Now I am not really a history buff, or even a history aficionado. I don’t watch the History channel outside of Pawn Stars, and I got C average grades in all my history and social studies courses. So my knowledge in all things war and war related are pretty limited to the information mentioned in popular movies. That being said, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a Bungeling Bay in any of the world wars, or anything like that. But then again, I could be wrong.
Raid on Bungling Bay is a classic 2-D overhead, war zone shooting, building exploding, Top Gun battling, no-prisoner taking, manhood testing, testosterone injecting brawl for all through the depths of a Zone that is one of Danger. At least that’s the intended aspirations behind this gem from the guy who eventually goes on to create Sim City. Yeah, no fooling. This is Will Wright’s first date to the game designer’s prom, and sadly she didn’t age very well in the high school reunion.
The game was originally created through Broderbund studios for the Commodore 64, and seemed to be a well respected game at the time. I never played it, but from the videos I’ve seen it looks interesting. Then on one fateful day, the Hudson Soft company came in to port this onto the N.E.S. console. That’s where it fell apart, in the same fate as Pac Man did when it was bastardized and blasphemed onto the Atari 2600.
Right off the bat, once the cartridge is placed into the console and power and start buttons are pressed in near succession, you noticed that the effort put into upgrading the game was lacking in many ways. The graphics are passable at best, and the music is two-note repetitive dull beat that is in desperate need of some Kenny Loggins. The map layout is an uninspiring blue water-to-green land eyesore. You’d think with a system that’s leaps and bounds over the first incarnations would at least have more depth and flair to it.
Up is speeding up and down is brakes and reverse, and left and right turns your little helicopter in that direction. Pretty simple stuff, works fairly well. But controlling your little aircraft is quite cumbersome and feels really slippery. Steering becomes a chore when you are aiming, and there will be times when you hold left and circle around a turret or a tank in the same fluidity as a controlled skid on black ice. And slamming on your brakes will only help the enemy aim better. It’s clutsy at best and harder to aim to shoot things when either you’re going too fast, or the bad guy is.
The most frustrating part of this game comes from the game play. If you’re like me, and picked this game up at a flea market for the loose change in your pocket, (which sadly also included some $1 and $2 coins), and sat down for an afternoon of gaming, you’ll spend the first hour flying around like an idiot, shooting anything that moves, and bombing innocent coast lines, and returning to the starting carrier to fix damage and reload bombs. Then after the moon finally rises outside your window, you start wondering what the hell the objective of the game is. There’s no bosses showing up, just these dinky little turrets and tanks, and radar things that don’t fight back. What the hell? There’s some red buildings that look like they belong in Sim City that have blinking windows on their roofs, so maybe I’m supposed to bomb them with my B button. So I throw all 9 bombs I have onto this thing and nothing happens. The roof windows stopped blinking, but that’s about it. So now what?
Well, here’s the thing. Those buildings take a hell of a lot of damage to blow up, and the objective of each stage is to blow up all six of these “factories”. According to the instruction manual, the building could take a minimum of 7, to up to 20 bombs to blow up. Are you freaking kidding me? What are they built from? A mix of titanium, kevlar and shield technology from another planet combined? What is this? Since you can only carry up to 9 bombs at a time, that means there’s a good chance you have to go back and forth from the carrier to the building three times to destroy one building. At that point, you’re less of a bomber pilot, and more of a pizza delivery boy.
The on screen information is infuriating. There’s a score, bomb count, and factory count, and the damage gauge is numerical, and all the numbers on the screen is unclear at first. Damage just says D and number on the screen. Only when you die and go into this Shattner-esque spasm that is supposed to be a tailspin, do you realize that your health goes to 100. It should have been a descenting number to represent health. An arrow points you to the approximate direction of where your carrier is. It’s a handy little compass, but a numerical value of distance would also be greatly helpful. As you get closer, you realize it’s not 100% reliable as it flickers between directions. But the most perplexing part of all that is when you get alarms that your carrier is in trouble, information like damage is taken off your screen. Why? You know, I kinda sorta need that information to know if I got hit or not. Yeah I know, the oceans turns crap brown and blood red when I am in trouble health wise, but if I’m in a battle over land and that damn warning comes on, I’m in deep trouble.
The thing that annoys me the most, more than anything else, is that since the carrier is constantly moving, you can easily get lost in finding the same factory you’ve been hitting with your fireworks. It’s only a 10 screen by 10 screen map, and it follows the same logic as the airships in Final Fantasy where going North for an hour means you’re going over the same town again and again. You pretty much have to measure the distance to your destination in counting Steamboats out loud, like you’re playing hide and seek or something. I’m counting how long it takes to get to my carrier going East Northeast, refuel and I still can’t figure out where I am even after travelling 5 Steamboats West Southwest. All these islands look the same, and there’s nothing to easily navigate the area.
The difficulty curve in this game is like looking at the bottom right corner of a square. Finding that first factory and kabooming it real good is so simple it’s a joke. Then all of a sudden, without warning, jets start flying to you and shooting you until you’re dead. The more factories you kill, the more jets come after you. Now jets fly over your carrier like hornets to a kid who just hit their nest with a stick. They are bombing the hell out of your carrier, your only source for health replenishment. You have to chase them away every single time to shut off that annoying alarm. So instead of searching for that last factory that may be off the coast of the Isle of Bland, I have to be leashed onto my home base and stop these pests from sinking my Carrier. And I don’t have a submarine or battleship left, so it’s a delayed game over if that happens. Then when I go to leave, more of those damn jets fly around and shoot at my carrier. Why doesn’t this damn carrier have any defenses of its own?
Apparently, there’s also a villain war ship to target in later stages, but I got so annoyed by the overall quality of this experience, that I shut off the game after one completed round and placed into that pile of games that confirm I own the game and nothing more.
This title had so much potential. It had some great ideas and could have been a classic. The difficulty is too much, but it was a great idea to make it a great challenge. The map is small and boring, but it was an interesting idea to make it a search and destroy mission. I do have to admit, it was a good honest try at the game. It may actually be the fault of the team that ported it, and not the original creator. I’m sure it has it’s fans, but I’m sure as hell not one of them. It’s not a game I am willing to play again. I’d rather play Athena again than this.
The word to best describe this game is in the title. Bungle. Well, it’s there in the root word at least. This game is clumsy and unsatisfactory. It’s a high school project at best, and it didn’t stand the test of time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a small digital, fictional town that needs more roads, residential areas, and police stations. Then it will be followed by a Tornado and a Big Lizard attack for my amusement.