After my B.O.B review it dawned on me that my all of reviews so far had been for games on the Super Nintendo. Therefore I thought I would return to my 8 bit roots for this review and fire up the good old Nintendo Entertainment System.
In my reviews I like to give a little back story to how I came to acquire the game and this will be no different. My Mum, like a lot of Mum’s back in the early 90’s used to shop from catalogues – my Mum’s particular favourite was ‘Kays’. They had a video game section, however the prices were increased due to the fact that you could pay them off over a number of months. The cost of Gremlins 2 was an astonishing £49.99 and my Mum had got this and Tetris with the plan of letting me pick one of the two and sending the other back. As I already had Tetris on the Gameboy and had loved the movie, it was a no brainer for me; I chose Gremlins 2. (I did end up keeping Tetris as well…).
If you have seen my previous reviews (its ok, I know you haven’t) you will notice that this is my 3rd one based on a movie tie-in. I am a massive movie fan and even more so when I was a young lad. Therefore I tended to gravitate towards the movie tie-ins. Back then a little more effort was made with the licences on this type of game and they are not the generic rubbish that we unfortunately get nowadays.
The game box was distinct and featured one of the evil Gremlins, but what really caught my eye was the SunSoft logo. They had been responsible for possibly one of the greatest games to have graced the NES – Batman – therefore I was confident Gremlins 2 would be nothing other than amazing. I wasn’t wrong.
As soon as you start the game the cutesy ‘Gizmo esque’ music kicks in and a well animated Gizmo comes tumbling down from the top of the screen only to grasp on to the Gremlins 2 title logo. Already I knew this game was pushing the NES’ capabilities, a point further proven when you hit the start button. A nice movie style cut scene sets up the start of the game as we see Gizmo being released from his cage in the Splice O’ Life Laboratory (just like the film).
The game is a top down platformer which sees you take control of Gizmo with the story closely following the events of the movie: The first level is set it in the Splice O Life lab from which Gizmo is trying to escape. Once this level is complete, the next cut scene sees Gizmo getting wet and thus spouting the gremlins which will give gizmo all sorts of problems going forward. Every floor/level is separated into sub-levels and a signature gremlin from the movie waits at the end of each as the stage boss. These include the electric gremlin, machine gun gremlin and finally the spider gremlin. When you defeat the earlier bosses you are rewarded with a weapon upgrade to help you tackle the increasingly difficult baddies that are just waiting to kill you on the next level. You start off with the bog-standard tomato but are later upgraded to the match (which is found at the end of the first level without having to deal with a boss), paper clips, bow and arrow and finally the flame upgrade for the arrows.
When you kill a standard enemy, you are rewarded with crystal balls. It is easy to just not bother collecting these but if you do it will ensure that you are suitably rewarded. You see, when negotiating your way through a level, you may just see a little door magically appear from nowhere. Go through that door and you find yourself in Mr Wing’s little shop. Remember Mr Wing? He was that awesome Chinese guy who was Gizmo’s owner in the movies. He has various power-ups on offer and for a few of those crystal balls you’ve been collecting you can gain extra lives, an extra heart container (Zelda style) or a balloon which allows Gizmo to float over sections of the level for a limited period of time. This particular power up was my favourite as there are some parts of the later levels that you just couldn’t negotiate without dying – and subsequently wanting to throw your controller at the television. You just select the balloon from the item select screen and you are up up and away!
Because of the sheer ridiculousness of the film, the game could go a little crazy and call on an array of enemies for Gizmo to defeat. So as well as the various gremlins which are all represented from the film in some way or another, you have to despatch mutant tomatoes, rats, bats, spiders, and bombs (that chase you). You will sometimes come across a pogo stick which allows Gizmo to be invincible for a short period of time, or a light bulb which instantly kills all enemies that are on the screen. Both very welcome and needed at times.
Graphically, as mentioned, the NES’ capabilities were really pushed to their fullest, and they even rivalled some of the lesser 16 bit titles that would later appear on the Mega Drive and SNES. They are bright, detailed and cartoony. Perfect for Gremlins! The movie cut scenes which introduce the levels are also excellent and very detailed, closely resembling the characters and scenes from the movie. In fact, after watching the cut scenes you will probably just want to end up watching the movie again.
The music is spectacular. It compliments the gameplay perfectly and really involves you in the game. A good example of this is the boss battles where the music really ramps up the tension and the impending fight to the death. When you complete the game the music that plays over the closing scenes and credits is just perfect. For me, it’s up there with the moon level from Duck Tales as some of the greatest music to come out of that beautiful greyish box.
The controls are simple yet effective. One button jumps, one button fires your weapons. That’s all you need.
However your reflexes need to be as sharp as a tack to negotiate the various pitfalls which include spikes, moving platforms, conveyer belt, bottomless pits and lava. The responsiveness of Gizmo is perfect which makes the game one of skill rather than luck and whilst the game is not particularly long, the sheer fiendishness of the levels means it will cause you some serious problems; but without being unfair or too frustrating. Unless you are an expert game player you won’t be able to complete it without the use of a few continues or the password system, but when you do, the fact that it is so much fun to play will keep you coming back for more.
Verdict:- The Gremlins are a product of a bygone era but this game continues to draw me in and I thoroughly enjoy playing it again and again.
Just writing this review has reminded me how much I love and cherish it. Sunsoft did a fantastic job with the licence and if you do not have it in your NES collection then I urge you to rectify that. For me, this was in the all time top 3 games for the NES.
It came along towards the end of the system’s life cycle but boy was it worth the wait. A must own.
Second Opinion:- Transbot didnt listen, he never does though so surprise... I fed this game after Midnight... Whoops!
It's a myth that all film tie in games suck much like those liars who say shooters need more than two levels (fools) because this is another example of a quality title for sure. Ok it may not be the longest or hardest, smartest, sexiest videogame ever made but it sure is loads of fun.
If I were to have a moan (and I usually do) it would be to say that the colour pallette seems very flat here although maybe that's just the NES being all nowhere near as cool as the Master System (or something else not so shouty).
What is for real however is that this is absolutely worth a play for all retro fans and contains all the weird stuff you only ever really see in a videogame like... umm.... Evil Tomatoes and stuff.
Yeah, that happened!!!
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10