - but still, there is trouble, in the form of... well... seagulls and bulldogs. Seagulls often swoop down upon you. One hit from either will kill you. Eventually, Wally can acquire pies to throw at his enemies and build up his "hit points", but once you run out of pies, you're also out of luck and can be killed by one hit.

Wally hits the subways, but learns the sad news - Toby Turtle has been tempted by Ricky Rat to take "pills." He must transverse a single, long, subway cart, avoiding mice (or something) to "rescue" Toby. Every level has a similar theme - one of his friends has had a radio stolen, or wants to join a gang, or any other "criminal" related event, and Wally must save them. For children, every level ends with some cliche or obvious piece of "advice," such as: "Remember, even grownups shouldn't drink and drive," or "Always remember, if someone tries to make you do something, and you know it's wrong,....... SAY NO!" Sagelike advice for the best of us.

This game is really, really bad. Even without the lame "let's all be straightedge" plot, the controls are difficult. Wally can skate, that's for sure, but he gains a fair amount of speed when he jumps and on levels with small platforms you must jump on, it becomes very difficult to line your jumps up with the platforms. Time and time again, I had to use FCEU's "Save" feature to re try a jump.

There's no way to continuously defend yourself. You can grab pies, but they run out, and that is really your only weapon - they're fairly useless, too. If you jump on enemies, it is considered a hit and you die. The pies are often located far into the middle of every level, so often times, you find yourself going through an entire level with no pies at all, just trying to dodge enemies and jump on small platforms. It gets really nerve-wracking.

I'm not exactly a drug user (my health is too poor) but I sincerely doubt that games like this would influence anyone to stop smoking it up. Don't these people realize that games like this are just laughed at? (and besides, there is an irony to both this and the Wisdom Tree games. They manufacture technically illegal carts - that often just steal designs and code from other, "secular" games - to teach people to be productive, obediant citizens).

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Castlevania 3 : Dracula's Curse

Maker: Konami
Genre: more vampire hunting!
Players: 1 player
Release: 1990

Rating:
Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 10/10

Castlevania 3 is Castlevania 1 beefed up. You play Simon's ancesor Trevor Belmont who is trying to stop you-know-who. The RPG elements from 2 are gone, and we're back to side-scroller land. This is a bit of a disappointment, but 3 is bigger and better than 1. The "second weapon" feature is back but the night and day dichotomy is gone. Trevor must travel throughout the Translyvanian countryside to get to Dracula's Castle. Naturally, along the way he meets a slew of enemies and bosses - however, in this game, these enemies could just as easily become friends once you defeat them.

There are three different "friends." You can only have one at a time, and they each have their own special abilities. One is a mage named Sypha who cuts with a knife, but can cast with firebolt with your hearts. Another is a small pirate named Grant whose skill is in his speed and his stealth. He can climb walls, and climb across ceilings. Physically he is weak, but he often comes in handy for getting you out of tight spaces - sometimes, you *need* him for this. The last is a surprise - Alucard, Dracula's son (Alucard is Dracula spelled backward) who wants to end his father's reign of terror and will help you.

Castlevania 3's graphics are better than Castlevania 1 or 2, with more attention paid to detail - and, for what it's worth, I adored the stained glass windows (but then, I've *always* adore stained glass windows...).

This is just another great game for the NES console. If you're at all interested in the cream of the crop NES games, Castlevania is definitely worth your time.

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Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Maker: Sunsoft
Genre: Bright lights! Bright lights!
Players: 1 player
Release: 1990

Rating:
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Difficulty: 6/10
Overall: 9/10

Hey... wanna hear something that's bound to shock the hell out of you?

Check it out... not only is this game pretty damned fun (if not extremely difficult) it also - I swear I am not making this up - closely follows the plot of the movie it's based on!

Yes, I know, that was my reaction too!!

The one difference this game has with the movie is that Gizmo is alone a lot more than shown in the movie. The point of the game is to get little Gizmo through all of the levels of Clamp Towers and back to Billy Peltzer.

For those of you who've never seen (or don't really remember) Gremlins 1 or 2, here's a little run-down on Mogwais: Mogwais are small, cuddly creatures that almost look like a little stuffed doll. There are a few rules to bear in mind, however, about Mogwais: a). Never get them wet - it will cause them to multiply like crazy. b). Keep them out of light - their little eyes are sensitive to light and sunlight will kill them. c). Never, ever let them eat after midnight - it'll turn them into gremlins.

Now, if you haven't seen Gremlins 1 and 2, go out and rent them now (though I can't imagine anyone having grown up in the 80s WITHOUT at least seeing Gremlins 1 on TV or video at least just once).

In Gremlins 2, Gizmo has been captured by a group of genetic researchers (run by Christopher Lee!!) that work in the higher-level offices of Clamp Center, owned by Daniel Clamp (a clever mockery of Donald Trump and Ted Turner, complete with Ted's love for colorizing perfectly good b&w movies). Billy Peltzer (Gizmo's owner from the first movie) of course works in this building (as does Billy's girlfriend, Phoebe Cates) and, through a series of events, discovers that Gizmo is being kept inside this lab, goes up to rescue him, Gizmo manages to get out on his own, gets water poured on him, spawns little malicious mogwais and chaos ensues.

In Gremlins 2, you play Gizmo after he gets out on his own. The attention paid to the movie is pretty incredible, considering most games based on movies (i.e. Back to the Future) have nothing whatsoever to do with the movie and are related to them by name only. In fact, the only non-movie element that I can really find is the buying and selling of power-ups. When you kill most monsters, you get a crystal ball, which you can use in the shops scattered throughout the level where you can by power-ups (also, Mr. Wu sells these to you, although he dies pretty early in the actual movie). But this is VERY necessary, especially for a game like this, where you are bound to get beat up. In fact, the only negative thing I can say about this is that it isn't strictly in the movie, but who cares?

Unlike most of the games I review, I really don't have anything negative or demeaning to say about this game. It follows the movie's storyline well, the monsters and bosses are appropriate to the levels and the themes of the levels and the movie, heck, even the weapons are appropriate to the movie, with Gizmo using first tomatoes (stolen from the lab), then a match, then paperclip, then the flaming bow and arrow, etc.. The graphics are good and the game is rather challenging and very fun. Check it out!

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Maniac Mansion

Maker: Jaleco USA, Inc.
Genre: Fancy a lil' B&E?
Players: 1 player
Release: 1990

Rating:
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 10/10

Maniac Mansion is one of my all-time favorite games. I got it during the Christmas of '90 and it looked like a game I'd dig. It looked so damned cool and guess what? I was right!

This game has a long history, too detailed to go into right now - suffice to say that its origins were in the old computer market of the late 80s (Apple II e, C64, etc). When it was finally ported to the NES, the NES censorship team had a fit. A number of things had to be changed or removed totally. However, this did not detract from the game's overall coolness (although it is a shame that they had to be removed just to placate uptight soccer moms the USA over). Check out http://home.earthlink.net/~crockford/maniac.html for more information about this.

The story is basic 50s sci-fi b-movie fare. A mad scientist, Dr. Fred Edison, under the influence from an evil meteor from outer space, kidnaps a cheerleader to use in his awful experiments, sort of like the Boris Karloff flick, "Die, Monster, Die!" Her boyfriend, of course, decides to rescue her with two of his friends. You're stuck with Dave, but you can choose two other companions for him, each of which have certain specialties or skills.

Your character choices are (in the order of the selection screen):

Dave Miller - Pretty useless. His only real purpose is the fact that he's getting it on with the girl Dr. Fred kidnapped.

Razor - She's always in my party, because I have a thing for sexy looking punk rock girls in short black skirts. Especially when they're wearing spiked collars. Her talent is music and hamster killing.

Bernard Burnoulli - A character whose look practically screams, "I was Lewis in Revenge of the Nerds." However, like all nerds, he comes in very handy when dealing with electronics. He can fix radios, wiring, etc.. but beware, he's pretty cowardly. For a guy who looks like he probaby watches Star Trek religiously, he sure has a problem around alien life forms.

Syd - Looks like a new-wave rock star in his straight tie, black suit and shades. His skill is, of course, music, just like Razor. He too doubles as a hamster microwaver in his off-hours.

Wendy - A girl who loves classical music. Her talent is writing.

Jeff Woodie - Dude, he like TOTALLY reminds me of Jeff Spicoli! Awesome! Totally awesome! Jeff's talent is that he can fix phones - but of course, so can Bernard, so he doesn't serve a lot of use on his own. Bur he's definitely the coolest of the guys in this game - those other guys are fags!

Michael F. Stappe - A black guy whose talent is developing pictures. He's the only one in this game with that skill so, with him (and/or Wendy) you'll get a different ending than you would with Bernard and Razor or Syd and Jeff, or whatever.

One might wonder why a cheerleader banging preppy like Dave is hanging around with nerds and punks, but let's simply suspend our disbelief, since this game really does rule.

They break into his mansion, where he and his family live (his son Weird Ed, his wife Nurse Edna, his cousin, Dead Cousin Ted and their two pet tentacles) and, depending on the characters you choose (who all have different skills), there are a number of unique ways to solve the game and about 3 or 4 unique endings (and ways to combine those endings).

Maniac Mansion is a pretty unique game. The "point and click to form sentences" thing was originated by this game (though it was later used by, among others, Zak MaCrackan). If you've ever played text adventure games (Zork, Twin Kingdom Valley, etc..) then you know that you must solve the various puzzles throughout the game by collecting various objects laying around and use them in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. There is no real violence in the game - you rely solely on your wits.

The success of Maniac Mansion on a number of platforms inspired a sequel, called "Day of the Tentacle" but I didn't care for that game near as much. Its design was both surreal and cartoony, but it didn't have the charm of the original. You won't be disappointed by either buying a cart or downloading a rom (or buying it on PC, at that rate) since it is truly a top-rate game and one of my favorites.

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Drac's Night Out

Maker: Parker Bros
Genre: Blood Sucking Frenzy
Players: 1 player
Release: 1991

Rating:
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 5/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
Difficulty: 6/10
Overall: 6/10

I found this while looking for ROMs on alt.binaries.emulation.nes. It was listed as a prototype ROM (and was never actually released to the public) and it had a Halloween/horror theme, so I was sold.

This is a weird little game. It's basically a generic Dracula story with one small difference. Now, I have watched a few vampire films in my day. I have some books on vampires, both fiction and non and, while I do not claim to be an expert, I think I can safely say that Reebok Pumps are never mentioned in any culture's vampire lore. They are, however, featured in this game. Apparently Reebok had signed a deal with Parker Bros to make a game involving Reebok Pumps. While it would only make sense to integrate such a deal into a basketball game, Parker Bros decided to go another route and put the Reeboks in a game about, well, Dracula.

When the game loads up, the intro screen actually says:

"Drac's Night Out
Featuring the Reebok Pump"

After I stopped laughing, I started to play the game and, much to my surprise - it isn't that bad! This is the only NES game I can think of where a). you play the bad guy and b). you drain peoples' blood for points.

You start out in Castle Dracula at 12 AM. Your goal is to work your way down from the top where your coffin is, to the bottom, where the door outside lies because in the next level, you go out in the village below. Unfortunately, an infinite amount of angry villagers are storming up the many levels of your castle to find you. If they touch you just once, you're dead (though you do come back to life back in your coffin at the top floor of the castle). Fortunately, since it is your castle, it is filled with traps and other monsters, including your friends Frankenstein and a ghost, both of whom, when released, attack villagers that are near them. This puts the villager into a fetal position so that you can suck their blood. There are also flying swords, a boulder and a pendulum to get them with. Dracula himself has a "stare" that freezes the villagers in their tracks for a few moments. While you cannot drink their blood when you do this, it does give you a chance to get out of tight corners or to escape down stairways when you want to get away. If you drain five people of their blood, you become a "creature of the night" - in the castle, that means you become a bat. You're invulnerable to the villagers when you're a bat, so take advantage of it. One other thing is that any little fall will kill Drac, but when you're the bat, you can fly. I never played much with the Reeboks, though. It seemed like all it did was increase your speed, thereby making running into enemies that much faster.

Once you finally get outside, you're treated to a brief cut scene (that is the same as the little animated scene when the game boots up) that shows someone (supposedly Drac) in a horse-drawn carriage. When the game starts up again, you're in the village below. Your goal is to find Mina (this is Harker's wife in the Stoker novel) and suck her blood (no, really). You also must do this within 6 hours (one of which was probably spent in the castle), because dawn breaks at 6 AM. The town is HUGE and those pesky villagers are still hunting for you. If you see a group of villagers running, run in a different direction, because they're part of an angry mob and, again, if you get touched by them, you die and unlike in the castle, this time, your game is over. Villagers walking by themselves, however, are fair game, and you can easily suck their blood and pick up objects that they leave behind. They all serve different purposes: the 3 leaf clovers open fences, magic genie bottles let you access basements (which contain surprises), and keys let you into the various houses around the village, looking for Mina. Many of these houses have sleeping females and guess what? You can break in and suck their blood. Once you're done (the game doesn't show anything more than you crouching at the foot of the bed before striking, though) they become your servants for about 30 seconds or so, and they will try to point out to you what general direction Mina's house is. Then they disappear. Once you do find Mina and suck her dry, the game just starts again, although you're in a different castle with different "friends" (like a rat).

This isn't a gaming classic by any stretch of the imagination and I guess "Drac" does kind of suck (HAHA OH THE WIT OH THE PUNS), but I found it fun and entertaining. It's kind of like most vampire movies - cheesy and goofy, but ultimately entertaining. I'm not sure why this game was never released. Sure it isn't that great of a game, but that never stopped Nintendo before (remember, games like Friday the 13th and Where's Waldo? sucked harder than this ever could and they were licensed by Nintendo). It could be that Nintendo didn't want to highlight any other company's product (i.e. sneakers) especially since it had nothing to do with the overall plot. Or it could be that the religious imagery worried them. Some villagers in the Castle are carrying crucifixes, though that could have been easily edited out (like a lot of naughty stuff was cut from Maniac Mansion). Or it could just be that they didn't like the fact that the game's "hero" ran around sucking blood from everyone and was essentially a negative character. Or maybe the project just never went anywhere. Interestingly enough, I learned on one of the pages I mention below that there was also, at some point, a Nosferatu game rumored to be "in progress."

For more information on this ROM (and many, many other prototypes and unreleased games) check out http://www.personal.psu.edu/staff/j/h/jhd7/nr.htm and http://rbox.victoly.com/~blackjax/NES/drac/.

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Frankenstein

Maker: Ban Dai
Genre: Death to all monsters!
Players: 1 player
Release: 1991

Rating:
Gameplay: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Enjoyment: 6/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Overall: 6/10

This game wants so badly to be Castlevania, you can almost taste its desperation. From a character that resembles Belmont to the side-scrolling, "European gothic" scenary, it's like a little boy who wants to be all grown up like his father.

Unfortunately, it fails.

First off, and this is the literary geek in me, it pisses me off when people call Frankenstein's Monster "Frankenstein." Frankenstein is *not* the same as his monster. From what I can recall, the monster is never officially given a name in the novel. Furthermore, the monster is not terribly aggressive. He kills only in self defense - he is very much like a little child with superhuman strength; scared, reactionary and unaware of its own power. (or of the finality of death). I'll be honest that I haven't seen every single Frankenstein film sequel in existance, so it is very possible I could be in error - however, I do not think that I am.

Anyway, the plot is this: "Franeknstein" rises from the dead, sets fire to a village (lit geek gripe: Frankenstein was terrified of fire. Why would he use fire of all things?) and kidnaps a little girl who is family to the protagonist (who you both name and play). You must set off on a quest to get Emily back.

Your default weapon is your fists, but you can pick up other ones as the game progresses (the first one was a cudgel). The weapons can also be powered up by glowing orbs that monsters sometimes drop. Unfortunately, every time you are hit, you drop your weapon and even if you pick it up again, it loses all power-ups. You can also do jump-kicks, but that is fairly awkward to do.

The bosses often border on silly. For instance, there's a half-demon, half-horse monster (that, incidentally flies). It is called, predictably enough, "Demon-Horse." There is also a "spirit" of the forest and that old standby, Medusa, who has been unlucky enough to find herself in damn near every horror themed game for the NES.

The graphics aren't terribly impressive either. The movement of the main character looks awkward and the background scenery looks like, well, background scenery. It doesn't look even remotely scary or realistic.

A few of the monsters and bosses are rough, but I really don't think the game is terribly good - alas, it is merely mediocre.

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King of Kings

Maker: Wisdom Tree Games
Genre: Messianic Mayhem
Players: 1
Release: 1991

Gameplay: 4/10
Graphics: 4/10
Enjoyment: 5/10
Difficulty: 5/10
Overall: 5/10

"Finally!" I thought to myself upon reading the game's title, "Wisdom Tree has done a videogame about Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys!" (ok, so that joke is just a *little* obscure).

But no, this game has nothing to do with the Beasie Boys, instead it is yet another game about God. However, this one isn't quite as bad. Sure, the graphics are still sub-par. Sure the challenges are pretty laughable at times. But overall, if you're in the market for a videogame about Jesus, this might be one of the better ones (not that that's saying much).

This cartridge, like almost all Wisdom Tree cartridges, is broken up into three different games. Since it is named "King of Kings," we can reasonably assume we're gonna see Jesus Christ in this game - but alas and alack, Jesus really doesn't show up. Instead the game is based on the Gospel narratives of His birth. All three levels are pretty similar in structure and it is possible to be harmed by enemies/objects. The only way to get power back is to find a scroll laying around and answer the Bible question correctly (this time, all of the questions are based on the New Testament, making this Wisdom Tree's only game based on the New Testament). The three games are titled "Three Wise Men," "Flight to Egypt" and "Jesus and the Temple."

THREE WISE MEN

Three Wise Men is based on the account in Matthew chapter 2 of the three Persian astrologers who see a northern star (the "Star of Bethlehem") and follow it til they find... a boy called Brian! Oh wait, wrong story... they find the infant Jesus and praise him. In this sub-game you play the roles of the three wise men (although the Bible never says there are three wise men, only that there were wise men who bore three different gifts). You have to get all three men past the perils and pitfalls in the vast Arabian desert to find the baby Christ. Overall, it's pretty much your standard videogame, except with fewer enemies and more "natural" obstacles. As you travel on your merry way, you must collect frankincense, myrrh and gold to present to the baby Jesus. There really isn't anything notable about this particular game to make it stand out. It doesn't suck hard (like, say, Joshua) but there's no way it's a gaming classic (like, say, SMB) so it's just average.

FLIGHT TO EGYPT

Flight to Egypt is about, well, the flight to Egypt (also detailed in Matthew chapter 2) where Jesus and his parents have to run to Egypt after being warned by an angel of Herod's plan to kill Jesus (which eventually leads to the "massacre of the innocents"). What the Bible didn't tell us, it seems, is that the donkey the rode on likes to kick rams and serpents out of the way. This game is pretty basic. It does not involve collecting anything whatsoever, you simply hve to delivery the Holy Family to safety. Strangely, the last couple of levels involve the Holy Family travelling through perilous ice-lands, which would probably not be readily avalible in ancient Jerusalem, leaving me to wonder if they took a "short cut" through one of the poles or something. One other thing I did note was that the serpents were the same ones from Noah's Ark in Bible Adventures. Just think, if Noah had known about the danger they posed to Christ's family in the earlier game, he could have avoided rescuing them and the travel to Egypt would have gone a lot smoother.

JESUS & THE TEMPLE

I was hoping Jesus & The Temple would be about the "Cleansing of the Temple" (from Mark 11:15-17) and that we could see some serious ass-kicking, but again, I was disappointed. Instead we go to the account in Luke 2:41-52 of a twelve-year-old Christ who snuck away from his parents while they were in Jerusalem for the Passover. His parents searched for three days until they found him at Herod's Temple. There, He was conversing with the elders, amazing them with His answers to religious debates. In the game, you play both of Jesus' parents (at separate times, like in Three Wise Men) and go searching. Again, it's pretty basic and average. One other interesting thing to note is that Joseph gets to play the bulk of the levels in this game (6) while Mary is content to only play two. That means there were eight levels, and both characters could have easily played four each. Gotta love sexism.

This cartridge is actually pretty decent. A few of the challenges are clever and it is by far a step up from both Bible adventures (this cart actually has some action elements, which only Save Baby Moses had on that cart) and Exodus and Joshua (which truly were awful). This isn't Mega Man or anything, but it does have some somewhat positive elements.

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Where's Waldo

Maker: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Hunt the Dorkus
Players: 1 player
Release: 1991

Rating:
Gameplay: 3/10
Graphics: 0/10
Enjoyment: 1/10
Difficulty: 6/10
Overall: 0/10

The Where's Waldo books series was decent enough, and I admit to having played with them every now and then when I was at the doctor or something like that, and needed to occupy time.

However, this game is a truly awful NES rendition of the books. It is difficult to convey the utter pointless of this game with words. If you haven't played with the Where's Waldo books, I'll explain. In Where's Waldo, a guy named Waldo (with a red and white striped sweater and cap, glasses and jeans) is placed inside a series of scenes (i.e. a pirate scene, a medieval scene, a mall scene, etc.) with hundreds of other people, objects, buildings, animals, etc.. and all of these scenes are huge, and Waldo's character is tiny so you basically have to comb over each scene carefully with your eyes. You have to really look hard to find Waldo in these scenes.. he's walking somewhere in each scene (crowded with buildings, people, objects, etc.) and your job is to carefully examine each scene, trying to find Waldo and his trusty dog. It's pretty enjoyable, at least for a few scenes. However, with the books on the market, why would one want a videogame based on the same idea?

As it turns out, this game is even more difficult than the books because - and I must emphasize this - the graphics absolutely SUCK. The people who made these graphics couldn't get a job at Color Dreams. Granted some of this has to do with the 8-bit, low color palette machine that the ol NES was, but still, game designers could get games like Mega Man 6 and Mario Bros 3 out of the NES, so there isn't a whole lot of excuse. I don't expect this game to look like, say, GTA:VC but if you're going to make a game where the graphics play a very important role, be sure to actually *make the grapics look good* or at the very least discernable. Waldo also likes to hide behind things, so it is even harder to find him, sometimes. Everyone and everything looks *just like Waldo* so your best bet is just to run your box (which you are supposed to click overtop of Waldo once you found him) all over the screen, randomly clicking.

On top of that, there are even more idiotic features of this game.. once you've found Waldo in the train level, he goes to a cavern. It is pitch-black in this cavern, except for some stalactites, and every so often Waldo darts out and you have to click on him. You only get a split-second to do this, too. After you find him in a couple other levels, you have to work a way to get a pointer down to where his picture is for a "subway" challenge scene. Unfortunately, if you make the wrong move just once, you lose the game and have to try again.

This game is pointless in every way imaginable...

YES!!! Even the way you're thinking of right now!!

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Spiritual Warfare

Maker: Wisdom Tree
Genre: A "Christian" Zelda
Players: 1 player
Release: 1992

Rating:
Gameplay: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Enjoyment: 4/10
Difficulty: 3/10
Overall: 4/10

Zelda meets Jesus for what may be the best game Wisdom Tree (and probably Color Dreams) ever put out.

And yes, I am entirely serious. This game will never go down as one of the greatest video games (unless the phrase "about the Bible" is tacked on to the end) but it is halfway decent.

A good bit of the story is based on Ephesians 6:10-18, the passage that talks about the Armor of God (the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots of the gospel, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit). Your goal in Spiritual Warfare is to clean the city of its evil influences (including gang members, slum dwellers and, somewhat subversively, businessmen in suits, although I doubt Wisdom Tree was intending to be subversive) and collect the "armor of God" to face off against the ultimate evil (could it be... SATAN?!).

This videogame is basically a rip-off from the first Zelda game, recoded with poorer graphics and a more religious-themed plot. Instead of collecting pieces of the triforce, you collect the armor of God. Instead of a sword, your weapons are fruits (i.e. apples, pears, etc), taking the phrase "fruits of the Spirit" a bit too literally. Instead of the boomerang you get Samson's donkey jawbone (Judges 15:15) but instead of being able to kill "a thousand men" you can only use it to retrieve objects out of your reach. It goes on like this, with various religious concepts substituting for weapons, ideas, etc.. in Zelda.

I wasn't able to get too far in this game with my character (named RobZombi, appropriately enough). After I got a couple of pieces of armor, I decided to go into a bar, downtown, to minister to the lost. This game was released a few years before the WWJD? craze, so no one was thinking about what Jesus would do. Instead, I lost a piece of armor and was told to never go into a bar. So much for what Jesus would do.

All in all, this is probably one of the better Wisdom Tree games. It's a shameless Zelda clone and the religious aspects are pretty much omnipresent, but at least it is playable.

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