Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#138 – Tiny Toon Adventures

Become a little looney by playing this fun platformer.

They look so happy!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 10/28/19 – 10/30/19
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Tiny Toon Adventures Longplay

As a kid I watched a lot of TV.  We had cable growing up and we were a Nickelodeon family for the most part.  I only got into some of the series that were played on local TV.  I didn’t really watch the Disney afternoon stuff, shows like DuckTales or Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers or TaleSpin.  My interest more switched to Nicktoons once they got going in the early 90s.  Now I did watch a bunch of Tiny Toon Adventures, but despite that, I didn’t own or play the NES game.  I played a lot of Buster Busts Loose on the SNES, just not the NES entries.  Tiny Toon Adventures on NES is one of the games that escaped my childhood for reasons unknown, which is a shame because this platformer is really fun.

The Tiny Toon Adventures cartoon was created by Tom Ruegger.  Both Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin Entertainment collaborated on the show.  Amblin Entertainment was founded by Steven Spielberg, so that’s why you often see “Steven Spielberg Presents” on the show’s title screen.  The show ran for 3 seasons and 98 episodes between September 1990 and December 1992.  The first two seasons were in syndication and the third and final season aired on Fox.  There were also three specials produced.  The show eventually stopped production to make way for Animaniacs, however re-runs continued through syndication regularly through around 2005.  The show was also a critical success, winning 7 daytime Emmy awards.

There are about 20 or so Tiny Toon Adventures video games released between 1991 and 2002.  Konami developed all of the Tiny Toon games except for one between 1991 and 1994.  (They published the other one.)  Konami was one of the most prolific developers in both quality and quantity, so this series was in good hands.  There were three NES Tiny Toon Adventures games: Tiny Toon Adventures, Tiny Toon Adventures 2: Trouble in Wackyland, and Tiny Toon Adventures Cartoon Workshop.  Tiny Toon Adventures released in both North America and Japan in December 1991, while the European release was delayed until October 1992.  It was the first console game based on Tiny Toon Adventures.

High jumps are shocking.

The story is your simple guy kidnaps girl plot.  Montana Max, one of the villains of the show, is upset because Buster Bunny wins the award for Best Student Film at the Acme Acres Animation Festival.  So, in a fit of jealous rage, Montana Max has Babs Bunny kidnapped while on her way over to Buster’s house to celebrate his win.  Now, Babs and Buster are not related, just friends, so this particular version of this old story trope seems extremely lazy to me.  Anyway, Buster Bunny, along with help from Plucky Duck, Dizzy Devil, and Furrball, set out on a journey to save Babs.  There are six stages in this game you will have to complete to beat the game.

Tiny Toon Adventures is a platformer with standard controls.  Use the D-pad to walk around Left or Right.  The A button is for jumping, and if you hold A you get a big height boost after bouncing off an enemy.  You duck by holding Down.  The B button is mostly used for running when it is held down.  While running, press Down to do a slide maneuver.  There are also swimming controls.  Tap the A button to rise in the water and hold Up and press A to jump out of the water.  You can also shoot whirlpools underwater with the B button to fend off underwater enemies.

There are a few items that will help Buster and his friends.  Carrots are the standard collectible in this game.  There’s a counter for them on-screen and you can hold up to 99 of them.  Other items are found in balloons that appear periodically.  Leap into the balloon to pop it and reveal the item inside.  The most common item is the Toon-a-round, a ball with a star shape on it.  Collect this to change characters to either your designated partner or back to Buster.  Hearts give you an additional hit point from the bad guys.  Collecting a second heart while already having one gives you an extra life instead.  There is also a stopwatch that freezes the enemies temporarily.

Plucky can fall slowly and swim well.

At the start of each stage, you speak with Shirley the Loon who helps you pick your partner for the upcoming stage.  Sometimes, if you wait long enough, Shirley will recommend the best character to pick for the upcoming stage.  Each character plays similarly to Buster with some additional moves.  Plucky Duck can glide in the air by tapping A repeatedly. He is also a more effective swimmer than the others.  Dizzy Devil cannot slide, but he has a special spin attack when B is pressed.  There is a little meter that ticks down while spinning and you have to let the meter recharge before performing another spin attack.  Furrball can climb walls.  Push into the wall to grab on, then press A to hop up the wall.  Press the opposite direction and jump to leap away from the wall.

Hamton the Pig plays a useful role in this game.  Instead of being a playable character, he hangs out in a shop of sorts.  In some stages you will find a door to a room.  Go inside to pay a visit to Hamton.  He will exchange every 30 carrots into an extra life.  These are optional rooms of course but every little bit helps!

Most of the game’s stages have a similar flow.  Most often there are three sub-levels per stage.  Completing a sub-level gives you a score bonus for any leftover time.  The second level in the stage ends with an encounter with Elmira.  Just like in the cartoon, she loves to give our heroes a squeeze.  When that happens, however, you get sent back to the start of the entire stage.  You need to avoid her and wait it out until the exit door appears.  The third sub-level culminates in a boss fight.  Each of the defeated bosses drops a key that you will use to pass through Montana’s Max’s mansion.  This level structure lasts for most of the game before changing it up at the end.

Dizzy can bust through some walls with ease.

This was my second time playing through Tiny Toon Adventures.  I beat the game with a friend a few years ago, just passing the controller back and forth.  I think it took us a couple of hours to get to the end.  This was my first time playing solo.  This game is fairly common and costs around $10 for a loose cart.

My playthrough of this game was pretty standard.  For my characters, I went with Shirley’s suggestions of Plucky in World 2, Dizzy in World 3, and Furrball in World 4.  In the other levels I picked Plucky because I found slow falling the most helpful ability.  Furrball is probably the best choice in the final stage, though I went with Plucky and stayed as Buster for the entire level.  The first time I sat down to play it I ended up finishing the game in about an hour.  A couple days later I recorded my longplay.  I did end up restarting once during recording because for some dumb reason I kept dying in the first stage.  When I try to run through this game quickly, I make lots of mistakes.  I spend most of my time just walking, which works because the timer isn’t an issue and I gain some leeway to react to enemies and traps.  I had a few deaths here and there, but I didn’t have any trouble clearing the game both times.  I even triggered the optional boss fight with Duck Vader in my video.  If you beat him, he drops a big heart worth three extra lives.  I didn’t need any more lives but I was happy to just show off and win that fight.

Climbing walls to avoid Elmira is recommended.

This time I am not too confident in my difficulty assessment.  I felt like I came into this game with fresh eyes as my past experience with the game was long enough ago that it didn’t make a difference.  The difficulty is kind of all over the place, with some surprisingly tricky spots.  Some of the enemy patterns and approaches can be tricky.  You only can take one hit and that’s only if you get the heart pickup.  Avoiding Elmira is harder in the earlier stages than the later stages because they slowly turn into platforming challenges rather than avoidance challenges.  Lives are fairly generous and you get I think four continues.  Bosses are relatively simple though the last two fights got pretty tough sometimes.  The final stage is definitely the hardest one, they got that part right.  Smart character selection can mitigate some of these issues.  I found the game easy and originally decided to put this right at average difficulty.  After some more thought, I bumped it up from 5 to 6.  I’m not sure which is better but close to average difficulty seems right to me.

Tiny Toon Adventures is a fun platformer and a great debut for these characters in a video game.  The graphics are bright and colorful with large, detailed character sprites and portraits.  Konami really nailed the look of these characters under NES limitations.  The music is very good, including an excellent rendition of the theme song.  The controls work very well and I like the variety of moves you get with the selectable characters.  Gameplay is standard hop-and-bop platformer fare, but done well with a few neat ideas mixed in.  There are only a couple of things about the game I don’t like.  First, I feel the difficulty curve is uneven.  Second, the running speed seems pretty fast.  I’m good at platformers but I had trouble going quickly through this game.  These are nitpicky items however.  This is a well-made game that is fun to play, even if the source material doesn’t interest you.

#138 – Tiny Toon Adventures

by :
comment : 1

#42 – The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

Getting lost takes on a whole new meaning.

Seeing the year 1964 feels so bizarre.

To Beat: Reach the Ending
Played: 12/4/16 – 12/6/16
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
Video: The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island Longplay

As a rule, I tend to be overly optimistic in my impressions of NES games. Even the worst of the games I have played so far have had redeeming qualities and I have had fun with them. However, even my constant optimism can’t save the fact that The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island is an unpleasant experience. I made the best out of it anyway and now I can share what I feel is the worst NES game I have played yet.

Gilligan’s Island is a sitcom that ran on CBS for three seasons spanning 1964 to 1967. It was created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. The premise of the show is that a Hawaiian tour boat gets caught in a bad storm and wrecks on an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. The castaways work together to try and escape the island only to almost always be thwarted by Gilligan’s antics. The show was reasonably popular during its initial run but it grew in popularity later in syndication. This late popularity is likely what inspired a trio of Gilligan’s Island made-for-TV movies and a pair of animated series all in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island is the NES game based on the sitcom. It was developed by Human Entertainment, Inc. and published by Bandai America, Inc. Released in July 1990, not only was it an NES exclusive game, but it is the only video game based on the show. While not a video game, there was a pinball machine based on the sitcom. Named Gilligan’s Island, the machine was manufactured by Bally Midway in 1991.

If Gilligan thinks this is a good spot, it probably isn’t.

In The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island, you play as the Skipper with Gilligan following you along during your adventure. The game is broken up into four levels which are cleverly referred to as episodes. The levels act like a separate episode of the show each with their own self-contained story. Here you explore the island from a side view as you venture out to locate both your fellow castaways and items in order to progress the story to its conclusion.

The game has simple controls. Use the D-Pad to walk around in eight directions. The A button is for jumping, and the B button is used to attack. The Select button pulls up the in-game menu. In the menu, A is used to select the options and Select returns control back to the gameplay. Start is only used to start the game on the title screen.

Exploration is the main objective in this game. You are provided with a map that you can pull up from the menu that really helps. Each section of the map is its own side scrolling area and exits to other areas are located on either the top or the bottom of the screen. Capital letters are located on the map that indicate the locations of one of the other castaways. Typically, you will want to talk to them right away to find out what is going on and what they want you to do. The levels are all timed encouraging you to keep moving along.

The main mechanic in the game is that Gilligan must go along with you as you progress. However, you do not control Gilligan directly, rather he automatically follows behind you trying to keep up with you. The game is essentially one giant escort mission. Gilligan controls much like you expect his character would move in that he bumbles behind you and can often get stuck or left behind in some way. Despite your best efforts, it is assured that at some point you will lose track of Gilligan. When this happens, the clock temporarily changes over to a special two-minute timer. If you don’t locate Gilligan before the timer runs out, it’s Game Over. You need him with you to advance the story, so find him as soon as possible.

Gilligan forgot to follow me again.

One interesting aspect in the game is that the Skipper and Gilligan have conversations that carry on throughout the action. There is a lot of empty space at the bottom of the screen next to the life indicator and timer, so it is constantly filled with scrolling text. The banter is typical of what the characters would say on the show. This also applies to the conversations with the other castaways. I found myself talking to the characters again after each event just to see the different dialog.

There are enemies and traps that stand in your way. Most enemies are wild animals that are annoying. For instance, birds dive bomb you from overhead, and leopards run you over. You can attack the enemies but I find they are best ignored. There are also rolling and falling boulders and other similar obstacles that hurt you. Many screens have rocks that you can jump over, but if you land on one you can trip and take damage that way. There is also running water and quicksand that slows you down instead of dealing damage. In these places, you have to mash the jump button in order to get through. Sometimes you can get swept away to a different part of the map altogether. These places can be useful to jump closer to the next objective or alternately force you to backtrack several minutes.

There are several items available in the episodes. Many of them are quest items that you need to carry in order to progress the story, and these items are specific to a particular episode. One recurring item is the club that gives the Skipper better attack capability and this is often found early in the episode. There are also random item drops that occasionally appear on the ground. The banana restores two hearts of health when used from the menu. The hourglass adds a minute to the timer. A rope is a very useful item as this lets you immediately bring Gilligan back to you if you get separated no matter where he is.

Seeing an item on the ground is always a nice surprise!

The levels also include a cave system. Generally, you enter the caves by falling down a hole. These can be the biggest annoyance of all. If you want to go through a hole, Gilligan needs to go down first and you must walk around in a way to guide him into it. If you don’t want to go that way, then you should tread carefully so he doesn’t fall in by mistake. There are ladders but some of the holes are one-way without a ladder and that can set you in the wrong direction. Moreover, the caves are not always charted on the map, leading to getting lost.

Each episode features at least one boss encounter. These are simply larger enemies that try and beat you down. You want the club for these skirmishes and you fight them by hitting them before they hit you. The bosses take several hits to defeat and the fights themselves become repetitive and tedious. It’s also tough to tell if you are even damaging the boss or not.

At the end of each episode, you are greeted with a cutscene that completes the storyline. Then you are taken to a score screen where you get points based on your time, health, and items remaining. I have no idea why this game has a scoring system since this is the only time points are visible in the entire game. More useful than the scoring screen is the password screen. The game has only four levels, but they are lengthy enough that passwords are welcome. Passwords are simple sequences of eight capital letters A-P, which are still too long for this game but acceptable.

Gilligan is a boss fight spectator too.

This was my first time playing The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island. Before beating the game, I had only seen brief amounts of gameplay a few times, so the game was mostly a mystery for me. For collecting purposes, the cart itself isn’t common but not that expensive either. Today it sells in the $10-$20 range. I bought my cart off eBay in 2014 for about $9 shipped. I remember seeing this game at my local game store for I think $18 when I was actively buying. Eventually it sold but I’m glad I passed on it.

It only took me a couple of days to finish the game. I am good at mental mapmaking and so exploring the maps only taxed me a little bit. I was quick to latch onto using the rivers as warps, so that helped me clear the game more quickly. I only had to repeat levels once or twice before I had it figured out well enough to complete it in time. The pathing does get complicated in Episode 4 and writing my own map for some segments could have proven handy if I weren’t so stubborn.

I neglected to take video of my run through the game the first time, but I suppose I felt the need to have it recorded so I sat down and completed the entire game a second time. The length was just barely short enough to justify recording a longplay. The problem with doing this is that all the levels blend together because the graphics are consistent throughout the game. I know that I got turned around a few times and had to resort to the map much more often than I would have liked, but that was a necessity to getting it all completed in one attempt. I ended up dying once in Episode 3 and again in Episode 4, but in retrospect I think that’s actually a pretty good outcome.

The stream, mud, rocks, and bats all at once!

The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island is misleading in that it has the appearance of being a decent game. The graphics and music aren’t special, but they are adequate. The character portraits and cutscene graphics are nice, and the theme song sounds fine on the NES sound chip. The writing is probably the best thing about the game. I think the writers nailed the personality of the characters and dialog to the point that it feels like an episode of the show. The boss fights can be a bit tricky, but aside from those the game is easy enough that anyone with enough patience and a willingness to map out the levels can finish it. By all appearances, the game is a competent one.

The failing is entirely in the gameplay. This is the most boring game I have ever completed. The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island is window dressing surrounding a myriad of dull, lengthy fetch quests. You talk to people, you find an item, you talk to more people back and forth, you fight a boss, you talk to more people, and so on ad nauseam. You constantly need to wait for Gilligan to catch up to you lest you leave him behind. Nuisances surround you at every twist and turn. A single misstep can lead to several minutes of tedious backtracking on top of the normal backtracking already required. Death is particularly painful and is most likely to lead to shutting the game off, putting it back in storage, and never looking back. I would only hesitantly recommend this game to someone who is trying to complete all NES games, looking for something with easy difficulty, and possesses either elite patience or a glut of free time. Appreciating bad games would be a plus, too. That subset of people is tiny, and I would still feel bad recommending it even if all those boxes are checked. If you happen to be a fan of the show, just watch the longplay I posted. But if you do, don’t blame me if you come to realize it wasn’t worth your time after all!

#42 – The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island


#39 – Little Nemo: The Dream Master

What dreams are made of!

I usually listen to the good music for awhile here!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 11/27/16
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: Little Nemo Longplay

There are quite a few games I have discovered in the NES library where I play it and immediately realize that I have been missing out for years. Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of those games for me. I had most of the popular games growing up and many other good games, but there are so many games on the console that some end up being skipped. I am sure I had my opportunities to play the game much earlier since I was definitely aware of Little Nemo long before I played it. Either way, it’s better late than never! Little Nemo is a game that I really like and I am excited to tell you more about it today!

Little Nemo in Slumberland is a comic strip created in 1905 by an American cartoonist named Winsor McCay. It follows the story of Nemo and his adventurous dreams where each strip ends with Nemo waking up out of bed. The comic was published in the New York Herald until 1911 when McCay moved to the New York American. McCay was able to retain the rights to the characters and he brought Nemo to the American under the name In the Land of Wonderful Dreams from 1911 to 1914. In 1924, McCay returned to the Herald and revived Little Nemo in Slumberland until 1926 when it ended due to lack of popularity.

Little Nemo branched out into other forms of media over the years. A play was created in 1907 and another was created much more recently in 2012. There was a film made about McCay in 1911 that involved him creating animations of Little Nemo characters. There was an original opera performed in 2012. There have also been compilations of McCay’s original work, and McCay’s son even tried to bring back Little Nemo after his father’s death with lackluster results. However, the most notable work was the joint American-Japanese film named Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. This 1989 movie serves as the basis for the NES game.

You know you’re in for a treat when one of the first things you see is a giant mushroom!

Little Nemo: The Dream Master was released on the NES in North America in September 1990. It was both developed and published by Capcom. The Famicom release, titled Pajamas Hero Nemo, was released a little later in December 1990, and the European NES release debuted in December 1991. The story of the game follows closely to the 1989 movie. Curiously, the film was not released in the US until 1992, two years after the NES game. Capcom also released a separate arcade platformer simply named Nemo in 1990.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is a platformer game. You play Little Nemo as he is tasked by a messenger of the princess to rescue Slumberland and King Morpheus from the Nightmare King. Nemo must work his way through eight areas to beat the game and save Slumberland. True to the source comic strip, each area in the game is a separate dream with Nemo hopping into bed to start the level and being woken up by his mother after the level.

On his own, Nemo is not very powerful. He can move around reasonably well, including jumping and ducking, and he can throw pieces of candy. However, the candy can only temporarily stun enemies without dealing any damage. Nemo can feed certain animals three pieces of candy which causes them to fall asleep. He can then take a ride on the animal or sometimes actually become the animal, which gives Nemo the means to clear obstacles and fight enemies. You can press Select to switch back to regular Nemo and from there take control of a different animal if desired.

The Frog lets you make these tall jumps.

There are several animals in the game and each one provides Nemo a set of additional capabilities. For starters, each type of animal has a certain amount of health points that may vary from Nemo’s own health. Enemy attacks deal one point of damage to Nemo and he loses a life when he runs out of health. More important than health are the different animal abilities needed to properly explore the stages. For instance, in the first level Nemo can become a frog that can jump higher than Nemo to reach tall ledges, and he can defeat enemies by jumping on them. Later you come across a mole that lets Nemo dig underground to explore even more. Some animals can climb walls, some can swim or fly, some have useful attacks, and so on. You have to play around a bit to figure out what you can do with a new animal. If there is an obstacle in the level, then there is an animal nearby capable of tackling it. Therefore, the platformer has some puzzle elements to it where you need to track down different animals and experiment with their capabilities.

There are a few items that will help Nemo out. Small bottles restore a single point of health, and first aid kits restore all of Nemo’s health. There are 1up icons that give Nemo an extra life. Finally, the most important items in the game are keys. At the end of most levels there is a locked door with several keyholes next to it. To finish the level, you need to collect enough keys scattered throughout the stage in order to unlock all the keyholes. Unfortunately, you have to reach the end of the level first to see how many keys are required, and you are forced to backtrack if you come up short. Some of the keys are well hidden in alcoves and branching paths. You will need to master all of the creatures in the game and search high and low to meet the level requirements.

There are many different environments in the stages. The first level is a mushroom forest with giant mushroom mountains as well as caves to explore and waterfalls to climb. There is a jungle level, a sea level, and others. There is also an auto-scrolling train level thrown in there for something really different. There is always something new to explore and there is a lot of variety to keep things interesting.

What kind of toy house has crushers like this?

This is a bit of a spoiler, so jump ahead a paragraph if you don’t want to know. Toward the end of the game Nemo gets an actual weapon that he can use to take out the bad guys when he doesn’t have an animal helper. The difficulty gets significantly bumped up here in part by introducing boss battles. Not only do you have to get more used to controlling Nemo on his own, but you have this new weapon to figure out. It may seem like an unnecessary change in the game, but I find it quite a bit of fun.

Little Nemo is typically regarded as a difficult game, and to an extent I agree. The difficulty curve feels a little bit uneven with some levels more taxing than others, and then the game takes a significant bump up in challenge toward the end like I just mentioned. The game has infinite continues which limits the difficulty, however, the whole game is long and challenging enough where you may not be able to grind through it in a single sitting.

I didn’t own Little Nemo until much later in my NES collection, but I remember reading about the game quite a bit. I probably ended up emulating it first but only just to try it out for a bit. One of my good friends has a very small collection of NES games but Little Nemo is one of them, and he would tell me about how good the game is to play. That sold me on the game enough to seek it out. I don’t remember when or how I ended up getting my copy, but when I did I ended up playing through it shortly thereafter. I have played through it at least a couple of times before covering it now.

You can “bee” deadly if you must!

Despite my experience with the game, I don’t know it well enough to just breeze right through it. I remembered enough to beat the game in a single sitting, but not well enough to look good doing it. I recorded my playthrough but it is definitely not my best effort. I had to continue a few times, and I forgot some of the keys and had to go back and find them. Thankfully this blog is about finishing the games regardless of skill or style, so I’m satisfied with getting to the ending of the game.

I want to take a moment to praise the soundtrack. Capcom games tend to have really memorable music, and Little Nemo follows that trend. The soundtrack is often upbeat and I think it really captures that dreamy feel that should accompany a game like this. Some of my favorite tracks are right at the start, including the prologue, title screen, and Mushroom Forest theme. You can listen to all the songs at the VGMPF website.

Little Nemo: The Dream Master is one of those games that should be in any NES library. The graphics, music, and gameplay are all top-notch. There is quite the variety of animals, level layouts, and obstacles for a game of this length. Despite that fact that each animal behaves differently, the controls feel good and make sense all around. This is a title that is still affordable for any cart collector. The only negative I see is the uneven difficulty and the endgame challenge, but I welcome it so that’s not a problem for me at all. If somehow you missed playing this game like I once did, I would recommend giving it a try!

#39 – Little Nemo: The Dream Master


#36 – The Adventures of Rad Gravity

A “Rad” adventure that may or may not pull you in.

Rad floats around and points at which option is selected. Neat!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game with all health upgrades and items
What I Did: Beat the game
Played: 10/17/16 – 11/1/16
Difficulty: 8/10
My Difficulty: 8/10

One of my favorite game styles is the open world platformer, more commonly known as a Metroidvania. The Adventures of Rad Gravity does not feel like a Metroid game but it is sort of a similar experience, which took me by surprise when I started to get into the game. While the Metroid series is one of my favorite game series, this particular game is not nearly on the same level though it does have some moments that are really quite interesting. Let’s take a deeper dive so you can better understand what I mean.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity was developed by Interplay and published by Activision. It was released in December 1990 on the NES in the US and it later made its way to Europe and Australia in 1991. The Australian version was distributed by Mattel. The game is an NES exclusive since it was not released in Japan and had no ports to any other system.

The story of Rad Gravity starts with a colonization effort long ago between nine planets. During this effort Compuminds were developed that could communicate instantly between all the colonized worlds. At some point, a wizard named Agathos was transformed by some kind of weird space magic into a huge brain. Because of this, Agathos came into power and decided that he wanted to take over the colony and shut down all the Compuminds, leaving the worlds to fade away and decay. Some time later, one of the Compuminds named Kakos was discovered and turned on. He came up with a plan to restore the rest of the Compuminds and bring back the former colony to glory. Kakos cannot physically explore the planets and must employ Rad Gravity as the best space cadet suited to travel to each world and restore both the Compuminds and the colony.

Rad gets stuck doing the dirty work.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a side-scrolling platformer game where you play the role of Rad. You team up with Kakos to explore each of the nine worlds. The game begins in your spaceship where you can select an available planet from your monitor and Kakos will beam you down to the surface. Here you control Rad directly from a side-scrolling view. At the start of the game you only know the location of one planet, but as you explore you will come across the coordinates for other worlds. You will also accumulate different kinds of equipment to help you explore later levels. You can travel to almost any unlocked world at any time. Thus the item and level progression is how the game resembles Metroid.

The controls are simple. When controlling Rad use the D-Pad to move around, press A to jump, and press B to use a weapon or item. The Start button pauses the game and brings up the item selection bar at the top of the screen. Press either Left or Right to select the item you want to equip and then press Start to unpause the game with the item you selected. You can press Up on the D-Pad to enter doors or interact with computer terminals, and you press Down to duck. You can also jump down through certain floors by holding Down while jumping with A.

When inside your spaceship looking at the map, there are colored circles that indicate places you can reach by teleporting. Use the D-Pad to choose a teleport location and press A to go there. If you choose one of the planets you will zoom in on it to see either one or more possible landing spots. There are also stargates on the map that will warp you to a different part of the colony where you can see different planets. I found that the map can be pretty confusing to navigate when the stargates are used, so sometimes I had to bounce around for awhile just to figure out what areas were available to me, but it’s something I eventually got used to.

Enter your coordinates and get going!

There is a menu bar at the top of the screen displayed during the platforming sections. You can see which item is equipped as well as Rad’s health bar. There is also a score counter that is completely frivolous because you only earn points when collecting items. There are no points awarded for defeating enemies which seems pretty unusual for an action game.

Rad collects many items along the way to help in his quest. You begin the game with three very useful items. The Communicator item is your method to travel from a planet back to your spaceship. You can use it at any item to leave a level whether you are done looking around or if you get into a bad spot. When you teleport back to your ship your health is completely restored. That sounds really nice but there really isn’t much of a penalty if you die. Actually you can teleport out during the death animation and you still get full health back, making death a personal choice! The second item is the Translator which allows you to read messages found on computer terminals. The third item is a Laser Sword for close range combat.

The rest of the items are found along the way. The most common upgrade is the health upgrade. The item itself looks similar to a chunk of your health meter. Collect it to add another bar of health to your maximum. There are 15 of them in the game and some of them are well hidden. The teleport beacon is a neat item with some really clever uses for the resourceful player. It comes in two parts. Press B when equipped to throw one on the ground, and press B again to teleport to the exact spot you dropped it. The beacon location is lost whenever you go back to your ship, but you can use to teleport back no matter how far away you go or how many screens away you are. Another item is the Energy Disk that acts like a hoverboard. Deploy it with B and hop onto it and you can float on it while moving left or right. You can move downward with it but you cannot go up. If you jump off then it vanishes. This item does force you to spend a bar of your health to use it so you will only use it in a few cases. There are also three different levels of armor upgrades that lower the health loss when taking damage.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy a health upgrade!!

The rest of the items are weapons. There is a sword upgrade called the Super Sword that gives slightly longer range and more attack power than the base sword. You get a Power Pistol that fires bullets horizontally across the screen. You can upgrade it to the Vertigun that lets you also fire vertically, and you can later find the Maxigun that gives it a power boost. Saurian Crystals act as bombs that you toss in an arc ahead of you, and you can find the Crystal Bombs to power them up even further.

There are ten levels in The Adventures of Rad Gravity. Cyberia looks like a cityscape with a few buildings to explore. Effluvia is the garbage dump of the colony. Sauria is a jungle styled level with some vicious baby dinosaurs. Turvia is flipped completely upside down for a unique experience. Vernia is another city high up in the clouds. The Asteroid Belt contains an abandoned spaceship. Utopia is a planet with two sides and an underground factory. Odar contains an underground maze. Volcania is a burning planet with active volcanoes as you might expect from the name. Telos is the final planet shrouded in mystery!

There are quite a few enemies and traps that stand in Rad’s way. Most of them are your run of the mill enemy types that can be killed with a few attacks. However there are quite a few obstacles that have some kind of unique behavior attached to them. Some enemies you can kill and they explode after a short pause sending shrapnel across the screen. Other enemies cannot be killed but they can be manipulated by how you shoot them. Some enemies can be pushed around if they are blocking a critical path. Sometimes an enemy can push Rad through small spaces that he cannot walk through by himself. There are some enemies that Rad can safely ride on top of. These enemies tend to be put in places where you have to think more about what to do to get past them rather than just engaging in pure combat.

Weaving and bouncing through the asteroid belt can be really taxing.

By the same token, there are certain kinds of mechanics that only appear in a single area in the game. In one level, you have to place a peg inside a hole on top of a gate that opens it. One levels has keys to find. There are blocks you can push that you need to use as stepping stones to clear certain jumps. In the Asteroid Belt you need to navigate between obstacles by firing your gun in the opposite direction to push Rad around as he floats in space. The game does have a variety of things to do in all kinds of environments that make the game interesting.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity does feature a few boss battles mostly in the second half of the game. Similar to the enemies, the bosses tend to have some kind of unique gimmick associated with them where you have to figure out what to do to effectively fight them. These solutions are not always obvious and there was more than one moment where I was left scratching my head.

While not overly long, this is not a game you can finish in a single sitting unless you have already played through it a few times. Fortunately the game has a password system! The only way to trigger the password screen is to actually die in a level without teleporting out of it, which is a little annoying to do. The passwords themselves are 20 characters long and they track all of the items collected and planets unlocked.

Hmmm I wonder how to fight the green blob?

This was my first time playing The Adventures of Rad Gravity. I did not really know about this game until I started my big push for collecting NES. The only way it really stood out at all early on is because of the bright orange label. I ended up buying this cart individually on eBay in 2014 for a little over $7 shipped. While not a terribly expensive game, that cart had the best price I have seen on it so I snagged it right away. The game now sells typically in the $15-$20 range and that price is not too much higher than it was when I bought the game.

I started playing Rad Gravity when my wife was out of town for a couple of days. I was able to put in about 4-5 hours of play time and that got me about halfway through the game. The latter half of the game took longer and I spent two weeks grinding through it. Some of the difficulty stemmed from not knowing which area was the correct one for my current item loadout and some of it came from figuring out how to best clear the areas themselves. I struggled some on the bosses too. I am happy to report that I managed to beat the entire game without looking up anything in a walkthrough. Some of the solutions are obtuse enough that it was no small feat to clear the game on my own. Now this was not a 100% complete run because I missed some health upgrades as well as one of the powered up weapons if I recall correctly. I watched a longplay of the game with all items and some of the ones I missed I probably would not have found on my own. There is only one ending regardless of item completion so reaching the credits is enough to consider the game beaten.

Here’s a tip that helped me get through the game. I found the manual to be particularly helpful for a specific reason. Toward the back of the manual is a section called Top Secret Clues. These hints in and of themselves were only occasionally helpful. The clues are grouped by planet and the order of the planets listed in this section is the same order you can play through the levels. It turns out you do not have to follow this exact order but this way definitely works if you want to take the guess work out of where to go next.

Trying to figure out this stage had me running on fumes.

I have mixed emotions about the game. There are some really neat elements to the game that I have already mentioned, but the whole package doesn’t add up quite right. If I had to describe my experience in a single word, I would choose clumsy. The jumping physics feel really heavy most of the time, meaning you can jump pretty high and then fall down hard. In contrast, the level design is often claustrophobic with long tight horizontal corridors. The jumping combined with the level design can lead to missed jumps and a lot of unnecessary frustration. The sword is not really a great weapon and you are stuck with dealing with close combat and hardly any health at the beginning of the game. The backgrounds can be very unclear on which blocks are solid and which ones are just decoration. The way to make progress is not always obvious making it easy to get fed up with the game, at which point you might drop it altogether or dip into a walkthrough at the slightest hint of getting lost. But I have to say, there were some moments where I figured out something that was so cleverly done that it will stick with me for a long time. It is really hard for me to pick a side here!

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a really tough game for me to give a strong recommendation. It’s not a great game, it’s not a hidden gem, and it’s not really even an average game. Instead it is a combination of varying highs and lows. I think this is a game that you have to play to know if it’s something you will like. Watching videos or looking at screenshots do not convey well what this game is all about. And frankly reviews don’t do it much justice either. It seems to me that most reviews give up on the game before some of the neat stuff starts. My hope is that this post will highlight the game just enough for you to decide if you want to seek it out on your own and form your own opinion.

#36 – The Adventures of Rad Gravity