Review by Donald Love 87
A fun little game, but with very limited replay value
Bill & Ted's Excellent Gameboy Adventure is a movie-license game based on the movie with (almost) the same name. It is some sort of platformer with added puzzle elements, with you collecting items to get an exit to appear and then getting there. Think of it as a mix between Donkey Kong and Bomberman and you're probably pretty close.
As I mentioned before, each level plays out on one screen, so everything has to fit. That has forced the developers to cut down a lot on details. Still, I'm pretty impressed that if you look closely, you can really see what famous person it's supposed to be. Also, all objects more or less works the way you think they would, knights swing their swords at you, sheriffs shoot at you, vines/chains are climbable. People tend to forget that clarity about what an object is supposed to do and what it does is important to games, but here it is very clear.
While the platforms are the same from level to level, a lot of them has some background elements thrown in that fits with the time or theme of the level. These backgrounds are in the lightest shade (except totally blank) that the GB can display, meaning that they're never interfering with the gameplay or tricking you in any way.
Something that quite surprises me, since I've never seen it in a Gameboy game before, is that sometimes the framerate drops when there's a lot going on at the screen at the same time, with a lot of enemies and such. It's never so bad that it causes you to lose control or die, but I thought it was worth noting.
Sound effects and music
This is, due to the extreme limitations of the hardware, a weak point in many GB games, and this is no exception. The music is a somewhat annoying MIDI tune that keeps repeating, over and over. Sound effects are also very standard for the GB, there's a pick up a thing sound, a timelimit-to-score sound at the end of the level, a death sound. Thankfully enough, at least there's no jumping sound effect.
I haven't seen the movie yet, so I really can't tell you how closely it follows it. My guess is that it isn't that much, but more just the overall feeling and theme of the levels are based on places from the movie - Wild West, ancient Greece and even Heaven. I doubt that the game takes that much liberty to just throw in such things into the story. Other than that, there isn't much of a story to speak of, the intro is kind of cool, but the only thing going on between levels is when you're told that there will be a character switch (and the characters are exactly the same except for the looks) for the next stage.
The gameplay consists of you running around a level, trying to pick up different items which makes an exit appear, and then you have to get to the exit. All levels consist of one screen each, and there are 10 stages with 5 levels in each; a whopping total of 50 levels - that's not bad for a GB game! Each stage is based on a different time period, and what you have to collect differs from each. The prehistoric stage has you collecting bones, and the Wild west stage has you collecting sheriff stars. There are, however, no differences at all between the items that collect, they're all just flashing and makes the exit appear when you've picked up them all.
So, what's trying to stop you? First and foremost, there are enemies you've got to avoid - in most cases, you can't kill enemies in this game. These enemies vary from historical figures like Abraham Lincoln (just wandering around aimlessly and kills by touch), Napoleon (who throws his hat at you), to normal everyday things like barbeque grills (which tries to follow your sideways motion), a tumbleweed (rolls on the floor, sometimes leaping into the air) and the grim reaper (wanders aimlessly but teleports from time to time). Then, on later levels, another trap is added. When picking up certain items, the level changes. This really makes it a puzzle game to figure out how to not lock any of the pieces in or out of reach, or not to drop you into a bottomless pit. That really makes some levels trial-and-error but since the game is pretty quick to load after a death it's never a problem, but more of a fun way to test your memory.
There are also extra items to pick up, which you activate manually. These range from a pickup that alternates between instant death and an extra life, to a balloon which floats you up to the top of the stage and a bomb which you can use to blast holes in the platforms. These items are also part of the puzzle strategy since you're only able to use them in the level they're found and only one time after you've picked them up.
Overall, the level design manages to feel fresh during the whole game, much because some things that are unique to specific levels. Some enemies are unique to one level, and one thing that only one level has is invisible platforms. This is something that really helps up the value of the game, and is something that many small developers seem to forget and instead go in copypasting everything. Some of the levels are a bit broken though, since you can get 1up's from items or from every 5000'th point you get, on some levels you can get infinite 1up's by picking up the item, collecting the flashing items (which gives you points) and then die without reaching the exit. It's an cheap way to get extra lives for later levels. Also, sometimes I'm not sure if some things were intended by the programmers or if they were just overlooked, like one flash item which closes a path when you pick it up, but you're able to jump through it before it closes - was that meant to be so or were you supposed to take another route?
The game has a good learning curve, since it starts out easy and ends a little harder. The game never gets really really hard though, and once you learn all the trial-and-error stuff you'll be able to play through it in about 30-45 minutes. Still, before you're there, you'll be glad that the game has a password function - the game gives you a password after every stage, and since they're only four digits long (7 in reality, but every pass starts with 555) you will find it worth to write them down. But why oh why is the screen with the password timed?
Anyways, the replayability isn't that good. After you've finished the game once, you can always try to run through it again (without using passwords or continues), which, as I mentioned, won't take all that long. After that, there ain't much left to do, no secrets or such. You could always try to get a good high score, but I never really felt that scores are to much use in games except old arcade games where they were just about the only thing that measured how far you got.
At least it can't be too complicated with the elaborate mix of a steering cross and A/B buttons. The controls are easy to get the hang of, as A is the jumping button (like every other game out there) and B uses the items you pick up. It will take some tries to learn to time the jumps you have to make, since many of them won't have many pixels available for an early jump. Also, another thing that I like is that you still have some control of your character in the air, especially from a fall (you can't turn a left jump into a right jump), you're often able to drop from a ledge and then get on one below even if it's not sticking out.
Overall, it's not that special though. While it's a game that you can have some fun with for a little while, it's never something you just feel the urge to keep playing to see what will come, and it's not very likely that you pick it up again once you're done. It's hard to specify just what it is, but the game never feels that interesting.
So, I give this game a 6 out of 10.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Bill & Ted's Excellent Game Boy Adventure (US, 08/31/91)
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