By Chris Cummins
From E.T. to Lost, video game spinoffs of TV shows and films have a consistent track record of being lame. This phenomenon was never more apparent than during the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System when it seemed like every third game released was an attempt to cash in on a screen property. Every now and again, one of these releases was actually quite decent (see Goonies II), but mainly they were boring platformers that were heavy on aggravation and light on fun. Here’s a look at eight TV/movie games for the NES that either squandered their potential or just plain sucked.
8) Fester’s Quest
Everybody’s favorite creepy bald monk had his chance to shine in this NES atrocity based on The Addams Family. He blew it like the class slut on prom night. Released before the big screen remake of the series, this game’s existence hinges on the flawed assumption that kids playing their NES actually gave a shit about the creepy and altogether ooky characters that populate the Addams’ universe. The inexplicable sci-fi plot has Fester attempting to stop an alien invasion with the occasional help of Wednesday, Pugsley and Thing. Not fun or involving on any level (literally), Fester’s Quest is an uninspired side-scroller best left to the annals of obscurity.
7) Hollywood Squares
One of the many NES adaptations of game shows, Hollywood Squares lets two players test their trivia knowledge against famous folks in an overblown game of Tic Tac Toe. Uh, except there’s Joan Rivers or Shadoe Stevens to be found. Instead, players get to watch non-descript characters like Old Woman, Big-Breasted Whore and Smiling Douche crack wise before they answer a question. Hollywood Squares entire raison d'être is for celebrities to show up and make with the funny. Without the B-list celebs, the game has no point. Would it have killed them to include computerized representations of Paul Lynde or Charo? Say what you will about Jim J. Bullock, at least he’s not just some random pixels on a screen.
6) Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Marred by overly difficult gameplay that makes completion nearly impossible without passwords or one of those newfangled Game Genie devices that the uncoordinated kids (i.e. me) had to use to cheat, this release is full of missed opportunities. Taking on the role of Gizmo, players have to maneuver the Mogwai through the Clamp Center building, squaring off against the film’s mutated Gremlins along the way. With the best graphics and cut scenes of any NES game, Gremlins 2: The New Batch should have been a classic for the console. Unfortunately, its unlimited potential twas killed by its needless complexity. It’s a pity that its publisher Sunsoft—who was also responsible for the superb Batman game—didn’t make this one easier. It could’ve been one for the ages.
5) Back to the Future II & III
My proposed tagline for this one? "If you thought Doc having twins named Jules and Verne was bullshit, you ain’t seen nothing yet!" Two terrible games in one, Back to the Future II & III has you traveling throughout various eras to collect objects needed to restore the space time continuum. Whereas LJN’s Back to the Future was a knockoff of Paperboy, this one shamelessly rips off Super Mario Brothers—though minus the fun and psychedelic visuals. Part of the problem here is that it requires extreme patience to complete the various tasks that make up the game. This is not a virtue that the average Nintendo player had when this game came out back in 1990, what with all the issues of Thrasher/Sassy to read and lusting after Alyssa Milano/Jason Bateman to do. If you actually went ahead and finished the Back to the Future: Part II portion of the game, you’d just have to play the same levels again in Part III, only this time they were Wild West-themed/way more difficult. When you take it upon yourself to check this one out, be sure to track down the password that will let you play the 1885 levels immediately. There’s no need to waste more time on pointless nostalgia than is absolutely necessary.
4) Ghostbusters II
For my money, Activision’s Ghostbusters game for the Commodore 64 is the greatest video game based on a movie. From its sing-along opening sequence and its Wheel of Fortune-esque shopping segments to the final showdown with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the game perfectly recaptures the fun of the film. Thus, when it was announced that a videogame spinoff would be released in conjunction with the movie’s sequel, I eagerly awaited a game that I believed would be an equal to its predecessor. On the day of its release, I had my dad drive me to my local Kiddie City to joyfully plunk down $49.99 for it. Given what the title of this Daily List is, you already know how this turned out. Just as the film didn’t live up to most peoples expectations, neither did the game fulfill my hopes. (Full disclosure: I enjoy the movie, flawed though it may be).
Starting with four lives, players must first make their way through a haunted subway station without getting killed by floating heads, spiders or Slimer, who is supposed to be your ghost friend. If you don’t throw the game across the room after two minutes, you’ll get to drive the Ecto-1 to another excruciating level. It goes on like this for awhile until you eventually get to kill ghosts using the Statue of Liberty’s torch, which would be cool if the level didn’t take hours to complete. Masochists who stick with the game and defeat Vigo are treated with an end sequence that consists of a newspaper with ass-looking illustrations of the Ghostbusters. Forget the villains, the only things haunting Venkman, Spengler, Stanz and Zeddmore in this game are repetitive levels and cheap deaths. Further adding to the frustration is the fact that a much better Ghostbusters II game was released overseas. So much for America being the greatest country in the world.
3) Total Recall
Here’s something fun to do, walk around all day and repeat the phrase "Cohaagen, give da people deir air." Or, do an impersonation of Schwarzenegger falling down a cliff. Perhaps you could idle away the hours figuring out if you prefer your romantic partners to be sleazy or demure. Whatever do you with your time, don’t waste it on this game.
After a promising opening screen that features an image of someone who slightly resembles Arnold Schwarzenegger, gamers are clued in to the film’s plot in a text sequence that features a futuristic font. The future’s neat, right? So the game has to be good! Before you know it, Quaid is fighting off rats and steam and pipes and fidgets in pink suits, just like in the movie! With enough perseverance, you can fight Sharon Stone and relive the film’s climax. But chances are by then it will be 2012 and you’ll be too busy dealing with the apocalypse to worry about mourning for Kuato.
2) Yo Noid
In the wake of California Raisins mania, Domino’s Pizza enlisted claymation pioneer Will Vinton to create a new corporate mascot for them, the Noid. Possessing the neuroticism of Sonny the Cuckoo Bird and the obsessive-compulsive traits of the Hamburglar, the Noid gained popularity through his constant attempts to destroy pizza pies the world over. For some reason, the Noid became one of a select few advertising characters to receive an NES game (a mini-trend that also gave us the surprisingly not awful Spot: The Video Game featuring the former 7-Up icon). A typical lame-ass side-scrolling adventure, Yo Noid has the character facing off against his evil twin in order to save New York City and get a pizza reward. Okay, wait, in this game’s universe, the Noid is good? And if so, his motivation for saving the day is to receive large quantities of a foodstuff that he has dedicated his life to destroying? That’s like telling Mario if he rescues the princess he’ll be treated to watching her get gang-raped by Bowser’s minions.
1) Gilligan’s Island
Just sit right back and you’ll hear the tale of the shittiest NES game ever released. Let’s say time travel existed and was somehow made available to the public. Do you know the first thing I would do is? I’d travel back to 1992 and kick my 16-year-old self’s ass for shelling out $50 on this waste of plastic and technology. But times were different then and so great was my affection for all things Sherwood Schwartz that I simply had to own this. On the way home from buying it, I convinced myself that the game’s background music would be that great "You Need Us" song from the episode when The Mosquitos came to visit the island. In the first of the game’s many disappointments, it wasn’t.
Broken up into four different "episodes," the game has players controlling the Skipper as he meanders around the island looking for a way to get back to civilization while Gilligan follows him and falls down a lot. Besides the fact that this one is difficult and ponderous, more than anything it’s just a waste of time–making the comparisons between Gilligan’s Island and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit seem all the more valid. The end of the game? Why it’s a lousy screen that tells you to stay tuned to see if the castaways ever make it off the island. So, I suppose it’s faithful to the show in that there’s no fucking resolution (that TV movie in which they left the island and decided to come back doesn’t really count). The single worst offense in this abomination is that they failed to include Ginger in it. Maybe she got eaten by headhunters or accidentally killed by Gilligan during one of his scampish misadventures, but she sure as shit isn’t in the game anywhere. For this, Tina Louise should be eternally grateful.