Retro Video Game Reviews: The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Friends (NES)
Overall Rating: 0.5/5 Stars
The Adventures of Rocky amp; Bullwinkle and Friends was released in 1992 for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System by THQ, after development by Radical Entertainment, and is based on the popular animated cartoon series. When old-school gamers cite THQ as the worst developer of NES titles, rather than LJN for example, this is one of the examples that supports their argument.
The player controls Rocky the flying squirrel or Bullwinkle the moose, being able to switch between them at any time using the Select button in this two-dimensional side-scrolling platformer. The game follows a loose plot involving Bullwinkle inheriting some land in England, so he and his squirrelly friend must traverse some dangerous levels in order to claim his rightful property, with encounters with their usual nemesis Boris Badenov and his ladyfriend Natasha Fatale.
The A button jumps, and the B button activates either Bullwinkle’s bull rush ability, where he lowers his antlers in a devastating charge; or Rocky’s flying ability, where he leaps and glides to a much greater distance than his usual jump. The goal in each stage is just to reach the end, although for some stages this will involve traversing multiple vertical levels, and even conquering a train-hopping challenge that automatically scrolls.
There are bombs and odd red bouncing items to dodge, and the player has a health bar to keep track of, which can be replenished by finding and drinking some moose juice. Bombs can also be collected if they are picked up in time, and then thrown, but this seems useless and the entire game can be completed without them.
Now, those are the controls and basic concepts, but one fact must be made clear: This is a terrible video game. The hit detection is odd, glitches abound, Rocky is a more useful character by far, the first stages are far too easy, a couple of the later levels are a tad bit too difficult, the Goof Gas trap is a contender for most annoying gameplay mechanic to ever exist, and the entire experience feels more like an amateur software development project than a legitimate NES video game. Especially considering that this cartridge was released in 1992, near the end of the 8-bit life cycle, when amazing games like Capcom’s Darkwing Duck, Enix’s Dragon Warrior IV, Taito’s tragically unheralded Little Samson, and other fine examples. In an era where developers had years of previous games and experience to draw knowledge from, to publish something as blatantly unfinished as Rocky amp; Bullwinkle should have been shameful.
This game may have the worst graphics on the Nintendo Entertainment System. That statement is neither exaggeration nor hyperbole. There are probably millions of grade-school children who could create better backgrounds in Microsoft Paint. These are visuals that must be beheld to be believed for how atrocious they are: Flat, stale, non-shaded, static, vague, unfinished images that are truly wretched. While it is difficult to convey in words how bad this video game looks, suffice to say, there are very few titles on the NES that can even come close to claiming to appear this ugly.
The background music is stunningly awful. There have been 8-bit video games without background tracks, there have been Nintendo cartridges with single-instrument compositions, and there have been NES titles such as Terminator that relied on a single repeated sound effect to serve as ambiance, but Rocky amp; Bullwinkle actually features background music that is off key. As though the composer were trying to be as ear-gratingly unpleasant as possible, throughout the entire game the “tracks” noticeably veer into non-existent chords and degrade into mere noise without any intelligible harmony whatsoever, like the very concept of “harmony” does not exist. The sound effects are also annoying: This is not only one of those video games where every jump elicits a “bloop” noise, but also one that is content for tepid buzzing to serve as an explosion effect and a slightly lower buzz to signal a collision between the player-character and an enemy character. Other than those, there are little other effects to be experienced throughout. Sadly, the teetering handful of descending high notes that result from death may be the auditory highlight of the game.
This is a license game, so the overall theme and concept are not original, but based on the Rocky amp; Bullwinkle show. The game itself is not done in an especially innovative format, unless it gets creativity points for being so outrageously hideous. Considered in its entirety, there is simply not much to offer; once the necessary maneuvers for the later levels are mastered, the entire adventure can be completed in well under ten minutes.
Even the components that have potential, such as instant character switching, levels that differ in the direction or automation in which they scroll, picking up bombs before they explode and being able to toss them back, the Goof Gas traps that reverse the player’s controller input from the directional pad, all are done to a shallow, watered-down effect that, even working together, cannot save this from being a truly awful video game that gets the broken token rating of a half-star out of five.