Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#92 – Whomp ‘Em

The name is a terrible pun, but the game is fun.

I wonder how much thought was put into the name.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 7/1/18 – 7/5/18
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
My Video: Whomp ‘Em Longplay

I know this is cliché, but first impressions aren’t always what they seem. I played Whomp ‘Em many years ago on an emulator on one of my first computers. I wish I could remember what led me to play this game in particular, but whatever it was, I got a solid recommendation. I had a great time working through the game, that is, all the way up to the very end. The final boss completely wrecked me, and after a few failed attempts, I quickly decided that seeing the ending was not worth the effort required to learn how to beat the boss. I let it lay there until now. When Whomp ‘Em came up, the first thing I remembered was that final boss and my past struggles. My second impression was more favorable than the first impression. Read on to see how it all shook out.

Whomp ‘Em has an interesting origin, which begins with the game Saiyuki World on Famicom. Saiyuki World is a port of the game Wonder Boy in Monster Land. The Wonder Boy series is perhaps one of the most confusing series of games to try and deconstruct, and I’m not touching that here. Anyway, a sequel, Saiyuki World 2: Tenjokai no Majin, was released on Famicom in December 1990. This was brought to the NES as Whomp ‘Em, with the main character changed to a Native American. Whomp ‘Em was released in March 1991 in North America. The game was published and developed by Jaleco in both regions.

Whomp ‘Em is a side-scrolling platformer. There is virtually no story to this game, which really is a breath of fresh air if you ask me. You play the role of Soaring Eagle, a young Native American who is seeking out totems for his magical pouch. That’s it. There are eight levels and you beat the game if you complete them all.

Good start for a kabob.

This game has simple controls. You use the D-pad to walk around. Press the A button to jump. Soaring Eagle wields a spear. You can attack above you by holding Up while you jump, and similarly attack below by holding Down while jumping. Press B to attack forward with your spear. He thrusts the spear ahead of him a short distance. You can duck by holding Down, and you can raise your staff by holding Up. Ducking lets you attack low against the ground, but holding your spear above your head seems to serve no purpose in the game, other than a visual cue that you are holding Up. The Select button pauses the game this time, while Start lets you switch between your totems after you collect them.

You are thrust into the action right away when you start a new game. This is a special introductory stage to get you accustomed with the game. You work your way to the right and come to a screen where you must go upward to proceed. Later in the level you encounter another vertical subsection where you go back down. Most if not all levels in the game travel in different directions like this. When you complete the level, you are presented with a map screen. This contains the next six levels in the game. You can play these stages in any order you want. The eighth and final stage is available once the other stages have been beaten.

The top left corner of the screen is your on-screen display. At the top is the current totem you have selected. To the right of that there may be some magic potions. These act as your extra lives. If you run out of health, the potion kicks in automatically if you have one, restoring some of your health back. Below the totem is your health meter in the form of hearts. You begin the game with a maximum of four hearts but can earn up to twelve throughout your adventure.

Vertical sections are a good place for downstabbing.

There are quite a few items you can collect in the game. You can get these from defeated enemies or from touching certain locations in the levels to make items appear. The most common pickup is the gourd. When you pause the game, you get a display saying “More” along with a number. This is how many gourds you need to collect to increase your maximum health meter. You’ll want to defeat a lot of enemies to get these. The small heart restores a heart and the large heart refills your health to the max. There is a flint spearhead that boosts your attack power temporarily. You will see this hover in the bottom corner when you collect it and it goes away after four spear strikes. Similarly, the headdress gives you a temporary boost in defense. The deerskin shirt makes Soaring Eagle invincible for a few seconds. Certain enemies in each level drop a spear which gives you a longer reach to your default weapon for the rest of the stage. Finally, you can find those magic potions. You can hold up to three at one time. One bad thing about the potions is that some bosses can steal them from you. That’s awfully unfortunate and something to be aware of.

Whomp ‘Em has a little bit of Mega Man to its structure. Not only can you play stages in the order you want, but you also earn a new weapon by defeating the boss at the end of each stage. Press Start to cycle through the totems you have collected. Most of these are more like tools than weapons. Beating the Sacred Woods gives you the Spear Whirlwind. You spin the spear in front of you to break certain blocks. The Fire Wand is your reward for completing the Fire Test. This makes flames come out of the tip of your spear that is useful for melting ice blocks. You get the Cloud by completing the Ice Ritual, which summons a cloud that you can jump on and ride with the D-pad. Beating the Water Test gives you the Ice Crystal, which can freeze enemies. You obtain the Web from the Magic Forest. This lets you capture an enemy in a web and you can then throw the trapped enemy. You earn the Dart from beating the Secret Cliff. This is a weak projectile attack that shoots darts, which can then stick into the wall and be used as makeshift platforms. The manual states that using the totems and their abilities cost you health, but all of these weapons can be used as much as you want without penalty.

Fire is sometimes used to melt ice.

There’s one final level remaining after all six selectable stages are beaten. This is your typical “use all of your abilities” stage and it is quite a bit harder than the rest of the game. One neat tidbit about the last level is that all the enemies are miniature versions of the bosses you fought in the previous six stages. You also get one last totem for this final stage as well. This attack fires a large dragon head forward. It is the most powerful weapon in the game, however this totem does cost you a full heart of health each time you use it.

Whomp ‘Em is somewhat forgiving when it comes to failure. Since you get healed with magic potions when you exhaust your health, you get to keep going as if nothing happened. Losing all your potions and health means Game Over. Then you get sent back to either the level select screen or the start of the final level if you died there. Repeating the full level can be a bit frustrating, but you do get unlimited continues.

I finally got to beat Whomp ‘Em for the first time. This is a game that used to be much more affordable. I am certain it has been featured many times as a hidden gem which would account for the price hike. I was able to grab a couple copies of this game locally for around $8-$10 each a few years ago, in combination with either buy two get one free, or buy three get one free, back when my local stores didn’t realize the value of this game. Loose carts sell for around $35 these days so those were great value buys for me.

Poke bosses, get totems.

I had sat down to record Jordan vs. Bird and then had enough time to start looking at Whomp ‘Em. Not even two hours later I beat the game for the first time. It was mostly a leisurely romp through the bulk of the game, aside from a couple bosses that took more than one attempt. The final level wasn’t all that bad, though it included one random section of anti-gravity with some strange movement controls. I finally got to face that final boss again, and I can see why I gave up before. He has an attack that damages you anywhere on screen and it is not obvious at first that this is happening. The trick to the fight, unfortunately, is to cheese the boss. I entered the fight with as much health as possible and all three potions, and then used the dragon attack to whittle his health down, in effect trading one heart of my health for one of his. It was a bit of a letdown that strategy was thrown out the window, but what can you do when the boss is unfairly designed? I am relieved that I figured it out this time, anyway. I beat the whole game again a few days later and captured it on video. This was a no-continue run with only using a few potions, mostly on the final boss battle.

Whomp ‘Em is a fun game that bears some flaws. I like the graphics in this game. Everything is nicely detailed and the enemies and bosses were animated well. The music is hit or miss. Most songs are good but there are a few that get on my nerves. I spent a lot of time in the final level and that song could have been a little less painful. The gameplay is exactly what you want out of a platformer. The controls are tight and being able to attack in all directions keeps the action going. I found the special weapons almost entirely useless until the final level where they are forced upon you. I am disappointed that the final boss went from too hard to too easy after employing a now-obvious strategy. My second impression of Whomp ‘Em took a much different turn than my first. Most of the ride through the game is great fun and I’m glad I got to play through it here.

#92 – Whomp ‘Em