At a Glance: A wonderful platformer/flight simulator/piece of shit from Imagesoft in which Peter Pan tries to rescue all his friends from Captain Hook. Now, as anyone who's played Bubble Bobble knows, it's entirely possible for a company to take a stupid concept and make a good game out of it. However, if you thought Hook was one of those games, e-mail me with your approximate geographic location so I can point at you and laugh.
Platform: NES (Download Emulator here - 192k)
Download: Download ROM here - 113k
The stupidest-looking world map of all time. And there’s your guy in the bottom center, shaking his fist at you in helpless fury.
Game Plot: If I were more intelligent, I would have let the 'Peter Pan' theme of the game discourage me from playing it. I foolishly rationalized my decision to try it by telling myself that dodgeball and falling blocks didn't sound like great game ideas either, and they ended up being entertaining. However, this intro should have been my biggest warning:
PETER MY NAME IS TINK...
YOUR CHILDREN HAVE BEEN TAKEN BY CAPTAIN HOOK
ONLY YOU CAN RESCUE THEM FROM HIS SHIP
FOR YOU ARE PETER PAN...
The entire intro consists of that text on a solid blue background with a giant "Tink", who looks like a disgruntled test subject from a failed moth/human hybridization experiment, flying all over the place so you can't read it. Then it dumps you onto the world map. You have a compass that can swing around in eight directions and choose your direction of travel, but it doesn't really matter, because the game is completely linear and you have to do all the levels in order. I guess Imagesoft thought people wouldn't realize that the eight directions really didn't give them much control over the game when seven of the choices cause Tink to appear in front of a big red screen and tell you that you can't go that way.
Because I am a big stupid dumb idiot, I optimistically began playing, only to be shocked and horrified by the shocking and horrifying lump of shock and horror that is the gameplay. Imagine playing a platformer where the world's most annoying midi song screeches at you in the background, and you spend most of your time deciding whether or not it's worth it to drown out the obnoxious sound effects. While this is happening, you're hopping around dodging the same five enemies over and over again and trying to stab them with your wimpy little sword, which actually looks more like a sewing needle or a staple than a sword. You won't be able to get out of the level, because it won't let you leave until you accomplish some inane task, such as collecting cherries or throwing basketballs into hoops. You die if you touch any water, even if it's only half as deep as you are tall. After five minutes of playing, the pounding of your headache will be indistinguishable from the pounding of your fist against the monitor.
The pulse-pounding flying level. I sure wish I could tell the difference between a marble and a stick of dynamite from more than 15 feet away.
The best part is the flying. When I reached the bottom of a blue rectangle pretending to be a waterfall on the world map, I got to a level called "Flying". "Alright!", I thought, "Fuck this platform-hopping, finally a change of pace!" But no. Ol' Tink popped up to inform me that I couldn't fly because I didn't have my magic sword. Wisely choosing to ignore the fact that this made no sense whatsoever, I went back to the `Never Tree' to meet the leader of the `Lost Boys' and get my sword back. He decided to duel me, because he didn't believe I was really Peter Pan, which is understandable, since that little blob of pixels doesn't even look like anything close to Peter Pan. Even though he has Peter Pan's magic sword, he shrewdly elects to instead use the exact same weapon that I carry and make an idiot out of himself by hopping around and periodically poking at the surrounding air. You both look the same (he just has longer hair), and instead of life bars, your remaining energy is shown by a picture of your shirt - it becomes more and more undone as you take damage, and when your shirt is taken completely off, you lose. I have no idea why they did this. I'm guessing one of the developers has a hidden identical-twins-stabbing-each-others'-shirts-off fetish.
Once you kick the guy's ass and take your magic sword, you can now fly for some reason. The `flight' portion of this game is very realistic. You fly through the air with a chase-plane view, and you fly level, even though you need to fly to the top of a waterfall. Your flight is powered by marbles – hopefully that’s a reference to the movie somehow - so some nice fellow was kind enough to send a bunch of huge, bowling ball-sized marbles up into the air on parachutes. Oh, and the evil pirates hate you and want you to die, so they sent their own parachutes, but with lit dynamite attached. And steer clear of clouds, because if you get too close to a cloud, you slam into it as if it were a brick wall, get electrocuted, fall and die. It's exactly as stupid as it sounds.
Weapons: There are only two weapons in this game. The first is the famous starting sword, which has become famous since I first mentioned it three paragraphs ago. Its first flaw is a normal one - it's too damn short. You walk around with it at your side pointed out in front of you, and it doesn't even extend past your nose. But hey, that's the case in a million side-scroller games, why is this any worse? Well, the programmers of this game, due to budget constraints, scrapped their original plan to create "a pointy thing that hurts when you hit someone with it" and instead created "a pointy thing that occasionally hurts, but 80% of the time simply passes through the target with no discernable effect." The majority of the time, slashing a target will not kill or even hurt it. It will nonchalantly walk right through your blade. In a couple of levels there's an exception: your sword will always do damage, as long as you're walking forward while you stab. If you stab in place, you will never hurt an enemy. Ever. No matter how hard you try. This helps contribute to the game's atmosphere of hopelessness and despair mixed with a mounting rage and disdain for all of humanity.
“Hook” spits in the face of tradition. This old man doesn’t give you clever advice, toss you a magic potion or teach you how to do a Level 5 Ultimate Flying Dragon Fire Blast. He just floats there and hurts you if you bump into him. I hate the elderly.
The other one, by contrast, kills enemies every time. The second weapon is Tink, the stupid fairy-thing that accompanies you from the beginning. Just hold Up and hit Attack, and you'll dramatically point to the general area in front of you. Tink flies over and touches any enemies in that general area (which would be "in front of you") and they turn towards the camera, start a running motion, and float slowly upwards until they disappear. The use of this attack has a side effect called "Not knowing what the hell just happened", but since you won't be able to understand much of anything in this game, I think it's an acceptable tradeoff.
Some of you may be asking "But what about that magic sword you got earlier?" You don't carry it into combat at all. After you get the magic sword, you use the same pathetic weapon you did before. Aside from letting you fly for some unexplained and probably nonexistent reason, the magic sword doesn't do a god damn thing.
Enemies: Do you really think the developers would suddenly realize what a nonsensical game they were creating and make good enemies? Not a chance. All kinds of weird things showed up to molest Peter Pan:
- Pirates who run around randomly stabbing things.
- Old men who float in the air.
- Chimpanzees that sit in trees and throw bananas at you. Stepping on a banana makes you run really fast in one direction for about half a second.
- Mummies. Almost a normal enemy, but when they hit you, they don't cause damage. They just force you to turn around and walk in the other direction for five seconds.
- Archers that fire big cartoony plunger-arrows at you. If you get close enough, they drop the bow and punch you in the face.
- The most retarded dragon imaginable.
- For snow levels: Snow pirates. They run around, occasionally lifting an arm and shooting a snowball at you from one of their armpits.
- Pirate ghosts that float around flashing Texas Longhorns signs at you.
Number of Levels: A shitload. Actually they're pretty much the same few levels repeated over and over - some forest levels, some flying levels, some snow levels, some water levels and some pirate ship levels. There's probably at least three or four of each. Add them all up and you get a grand total of “too damn many”.
Number of Bosses: There are two bosses if you count the Lost Boys leader guy as a boss. But I don’t, so there's only one boss, the Hook-man himself. It's the same fight scene as before, except that the fetish guy must have been fired midway through this game's development, because your life is actually represented by bars instead of tearing shirts. That and some pirate decided to be a jerk and run around chaining cannonballs to your foot that keep you from jumping or turning around. This is the only 2D fight I've ever seen where when someone jumps to the other side of you, you don't turn automatically, and instead you have to hop in the air to change directions.
Defining Moment: Hard to say, but there's nothing quite like playing through a boring, tedious level all the way to the exit, only to not be allowed to leave because you didn't collect the required number of cupcakes.
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The Rom Pit is dedicated to reviewing the most bizarre and screwed up classic console games from the 1980's, the ones that made you wonder what kind of illegal substances the programmers were smoking when they worked on them. Strangely enough, the same illegal substances are often necessary to enjoy or make sense of most of these titles. No horrible Nintendo game is safe from the justice of the ROM Pit.
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