Some movies you look back on and wonder why you liked that movie when you were a kid. You know what I mean. Remembering when you loved a film you saw back in the golden times of your childhood, then watching the movie again in your adult years and thinking to yourself that you were a stupid child for thinking that?
Well, thankfully, one that does not fall into that category was Gremlins and it’s 1990 successor movie, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The first one was set in a rural town (which apparantly is the same sound-stage town used in Back to the Future) where a furry little cute whatchamacallit named Gizmo inadvertently spawned evil creatures when it gets wet and eats after midnight and pretty much destroys the small town before getting killed by sunlight. Kind a design flaw if you ask me. Now in the sequel, he’s in a media building in New York City, where a new wave of creatures gets respawned and plan to destroy the Big Apple. It taught me a valuable lesson that cute things are a valid phobia.
The biggest downfall of the Gremlins series? It inspired the movie Hobgoblins. Please excuse me while I shudder at my keyboard.
The biggest uptick of the Gremlins series? It also spawned this beast of a game. Gremlins 2 for the NES, created in 1990 by Sunsoft.
Now, for the previous game reviews, they were games I have played since childhood, so I know them like the back of my hand. But I have never played this title before, so let’s see how it stands. Challenge accepted.
Right off the bat, the first thing that sparks some awesomeness into the game, once you press power on your console, is the music. In fact throughout the whole game, the music is incredible. The fact that there’s not a lot of talk about the music from the game gives the impression that its an undervalued title. The other thing that grabs you are the cut scenes. There’s no subtitles or overhead voice over, but the images are beautifully rendered and look like they came straight from the movie. Even the opening shot of Gizmo hanging off the title looks spot on.
Once you get into the gameplay, that’s where everything starts to get odd, as you control everybody’s favourite Mogwai throughout the levels. Especially around the first area. You’re initial weapon is a tomato. One of the first bad guys you encounter is a giant bouncing tomato. You have to fight a tomato with a tomato. You fight tomato with tomato. It’s like fighting fire with fire, but replace fire with tomato. This could possibly be the oddest sentence I ever had to type ever! You are defeating a tomato with a tomato. I can’t get over that. I need to get that line onto a T-shirt and sell it on my blog. It could be the next Internet meme. Why has no one capitalized on the idea of a tomato being defeated by a tomato? Even in that old campy movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, did they ever use tomatoes to kill the tomatoes?
The weapons change from stage to stage, you start the Stage one are with, you guessed it, a tomato. Followed by a match, then paper clips, then finally a bow and arrow, all relating in some way to the source movie. While it’s great to see changes happening during the game, to keep it fresh, there is a big flaw with the choice of weapons that I will deal with a little later on.
The controls are loose sometimes. Jumping seems odd and unresponsive at times, and it makes it annoying when there are consistent pitfalls and spikes and such to jump over. Another problem is shooting in diagonal. As the game is overhead, you can fire up and down, left and right, but you can also move and shoot diagonally. But to stand in one spot in a diagonal direction, it doesn’t always like to do that. It’s recommended to stick to the common four directions.
The stores are really weird. It’s Mr. Wing from the first movie selling you items. The first noticeable flaw in this is that Mr. Wing dies in the beginning of the second movie. So he was reincarnated to sell stuff to Gizmo? Second is the currency. Throughout the game, when you defeat bad guys, they drop crystal balls. And that is your currency to shop. Where is Gizmo storing such large items in exchange for goods? Even if the crystal balls were the size of marbles, or even half the size, they would be tough to lug around. Why couldn’t the currency be tomatoes? Finally, none of the items for sale have prices until you select the item, and you don’t get a description of what the item does, so it starts off as guess work as to what you are buying. But the biggest frustration of it is that you can only buy one item. Once you make that purchase, the store goes poof. This makes it difficult when you have to choose between a weapon upgrade, an extra life or health to keep going. It’s Sophie’s Choice for Mogwais.
I have yet to find a single bad guy that can fall to one shot. But this also falls onto the fault of the weapons. When you get the match in stage 2, it’s a range weapon like all the others, but it can also count as a melee weapon, so if the creature is close enough, you can actually kill them with a single melee shot, instead of the range weapons. But in later levels, you get throwing weapons, so you lose the melee portion, and your damage output is weaker. And all the creatures on the screen are bouncing all over the place, making it hard to kill them.
Powerups exist, whether you buy them or find them through a creature drop. You get one balloon at the start of the game, or when you die, and that saves you from a pit and allows you to move further, but there are so many pits that one is not enough. You start the game with no lives, but can buy one-ups to protect you. Some enemies drop items like light bulbs, that clears the screen of baddies, and pogo stick that makes you temporarily invincible, and a stopwatch that stops the motion of the creatures. But they are so few and far between and sometimes you need a lot of them to continue. And I have never ran into a situation where an enemy drops important things like health or extra lives or anything of the sort. It drives you nuts when you are at low life, and you can’t find anything to heal you.
But the biggest challenge to the game, is that it’s hard. I mean hard hard. By the time you get to stage 2, already the curve is shot into the air. It’s almost as difficult as Battletoads and Silver Surfer. In regards to the aforementioned weak weapons and lack of powerups, there are also parts where you have to time your jumps while dodging the enemies, and still land on a moving platform. And the conveyor belts that come in the third stage are insane, They are so fast, you can’t stay on long enough to react jump to the next one, and most lead to damage or more pitfalls. The difficulty get the frustration up big time, and you start to make careless mistakes, like missing the jump you just did for the thirtieth time. And for some parts, it’s unrelenting. And when you die with that one life, you have to start over, with all your bonuses you purchased in previous levels gone. That means the only way to be stronger is to start over, from the beginning, and not die.
Overall, the game is a fun overhead platformer, and a definite category to the underappreciated games out there. But the difficulty can scare a lot of people off. And with only four stages, it seems too short of a game. But if you like a challenge, go for it. The wonderful cut scenes makes it worth the price of the cartridge, and the challenge of the title makes you want to keep going and want to beat it even more. It’s got its flaws, and then again what game doesn’t?
But remember, don’t get the cartridge wet, never expose the cartridge to bright lights, and do not feed the cartridge after midnight. Greenwich time. So, if it’s past seven o’clock in Toronto, then stop feeding the damn thing tomatoes. Thank you.