Review by Kwing
If Only It Were Longer...
Bonanza Bros is like a platformer combining elements of Lode Runner and Metal Gear into one title. A lot of the other reviews of this game are really critical of it but personally I thought this game kicked ass.
Bonanza Bros has very simple gameplay. You begin in the middle of a level with a map showing you the general location of all of the items you have to steal. You explore the area and sneak past or stun the guards in order to get past them. After stealing all of the items, you head for the exit at the top of the map.
In addition to left and right movement, the game is also 2.5D, meaning that there is a front and back lane that simulates a 3D environment. You can swap between these lanes using the up and down buttons. This is useful for taking staircases that appear in one lane, as well as hiding behind things or getting out of the way of enemy fire.
On top of moving, you're furnished with two other abilities. First, you can make very short hops, which can be used to climb obstacles, dodge bullets and jump over tripping hazards. Second, you have the action button. Primarily used for firing a gun, you can also use it to open doors or press switches when standing in the right spot. It's important to note that enemies cannot be permanently killed, only stunned. This means you're constantly under pressure from different enemy types.
Perhaps most important are the different enemy types. The standard enemies can hit you with a baton or shoot you. There are also guards in riot gear that hold shields. Usually you have to wait for them to turn their back before firing on them. Then there are big bomb-lobbing guards that take several hits to take down. Overall the riot guards are the toughest and most dangerous, but the variety of enemies, though limited, gives the game a surprising amount of strategy.The AI isn't particularly smart, so you can bamboozle them by getting out of their line of sight or switching lanes at the same time as them to keep them from hitting you, but the game isn't exactly easy, and because of how difficult it is to play aggressively in this game, you are encouraged to play with stealth.
The cutscenes are presented on a screen with an even smaller resolution than the game itself, which makes any story quite hard to determine. That said, it's clear you're a thief that's sneaking in and stealing stuff.
Very primitive, even for its time. While this came out in 1990, it looks as if it could have been made in the mid-80s. The sprites are poorly proportioned and the animations look choppy. On the bright side, the game is colorful and the environment is easy to read with the graphics leaving no doubt as to what things are. The map is easy to read and the enemies are easy to identify.
Bonanza Bros has ten levels, which last significantly longer if you're not using save states. While the game does not have enough features to stay fresh for longer than ten levels, that does little to take away from the fact that this game is pretty short. Moreover, the level design, while clever, seemed to fizzle out after a while too. While the game should have had a smooth difficulty curve, I distinctly recall the ninth level being laughably easy. In its defense, the game is pretty fun with two players.
It's damn short but it's also really fun. People have complained about the clunky gameplay, but in my opinion this only serves to prioritize stealth over action. This is a great early stealth game and is a joy to play as long as it lasts, which sadly isn't very long. I highly recommend playing it on an emulator, though I can't say I would spend much money on something so short-lived.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Bonanza Brothers (US, 05/16/91)
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