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