Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#172 – Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival

Oh it’s an adventure alright.

Featuring some serious music

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 4/11/11 – 4/17/11
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival Longplay

Well, after the long, complicated playthrough that was Ultima: Exodus, we are definitely taking a step back with this one.  This is the premier NES Muppets game, though if you wanna be technical about it, this is not the only NES game to feature muppets, as I learned researching this that the Sesame Street characters are indeed muppets.  If you are wanting a game featuring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, et al, then you’ve come to the right place.  This game even provided a stiffer challenge than I expected from this game, sort of.

The Muppets are puppet characters created by Jim Henson.  They were originally created for entertaining adults, not children, first appearing on the show Sam and Friends in 1955.  Kermit the Frog was one of the first characters created and is still one of the most recognizable.  Henson created brand new characters to launch Sesame Street in 1969, which is widely known as classic children’s programming that is still going strong today.  The next major project was The Muppet Show, the 1976 sketch comedy show that would win four Emmy awards and paved the way for the Muppets’ foray into film with The Muppet Movie in 1979.  The Muppets would remain popular through many TV shows and movies over the years.  Disney would eventually acquire the Muppets in 2004, almost fifteen years after an attempted purchase where negotiations were derailed after Jim Henson’s death.

Aside from Sesame Street, given their popularity, there haven’t been many Muppets video games.  Six years after the first Muppets game, Pigs in Space on the Atari 2600, we have this one, Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival.  The game was originally released in 1989 for the Apple II, Commodore 64, and DOS.  The NES version followed later in North America in 1990 with some significant changes to the 1989 versions (which among themselves had some variations in gameplay).  The NES version was published by Hi Tech Expressions and developed by Mind’s Eye Technology.  Very little information is out there online about the developer, so chances are this is their only released game.


The story goes, unsurprisingly, that the evil Dr. Grump has kidnapped (pignapped?) Ms. Piggy and is holding her hostage.  Dr. Grump’s hideout is a carnival, and that’s where the action takes place.  You control a band of Muppets one at a time over four different attractions.  Each ride contains a key that is used to unlock the final area.  To beat this game, you need to beat all four areas plus the final stage.

In this single-player adventure, you can play each of the first four stages in any order you like.  In each one, you play as a different character and each one is a completely different experience.  In each level, at either the bottom or top of the screen, you’ll see your cumulative score, your power meter in hearts, and the number of “rides” remaining, which is this game’s way of saying how many lives you have.  I played through the stages in the order presented as there wasn’t any compelling reason for me to play them differently.

First up is the River Ride.  You control Kermit in a life raft floating down the river.  This is a vertical scrolling game where all you need to do is reach the key at the bottom of the river.  This is a D-pad only game.  Press Left or Right to steer in that direction, hold Down to move faster, and hold Up to slow down.  This one is pretty straightforward, simply avoid obstacles and make your way down.  You can take a few bops off of rocks and the shore with your health meter.  Red periscopes restore your health and collecting a red buoy gives you an extra life.  Logs will sway side to side and get in your way, whirlpools can swerve you around the river, and at one part this critter on a raft follows you around for a bit.  The whirlpool can be tricky because sometimes it can trap you against objects and you have no choice but to lose a life.  One interesting tidbit: the level design guides you directly to the key at the end, but you can avoid it and keep going downstream which restarts the level entirely.

Fit the slidey car through small gaps.

The next stage is the Car Course.  In this one you take control of Animal in a bumper car.  Your task is to clear the obstacle course, moving from left to right.  Use Left and Right on the D-pad to rotate the car toward one of eight directions.  Then press and hold A to go forward.  This is a very momentum based game but you’ll automatically brake a little bit when you let go of A.  The course itself is decently long and consists of various traps and obstacles in basic, repeatable patterns.  There are oil slicks, bombs, bouncy walls, that sort of thing.  Flags can be collected here as well, red ones for points and green ones for power restoral.  To restore health, you need to grab a series of green flags.  A new green flag appears once you collect one, and after nabbing so many of them you’ll get your health back.  The later sections in this course you have to take pretty slowly to clear some of the traps through small gaps.

The third game is the Space Race.  This one is pretty similar to the driving in Car Course.  You play as Gonzo inside of a spaceship in this auto-scrolling side-view space shooter.  Use Left and Right on the D-pad to turn the ship in eight directions.  Press A to forward thrust in the direction you are facing.  To attack, press B.  Obstacles in this one include drifting rocks and satellites, as well as turrets and Space Dogs riding pods similar to your own.  There are electric barriers blocking pathways that you can shoot repeatedly to destroy.  Fuel canisters can be picked up to restore health, and saving Camilla grants you an extra life.  Be careful as you can shoot and destroy the powerups, losing out on those lives and health.  The scrolling in this one is very, very slow and it takes some time to clear.  This ride even ends in a boss fight.

The fourth level in this game is the Amazing Maze.  Fozzie will have to work his way through the maze, picking up prizes along the way culminating in the key.  Each screen is its own self-contained maze.  Prizes will appear one at a time at a random spot in the maze.  When you collect one, another item will appear somewhere else.  After collecting three prizes, you clear the screen and proceed to the next.  The order of these items is always a bow tie, a gift box, and … another bow tie.  Along the way you have to avoid various enemies that are wandering the maze.  Some levels have collectible weapons to distract the enemies such as bones, hearts, and banana bunches.  Once grabbed, press B to toss them forward.  You can only hold one weapon at a time, and they are thrown in a weird arc that makes them more difficult to use then they are worth.  This game goes on for such a long time but doesn’t get much more difficult.  The background color changes every few screens to help indicate some progress.  A little tip:  There are these larger enemies that blend in with the background that only walk periodically.  You can walk through them freely when they stop.

Seems fun but the scrolling is super slow.

When all four keys are collected, now you can choose the Dr. Grump stage from the menu.  In this final level, you control Kermit armed with a, uh, feather.  This is a platformer level.  Press Left or Right to walk, press B to jump, and A to wave your feather.  You can hold your feather high or low with Up or Down as well.  This stage might take a little getting used with the atypical B-button jumping.  Make your way to the right while avoiding fireballs, fire pits, flying bats, and other enemies.  You can grab these papers with a P on them, Miss Piggy’s lipstick, or her necklace to gain additional lives.  At some point in the level the ground runs out and you have to make jumps across gaps from brick to brick.  The feather does nothing to affect the enemies, so you have no line of defense and will need to dodge attacks as best you can.  The end of this stage is something special, which I’ll discuss at length shortly!

I never owned this game or even rented it or anything like that, but I have played it before.  A friend of mine had this game when we were kids and I remember playing it a few times.  I specifically remember the rafting level with Kermit, and when I played the game for this review the Amazing Maze jogged my memory too.  For some reason, I felt pretty confident that I had beaten this game back then, but knowing what I know now, I don’t think there was any chance I could have beaten it.  For collectors, this cart isn’t common but also pretty inexpensive, totaling around $10 for a loose copy.

We need to talk about the end of the final stage, as it took this game from a 2/10 difficulty to a 5/10 pretty swiftly.  Avert your gaze for a couple of paragraphs if you don’t want to be spoiled.  You only need a couple of tries at the other stages to get the feel for them, but the final stage, one part in particular, took many, many tries to figure out.  The sad thing is that it’s not even the final boss, but the boss right before that.  Enter the Grumpasaurus, your worst nightmare.  This fight begins on a row of tiny ledges, so right there we are off to a hot start.  The idea here is you need to tickle him with the feather to push him back all the way so he falls off and you can continue.  The problem is how exactly you need to hit him.  Even though the feather is tiny, there really seems to be no way to do anything at all at first.  The Grumpasaurus periodically punches, knocking you backward when he connects, and then creeps forward toward the left side of the screen.  A punch is pretty likely to knock you down, and either way he gets to move forward making your task that much more difficult.  This is where I lost all my lives on several attempts.  There are no continues in this game, so back to start I went, again and again.

The enemies are kind of dumb, just keep your distance.

Of course, I did figure out the trick, and once I did I was able to send him on his merry way.  Not easily, mind you, but it was manageable at least.  The trick to the fight is that the Grumpasaurus has a weak point – his armpit.  You need to tickle him there when his arm is outstretched, leaving that weak spot open.  It seems counterintuitive as he already has to be in his attacking position before you can push back.  What I did was jumped up and dragged the feather across his body on the way down, timing the feather to his punch.  When you connect you should move forward since his next move after the knockback is to push forward himself.  With the gaps between the blocks, sometimes you have to push him twice before you can safely hop to the next stone.  After several properly timed tickles, you’ll take down the Grumpasaurus and move on to the real final boss, Dr. Grump.  This fight is much easier.  You now toss these hearts up into the air, and the idea is to drop them on Dr. Grump’s head.  He blocks the heart if it is moving upward, and if you throw it too high it despawns.  He tosses bombs out at you and walks back and forth on his ledges.  The fight is easier than it sounds, and then at last this game is over.

I wrote about the speedrun for Ulitma: Exodus in my last review and I’d like to carry that idea into this review and all others going forward.  The leaderboard for this game is only 6 runs long and most of those were completed years ago.  The current World Record for the game is 26:45 by Apollo22237.  There’s nothing too fancy about the run for this; it is a straight run through the game.  The runner chose Car Course first, then Space Race, then Amazing Maze, and finally the River Ride.  I see why Car Course was chosen first as that has the most that could go wrong in it with all the bouncing around.  Watching the run reminded me of how slow and long the Space Race is, taking up almost 10 minutes by itself.  The Amazing Maze feels longer but it isn’t, at least when done fast.  One thing I really like about the run is that there’s a quick kill on Grumpasaurus where you can both get knocked off with one tickle.  Thankfully it counts.  A fair tradeoff if you ask me!

Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival is not a great game overall.  The graphics are plain and kind of murky in some spots, but at least you can tell who the primary characters are.  The music is unremarkable.  One or two of the songs are catchy enough, the rest are kinda drab and feel too dark for a game that takes place at a carnival.  The controls are quite good, everything operates like it should for each game.  I would have done away with the B button jumping in the final stage, and turning corners in the Amazing Maze can be a tad slippery.  The gameplay is where this game really suffers.  While you have variety in the stages, and they control well, the level design is nothing special and some of the levels drag on too long.  There are lots of repeated patterns in the Car Course, unbearably slow autoscrolling in the Space Race, and screen after screen after screen in the Amazing Maze.  This game is pretty easy and you get a bunch of lives, and then the Grumpasaurus boss is so unfair that it ends up undoing all of the time you put to get there.  I really didn’t like playing 30 minutes at a time of tedious gameplay just to fail at the boss and have to restart.  I would much rather have had an easy game and not have much to say about it instead of writing up this long review just to complain about how boring it is. But I suppose that’s what I signed up for when I decided to Take On The NES Library.  Muppet Adventure is a below average game, fully playable, but mostly boring.  The Muppets deserved better.

#172 – Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival


#106 – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure

This game is not so bodacious, dudes!

It’s one of the longer NES game titles.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 11/5/18 – 11/28/18
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure Final Level

Another day, another video game adaptation of a movie I haven’t seen.  In this case, I have at least played the game before.  Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure seems like a strange choice for a tie-in video game.  It could make for a decent educational game with all the historical figures from different time periods.  Instead, we ended up with a game that’s not much educational but has all the fun of an educational game, meaning it’s not that exciting.  Kudos to the developers for trying, at least.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a comedy from 1989.  In the movie, two high school students from San Dimas, California get access to a time machine that allows them to collect various historical figures to help them complete a history project.  Stephen Herek directed the film which stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and George Carlin.  While not a critical success, it performed well at the box office.  A sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, was released in 1991.  A third installment is reported to be in the works as of May 2018.

The movie spawned several video games that are all unique from each other.  The NES game, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure, was released in August 1991.  It was developed by Rocket Science Games and was published by Acclaim Entertainment under the LJN label.  This wasn’t the first game based on the movie.  The PC version from 1989 was a graphical adventure game.  The Game Boy game, aptly title Bill & Ted’s Excellent Game Boy Adventure, was a puzzle platformer.  Finally, the Atari Lynx version also from 1991 is a top-down adventure game.

Clearly, the stakes are high.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure on the NES is an isometric adventure game with a plot loosely based on the movie.  Rufus from the movie summons both Bill and Ted to help on an important mission.  Space-time rebels have used the time machine to take historical figures and put them in the wrong time periods.  Both Bill and Ted must work separately to find each person and return him or her to the correct time period.  They need to do this because if history isn’t made right again, our heroes will miss the big concert that will launch the career of their band the Wyld Stallyns.  Unfortunately, they only have access to a pay phone that requires coins before they can time travel.  Your job as Bill or Ted is to find both the historical figure and a specific item that you can use to lure them back home.  You beat the game once you finish all six levels.

After finishing or skipping the introductory story segments, you are presented with a phone book of sixteen historical figures.  (Interestingly, none of these people played a part in the film from what I’ve read.)  The last page in the phone book is your password, which is a seven-digit telephone number that always starts with the fictitious prefix 555.  As you thumb through the phone book, you will come across a second telephone number on one of the pages that blinks red.  This is the number for the person you need to locate in the wrong period.  Press Select at any time to bring up the telephone.  Press A to dial digits and press B to undo them if you make a mistake.  When you have the blinking red number entered correctly, press A to connect the call.  You also use this same telephone screen to enter passwords.

Placing a call puts you in the Circuits of Time.  This is a mini-game that allows you to complete the call.  There are circuits in the background along with circled junctions, one of which contains a spinning phone booth.  Most of the junctions contain one digit of the call you are placing.  The idea is to move to the right from junction to junction until you get to the junction with the last digit of the phone number.  If you don’t do anything on this screen for too long, you will automatically transfer the phone booth to the next junction along the circuits.  You want to avoid this if possible because each automatic transfer costs two coins.  You start out with 15 coins but they get spent very fast this way.  What you can do is press A to launch the phone booth out of its junction in the direction it is facing.  This costs no coins and lets you skip ahead digits if you aim properly.  There is also a red floating junction that you can control with the D-pad used to catch the phone booth if it goes in the wrong direction.  Some junctions contain skulls which both deduct a coin and fire off the phone booth in a random direction, often setting back your progress.  When you reach the last digit, you will have to leave things alone and let the call finish.  The circuit ends in a three-way fork, and as the call is finishing you can take the top fork by holding Up, the bottom fork by holding Down, or the center fork without touching the D-pad.  This determines where you land in the next area.

I’d be dizzy in that phone booth.

The main part of the game takes place on the ground in one of five time periods: Medieval World, Western World, U.S. Revolutionary World, Modern World, and Ancient World.  These levels are in the isometric perspective and you can walk around freely.  Use the D-pad to walk around.  Pressing Up moves you to the upper-right and all the other directions follow from that same angle.  It acts just like the default movement in Q*bert.  Press the A button to jump.  You take pretty large jumps and you can leap over some areas you can’t normally walk on.  However, if you land in a non-walkable area you will fall down and get temporarily stuck.  The only way out is to jump your way out, and sometimes it can take several jumps to get back on the path.  Use the B button to toss out your Good Stuff to help ward off some of the angrier locals.

Pressing either Start or Select during gameplay brings up a menu screen where you can see and do a few things.  The upper left shows where you place another call, should you so choose.  Hold Up and press A to bring up the touch pad to place a call.  In the upper right are the keys you need to get you out of jail.  Your Good Stuff is in the middle, along with a red selection box that you can move to choose which item you want to use with the B button during play.  You also see your coin count and which historical items you have collected so far.

As you are exploring the worlds, there are locals also moving around.  There are three types of locals who are distinguished by how they behave.  One type is the standing local.  You can walk up to them and talk to them.  They can give you items, coins, or hints on where items or historical figures might be found.  They also might tell you to leave them alone.  After speaking with them, they turn into the second kind of local which is the walking local.  They move slowly and mind their own business.  Don’t try to talk to them or even walk up to them.  When they are on the move they get angry and standing in their way will cost you a coin.  If you don’t have any coins left, then you get thrown in jail instead.  The third kind of local is the angry local.  They will pursue you directly with arms outstretched.  If you get caught by one of them, you get thrown directly in jail.

Don’t let them catch you!

When locals are causing you trouble, you can use your Good Stuff.  These are four different disposable items that affect the locals.  Press the B button to throw them.  You can throw different distances depending on how long you hold the button.  Pudding cups draw all locals toward them.  You normally want to throw them in the opposite direction you want to go.  Should a local grab the pudding off the ground, all the locals will go back to their original state except for the one who got the pudding.  That person mellows down.  Firecrackers have the opposite effect; when you throw one everyone runs away.  You can also throw a firecracker close enough to someone to blow them up.  Harsh!  Highly dangerous textbooks are smart bombs that clear the screen of locals.  Finally, cassette tapes start up some music that makes everyone dance.  Now you can go freely for a little while, but you still need to keep from running into a dancer or you’ll get tossed in jail.  Also, when the music runs out, any local on screen will switch to angry mode.

At the start, you are dropped off in a world you don’t know while trying to find someone without knowing their location.  You are going to need some assistance from the locals.  Occasionally, a standing local will provide some information on where you might look for items or which direction you should go to find the historical figure.  You will have better luck holding conversations with people indoors, but they aren’t always easy to find.  Throughout the worlds there are several buildings or houses with open doors.  Sometimes the door is locked and you can’t get in.  Other times you come into an empty room.  These rooms often act as warp rooms where you can jump to a different building across the map by leaving through the other door in the room.  Other rooms will have someone standing inside that you can talk with.

You can engage in conversation with a person within their home or building.  Walk up to them to start talking, then press A to advance the dialog.  When it is your turn to respond, you will see some possible numbered responses.  Press A to cycle through the different options, then press B on the one you want to say.  Each person has at least one possible conversation where they will be persuaded to help you out by giving you a hint on where you can find something outside.  Say the wrong thing and you will either anger all the locals outside or even get thrown directly in jail.  You get to learn which things to say to help get what you want.  After you leave, you can’t go back into the building you just left until you enter another one first.

Dialogue choices are uncommon in NES games.

The historical figures will always be located inside one of the buildings, however either they won’t be in the room or the outside door will stay locked until you first hold their historical item to lure them out.  There are both sixteen historical figures and sixteen historical items in the game, and it’s up to you to figure out which item belongs to which person.  All the people and items are listed out in the manual, so I did some pre-work to try and match them up beforehand.  Some pairs make sense right away, like King Arthur and the Holy Grail.  Some of them are silly matchups based on jokes, like Julius Caesar and Salad Dressing.  A few of them had an unexpected match.  For instance, I assumed Elvis would like the CD Player but that’s not the right pairing.

Finding the items is one of the biggest challenges in the game.  The items are located outside in very specific locations.  These are all off the main walking path and you have to reach them by jumping on top of them.  Did I mention they are invisible?  The hints you get for their locations are generally unclear, like “check the last fence” or “there’s something near a rock in the north.”  What helped me the most were the maps listed in the manual.  They give you the general structure of the world as well as a few specific locations marked.  They show you where the jail is, as well as the lower, middle, and upper portals, which correspond to which branch you took entering the world through the Circuits of Time.  The unmarked dots on the map represent either a building you can enter, a hidden stash of Good Stuff, or one of the historical items.  (I deduced that after playing for a while.)  The specific location of those dots on the map are not accurate, but they do help determine how many things you should be looking for between intersections.  You will still have to comb over areas well enough to find the item spots.  When do you find one, write the location down so that you can better find it again later.

The maps also indicate horse paths and canoeing sections.  You can take a canoe or ride a horse by approaching the path from the southmost entrance and hopping on.  Both generally function the same way.  Use Left or Right to steer, press Up to move faster and press Down to move slower.  On horseback you can jump over obstacles with A.  In the canoe you can find items on bubbling spots in the water.  If you make it all the way to the end, you earn some coins.  If you crash, then you don’t get anything.  Falling in the water pushes you all the way upstream, while if you fall of the horse you have to walk from where you landed.  I had a bad habit of missing the jump to the canoe at the start of the path, which also pushes you all the way upstream with no rewards.

Canoeing is a great way to earn coins.

When you find both the item and historical figure, you get a chance at sending them back to their own time.  You speak with the person and select the item the same way you handle conversation dialogs.  Pick the wrong item and you get thrown in jail, plus you have to locate the historical figure all over again.  Choose the right one and they will call a phone booth over so that you can complete the call through the Circuits of Time.  Completing the call returns the person, but if you run out of coins you get returned to the world and must collect enough coins to try again.

I’ve mentioned jail a lot and all the different ways you get sent there.  The concept is simple enough.  You can get out of jail by using one of your skeleton keys and walking right out the door.  It’s weird that the jailer doesn’t confiscate your things.  If you run out of keys, you are stuck there and it’s Game Over.  The worst part of jail is that it’s often located far away from where you need to go.

There are six levels in the game.  In Levels 1 and 2, you only have to return one person.  In Levels 3 and 4 you need to find two people, and in Levels 5 and 6 you get to return three people.  Each historical figure is in a separate world along with his or her corresponding item, so thankfully there are no crossing time periods to match an item up with its historical figure, at least that I noticed.  After completing each stage, you get to see the Wyld Stallyns in concert.  While not great musicians, they do progressively get better the further you get in the game.

I’m not sure how I ended up with this game, but I had just the loose cart in my childhood game collection.  I do remember spending some significant time with the game, but I have no idea how far I got or what I accomplished.  With no manual I had to go at it truly alone.  When you’re a kid who likes video games, you will spend a lot of time playing just about anything.  A loose cart is cheap, but in my experience, it was one I didn’t see much.  I believe my childhood copy is the only one I’ve owned.

Invisible hidden items make this game a chore.

It took me some time to get going on this game.  I managed to clear a couple of levels in the first week mostly by dumb luck.  A few days in I figured out what kind of information I could glean from the maps, so then I started mapping everything I could find.  Most of my time spent playing the game was doing the mapping and carefully examining every stretch of land.  I figured out most if not all of the possible landing spots for the historical figure in each world as well as all item locations but one.  Each world has four historical items but I only located three in the U.S. Revolutionary World.  The last level turned out to be pretty challenging and I just barely finished it in my video.  I ran out of keys after returning two of the three people and had to play super carefully.  The last person was in the U.S. Revolutionary World and the item I needed was found in the third and final position I documented, so I almost got stuck not knowing where the item would be.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure is always perceived as an undesirable NES game.  My view is that the game is essentially video game busy work.  The recipe for success in this game is having a good sense of direction and taking notes all the time, with a side of endless perseverance.  I made progress just about every time I played, no matter how little time I spent.  Every element on the map marked, every conversation I figured out, and every historical item properly associated with its owner helped the next time I played go a little bit smoother.  This makes the game tedious to play, but not necessarily difficult.  The number of angry locals increases in the final stages, but by then you know how to handle them with items or getting yourself off the main path where they can’t reach you.  The person’s location and items are always randomized, but there are only so many places they could be and you will narrow things down.  Sometimes you just get lucky and find what you need right away.  I imagine few people have beaten the game due to the time it takes to build up a knowledge base and catch a lucky streak, while stretching that out over several levels.  I feel comfortable saying it’s an average difficulty game with an above average amount of time and effort needed to see it through.

I will say that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure is mostly a technically solid game.  There aren’t that many NES games with isometric viewpoints, and this game manages that along with a jumping mechanic for veering off the path occasionally.  The graphics are nice, particularly the character sprites and some of the background elements.  The music is pretty good but they didn’t loop any of the tracks, while eventually results in silence a lot of the time.  The controls work well.  The only sticking point is that jumping when off the path only works if you allow Bill or Ted time to stand up first.  The music issue is kind of bad, but other than that the game works well enough.  It’s just that the gameplay is dull, repetitive, and dragging.  It’s like filling out a spreadsheet where the cursor repositions itself at random.  One wrong step and you get thrown in jail, and now you have to backtrack or try a different way.  You are asked to do this history hunting too many times over.  I’m not sure what they could have done to make the game more varied.  Maybe you already knew about this game and just thought maybe you misunderstood it.  I’m here to tell you all your assumptions were true.  I don’t hate this game, but I wouldn’t recommend playing it.

#106 – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure


#90 – Bonk’s Adventure

Bonk here, bonk there, bonk everywhere.

What a happy caveman!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 6/12/18 – 6/13/18
Difficulty: 4/10
My Difficulty: 4/10
My Video: Bonk’s Adventure Longplay

The 1990s in video games were all about the mascot platformer. The success of Super Mario Bros. was a very early frontrunner to this trend, and although mascots wouldn’t really hit their stride until well into the 90s, there are some early examples of games trying to piggyback off the success of Mario. The Sega Master System tried keeping step with Alex Kidd. Sega eventually switched over to Sonic, a formidable rival. You could say Master Higgins of Adventure Island is also a mascot with a platformer. The SNES and Genesis generation brought a lot of one-off type games with mascot platformers like Bubsy, Aero the Acrobat, Sparkster, and Ristar to name a few. The Nintendo 64 and PlayStation era stepped it up even further with big names like Crash Bandicoot, Rayman, Banjo-Kazooie, and Spyro the Dragon. Within the days of Mario vs. Sonic and the Console Wars was Bonk, a humble caveman starring in his own adventure on the Turbografx-16. There wasn’t a whole lot of console crossover in the early days, but for some reason, Bonk’s Adventure did receive a very late NES port.

Bonk’s Adventure was released first on the PC Engine in Japan in December 1989, named PC Genjin. The PC Engine became the Turbografx-16 in the US, and Bonk’s Adventure was brought over in 1990. The game was developed by Red Company and Atlus. A Famicom port called FC Genjin released in July 1993 and the NES version launched in January 1994. Hudson Soft published the NES version, however the developer is not clear. Red is mentioned on the title screen, but development has also been attributed to A.I. Company Ltd. There were three Bonk games on the PC Engine/Turbografx-16 and two on the Super Famicom, as well as some Game Boy ports and spinoffs and mobile games in Japan.

Bonk’s Adventure is a side-scrolling action platformer. You play the role of the caveman Bonk who must save the Moon Princess from King Drool. Just another cliché video game story. Bonk’s journey through Dinosaur Land will take him through many locales over the seven worlds in the game. You beat the game once you clear all the levels and beat all the bosses.

You gotta use your head.

You move Bonk around with the D-pad. Use the A button to jump. Bonk has a very strong head and he can use it to hurt enemies simply by jumping into them from underneath. Bonk will grab onto walls from the side with his teeth. In this state, you can climb the wall by jumping repeatedly. The B button is used to attack in two different ways. Press B while standing to headbutt. You can hit enemies from the side this way. While in the air, you can press B to do a flip. This turns Bonk over so that you can fall onto enemies with your head and hurt them that way. If you press B again while still in midair, he will orient himself upright again. You can do a bunch of midair spins in the air by pressing the B button repeatedly while in the air. This causes Bonk to fall much slower and you can use the increased airtime to make long horizontal jumps.

There isn’t much on-screen information to go by while playing Bonk’s Adventure. The top left corner shows three hearts. This is your health meter. Enemies can knock off your health in quarter-heart increments, but typically you lose health by half or full hearts. You can read a little more information by pausing the game. The pause display shows the current round and stage number, the number of smiley faces you’ve collected, and how many lives you have remaining.

There are several powerups to aid you in your adventure. A recurring enemy in this game is the Bani-Bana flower. They are stationary enemies that you can knock with a headbutt either from the side or above to reveal their contents. There are a few variations of the Bani-Bana flower. There are white ones that don’t give power ups, but instead launch Bonk skyward if he jumps on top of them. There is also an enemy that masquerades as a flower that leaps away when you wake it up. Since you are often left vulnerable while attempting to reveal the flower’s item, this means you will usually get hurt by this enemy if you aren’t careful.

Get powered up and crash through the bad guys.

There are many different pickups you get from the flowers. Fruit that is shaped like a carrot restores a quarter-heart of health, while red hearts give you one full heart and a big heart gives you three hearts back. The rare big white heart adds a heart to your maximum health. You begin the game with three hearts and can earn up to six. Smiling faces are collectibles that are redeemed at the end of each round. There are both small meat and big meat that power up Bonk when you eat them. You can also find little Bonk figures worth an extra life.

The small meat powerups give Bonk a head of steam, changing his form to the Grand Bonk. This is only a temporary transformation that is quite useful. As the Grand Bonk, if you do a midair spin and land on the ground with your head, it shakes the screen and damages all enemies. If you take a hit, you will go back to normal, and the effect eventually wears off anyway. If you collect the big meat, or collect the small meat again while Grand Bonk, you become invincible for a short time. You can really plow through enemies and clear a lot of ground in this state. When the invincibility wears off, you remain Grand Bonk until that wears off or you lose it.

You may see a small flower within a level. Grab it to ascend to a bonus area. There are three different bonus areas that have different rules. In the Jump the Canyons game, simply work your way to the right as far as you can while collecting the carrot-shaped fruits. Falling off or reaching the end completes the bonus game. You can earn smileys or even a 1up by collecting as many fruits as you can. You play the Flip Through the Air game by jumping off a tall ledge and flipping with B as many times as you can. The number of flips are counted up when you land on your feet at the bottom and you can earn smileys or a 1up. You earn nothing if you land on your head. The third game, Beat the Clock to Reach the Top, is the easiest one. Cling to the wall and press A to jump as fast as you can to reach the top. You earn more rewards for every second remaining on the timer.

There are bonus games you can sink your teeth into.

Most of the worlds follow a similar pattern. Many levels begin with a signpost with the round and stage numbers written on it. Levels proceed in one direction and there’s another post with an arrow on it meaning you’ve reach the end of the stage. The final stage within a round ends in an elevator that looks like a skull. Stand in front of it and press Up to take the elevator to the boss. These bosses are all large enemies that need to be bonked many times to defeat. After the bosses are defeated, evidently you knock them back to their senses. They each speak a few words of text after you finish the fight. Then you get health restored depending on how many smileys you picked up within the round.

One nice thing about Bonk’s Adventure is you don’t get set back at all if you lose a life. When you run out of health, you roll around and keel over. You can hang out in the death state for a long time while the game continues around you. Press Start to wake up with a new life and three hearts of health right where you left off. If you run out of lives, you can continue from the start of the round. This is a pretty severe penalty if you happen to lose your lives on the end of round boss. Fortunately, it seems like you can continue as often as you want.

This was my first time playing through Bonk’s Adventure. On the NES, this game is well known as one of the most expensive NES games. It’s the most expensive game I’ve played so far for this project. Here in 2018, loose carts sell for an average of $500 and complete in box copies average $800-$900. Bonk’s Adventure has consistently been in or near the Top 5 most expensive NES carts. I scored my copy in mint condition for $150 in 2014. The value of the cart was around $400 then so it was a killer deal. I just happened to find the listing for it on eBay at the right time within a lot of other NES games. That $150 bought me Bonk’s Adventure and 10 other common games.

The bosses are usually huge like this.

I had an easy time with Bonk’s Adventure. There was a learning curve to the momentum in-air. For the first couple of rounds I often missed my target while attacking from above. Powerups and health pickups were plentiful enough to help mitigate most damage taken from missed attacks. I was also bad at the bonus games at first, aside from the wall climbing one that is virtually impossible to lose. I thought the second round boss was the hardest one. It jumps around a lot and I couldn’t hit it when it jumped up into me, which sadly happened a lot. Those were the main issues I had with playing the game and I didn’t have any significant troubles otherwise. My first time through the game required one continue, but the second game through for my longplay video was a no-continue run. I didn’t check on the pause screen, but I think I ended up with about a dozen lives in reserve by the end.

Bonk’s Adventure is a quality game that is fun to play. The graphics and animation are very well done. The boss fights are really fun, though I feel they take way too many hits to defeat. The gameplay is tight and there are plenty of ways to attack enemies within the simple controls. The game can get a little repetitive, but at the same time there are a few stages where you swim or climb and it’s nice to have something different. I am not a big fan of the music. The soundtrack feels a little moodier and depressing than I would expect out of a game like this. The song during the end credits is something that would have given me nightmares as a kid playing games alone at night. It’s not objectively bad music, it’s just not for me. This is a good NES game all around. I would recommend playing the game, even if it falls short of the Turbografx-16 version like I suspect it does. But there is no reason at all to own this game unless you are a collector, grew up with it and still have your childhood copy, or got lucky and found it for cheap.

#90 – Bonk’s Adventure


#70 – Puss ‘N Boots: Pero’s Great Adventure

You won’t need any cat-like reflexes to get through Puss ‘N Boots.

This static title screen’s theme music has an ending.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 1/7/18
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
Video: Puss ‘N Boots Longplay

Most people familiar with NES games know of the concept “Nintendo Hard.” Things like limited continues, unfair enemy patterns, fragile heroes, and little to no checkpoints are just some of the features of games that have this reputation. In this case, Puss ‘N Boots: Pero’s Great Adventure has virtually none of these issues. That sounds great, but what is left is a game that is super short and way too easy. I’ll spend far more time explaining the game than it took me to play it. Maybe Puss ‘N Boots is the kind of romp that you might be looking for in an NES game, so read on to see if it’s something you might want to try on for size.

You have to go way back to find the roots of this game’s character. Puss in Boots is an old European fairy tale about a cat who tricks others in order to gain power and fame. The oldest known telling of the story was from the Italian author Giovanni Francesco Straparola around the year 1550. The most famous version of this story was later written by French author Charles Perrault in 1697 within a collection of eight fairy tales. There were many adaptations and retellings of this fairy tale, and the one of importance here is the 1969 Japanese animated film The Wonderful World of Puss ‘n Boots by Toei Animation. In this version, the cat was named Pero after Charles Perrault and he would become the mascot for Toei Animation.

Starting off within a ghost town.

There are two games based on The Wonderful World of Puss ‘N Boots. The first is the Famicom exclusive Nagagutsu o Haita Neko: Sekai Isshu 80 Nichi Dai Boken. It was released in November 1986, published by Toei Animation and developed by Shouei System. The developer is mostly known for Fist of the North Star games in addition to Puss ‘N Boots. The NES received the sequel Puss ‘N Boots: Pero’s Great Adventure in June 1990. The games are both loosely based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and are quite similar in style and structure. The NES game was also developed by Shouei System but published by Electro Brain.

The story is a little bit more interesting than your typical NES game. You play the role of Pero who was ordered by Count Gruemon to get rid of a mouse in his castle. Pero befriended the mouse and helped him escape. This really upset Count Gruemon, so he enlisted the help of Dr. Gari-gari to send Pero in a time machine to the past. To make matters worse, Pero is being pursued by hitmen from the Cat Kingdom because Pero violated Cat Kingdom law by helping a mouse. Pero must travel through seven different areas all over the world in order to track down and defeat Count Gruemon and Dr. Gari-gari and take their time machine to get back home. Do this and you beat the game.

Puss ‘N Boots is a side-scrolling platformer with a typical control scheme. You use the D-Pad to walk around left and right. Press the A button to jump and press B to fire your weapon. The Start button pauses the game. While paused, you can press Left or Right to select one of Pero’s three weapons. Then press B to equip the weapon and unpause the game. Pero can squat by holding Down. If you are standing on top of a ledge, you can squat and press B to fall through the platform. I’m not sure if this even works since I didn’t need to try it.

Pero travels by steamboat in mostly calm waters.

All of Pero’s weapons have unlimited use and you can pick whichever one you want at any time. The default pistol fires a straight bullet ahead. The bomb is thrown in more of an arc. It goes upward a little bit and then falls quickly, exploding when it hits the ground. It’s useful for lower targets. The boomerang is a pretty large weapon that is thrown in a huge loop spanning most of the length and height of the screen. You can have two pistol shots on-screen at once, but only a single bomb or boomerang.

There are a bunch of vehicles you get to ride throughout the game, all with slightly different controls and capabilities. The ship floats on top of the water. All you can do it in is fire missiles straight ahead or move left and right. The underwater submarine can move in all directions and you can also raise it by holding the A button. The B button fires torpedoes that can destroy pieces of land that get in your way. The car has the same missiles as the ship, but you can jump and move similar to how Pero moves on foot. The airplane has the same movement as the submarine but is armed with a machine gun that functions similarly to the missiles, and it only faces to the right so you can’t shoot behind you. The hot air balloon is more like the submarine but uses missiles like the ship and the car.

There are some items you can find along the way. The boot makes Pero invincible briefly and awards 500 points. The hamburger is also worth 500 points and restores some of Pero’s health. The money bag is just for additional points, but you can earn either 1000 or 3000 points each. The Pero face powerup is an extra life. You can see Pero’s remaining lives, health, score, high score, and weapon selection at the bottom of the screen during play.

Just driving through the desert, no big deal.

Puss ‘N Boots has quite the variety of enemies. For the most part, the enemies are suitable for the levels they are found in. There are pirate ships on top of the water, piranhas in the water, and birds and other balloons while airborne. There are weird enemies too, such as flying horseshoes and UFO’s. Perhaps my favorite are the giant lightning bolts that you can blow up with your firepower. Puss ‘N Boots also features a few boss battles at the end of some stages. These are neat but don’t really make much sense. After the ocean stage, for instance, the boss is this giant mechanical frog. You have to hit him in the mouth while he spews out smaller frogs. Bosses have a health bar displayed below yours during these fights.

Pero begins his journey with two extra lives. I don’t think you can earn more lives with your score, just by grabbing 1ups. If you lose all your lives you may continue. There is a Continue option on the title screen that starts you off with three more lives. Either using a continue or resuming after death puts you back at the most recent checkpoint. Some levels don’t have any checkpoints and other stages have more than one part to them with a checkpoint at the start of each section. It’s a generous system. The catch is that you can only continue three times before starting over from scratch.

This was my first time playing Puss ‘N Boots. It’s not the most common game out there, but it is inexpensive. I’m pretty sure I got my copy in one of those eBay bulk lots I bought often while actively collecting. It wasn’t until after that that I learned that it is regarded as one of the easiest NES games. It did seem pretty simple when I tested my cart out but I only played a couple of minutes.

Puss ‘N Boots is also part shooter.

The game’s reputation did not disappoint. I was able to beat Puss ‘N Boots in 20 minutes on my first try. It’s such a simple game and you don’t even have to take your time in the levels to have a decent shot at getting through successfully, at least until the end of the game. Most of the experience is move to the right and defeat any enemies that approach you. The final area is a door maze that also has some sections that scroll upward. There are two bosses in this stage. The first one isn’t too bad, but the final boss is surprisingly tricky and easily the most difficult part of the game. It’s easy to have your health sucked away fast. I used up a bunch of lives here but eventually I got through. I would have given the game a 1/10 difficulty rating up until the final boss.

There is nothing notable about Puss ‘N Boots on the NES. It doesn’t look very good for a 1990 NES game. I don’t recall anything about the music. They tried to introduce some variety with the different vehicles and weapons, but everything feels roughly the same. The physics feel very unpolished. Jumping and throwing projectiles is rigid, and you move forward faster by jumping all the time. Levels are straightforward and end before they get going. It’s the brevity of it all that makes Puss ‘N Boots completely forgettable. If you are in the mood for a short, easy game or get a thrill out of beating something new, then this is definitely the game for you. Games like this are very welcome for my kind of long-term project but aren’t all that interesting otherwise. You aren’t missing anything special if you take a pass on Puss ‘N Boots.

#70 – Puss ‘N Boots: Pero’s Great Adventure

#70 – Puss ‘N Boots: Pero’s Great Adventure


#63 – Kiwi Kraze

A fun platformer with a somewhat unfortunate name.

Nice graphics AND catchy music!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 10/22/17 – 12/1/17
Difficulty: 8/10
My Difficulty: 8/10
Video: Kiwi Kraze Longplay

I haven’t traveled all that much in my life. I have only flown a few times and never over the ocean. I guess I have just as much fun staying at home playing all these NES games. New Zealand seems like it would be a lovely place to visit if I ever decide to go overseas. The country is beautiful and many notable movies have been filmed there. It stands to reason that it would also make a great setting for a video game. It also makes sense that a game based in New Zealand would use the native kiwi bird as the basis for the protagonist. Kiwi Kraze is a fun game that is often overlooked among the glut of NES platformers.

The NewZealand Story started as an arcade game both developed and published by Taito and released in September 1988. The game was later ported to a wide number of home computers and consoles worldwide over the next few years. The NES version of the game was renamed to Kiwi Kraze, A Bird-Brained Adventure! in North America and is the only version of the game that was renamed. Kiwi Kraze was developed by Software Creations and published by Taito, and was released in March 1991. In Europe, the NES port retained the name The NewZealand Story and was published by Ocean sometime in 1991. The NewZealand Story was later included in the 2005 compliation Taito Legends. New Zealand Story Revolution is a Nintendo DS remake of the game released in 2007. That game was developed by Taito and published by Ignition Entertainment in North America.

In Kiwi Kraze, you play the role of the Kiwi bird named Tiki. Wally Walrus has captured Tiki and all his friends, but Tiki was the only one who managed to escape. Wally then sells all the Kiwi birds to various zoos across New Zealand, so Tiki sets off on a grand adventure to rescue all his friends, including his girlfriend Phee-Phee. Tiki’s journey spans five separate worlds, each containing four levels. In each level, one of Tiki’s friends is locked in a cage and you must reach and free them to move on to the next stage. You win the game after you have completed all twenty stages.

Yep, definitely New Zealand!

Kiwi Kraze is a side-scrolling platformer game. On the title screen, you can press Select to choose either a one-player or two-player game. It is alternating play so it’s not that useful. You use the D-Pad to move Tiki around during gameplay. Jump by pressing the A button. You can control the height of the jump a little bit by how long you hold the button. When descending, you can tap the A button to flap Tiki’s wings which slows down his fall. The B button is for attacking and the default weapon is a bow and arrow. You can fire quite a few of these straight-shooting arrows at one time to quickly mow down a row of enemies. Pressing Start to pause the game also displays a mini map overlayed on the screen that displays the relative size of the level, your current location, and the exit location. There are no walls or anything else displayed on the map, but it can be a handy reference at times to gently guide you in the right direction.

There are two main mechanics that distinguish Kiwi Kraze. The first is that Tiki can jump up through any floor. This must be a Taito thing because this is also how things work in Bubble Bobble. You can even jump through walls from underneath. You only land on a ledge successfully if Tiki isn’t stuck partway within a wall. When airborne within a wall, you are only allowed to move laterally away from the wall. Otherwise you will fall through the wall back to where you started. I know I’m not explaining it very well, but when you play the game for a little while it starts to make sense. These details of the movement are important because it has a direct effect on the level design. Stages scroll in all four directions. Moving sideways is straightforward, but it is much easier to climb to the top of the level than to get back down. The level design takes advantage of this by creating many paths that look closed off at a glance, but can be entered through some shrewd jumping. The stages also contain many winding pathways and often include multiple paths to reach the end of a level.

The other important mechanic is that Tiki can fly around the stages. Kiwis are flightless birds and Tiki uses balloons to fly. These can occasionally be found on their own, but most often you will acquire a balloon by stealing one from an enemy. Shoot the enemy and then jump on top of its balloon to take it for yourself, but aim carefully because you can also pop the balloon with your weapon if your aim is too low. You can even jump on a balloon while an enemy is still standing on it, which will knock the enemy to the ground and let you take control. Balloons fall under Tiki’s weight and you hold the A button to slowly raise the balloon and move upward. You can still use the D-Pad for horizontal movement and fire your weapon while flying. Press Down while resting on the ground to dismount. You can also lose your balloon if it gets popped by an enemy projectile or hits a spike. Any case where you require a balloon to progress is accompanied by an enemy spawn point so that you can commandeer a new balloon.

I’m gonna need that balloon, thanks!

Some levels contain water and Tiki can swim through these portions. He will don a snorkel while underwater and it’s pretty cute. At the bottom left of the screen, you will normally see your score counter alternating with your lives display. When underwater this display switches over to an air meter that slowly dwindles away. You swim with the D-Pad in all eight directions and the A and B buttons do nothing. Floating on the water’s surface allows you to breathe again, and you can also press the B button to spit water at an upward angle to attack enemies. Spitting water like this also refills your air meter much faster. For long water sections, you must find pockets of air and stop to take a breath before moving on.

There are many different kinds of enemies in Kiwi Kraze. Most enemies are not deadly to the touch, which is a departure from most platfomers. The ones that don’t hurt you will occasionally fire projectiles that do hurt. Bats are particularly sneaky because they toss out a projectile whenever you are directly underneath them, causing them to act like an enemy that kills you on contact. All other enemies telegraph their attacks in some way. Tiki is pretty fragile so a single hit kills him instantly, and you also lose lives by touching spikes and drowning.

One special enemy that can appear in any stage is the red devil. This is the invincible “hurry up” enemy that will chase you around if you are taking too long to finish a level. He can move freely through walls and you can’t get him to go away. You will receive an actual Hurry Up message prior to his appearance. Unlike most enemies of this type, he keeps a steady speed and you are able to keep away from him if you have enough space to maneuver.

There are several different items in the game. Some levels hold extra lives in the shape of a tiny Kiwi bird. The most common item you find are apples. These are dropped by defeated enemies and are worth 500 points each. If you come across a secret room, apples there are worth 5000 points. You need 100,000 points to earn an extra life. Sometimes an enemy will drop something other than an apple. These items are either different weapons or magic items.

Just about every enemy drops something.

There are three different weapons Tiki can use. The default is the bow and arrow which you can reacquire if you collect the red arrow powerup. The bombs are a downward-moving attack, and I find these have limited usefulness. The best weapon in my mind is the green laser gun. This gun fires straight shots like the arrows, but they move quickly and can also travel through walls. It’s great to blast an enemy on the other side of a wall so you don’t have to deal with them later. You keep your weapons until you lose a life or exit the stage.

There are four magic items. The magic book is a single-use screen-shaking attack that defeats all enemies. The magic watch freezes all enemies in their tracks for several seconds. Likewise, the magic staff gives you invincibility flashing for a little while. Perhaps the most interesting item here is the magic joystick. This gives you direct control over either your current or next balloon. You no longer have to toggle A to either rise or fall, rather you use just the D-Pad to move precisely in all directions. If you dismount the balloon or pop it, you lose the powerup. There are some locations where you can take shortcuts with some precise movements that are only possible with the magic joystick.

There are also different balloon types that have slightly different capabilities. The most common one looks like the head of a sheep, and you will use this one most of the time. There is a tall, red balloon that is very slow to accelerate upward, however the tradeoff is that this is the only balloon that is immune to spikes. Another balloon looks like a green ostrich and it accelerates the quickest. The last balloon looks like a carriage. This is the very first balloon you find naturally in the game, but you also get it automatically after you die while on a balloon. All balloons appear to have the same horizontal movement.

Most worlds end in a boss battle. The very first fight is the cleverest one, where you get swallowed and have to defeat the boss from the inside. That concept was also used in one of the bosses in Yoshi’s Island on the SNES, but Kiwi Kraze does it here first. The other bosses play more like a shootout and you have to land a lot of attacks to take them down. One world uses a complicated maze section in lieu of a boss fight. There is a least a little variety here, as well as using a different type of challenge than what is derived from the level design.

The best boss in the game.

Hidden within some levels are warps. These are invisible and are revealed by shooting their location several times. If you are firing arrows that vanish in mid-air, keep shooting. Then hop into the warp block to go to a new place! Some of these will lead to special rooms where you can find apples and maybe extra lives. Others take you to a location one or more levels ahead. You normally see a map of New Zealand with the level number before each stage. Take a warp, however, and you don’t see where you end up. Like extra lives, these are hidden in out of the way places. I only found a few of these and I’m sure there are many more that I didn’t find.

You begin Kiwi Kraze with three lives, and they can go by quickly. You can continue with a fresh set of lives, but you can only do this three times before being bumped back to the title screen. It’s the kind of game where you progressively learn the levels and usually get a little farther the more times you play. Kiwi Kraze has a wrinkle to this to make it more challenging. Typically, when you lose a life, you resume play from right where you died with an invincibility period. That safety net goes away when you reach World 4. For the rest of the game, a death sends you back all the way to the start of the stage. I was able to beat World 3 within my first few tries and then the rest of the game felt like wading through mud.

This was my first time playing Kiwi Kraze. I know the term is overblown these days, but I have considered the game a hidden gem. I bought my copy in the back half of collecting licensed NES games and it was one I was looking for specifically once I knew what it was all about. My cart is a very clean copy too, courtesy of a seller on Nintendo Age. I played through the first world right away and knew this was a game I would really like. But, it went back on the shelf like most others and I didn’t get into it until now.

Paths between spikes are slightly less dangerous than they look.

You might have noticed from the start of this post that it looks like I spent nearly six weeks playing Kiwi Kraze. Those dates are not what they seem! I had a little bit of free time on a Saturday afternoon and spent it on my first couple of attempts at the game. That following Monday was the beginning of the year-end tournament of an NES contest hosted on the Nintendo Age forums. That tournament lasted four weeks and I didn’t play Kiwi Kraze at all while that was going on. It didn’t take much to pick back up from where I started. I still needed around ten tries or so before I beat the game. Then another few days went by before I could record my full run.

I really like Kiwi Kraze. I think it’s a fun game with a lot of character. There are just a couple of things about it that I’m not entirely sure how I feel about. First off, the hitboxes seem a little off. Any balloon you ride on becomes the focal point of contact, and you can scratch your head on some spikes and enemies and not be hurt. Without the balloon, that kind of contact gets you killed. At least it feels that way. It’s just something you have to be actively aware of during play. Your instinct while on the balloon is to protect Tiki, but it needs to be on the balloon instead when gliding around spikes. The other thing is that the level design has a different feel that I don’t experience much. Most games like this rely on a larger 16×16 pixel tile, but the levels in Kiwi Kraze are based on tiny 8×8 tiles. This give more space for very detailed structures and challenges that are more puzzle-like. So you have these dense little areas connected together with wide open spaces where you can fly more freely, since the levels are still reasonably large. They chose to incorporate many narrow tunnels to connect all these pieces as well, not to mention the ability to jump through any floor like I already mentioned. I think it’s neat how it all comes together, but I can also see how this kind of design might be off-putting to someone else.

If you like platformers, cute characters, or both, I think you should try Kiwi Kraze. It’s a brightly colored game with neat, intricate design. The graphics are highly detailed with many neat drawings and backgrounds that add character. The downside here is that some of the tiny spikes don’t stand out. This music is catchy, which is no surprise given that the Follin brothers ported the music to the NES. However, they chose to use one song for every level in the game. It’s a good song, but it can get stale. The maze-like design might leave some players frustrated too. This is a flawed game for these few reasons and others, but I can easily look past them. I was really excited to spend some time with Kiwi Kraze, and I still have good feelings about this game now that I’ve seen it all for myself.

#63 – Kiwi Kraze

Kirby's Adventure Box Cover

#5 – Kirby’s Adventure

One of the true gems of the NES library, Kirby’s Adventure is a satisfying journey for all ages.

Kirby's Adventure Title Screen

This is one of my favorite NES opening sequences.

To Beat: Reach the ending credits
To Complete: Beat the game with 100% completion and complete all bonus modes
My Goal: Complete the game without finishing bonus games
What I Did: Complete the game without finishing bonus games
Played: 12/4/15 – 12/6/15
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10

In 1993, the NES heyday was over and the system was slowly dwindling away in the public eye as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were busy duking it out for the top spot. However, Nintendo still had a few tricks up their sleeves for the NES and arguably the greatest game published by them in the late NES lifespan was Kirby’s Adventure, a sprawling, bright, and colorful platformer that pushed the NES to its limits. The game is great fun and very playable today even if it is a bit on the easy side.

Kirby’s Adventure is the second game in the Kirby series that would eventually go on to span dozens of fun and creative games. But in it’s humble beginnings, the series debuted with Kirby’s Dream Land released on the Game Boy in 1992. Even in the original, Kirby has a very interesting moveset. His main feature is the ability to suck up enemies temporarily and shoot them back out as a star to defeat other enemies. Kirby can also inhale air giving him the ability to fly anywhere, and even the air puff he breaths out can also hurt enemies. As a platformer, the ability of flight renders pits as vaguely minor threats instead of the instant death traps they are typically. In addition, the original game was very short containing only 5 levels, the last of which rehashes the previous 4 bosses and features a final showdown with King Dedede.

Don’t even bother taking challenges head on!

Kirby’s Adventure takes the base formula of the original and expands on it in an substantial way. The main enhancement here is that Kirby can swallow certain enemies and copy their abilities to use for himself, which would become the core tenet of the series. Kirby’s Adventure features 25 unique abilities in total and he can use these abilities to take out enemies and in some cases provide some additional mobility for navigating the levels. Some examples of these abilities include Fire which allows Kirby to blow fire on his enemies, Spark which surrounds Kirby with electric shocks, and Wheel which lets Kirby travel really quickly over rough terrain.

The game features seven different worlds and nearly 40 levels so there is a much larger amount of content here compared to the Game Boy game. Each world is basically a large room containing doors to the levels as well as access to additional bonuses opened up along the way, and each world ends in a boss fight. Each level ends with a little bonus game where Kirby must time his jump off a spring-loaded platform to reach bonuses that get better the higher you go. Some levels contain a large button that Kirby can hit to open up a new path to some of these extras, but these are optional and are there either for the completionist or some extra help. Many of them are cleverly hidden in alternate paths or behind hidden doors, and some require using a specific copy ability.

Kirby already discovered the secret here but that’s okay!

The extra doors on the world maps hold several different types of rooms to aid Kirby in his quest. Museums feature either one or two passive enemies that Kirby can swallow to gain the ability that enemy holds. Arenas contain a fight with one of the mini-boss enemies. You can lose a life here but if you win you can swallow the enemy to get the power and as a bonus you are awarded with a maximum tomato for full health. Warp Star Stations allow Kirby to skip to any world where the Warp Star Station is revealed, allowing Kirby to skip around the map much easier. There are also three types of bonus games. Crane Fever is just like the carnival game where you have to position a crane over a Kirby figure that awards extra lives if you can grab it properly. Egg Catcher features King Dedede tossing out a stream of both eggs and bombs. Kirby just sits there and can only open and close his mouth. The idea is to eat eggs and ignore bombs, letting them bounce of Kirby without effect. Quick Draw is just like the old Western showdown where you must draw your weapon quicker than your opponent to win and Kirby must take on 5 different opponents to get the best reward. Each of the bonus games also has three different difficulty levels. Whenever the game is done, the door is blocked off so each bonus can only be attempted once.

Egg Catcher is the other way, Kirby! It’s fun!

Kirby’s Adventure is one of the games I grew up owning and playing, so I can get through it easily and I didn’t really have that much trouble on my run. The game is pretty easy anyway considering Kirby’s flight ability, his large health bar, many opportunities for extra lives, and his wide array of powers. There are only a few spots that are just a bit tricky. The boss encounters can be difficult the first time through, and many of the secrets for 100% completion are tough to find, but just playing through the game to the end credits shouldn’t pose a problem for anyone familiar with NES games.

The game has a decent length from start to finish so I am thankful it has a save battery for recording progress along the way because this is the first game I’ve played for Take On The NES Library that took me longer than one day to work through. I am sure this will be the norm going forward! I was able to beat the game over the course of three days, and it could have been done in two but I stopped right at the end because I needed to go to bed. 🙂

Once the game is beaten, there are additional options available on the file select screen that aren’t required to beat the game but are necessary if you want to do everything. Each of the three bonus games can be played on each of the difficulty levels to get practice. Both Quick Draw and Egg Catcher are very timing sensitive and I find them unplayable on my LCD TV. I probably should have given them a try on my CRT but I didn’t bother to do it. I have always had trouble on Quick Draw and I’m inclined to believe that it isn’t possible to win on higher difficulties without cheating a little on the timing of your shot. I didn’t feel like trying to grind it out on what would be strictly luck and I think that’s fine.

Superhuman timing PLUS drawing a cannon!

The next additional option is Vs. Boss — a boss rush where you must defeat each of the main bosses in order on one life without any opportunity to heal up. This might be the hardest mode to clear in the game and I handled it extremely well, beating it on my first try. I only took two hits of damage on the Meta Knight fight and I have never been able to beat him without taking a hit anyway so that worked out well.

There is another option that only appears if you find all the hidden rooms for 100% completion in the main game and that is the Extra Game. It is a complete replay of Kirby’s Adventure with only three bars of max health instead of the normal six, all the bonus games are set to max difficulty, and there is no saving at all so you have to beat it all in one shot. Those are the only changes to the game that I noticed. I would not normally have had the time to attempt the Extra Game but I was able to have an evening of a couple hours of uninterrupted playtime, plus I stayed up a little bit late so I could make it all the way through. The hardest part for me on the Extra Game was the Meta Knight fight which took me 8-10 tries to make it through with the shortened health bar. I have the game almost completely figured out except for that one fight, but at least in this case I was able to grind my way through it with the surplus of extra lives I gathered. Winning the Extra Game unlocks the sound test so you can check out all the sweet songs and sound effects the game has to offer.

Meta Knight is tough but even more difficult to fight when facing the wrong way!

A neat little easter egg hidden in the game is called the HAL room. All it is is a room with the developer’s name HAL written out in blocks. Several Kirby games have a room like this hidden in the game and Kirby’s Adventure is the first game to have one of these rooms. It appears in World 1 Stage 2 just beyond the warp star that appears at the end of the first part of the level. Normally you must touch the star to jump to the rest of the stage and the screen quits scrolling at this point to indicate that you have to grab the star to move forward, but there is a way to get the warp star to disappear allowing Kirby to move further on to the HAL room. I tried getting into this room myself when I played the Extra Game but I wasn’t able to trigger it, but maybe someday I’ll find it out for myself!

Even if the game is on the easy side it is still worth playing just to see all the neat things the development team was able to stretch out of the NES. Figuring out all the bonus areas isn’t exactly a walk in the park either so there is something here for everyone. If Kirby’s Adventure can be considered a sendoff to the NES, then it was quite a way to bow out. You could even call it’s a shooting star, burning bright, although this star never really fades away.

Kirby's Adventure Ending

#5 – Kirby’s Adventure