A Most Triumphant Motion Pixels -- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure for Game Boy!!
Game/Movie: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
System: Nintendo Game Boy (via Super Game Boy)
Year of Release: 1991
All Praise to the Super Game Boy
I had, up to this point, avoided any and all movie-licensed games on the Nintendo Game Boy. This had absolutely nothing to do with any kind of personal aversion to the system. As a kid, the Game Boy proved invaluable to me during the seemingly endless road trips our family would take each summer. The reason for my reluctance to cover movie games on the Game Boy was rooted in a screen-shot-related conundrum. My current procedure for obtaining screen shots involves running whatever system I’m using through a DVD recorder and grabbing frames from the subsequent DVD. I was convinced that if I covered a Game Boy title, I would have to use stills from the internet and therefore have no specific images for the references I make.
It was then that a buddy of mine reminded me of a handy little relic known as the Super Game Boy. My memory primed, I came upon vague recollections of this device, but as I never owned one myself it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I’m sure none of you need any sort of explanation, but essentially the Super Game Boy fits into the Super Nintendo like a regular SNES cartridge with a smaller port on top to house the svelte Game Boy cartridges; thus allowing the miniscule visual limitations of the Game Boy to be massively blown the hell up to the size of your living room TV. One quick trip to Game Over Videogames, Austin’s premier purveyor of classic games of all eras for all systems and an absolute God-send for lovers of archaic consoles, and we secured ourselves this magical object.
One of the best parts of the Super Game Boy, in addition to allowing me to see 8-bit Ted “Theodore” Logan in staggering inch-tall glory, was it’s ability to retrofit the Game Boy games with color. Whereas the Game Boy screen really only offered one color in various shades, games projected via Super Game Boy offer a slightly more diverse color palette. Oh yes, we were now in business.
Graphics and Mechanics
So many of the movie games we’ve explored thus far have been standard platformers with some manner of boss or bosses who must be bested in order to advance within/win the game. With the exception of Alien on Atari, which is a mere patchwork of other games with no conceivable measure of finality, each of the games covered thus far have fallen under this classic banner.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is of a different breed. It is more or less a puzzle-solving game that requires the player to collect artifacts from various corners of the screen to reveal the location of a flashing phone booth that serves as the gateway to the next level where the task is repeated. So technically you are still graduating up the numerical organization of levels, but the method by which you beat the last level of the game is the same as the method used to beat the first. This game has garnered comparisons to Manic Miner, which was released for, among others, the Commodore 64. But that comparison is primarily based on the flimsy coincidence that they are almost entirely the same game.
Mechanically, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a little clumsy. Neither Bill nor Ted seemed destined for fruitful careers as Olympic long-jumpers as they bound from ledge to ledge apparently hampered by tiny, invisible cinderblocks attached to their heels. This proves especially non-triumphant in levels that offer frighteningly narrow footholds...
...and therefore demand jumping accuracy and range. There is also the annoying tendency for the characters to immediately ascend any climbing element they approach regardless of whether the player pressed up on the directional pad. Precise timing is so pivotal for succeeding in this game and nothing hinders the pursuit of that precise timing like your character dashing up a vine when you needed to run in front of it before an enemy changed course and headed back your direction. It was maddening, but I wonder how much of that was part and parcel with playing a Game Boy game using a Super Nintendo controller. Sure, the button layouts aren’t monumentally different, but I am willing to lend the game a little benefit of the doubt.
The graphics at work in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are adequately designed but admittedly quite simple. The landmarks and structural aspects of each level are largely stationary with the occasional moving or disappearing beam. The movements of the enemies is largely confined to a back-and-forth pacing with the infrequent object-tossing or flying baddie thrown into the mix to keep it fresh. The backgrounds change from world to world, which this game designates as “adventures” with sublevels categorized as “quests,” but remain completely divorced from the action of the foreground to the point that they appear as a bizarre form of wallpaper. The character sprites are not overwhelmingly detailed and even certain well-known historical figures making appearances in the game would be impossible to identify if the gamer had no foreknowledge of the film.
But what I really enjoy about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Game Boy is the music. The high-energy mono orchestration of the main theme seemed as if it could have been written by the Wyld Stallyns themselves. It turns out my fondness for this 8-bit theme was most advantageous to my mental stability as it is played on loop through every single level. So while the theme itself is quite radical, the lack of variety in the music did border on the bogus.
Playing Before Instructions
The basic premise of this game, the demand it makes of the gamer, starts off painfully self-evident. The completion of the first level sets a fairly explicit precedent. But as the game progresses, as is to be expected, the task of obtaining all the time particles necessary to advance becomes exponentially more complicated. Suddenly it isn’t enough to merely collect them as you see them as structural elements of the level can be altered or removed by the acquisition of a given particle.
So now you have to deduce the exact order in which they must be obtained as well. And then, just to throw further flies into the ointment, Super-Mario-esque question mark boxes appear harboring level-specific tools that must be used at just that right moment to ensure victory. By the end, a goodly amount of trial-and-error is necessary to ascertain the correct course to follow to complete each level. Luckily, the Bill & Ted Game Boy game defaults to eight lives, three continues, and employs a rather clever password system that prevents the detrimental loss of all forward progress. This proves vital to the gamer’s sanity as there are ten adventures each boasting five quests for a grand total of fifty levels. Whoa!
Thanks to this very generous cache of second chances, and by tag-teaming this leviathan of a game with my good friend Luke, Bill & Ted did in fact get to complete their most excellent adventure. It took roughly three days of extended sessions and a great deal of cursing which ended up settling upon the living room like a black cloud of failure, but damn it we were victorious. I have since discovered that gathering all the time particles only to be killed by Abraham Lincoln as you make your way to the time-traveling telephone booth...
...that is your exit portal is officially the single greatest risk factor for aneurisms on the planet.
Faithful to its Source?
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is quite extraordinary in this regard. On the one hand, it does follow the film very closely. In fact the first four levels of temporal locales follows an identical progression of the movie’s plot; going from Austria in 1805 wherein they first encounter Napoleon to 1870s New Mexico, to ancient Greece, and then to 15th Century England...
...wherein they lock eyes on the princess babes. The fifth and sixth levels take place at one million B.C. and the San Dimas shopping mall respectively which were both also featured in the first film. The enemies occupying the various levels are the long-dead historical figures who also star in the movie: Lincoln, Napoleon, Joan of Arc...
...Billy the Kid, Alex Winter’s career, etc.
The game features interludes in which the faces of animated versions of Bill and Ted flash onto the screen to bat surfer lingo back and forth to one another before commencing the next adventure. I also enjoyed that hitting the pause button caused an 8-bit rendition of Bill & Ted’s seminal air guitar riff to sound. There is also that clever password function I mentioned that is probably the game’s single greatest adherence to the film. When you move on to a new world (adventure) you are given the phone number for that time period which then serves as your password. Should you exhaust your continues, you may enter this number into the Circuits of Time Directory...
...and be transported to that era. Seriously, throw in one George Carlin desperate to make just one dirty joke and you’ve got yourself the movie! So again, in many ways it’s very faithful to the film in a pretty traditional sense. But then, it goes a bit rogue.
When I purchased this title from Game Over, it did not contain the original box and I took but a cursory glance at the label before determining that my life would be infinitely improved by its purchase. It wasn’t until I had been playing it for a while that two previously discarded facets of the game came to light. There is a level called Paradise...
...and a level called The Abyss, the former featuring malevolent angels careening through the air hell-bent on taking your destruction and the latter being actual hell...
...and the opening exposition moments mentioned a character named De Nomolos.
That’s right, the Bill & Ted Game Boy game is actually a hybrid of Excellent Adventure and its much-maligned sequel Bogus Journey. This explains why the guys venture to heaven and hell, why death is a roving enemy from time to time, and why at one point a demonic Easter Bunny shows up to chuck eggs at you. Despite it’s titular favoring of the first film, upon closer examination of the tiny cartridge, this crossover was indeed no accident. Under the words Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
is a separate text box adding…A Bogus Journey. This is accompanied by awkwardly shoehorned bubbles containing scenes from the sequel besmirching the poster art for the first film that comprises the games’ cover.
It seems the only way that God-awful second film would ever realize videogame adaptation, and thus immortality, was to piggyback onto the game of its genius-by-comparison predecessor. The one thing I do enjoy about this covert doubling-up of titles is that it provides something necessary for any videogame that is completely absent in the first film: a villain. Without the inclusion of De Nomolos, we’d be left only to contend with Bill & Ted’s greatest threat from the first film: Bill & Ted.
Despite its divergence from the standard platformer format and the twisted, rage- engendering complexity of some of its later levels...
...Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for Game Boy lives up to its presumptuous name. This game is a boatload of fun and the replay value is unreal. It got me thinking about other films that could benefit from this non-traditional, puzzle-based design for their inevitable videogame adaptations. Who wouldn’t want to play the Memento Memory game? Or how about Rain Man’s Counting Quest? Or why not truly test your mental acumen with the A Beautiful Mind Sudoku Challenge?
Licensed to Sell
I remember many cartoon spinoffs of popular 80s films from the periphery of my youth; Teen Wolf, Back to the Future, Beetlejuice. None of these shows lasted very long due in large part to their insurance that the film’s welcome would be thoroughly worn out with small children within nanoseconds. I will tip my most outstanding figurative hat to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures for two reasons. First, counter to the vast majority of cartoon series based on 80s films, they managed to snag both Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter to voice their respective characters for an entire season; thirteen of the show’s twenty-one episodes.
After that heinous Day the Earth Stood Still remake, I’m betting they could get Keanu to reteam with Alex to do a reunion cartoon if they wanted. And I’m sorry, it’s cheesy as all hell, but I can’t help but love that unfortunate theme song. I wouldn’t recommend watching it in its entirety, but Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures is available on streaming Netflix. Party on, dudes!
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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June 20, 2011, 12:40 p.m. CST
you are going to catch a lot of hell on that statement here. personally, i liked the second one fine until Station shows up. then it spirals downward. ...but talkbackers here surprisingly revere Bogus Journey- and i will back up that it may have the best concept of Hell yet on film.
June 20, 2011, 12:47 p.m. CST
June 20, 2011, 1:08 p.m. CST
Would seem to be an easier way. (Also I echo the RIP for Ryan Dunn, what a shocker, he was possibly the best of the Jackass bunch).
June 20, 2011, 1:11 p.m. CST
"Let's put the characters in a platform game whose levels resemble some scenes in the movie!" The formula for almost all tie-ins at the time. Either that or a platform shooter (like Robocop and The Terminator). Of course, the Nintendo and Sega consoles were particularly bad for this, because they were so puny technically. I've always found it slightly strange that the Americans were all buying crappo Japanese consoles in the 80s while the Europeans were buying the terrific American home computers (the Amiga and the ST).
June 20, 2011, 1:13 p.m. CST
by Royston Lodge
Is there a reason you're only reviewing games that you have the actual, physical cartridge for? With emulators and the magic of bittorrent, you could review every single movie-license game ever made, going all the way back to Superman for the Atari 2600.
June 20, 2011, 1:21 p.m. CST
i don't feel RIP is appropriate for someone dumb enough to drink and do 110 in a 35 zone. the saddest thing is is he probably died faster/more instantly and less painfully than most of us can ever hope to in this life. not that he should have suffered, i'm just saying, life isn't fair.
June 20, 2011, 1:22 p.m. CST
June 20, 2011, 1:27 p.m. CST
Could have been, I guess. 1978, yowzers. I think the Terry and June tie-in (TV, not movie) may have been slightly later than that: http://tinyurl.com/42ydel7
June 20, 2011, 1:41 p.m. CST
As in Terry Scott and June Whitfield? That needs a reboot!
June 20, 2011, 2:08 p.m. CST
by WYLD STALLYNS RULES
June 20, 2011, 2:37 p.m. CST
I really hope it makes an appearance on the 3DS e-shop. I replayed it last year on a GB emulator for the DS and it was still great fun. There are a few infuriating levels but overall they're all so short the game can be finished fully in just a few hours. The 10th screenshot above is from one of the more tricky levels, because as soon as you pick up those first three power-ups the entire level goes invisible and you have to rely on memory to navigate your way around! If you loved Donkey Kong '94 on the GameBoy, you'll also really enjoy this. What is with the Bogus Journey hate though? I always thought it was just as good as the original.
June 20, 2011, 2:44 p.m. CST
...but the writing is kinda dry. "The basic premise of this game, the demand it makes of the gamer, starts off painfully self-evident." This is a post about a GameBoy version of Bill and Ted, right? It's ok to loosen up a bit.
June 20, 2011, 3:12 p.m. CST
by Royston Lodge
It was really a comic book tie-in. Close enough, sez me. Regardless, it IS the earliest game based on a licensed property.
June 20, 2011, 3:19 p.m. CST
Easily one of the best console accessories of all-time. They even had Game Boy games specially designed to take advantage of the extra color palette and with custom borders. It even supported the SNES mouse!
June 20, 2011, 3:22 p.m. CST
by Royston Lodge
...Pélé's Soccer (1980), strangely enough. There wasn't another game based on a licensed property until 1982, at which point the idea took off completely. The following were all released in 1982: - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial - Raiders of the Lost Ark - Adventures of TRON - Alien - Journey Escape - M*A*S*H - NFL Football - Smurf - Rescue from Gargamel's Castle - Empire Strikes Back - TRON Deadly Disc
June 20, 2011, 3:36 p.m. CST
The AVGN should review this. LJN games usually stink of crap!
June 20, 2011, 3:38 p.m. CST
..when he crashed, I still think it's a pity that the man with the rhino tattoo from Haggard is gone.
June 20, 2011, 3:39 p.m. CST
Never played Bill & Ted though.
June 20, 2011, 3:39 p.m. CST
by Jay Eyler
TRON Deadly Disc on Intellivision occupied both my own and my father's spare time for what seemed like years. Yes, my 33 year old Dad was playing video games with me in the early 80's. Actually, he hogged the game now that I think about it. It was supposed to be our game Dad! It's my turn to play Donkey Kong Dad! AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH...... good times. And at 13, I would have whooped all your asses at TRON Deadly Disc.
June 20, 2011, 3:50 p.m. CST
by Royston Lodge
The background music is the first four bars of Don't Stop Believing... ...over... ...and over... ...and over... ...and over... ...and over... ...etc.
June 20, 2011, 3:51 p.m. CST
What version of the past are you from, guy?! You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who liked one movie and not the other (besides yourself, apparently), and I'd guess it's an even split between which one people think is the superior one.
June 20, 2011, 4:05 p.m. CST
But the author seems so desperate to come off as intelligent, that he ends up sounding like the overeducated prisoner from In Living Color http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Izpa9D7c77U
June 20, 2011, 4:37 p.m. CST
My brother and I both grew up in the 80s, and LOVE Excellent Adventure and merely "like" Bogus Journey. The friend I saw Bogus Journey with back in the day hated it. And random conversation at the bar last week revealed a LOT of folks believing the 2nd B&T film to be much weaker than the original (which everyone then started quoting all night long). So yeah, there you go.
June 20, 2011, 4:56 p.m. CST
by I am not a number
Haven't seen it in years, but the whole meeting death thing didn't jibe with me at all. I loved EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - I still remember seeing it in theatre back in the 80s. I never got the love for the second one either.
June 20, 2011, 5:59 p.m. CST
At least thats what that first pic looks like.
June 20, 2011, 6:15 p.m. CST
June 20, 2011, 7:23 p.m. CST
It would make the screen shots about 100 times easier and LEGALLY you are allowed to have any ROM of ANY game for a period of 24-hours before you are required (legally) to delete it.
June 20, 2011, 7:53 p.m. CST
So a few Bogus haters. Who knew? I've always found Bogus Journey to be far more quotable.
June 20, 2011, 9:08 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Bogus Journey has William Sadler, and that automatically makes it the equal of the first film (and funnier in many respects...it's certainly a LOT more clever and elaborate). As for the Bill & Ted cartoon, they included an episode of it in that Bill & Ted DVD boxed set from about five or six years back, and it's fucking TERRIBLE. Props that they got Keanu and Alex back (and even George Carlin...!), but, like all movie-based cartoon shows of the 80's and 90's, it was lousy. Bad animation, lame jokes...it kind if pisses me off that all of the GOOD television cartoons didn't come along until my late teens and beyond (Batman: TAS leading the way in '92). I would have KILLED to see a show as great as Justice League or Avatar: The Last Airbender when I was twelve. Instead, I was stuck with garbage like Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling and Captain N: The Game Master.
June 20, 2011, 11:51 p.m. CST
(Keanu Reeves voice) Whoa.
June 21, 2011, 5:55 a.m. CST
I'm not sure, but I think there may have been pinball games with movie tie-ins before that.. Wasn't there a Jaws pinball game out right around the release of that movie?
June 21, 2011, 8:14 a.m. CST
I was rocking the atari lynx but like all great consoles...saturn, dreamcast, etc....the stupid public enjoys playing shit so the good ones die way before their time.
June 21, 2011, 11:06 a.m. CST
When I was a kid I played the heck out of this game. It was quite difficult in later levels, and the music (the ONE song) was terrible. Or, it became terrible after dozens of playthroughs. It's been 20 years at least, and I can still hear it, if I try. The full title of the game was Bill & Ted's Excellent Game Boy Adventure: A Bogus Journey.
June 23, 2011, 10:55 a.m. CST
assuming your refering to Superman 3.. the sequences shown there were not a playable game but rather graphics created by atari to simulate a game being played. It was state of the art at the time and there was no game released on any platform as it was just an fx shot. I wish someone would create a playable version of this sequence as it probaly would be easy now.
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