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#149 – Raid on Bungeling Bay

I sure bungled my way through this game.

The bubble text is out of place for this game.

To Beat: Beat 1 Loop in Game A
To Complete: Beat 5 Loops
What I Did: Beat 1 Loop in Game B
Played: 2/17/20 – 2/23/20
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
My Video: Raid On Bungeling Bay Longplay

It’s been awhile since I’ve played a game that brought me to a point of real frustration and anger.  I think as I’m getting older, I am mellowing out a little bit and I put up with a lot more in my gaming.  I have to if I’m going to play all these NES games, and I also need to set a good example for my kids.  Thankfully as I played this game alone late at night, I could vent my frustration a little.  I didn’t go full out tantrum or anything, but I spent a fair amount of time visibly upset at this game.  I wouldn’t say this is a bad game either.  Hopefully I have your attention now to read on and see what you think of this game.

Raid on Bungeling Bay was first released on the Commodore 64 in December 1984.  It was designed by Will Wright and this was his first game.  Perhaps this game is best known as the gateway to Wright’s smash hit SimCity as his development tools for Raid on Bungeling Bay formed the base of SimCity’s gameplay.  The Commodore 64 version was published by Broderbund in North America and by Ariolasoft in Europe in 1985.  Other ports from 1985 were for the Famicom, the MSX, and Nintendo’s VS. System.  The NES version was delayed until September 1987.  It was developed by Hudson Soft and published by Broderbund.

Raid on Bungeling Bay has a simple story.  The Bungeling Empire is set to create a war machine to conquer the Earth.  In Bungeling Bay there are six secret factories, and your task is to pilot a lone helicopter around Bungeling Bay to destroy the factories and put the evil plans to rest.  This game is a top-down shoot-em-up where you fly freely across a large, open map.  This is the only level in the game, so once you destroy all six factories you win the game.  Seems simple enough!

You’ll see home base a lot.

You use the D-pad to control the helicopter.  Press Left or Right to rotate your aircraft.  Press Up to go forward and Down to go in reverse.  These are thrust-based controls with momentum similar to Asteroids.  You’ll keep moving in the direction you are going without adjusting any of the inputs and you can change course in a gradual way.  You can move backwards though top speed in reverse is much lower than top speed going forward.  The A button fires machine gun shots and you can keep mashing A to shoot.  The B button drops bombs.  You can only hold up to 9 bombs as indicated on the bottom of the screen.  You may drop bombs at a rate of about one per second.

Destroying all six factories is not an easy task.  First off, you have to locate them on the map.  It is a lot of ground to cover, roughly 10 screens high and 10 screens wide.  There is no in-game map to see where you are, so you’ll have to memorize where everything is.  Most of the map is open water too which makes navigation more difficult.  Once you find a factory, stop yourself over the top of it, and mash the B button to drop bombs.  The regular allotment of nine bombs may not be enough to defeat the factory however.  To reload bombs, you’ll need to go back and land on the initial aircraft carrier where you start.  Come to a complete or near-complete stop above the center of the aircraft carrier, then press A to land.  Doing so refills your bombs and repairs your helicopter back to full strength.  The aircraft carrier is at least easy to find because there is a navigation arrow at the bottom of the screen that always points you toward the carrier.  But going back out and finding the factory again might be difficult.  Making matters worse, the factories are slowly strengthened over time, requiring more bombs to destroy them the longer they are left alone.  This includes ones that you haven’t even seen yet.  You absolutely need a plan to beat this game.

There are plenty of enemies in the game, many of which are interconnected with each other in various ways.  The biggest relationship is that the factories produce nearly all of the enemies.  As factories are damaged, the lights can go out and then they won’t produce any enemies until they repair some.  Here are the enemies a lit factory will produce.  Tanks patrol the various islands.  They do light damage, but their bullets are invisible and seem to always hit you periodically when they are on your screen.  The boats patrol the water and function in the same way with their invisible, low-damage shots.  Boats, however, can relay the location of your aircraft carrier to the enemy and will also damage the carrier upon collision.  Gun turrets are fixed to the land and shoot visible bullets at you.  If the game goes on long enough, the turrets will sometimes fire homing missiles that do some severe damage.  You can blow up the missiles in the air or eventually they run out of fuel and disappear.  Radar dishes don’t do physical damage to you, instead opting to alert the enemy to start deploying fighter jets and bombers.  Fighter jets attack your helicopter with missiles, while the bombers only go after your aircraft carrier.

Bombs away!

The aircraft carrier is vital to your success, so of course the enemies are going to go after it.  Typically, these will be the bombers circling and attacking your aircraft carrier.  When this happens, an ALERT message will blink across the screen.  You will want to drop whatever you are doing, follow the arrow, and defend it.  The alert continues until all bombers attacking the carrier have been dealt with, and when it clears the carrier is repaired instantly back to 100% strength.  You can’t land on the carrier during an attack.  If the carrier ends up destroyed, that is really bad.  Now only do you lose the place to restore health and bombs, but you also lose all of your extra lives so the next time you crash it is Game Over.  There is one location in enemy territory where you can land and get your bombs refilled from the enemy’s supply.  The caveats are that you can only repair your helicopter to only 50-60% damage and it takes longer to land and takeoff versus the aircraft carrier.

One more advanced enemy to deal with in the later levels is the battleship.  A WARNING message appears on screen once as the battleship is getting prepared, and a second time when it leaves port.  If you encounter it, you are greeted by its homing missiles.  You can destroy it but it takes a minimum ten bombs to destroy, so you’ll have to restore bombs at least once.  It moves slowly with the goal of intercepting the aircraft carrier.  Your carrier moves in a slow drift from south to north while the battleship goes horizontally.  When the battleship comes across the carrier’s path, it will wait for the carrier to approach and then destroy it completely in one shot.  The two options are to take out the battleship as quickly as possible or clear out the factories fast enough before the battleship does its thing.

There is only one map in the game but the game increases difficulty for several loops of the game.  On the title screen you can choose from the normal Game A mode or Game B which is equivalent to the third loop in the A mode.  There are several ways the game gets more difficult.  Damage incurred increases, the battleship appears sooner, bombers are more active sooner, enemies fire missiles earlier and more frequently, and the aircraft carrier can be destroyed more quickly.  According to the manual, the difficulty maxes out on the fifth loop.  Considering all the ways it gets harder, plus the fact that you can lose all of your lives when losing the aircraft carrier, it is quite tough to get that far.

If you lose your carrier the game might as well be over.

A neat feature I wanted to draw a little attention to is this game’s two-player mode.  This is just like the single player mode but with a twist.  The first player flies and plays normally, and the second player controls any turrets out on the field.  The second player can rotate the turret with Left and Right and fire both normal bullets and sometimes the homing missiles.  I can see where this might be used both as a competitive element and also a way of making the game a little easier by having the second player do nothing with the turrets.  It’s a neat idea for a second player that is not often seen on the NES.

Here are some miscellaneous tidbits about this game.  In addition to the ALERT and WARNING messages, there is also DESTROY for when a factory is blown up, SUNK! when your aircraft carrier is taken out, and SPECIAL which is for bonus points when destroying a factory that I don’t understand how you earn exactly.  At certain damage thresholds, your copter has different levels of effectiveness.  From 0-49% is normal operation.  50-79% means you fly at about 75% strength while 80-99% is at about 50% strength.  The color of the ocean is another visual indicator of these levels.  At 100% damage or over, you are going to crash.  You can’t control your speed, your steering capability is reduced, and you can’t drop bombs.  The best thing you can try to do is crash land into a factory to damage it.  One time I destroyed a weakened factory by crashing into it, but it was both tough and lucky to pull off.  Damage can go way over 100% as it will take a little time to complete the crash.  It sort of adds insult to injury at that point.

This was my first time playing through Raid on Bungeling Bay.  When I tested the cart, I messed around for a few minutes and didn’t really understand the game.  Reading the manual definitely helped me.  This game doesn’t show up too often but it is not that expensive, roughly costing $10 for a loose cart.  The best way to acquire this cart is in a lot, which is how I got mine.  It doesn’t stand out much and I don’t think it is often sought out.

This is a fun enough game to start playing around with it.  Flying around freely feels pretty good especially for an earlier NES title.  There’s a lot to explore and see.  Targets are easy enough to shoot and aren’t too aggressive.  Alas, appearances are most definitely deceiving.  Once you blow up your first factory, the game begins its sharp ramp up in difficulty.  Factories start cranking out more enemies, enemy fighters circle you and eventually fire homing missiles.  After about three missile hits, you are done for.  You constantly need to return home to defend your carrier, and if you lose it, your run is pretty much dead.  The longer you play, the more enemies appear and the stronger the factories get.  Refilling bombs needed to destroy these strengthened factories means more retreating home, back and forth, often ending up lost or misdirected in the process.  This game is constantly out to get you and is ruthless in doing so.

Defenses get pretty intense by the end.

At the start I had intended to play through five loops of this game, and after about a day or two I abandoned that idea completely.  I just could not build up the momentum or the interest to keep pressing on with this game.  Just too much failing with one or two factories left to go.  Fortunately, there is only the one level and one ending, so beating one round of it is good enough to consider the game done.  When TMR beat the game for NESMania, he beat two rounds of Game A and also one round of Game B.  While I could have followed suit, I figured one round of the more difficult Game B would be sufficient.  Still, Game B, which is 3rd loop difficulty, was tough for me to accomplish.  I didn’t keep track, but it was probably about a dozen tries or more before I finally beat Game B, each attempt more frustrating than the last.  There was no real strategy that saved the day this time.  It was a matter of learning the map, finding the enemy landing location for occasional bomb refills, and brute forcing attempts until I finally cleared it.  I even missed the photo of the ending “Complete” message just as one last frustration. I get the feeling the best way to clear five straight loops is to speedrun the game as quickly as possible with a route of picking off the most difficult factories first before they ramp up enemy production.  I’m not about to figure that out though, I’m done.

I know this is out of character for me to dislike an NES game like Raid on Bungeling Bay, but it’s a shame because there are some great ideas here that are unlike any NES game I’ve played to this point.  On the surface this is a simple game.  The graphics are simple, with crudely drawn backgrounds and recognizable enemy sprites that get the job done.  There is no real music to speak of here, just a jingle on starting a new life and some low base notes during gameplay.  The controls work well to me, though in general momentum-based controls and movement take some finesse.  Though it eventually became frustrating and tiresome, I can appreciate what Will Wright accomplished in terms of gameplay, particularly in terms of world design and interactivity.  Just about everything connects in some way, giving you the sense of a more coordinated and thoughtful enemy attack.  You know bombing an enemy factory means they are gonna try and fix it, and seeing an enemy satellite dish means you know to prepare for an oncoming aerial attack.  These are cool ideas in isolation.  I just found it all too overwhelming when the difficulty spikes in the second half of each mission, to the point where I found it unfair and wanted to quit playing.  It is an interesting game, it’s just not for me.

#149 – Raid on Bungeling Bay

Posted In: Finished
  1. Mr. Beeblebrox

    The c64 original didn’t have any loops. And yes, it got HARD. You’d get one or two factories easy enough, but the difficulty just ramped up and up and up. Going for them in the wrong order made things near impossible. But damn it felt good when you barely pulled off the win by crashing your final chopper into the last factory, or won despite your carrier being sunk.

    Give it a try if you can.

    • arnpoly

      I dunno, my experiences with the NES version didn’t get me that excited to start looking at other versions, haha. But maybe I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the comment!

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