Review by SethBlizzard

Reviewed: 07/27/09 | Updated: 05/08/18

Bust-a-Zilla

Godzilla has perhaps the most beautiful opening to any game on the Game Boy. We are greeted by a menacing theme that underlines the titular monster's power and menace. But what follows is even better; a monster role call, where Godzilla himself along with his rivals come on the screen one by one, to absolutely spectacular art of them, perhaps the most stunning visuals on the machine. Accompanying this sequence is a breathtaking, melancholic theme. I can't think of a single other Game Boy game that opens with this level of presentation and soul.

From there on out, however, especially after an opening that strong, your impression might take a blow. If you were under the impression that Godzilla on the Game Boy is a game where you march through cities and maybe chow down on helicopters, you couldn't be more mistaken. Indeed, if it weren't for the illustrations in the opening scene of this game, one might understandably wonder how this game has anything to do with Godzilla apart from the name. What we have here is a platform-puzzle hybrid where Godzilla, looking a lot like Bub and Bob, must prowl and climb (but never jump) around small levels full of vines and rocks. His goal is to destroy each rock in a level, either by punching them against a wall or another rock. Once every rock is pulverized, the exit is revealed. This is the goal of every single level, but the levels get steadily trickier and getting rid of every rock will soon turn into a huge puzzle.

Your fellow monster cast is relegated to little more than annoyances, ganging up on the nuclear behemoth until a single punch takes most of them out. That's right, a punch. The visual style of this game is very cartoony, but animations are lacking, so Godzilla's punch is presented as a literal cartoonish fist coming out of his head. Your enemies don't have attacks apart from just running into you either. The very touching story is only hinted at during quick scenes between certain levels, where (featuring more of the beautiful art), Godzilla walks back and forth and emits quotes like "I'll destroy anyone who interferes with me!" Look at the manual, though, and you'll learn that Godzilla's motivation is to rescue his son Minilla, who's been kidnapped by monsters and taken to the heart of a labyrinth. It's quite odd for a game with a moving plot like that to be the spiritual successor to Pitman (or Catrap), another puzzle game where the goal is to strategically destroy certain objects.

Indeed, puzzle is where this game's heart is at. Even though you climb vines and punch enemies, every level is more a big puzzle of sorts than anything. The first levels are easy enough, relying more on the threat of Godzilla's foes to slow him down. Indeed, one of them is unbeatable by any means other than punching a rock at him. Soon enough, however, the focus shifts and getting to every rock in order to be able to clobber it becomes very tricky indeed. You'll need to form a habit of being very strategic about what you do with every rock the level has. Many times, you're supposed to line specific rocks up so that you can use them to get to previously unreachable ones. The puzzle crowd will get a lot to sink their teeth into here.

As soon as you get past the fact that this is a Godzilla puzzle game (which is certainly not what that beautiful opening hinted at), sadly you start to see some real holes. The layout is something that makes the game far less enjoyable than it needs to be. At any time by pressing Select and choosing Full Plan, you get a screen full of question marks. What you are looking at is the entire layout of levels in this game; clear a level and its corresponding square goes from a question mark to a square with arrows. You see, after you've destroyed every rock in a level, at least one but usually two arrows appear, which point you in said direction on the map. But which arrow are you supposed to pick? That's the thing; you don't know. Minilla is hidden in one of those levels, and the game doesn't tell you which, so you never know how close you are to actually beating the game. You will want to gravitate towards its center, but this can be hard to pursue when a level's exits point either sideways or down. To top of it off, this game is packed with levels. There's no less than 64 of them. Thankfully there is a password system, but even with optional levels, this is a serious case of overkill.

This would still be okay if it weren't for the fact that the game tricks you, a lot. Even when you do destroy all the rocks, there are times when you'll find that you're standing in the wrong place and you can only pass through an arrow that takes you to the previous level. Basically, you can get punished for not performing a puzzle exactly the way the game wants you to, which is ludicrously unfair. Fortunately you can always press Select and decide to self-destruct, should you get stuck. However, when you die, you start the level over from the beginning.

In later levels (the game is subtly divided into 4 chapters, each with its own music), the tone changes and enemies become all but absent. That's good, because figuring out how to destroy each rock becomes very hard to figure out indeed. However, this is when the game starts to play even dirtier. Take too long in a level (and why wouldn't you?), and King Ghidorah appears. He's totally invincible, and will thus kill you quickly. Oh yes. Just in case you thought the game wasn't hard enough, in the latter stages of the game you have an invisible time limit. Take too long and what is pretty much an angel of death comes to collect you. This is totally unfair; the game expects you to take your time to figure out the wicked puzzles that each level comes to be, then it throws a curveball and punishes you for taking too long to do it!

What makes the ride more bearable is the soundtrack, which is absolutely astounding. As said before, the two opening tunes are breathtaking. The stage music, while far more bounce-a-riffic, is equally wonderful. The stage theme for the second part of stages is incredibly catchy. The interstitial story theme is very touching, and even the password tune is achingly beautiful. Whether slow or brisk, you couldn't ask for a better companion to accompany you through the game. Fortunately, you can listen to the music on its own, in a hidden sound test screen (hold A, B and Start then press Select on the title screen).

While Godzilla for the Game Boy is a well-meaning puzzler at its heart (the very cutesy Japanese version underlines that intention very clearly), it has a sadistic streak in it that sucks the fun out of it. The decision to make certain enemies invincible was more than ill-advised, as was it to make it very hard to follow where you're going. It's also very naughty of the game to lure you into traps even when you do succeed, as well as to punish you for taking too long. My kudos to the amazing work of the composer, but as far as puzzle-platform hybrids go, Godzilla might be one of the reasons why it's such a rare genre - and why the big monster is better off smashing buildings instead of rocks.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: Godzilla (US, 10/31/90)

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