Video Game Review: The Punisher (NES)

This is a terrible game and it’s always been a terrible game.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t play the hell out of it when I was a kid because frankly, I loved Marvel Comics and this was the closest thing to the arcade game Operation Wolf that I owned on a home console.

Sadly, like most early Marvel games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this just sucked. I tried to convince myself otherwise but the controls were dog shit and the game was hard as fuck, especially on the tedious boss fights.

The big problem with the difficulty is that it becomes impossible to dodge all the gunfire, missiles and grenades lobbed at you. You become quickly overwhelmed as the game advances and the opportunities to gain some extra life are too far and few between.

The graphics are also shit and this looks like a game that was rushed or just designed pretty half-assed.

Additionally, the villain roster was pretty generic, except for Jigsaw and The Kingpin. The reason for this could also be because the regular Punisher comic book series was still only a few years old when this was made. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have used other street level villains from the larger Marvel universe like Hammerhead, Tombstone, The Owl, Bullseye, Boomerang, Taskmaster, Crossbones, Typhoid Mary, Mister Fear, The Rose, The Gladiator, etc.

Hell, what’s with the fucking android boss? They could’ve designed it to look like a Doombot or mini-Sentinel.

I know, I know… I’m asking too much for a basic bitch 1990 Marvel game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters or other terrible 8-bit Marvel games.

Video Game Review: Donkey Kong 3 (NES)

This is a game that’s kind of forgotten even though the two games before it are absolute classics.

I think the problem with Donkey Kong 3 is that it is a very different game than its predecessors.

This gets rid of the simple platforming style of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. and instead gives you more of a simplistic action game.

Basically, you use your smoke gun to ward off bees and to push Donkey Kong up into a beehive. Simple, effective but somewhat of a step down from the other, very creative games in the series.

I’m one of the few weirdos that enjoys this game for what it is. On its own, it’s fine. It’s also pretty f’n hard as you advance.

Strangely, this is the first game without Mario in it, as you play as a character named Stanley. I’m not sure why Nintendo went in that direction but maybe it didn’t make sense to have a plumber using beekeeper equipment? Then again, this plumber also dresses up like a frog and eats mushrooms and strange flowers.

Most people seem to hate Donkey Kong 3. I don’t. I think it’s a fun departure from the style of the first two games but on the other hand, I would’ve preferred something in the style of the first two games.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.

Video Game Review: Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)

I prefer Donkey Kong Jr. more than its predecessor Donkey Kong.

While both are simplistic platform games of the original Nintendo era, there’s just something I like more about this game. Maybe it’s because it’s four levels instead of three or because it’s slightly more complex and, overall, better designed.

I don’t know, it’s just a game from the classic arcade era that speaks to me and I still love playing it. So much so, actually, that I have to play through a few rounds of it a few times per week.

In fact, the rom for it is actually on my all my PCs’ desktops. I often times fire it up between big creative projects to reset my brain. I guess it’s my version of Microsoft’s Solitaire.

That being said, it’s kind of odd that I hadn’t reviewed this already. I guess it’s become such a regular part of my life over the decades since it came out that I don’t really think too much about it.

Anyway, the gameplay feels more fluid than its predecessor, the levels are much cooler to play through and I like the sound better. I also like playing as a vine swinging ape more than the human Mario.

Donkey Kong Jr. isn’t a perfect game, even if it is my perfect time killer and preferred avenue for quick mental escapism. Hell, it’s not even my favorite Nintendo game but it’s still in the upper echelon for sure.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong 3, as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.

Video Game Review: Donkey Kong (NES)

It’s kind of hard to review a classic game of this stature that has left such a mark on everything else that’s come after it.

Donkey Kong put Nintendo on the map, introduced the world to Mario and helped solidify platform games as the biggest trend in the ’80s.

It’s elegant and perfect in its simplicity and that’s why Donkey Kong is still played, today. It’s also one of the games that people are still trying to get world records on and that’s not just because of the King of Kong documentary.

I like this game a lot and I play through a couple rounds of it at least every few months. Granted, I prefer Donkey Kong Jr. but I’ll review that one in the near future and break down why.

Donkey Kong isn’t my favorite old school platformer but it is definitely in the upper echelon. I now it’s really old and almost primitive but it was so colorful and well designed for its time. Additionally, I love the sounds in the game and that’s an area where Nintendo just seemed like they were a step ahead of everyone else, except maybe Namco, who had stupendous sound effects in their earliest games like Pac-Man.

This is just a fun and honestly, timeless game. It doesn’t take much to learn it and play it but it’s also really difficult, as you continue on in the game and play through more and more rounds. Because of that, even with its simplicity, it’s a hard game to master.

It’s hard to imagine a gaming world where Donkey Kong didn’t exist. It changed the landscape and deservedly so.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: its sequels Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3, as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.

Video Game Review: Kung Fu (NES)

Kung Fu was one of the first Nintendo games that I owned. My cousin had the system about six months before I did but when I got mine later that year at Christmas, this was one of the games that “Santa” dropped off with it.

loved this fucking game and used to play it for hours, even though you can actually beat it in like ten minutes. I didn’t care about how repetitive it was and how basic as fuck the level design was, it was just a badass game with a badass dude throwing lightning fast kicks and unimpressive punches. Just use the kicks, man!

I also noticed, as a kid, that this was a lot like the plot to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, where the hero has to fight through five levels of a pagoda, facing a tough boss on each level. I’m pretty sure this took its inspiration from that film’s general premise but it also adds in lots of baddies and unique bosses that weren’t trying to emulate the character from the Lee film.

For the time, the mechanics of this game were superb. While you can get overwhelmed by enemies if you aren’t precise, most mistakes are due to human error and not the game being a piece of shit.

There’s not a lot of strategy to this game. Just kick and don’t get hit. When you fight the bosses, sweeping the leg works for most of them. Just unload lightning fast leg sweeps and be done with them.

While this is one of the best side scrolling beat’em ups from the earliest days of the original Nintendo, it did get overshadowed by games like Double Dragon. 

Still, this is one smooth game that packs a punch and is still fun to blast through every now and again.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em action games for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Spelunker (NES)

I never knew about Spelunker until I came across a video of it recently. Being that I love the hell out of 8-bit era action puzzle games, I wanted to play it.

However, this is far from the near masterpiece that is Solomon’s Key.

To start, the game has great level design and it looks fantastic. I was really excited when I fired this up.

However, my enthusiasm was completely wrecked by the terrible mechanics and controls. The in-game physics are wonky at best and it almost feels like this was deliberately designed to infuriate you from the get go.

Still, I tried to get passed the learning curve but the mechanics are just so shit that I eventually gave up.

So I didn’t play this through to completion or had to stop because I found myself at some impossible roadblock. I just got burnt out trying to make the character on the screen do what I wanted him to do.

In the end, this had the makings and level design to be something incredibly fun. Instead, it’s a really wonderful looking bag of dicks.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other action puzzle games for the original Nintendo and earlier Atari systems.

Video Game Review: Die Hard (NES)

This game is really fun to play but it is also kind of infuriating, as it’s never really clear what the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

Sure, the game gives you clues about things you need or steps you need to take but it’s all really vague and you still have to figure it out with trial and error but the game also has a time of sorts working against you.

I didn’t beat the game because I couldn’t get passed a certain point and I couldn’t go to the floor I needed to go to because there were hostages.

So I aimlessly wandered around, after killing every terrorist, trying to pick up items and looks for ones I missed but it got me nowhere.

Could I have read a walkthrough or watched a video? Sure. But if I was playing this back when it came out, I wouldn’t have had that luxury.

So fuck this game. It was fun until it wasn’t.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other bird’s-eye-view action games for the NES.

Video Game Review: Wolverine (NES)

I never played this game when it was released, as it came out after I moved on to 16-bit consoles. But it plays a lot like the NES Spider-Man game.

It’s a simple, side-scrolling platformer full of action and some of Marvel Comics’ most iconic X-Men related characters.

The game is fairly weak though, due to only having a handful of rather short levels. Additionally, the levels are pretty basic and not well designed.

Wolverine could’ve been better with more complex design and not just longer levels but more levels.

Also, you only get to fight two iconic villains. In this game you face Magneto and then the final boss, Sabretooth. Honestly, that feels like it’s backwards, regardless of Sabretooth being Wolverine’s biggest rival. Magneto is a much stronger threat with a real trump card when it comes to dealing with Wolverine and that’s his magnetic powers versus Wolverine’s metal skeleton.

Anyway, this was still enjoyable enough not to hate. I’d call it basic bitch shit and uninspiring but for a game based on a licensed property, it’s still better than most and infinitely better than the NES X-Men game that came out a few years earlier.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling comic book games of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (NES)

While not all licensed property video games are created equal, most in the 8-bit era were terrible. While this isn’t as good as DuckTales or the ’89 Batman game, it is actually better than most games like it. It certainly blows that Nintendo X-Men game out of the water! It’s also a lot less frustrating than the Silver Surfer game, which gave me an ulcer and a permanent lifelong migraine when I was eleven years-old.

This Spider-Man game is fairly okay but it pales in comparison to the 16-bit games like the first Genesis Spider-Man title and the much beloved Maximum Carnage.

Still, this brings together the Sinister Six and lets you fight through them all in an effort to stop their nefarious plan.

This version of the villain group consists of Doctor Octopus, Hobgoblin, The Vulture, The Sandman, Electro and Mysterio. All of them are regular Sinister Six members so I was pretty happy with the lineup, as we didn’t get stuck with some schmo like Carrion, Boomerang, Tarantula, Vermin or Shocker.

As far as design goes, the levels are pretty basic and a bit tedious to work through. Granted, the game certainly isn’t unbeatable and you can get through it with enough practice or if you’re just an 8-bit platform master.

The biggest thing working against you though, isn’t the level design and overabundance of enemies and projectiles, it’s the clunky, shitty mechanics. Spidey is a bitch to control and the physics are terrible.

When it comes to boss battles, most of them seem pretty hard the first time but once you figure out the enemy’s pattern, they aren’t too hard to beat. I actually thought the final boss, Doctor Octopus, was one of the easiest in the game.

Overall, this is both fun and frustrating. For those who grew up in this game’s era and who loved the Sinister Six story arcs in the comics, you’ll most likely enjoy this. Even if it overwhelms you about midway through, it’s not a hard game to adjust to and eventually conquer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling 8-bit era action games based on comic books characters.

Video Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker (NES)

I never played this game and I guess I kind of missed out, as I probably would’ve really liked this, back in the day.

I was a fan of the first Sunsoft Batman game for the original Nintendo, as it came out and was tied to the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

I never realized that this one was a direct sequel to it and I guess that makes it exist in an alternate timeline than the cinematic universe of the same era. Granted, these games are very different than the ’89 movie in that they have a very sci-fi/cyberpunk aesthetic and deviate from the film’s story quite a bit.

So in this version of a sequel, the Joker has survived. They’ve also given him more of a comic book look, as opposed to using Jack Nicholson’s likeness. I’m assuming that was because the licensing fees to use his visage once again was too pricey and unnecessary in the grander scheme of things.

The game looks very similar to its predecessor; however, they’ve given Batman a larger sprite and stripped away the mechanics only to replace them with something worse. The weapons system may seem more advanced but it’s kind of confusing, tedious and annoying. Also, you can’t bounce off of walls and scale them like you could in the previous game.

This also adds in a few jetpack shooter stages that play more like a Gradius game than a normal Batman title. It’s kind of cool but I would’ve preferred having more standard levels with some good design. In fact, the levels in this game feel very small and are conquered too quickly.

Most of the bosses are just a big pain in the ass. Additionally, the first time you fight the Joker, he flies around in a pod like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games. It’s not cool and it’s pretty lame. The second time you fight the Joker, you basically fight a Joker-themed super computer. It’s also lame.

This game had some promise and I mostly enjoyed it but the improvements just ended up being disappointments. I would’ve rather just gotten a redesigned version of the first game with new levels and bosses.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the previous Sunsoft Batman game for the NES