Greetings, retr0pians. Back in the day, one of the most prominent issues in our youth was the usage of drugs – an issue that was so prominent, in fact, that just about every medium of entertainment had to go out of its’ way in order to inform people about the dangers of drugs, whether it be through adverts and posters, television specials, and of course, video games.
Released in 1992 for the NES and developed and published respectively by American Game Cartridges and American Video Entertainment (truly the pinnacle of creativity), this unlicensed and infamous title revolves around the exploits of the titular protagonist as he travels throughout his hometown to reach a birthday party planned for him and his group of drug-resisting anthropomorphic buddies called the NO! Gang at his Uncle Grizzly’s house, having to put up with bomb-throwing mice, dogs, birds, and demonic underground fortresses, all while learning about just how “totally not rad” and “un-cool” drugs are, yo! Ugh…you can’t make this stuff up, folks. Let’s just get this over with, shall we?
THE LOOKS – Okay, I know that preferences of graphics can tend to be subjective, but…JEEZ, is this thing absolutely hideous. For starters, the use of colors just looks very off-putting. There’s plenty of greens, blues, browns, purples, and a barrage of others, but unlike a GOOD looking game like Little Samson, they don’t really blend together successfully, and just end up looking like a complete and utter mess, with an overall lack of detail, effort, or care, which could NOT be more prominent by the fact that the backgrounds keep repeating themselves, a la a Hanna-Barbera cartoo- no, scratch that. Hanna-Barbera cartoons actually have charm to them. The character sprites don’t fare any better either – I guess I can see what they’re trying to do with the whole funny animal design and approach, but all of the end results just look incredibly unprofessional and just downright lazy! For instance, Timmy Tiger looks like a green monkey with stripes, Billy Bunny looks like Bugs Bunny’s lesser-known and lesser-talented cousin, Stevie Squirrel looks like a deformed weasel, and Toby Turtle doesn’t even REMOTELY resemble a turtle. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the graphics “horrible”, but as they stand, “ugly” is the perfect word I’d use to describe them.
THE SOUND – If the complete and utter lack of thought that went into making this game wasn’t already obvious with the graphics, then it will most certainly show it’s presence with the music. The music, much like the visuals, just give off a feeling of laziness – the melodies lack a consistent rhythm, and are just so ruthlessly forgettable and droning, they might as well not exist at all! It also doesn’t help that, for some inexplicable reason, the programmers thought that it was a good idea to have the music loop over, and over, and over, and OVER. The sound effects are equally as forgettable, being quite possibly the most generic ones of any NES game, licensed or otherwise. But alas, none of the things I’ve said so far don’t even come close to the true horrors on display here….
Another day, another skateboarding bear in the neighborhood.
THE GAMEPLAY – …you know, I kind of find this game’s message of not doing drugs to be outright ironic and a tad bit hilarious – because judging by just how mind-numbing, frustrating, and downright terrible the gameplay is, the programmers and designers might as well have been stoned themselves! From the VERY MOMENT you start playing, problems-a-plenty rear their heads; the controls are somehow stiff and awkward at the same time, and the jumping is complete garbage. Oh, and I forgot to mention…EVERYTHING. IS. OUT. TO. KILL YOU. Okay, I kind of already stated that in the introduction, but still. Although you can manage to defend yourself somewhat with a frisbee that can kill your enemies as well as a skateboard power-up that can make you go faster (oh, and both can give you more than one hit point), so that’s one thing I suppose this thing at least got kind of right. But, by far, the definitive worst thing about this game has to be the painful repetitiveness. Here’s pretty much how the whole game goes: you go out and about, desperately trying to not get killed, until you come across a location that just so happens to have one of your buddies. Said buddy then proceeds to tell you about a problem that is going on, all of them resulting in a hammered-down moral. You then go through the location (which can range from laughably easy to insanely hard) in order to solve the problem. Once you solve the problem, you go out and about once again, desperately trying to not get killed some more. Stretch this out for a total length of 20 minutes, and yet you’ll still somehow feel like you’ve wasted hours of your life by the time you’re done!
THE BOTTOM LINE – Wow…I can see why Nintendo didn’t want anything to do with this in terms in licensing it as an official member of the NES library. Wally Bear and the NO! Gang is just a pitiful excuse for a game, with tons of forced morals, a painfully “hip” protagonist, lazy music, unappealing graphics, and gameplay that might just give you a newfound appreciation for watching paint dry. In fact, I’d rather watch Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue on repeat than EVER touch this waste of one of the most innovative consoles of all time’s capabilities ever again. Do like an anti-drug PSA, and just say “NO!” to this crud pile. Wait a second…bomb throwing mice…where have I heard that before?
…eh, I’m probably just overthinking it.