Solomon’s Key Review


It’s time to look at a pretty big puzzle game for the NES. Solomon’s Key is one of the titles that looked pretty fun and I saved it for the end of my NES run. Outside of the more RPG type titles the NES collection is now done. Solomon’s Key is a pretty fun way to end off. There are a lot of puzzles here and it’s pretty fun to figure out a way to clear the level. Due to the nature of the game there are many different ways to clear the stages although I imagine that near the end of the game you’ll have to follow more of a set strategy. The game certainly does start to get pretty difficult towards the end.

The idea of each level is to make it to the key and then to go through the door. Both of these items are strategically placed somewhere in the level. Usually to taunt you the exit door will be right near the entrance so you know it’s super close but it doesn’t matter until you get the key. The way you navigate the level is by jumping and summoning boxes. You can make a box appear which you can then jump on and make more boxes appear. There does seem to be a limit to how many boxes you can create at a time, but it’s fairly high up and shouldn’t matter. Either way the enemies eat your boxes very quickly. In a lot of the levels you have to go very quickly but also try to take into account the fact that the enemies will definitely not let up as they try to take you down.

It’s a lot of fun trying to outwit the computers. You have to predict what they will do ahead of time. It’s a great brain teaser and I made it pretty far through the game. I didn’t quite beat all of the levels as I stopped around halfway but it would be a great conquest for someone to beat them all. The dificulty noticeably spikes as you go through the game. While the first few you could just power through with experienced platforming that just won’t cut it later on. One thing I would try to do is box the enemies in but that only works on the first kind of enemies. The rest of them slice through your blocks like butter so it’s almost pointless to even try. It can at least slow them down though.

The toughest level for me was one where a lot of statues are constantly shooting fireballs at you. It’s a straight forward level design wise as you just have to climb up around 12 stories without a ladder. Naturally this means you will be using your blocks but as they are getting destroyed right as you are creating them you have to keep using others as a shield. The difficult part is as you go up you can only make a shield on your level so they can shoot out the ground from under you. Ultimately what I did to get around this was to always create in sets of 2 and 3 so there would be enough ground for me to keep climbing up. It took a ton of tries along with different variations of the plan but ultimately I made it through. The game definitely feels very rewarding after pulling that off.

The graphics are definitely fun and pleasant. This is a game that has aged rather well. Part of this is because there aren’t a lot of assets or characters on the screen so the developers could really focus on the ones they did have. The core gameplay is also timeless since this is a logic puzzle game that anyone can get behind. The music is also decent although I dare say a little too peaceful. Throw in some electronic music or something a little more rock based and that would really help you begin to crack the code. If you ask me that would be the perfect way to give the game a little extra boost that it could use.

Overall, Solomon’s Key is pretty fun. It’s also longer than the average NES game with how many levels it has. You can really test your puzzle abilities and with the NES Access States so you can always save your progress and try more the next day. That’s something I’ve always really enjoyed about the online state. I look forward to more games being added at some point. I’m guessing we already have most of the games available but certainly there are some more out there right?

Overall 6/10

Clu Clu Land Review


It’s time to take a look at an old NES game that I actually wasn’t really a fan of. The gameplay is unique so that is always nice to see. I haven’t played a game quite like this one. The closest would probably be DK King of Swing which has a similar concept just with a completely different gameplay style. That one succeeds a lot more than this one though. Clu Clu Land is ultimately okay in a small batch but beyond that you need to really enjoy the gameplay to stick with it. Considering all the other games on the NES I wouldn’t really be spending much time with it.

So here’s how the levels go. You play as a creature that automatically flies through the stage. The goal is to turn the stage into an image or something. As such, there are hidden coins around many of the turns. You have to bump into them all to complete the picture. Since you don’t know what the picture even looks like at first your opening strategy is really to bump into as many corners as possible. Once you’ve got the general idea of the shape then you can target the gates that you want to pass. You turn by sticking your hand out and grabbing a pole and use that momentum to go in a new direction. You can only reach out one hand at a time so try to plan your movements a few steps ahead of time. After all, each action will need another one.

Additionally you need to avoid the enemies. A single hit will take down your life so you want to live for as long as possible. The lives aren’t exactly easy to come by after all. I liked seeing the various shapes that would form. Clu Clu Land definitely has really nice visuals that have aged well. I can definitely appreciate the difficulty of making so many images using only coins. The stages remind me a bit of Pac Man with how they’re set up. It looks like a very similar style at least even if the gameplay is different. The music is less memorable, but fast enough where it’s pretty fitting while going through the levels.

So in the end the reason the gameplay didn’t click with me is that it just didn’t feel like enough was going on. Ultimately all you’re doing it turning. While you can probably break many games’ core gameplay down into a simple structure like that, you still feel like a lot is going on. This game doesn’t disguise that quite as well to me. I think a lot of the appeal will be from seeing the pictures that you create which are nice to look at, but I need more. Throwing in some physical movement would have been nice. Maybe allowing you to move the character back and forth and then you only need to use the hand feature when you want to turn. Ultimately that would still be very similar though so maybe that wouldn’t change very much at all.

In terms of replay value this game technically has quite a lot. You can keep on playing the levels over and over again to improve your score and move on to the next. I assume the game basically has unlimited levels although I imagine there will be a point where they start to loop. At that point you can really say that you conquered the experience and it really would be pretty impressive. These games were definitely not a walk in the park back when they came out and certainly not today either.

Overall, Clu Clu Land is the weakest NES game I’ve played in a bit. I definitely wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the weakest NES game or anything like that but it just didn’t work out for me. If you like the general concept then I believe you’ll enjoy the execution. The gameplay is pretty smooth and I certainly didn’t notice any lag or anything like that. The gameplay’s also a bit familiar so I believe I probably played a demo at some point like in NES Remix or something. I think this game would be more enjoyable as a minigame.

Overall 4/10

Journey to Silius Review


It’s time to look at an old fashioned shooting video game. This one brings in a nice sci-fi feel to it as you go through the campaign. I appreciate the fact that this game has a real intro so it’s definitely got more of a budget than the average title. The gameplay is definitely on point. Don’t expect a walk in the park though. This is easily one of the toughest games that I’ve played in a long while. Each level throws quite a lot of challenges and projectiles at you so dodging them all is not easy. There are only 5 levels but they should take you a good amount of time to conquer. I expect the campaign is about 40-50 minutes depending on how often you die of course.

You have your standard gun which has unlimited ammo. The pellets it fires are similar to the Mega buster in the Mega Man games. I didn’t realize I had other guns for most of the game so I relied on this one. It’s reasonably powerful so you can definitely use it to conquer the game. The controls are pretty simple here. You can run and fire as you go through the game. Ducking is also highly recommended and even essential in some parts of the game. You gotta think quickly because once the enemies come running in it’ll be too late to do anything. Expect a lot of rewinds using the Switch Online feature because without it you may be in a pickle.

The other weapons you have include a machine gun, pocket rockets, a shotgun, and more. I mostly liked the rockets. These things did a ton of damage and would help me clutch out a win against all of the big boss in the end. I think the last two bosses in particular would have been pretty difficult to defeat without this. They just deal so much more damage than the normal gun after all and you can fire them just as quickly. They do use up your gun energy though so you can’t just spam them during the level. Personally I recommend saving them entirely for the bosses. Otherwise you just won’t have enough to go around.

Silius has great graphics throughout its run. The level designs are on point and it definitely gets that nice Sci-Fi feel to it. The enemies also look pretty impressive. It’s all aged really well visually and I can say the same for the soundtrack. It’s pretty ominous but also has a bit of hope like some of the classic Mega Man games. I’d draw a lot of similarities between the two. This game just works really well and the gameplay is also quite smooth which is also very important. At most it can just be a bit hard to jump if you’ve been running so I recommend stopping before switching actions. The rewinds can make you lose your tempo at times so keep an eye out for that.

Overall, Journey to Silius is a pretty fun game. It’s definitely one of the better NES titles and so I was glad to be able to check it out. While only having 5 levels may sound short, the incredible difficulty levels of the game prevent you from beating it in an instant. You’ll have plenty of time to try and work out some strategies for dealing with the villains. Additionally, it’s a pretty fun game so even when you have to replay sections multiple times it never feels like a drag. That’s definitely the beauty of good game design. There are no levels where I felt that it was just unfair. With practice you can just go through the whole thing very smoothly. I’d recommend definitely checking this game out.

Overall 6/10

Donkey Kong Jr Review


The first Donkey Kong was pretty fun so I was ready to jump into the second one. JR definitely switches up the gameplay quite a bit though. This one’s all about climbing and is a pretty nice change of pace. I actually thought it was a pretty solid sequel. It may not be as iconic or riveting as the first one, but it did a solid job of filling in its shoes. The game is over in the blink of an eye though since it only has 3-4 levels before it starts looping endlessly. That’s consistent with the first title though.

So the basic plot is that Mario has finally captured DK. It definitely took a lot of skill to do so and the hero is ready to call it a day. His plans end up changing though as Jr has arrived to rescue the former villain of the first game. Mario sends out a bunch of creatures to try and stop him, but Jr isn’t afraid of getting mixed up with a little action. He’s never backed down from a fight before and he certainly isn’t planning on starting now. The villains will have to watch out because Jr is definitely not playing around.

The gameplay here is pretty simple. You have to climb up the ladders until you reach Mario. You can move up and down as well as sideways as long as there is a vine there. You can’t touch any of the enemies of course so the idea is to always make sure you are going around them. You move a lot faster if you have one hand on each of the vines as opposed to totally being on one. This should help you breeze through the game a little easier. At the end of some levels you also have to bring some keys to the top and being on two ladders helps a lot since then you are bringing up 2 keys at once.

The gameplay doesn’t have any other wrinkles to it so you’ll master it within a few minutes. You can easily beat the game in under 15 minutes as well. So in terms of length this is definitely one of the shorter ones present. You can play it over again and again for replay value I suppose, but since the gameplay is so basic I doubt you’ll be doing that. It’s not quite as fun to replay over and over as something like Pac Man. There are less variables here and as a result that means there are less things to try. A lot of times you’ll just be clearing the levels in the same way over and over again which doesn’t provide much of an incentive to play through it some more.

The graphics are definitely really solid. Everything is very clear and this could pass off as an SNES game. Nintendo really didn’t hold back. The soundtrack is catchy enough as well even if it’s not very memorable. One thing Nintendo always kept in mind for a lot of these games was not to lose sight of the fun factor and that’s what helps keep Jr afloat. No matter what at least you know that you’ll be having a good amount of fun as you blast through this game.

Overall, Donkey Kong Jr is a pretty fun game. I liked the gameplay style and it all looks pretty high end for the console as Nintendo always tends to provide with their big games. The extremely short length is unfortunate but I suppose if you’re playing for score then you won’t really mind that too much. I’d definitely recommend giving it a try if you have the Switch Online service. It is free at that point anyway so it’s not like you’re really going to be sacrificing any cash to check it out right? I’ll be reviewing the Donkey Kong 3 game shortly which will be a nice way to end off the trilogy. Once that is over the NES games are also near their end. I’ve only got around 8 of them left although that isn’t counting the next 3 reviews which are already in progress.

Overall 6/10

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts Review


It’s time to look at another NES game as I get one step closer to conquering them all. This one is definitely pretty well known. I enjoyed the second one but the original hasn’t aged nearly as well. The platforming can be a little clunky with the controls and the weapons dynamic also hurts. See, there’s a chance you will chose the wrong weapon and then in the final level you are really in trouble. There’s just not much that you can do if anything. I made it up to the boss but my axe wouldn’t deal any damage. It seems like I should have kept more of an elemental weapon or something. If there is a way to beat the boss with the axe then that’s good, but I have my doubts. I tried hitting him many times to no avail.

The gameplay is pretty classic though in the style. Effectively your task is to keep on running til you get to the end of the level. On the way you will pass by a ton of minions and obstacles. Two hits is enough to take down your life so you really need to try and win as quickly as possible. If you don’t then it’ll be all over. I definitely had to rewind quite a lot in this game because the title really doesn’t hold back. Right from the start this game is very difficult. The difficulty level really isn’t a problem if you ask me. It’s very tough but the enemies are still fair and since I can rewind it’s fun enough. The main problem I have with the game is the weapon system.

I never like it when you can find a weapon on the map that is a lot worse than the one you have. When you touch the weapon it swaps out your current one for the new tool. The problem is you can’t switch back so then you are stuck. Particularly on a first playthrough where you don’t know which is the best weapon. It’s just a bit of odd game design if you ask me. I’m guessing there is a purpose to each weapon but some are just so much better than the others that I don’t see any reason to switch. Give me the fireball over the axe any day for example.

Then when it comes to the graphics the game is pretty reasonable. I don’t think it’ll be turning heads or anything like that but at least you always know what is happening which is the important part. The game’s levels go by pretty quickly too so the pacing isn’t an issue. The game seems to be around an hour long I’d say which is short, but average length for a NES title. The difficulty also helps keep the game as a little longer than it would otherwise be. The soundtrack is also pretty decent. Nothing super memorable or anything but it’s fast paced enough to mix in with the gameplay pretty well.

Overall, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a fun title that is hampered by some of its design choices. It’s a NES game that has earned its reputation. Ultimately it is still one of the weaker NES titles if you ask me though. The other platformers I’ve played tend to handle the platforming aspects a little better. The SNES version of this game is also a lot better so if anything I would recommend checking that one out instead. It takes the best elements from the first game and then improves them in the second. This is the kind of game that could easily work well in a modern remake as well. With updated graphics and more of a story this could easily sell a ton of units.

Overall 5/10

VS. Excitebike Review


It’s time to look at the next Excitebike game. This one is actually very similar to the original to the point where you could basically call it an enhanced remake. It gives you the classic mode like in the original but you also have the new vs option. It’s a pretty fun addition since you can finally have a true 1 vs 1 battle against someone else. That’s basically the only big new feature though so we’ll have to see if it’s enough to keep you playing for long. If you already played the original a lot then I doubt you would stick around here, but otherwise this is the game you’d want to start with. The gameplay is still pretty fun and the game has a reasonable amount of content so ultimately I would say that this helps take the game pretty far if you ask me.

The gameplay is that of a 2D racer. It’s almost overhead style but not completely from that view. The idea is to make it to the end of the stage within the timeframe in order to break records and win. You keep on doing this as you go through all of the races. You can also do the vs mode of course where the only objective is to stay ahead of the other racer. It’s a pretty fun game and it’s always fun to try and knock the opponents off of their bikes by going in front of them. Honestly it seems like landing a hit here would be pretty much fatal as there would be no way for the other racer to make up the distance at that point. From there their only hope would be for you to make a mistake. In that sense I suppose the game could be a little more balanced but it certainly does help the stakes.

The graphics are just as good as in the original title. The bikes all look pretty solid and the level designs are good as well. The game is able to keep up with your speed at all times. I do find that 2D racers like this can be a bit rough since you don’t really see the obstacles ahead of time and have to completely rely on your reflexes. It is an interesting option though and while 3D racers are my favorite I’m always game for trying these out as well. The soundtrack is less memorable though to the point where I can’t really remember any tunes. It’s a shame but that definitely doesn’t hurt the score, it just doesn’t help it.

In terms of replay value all I can really say is that you can keep on racing and try to beat your own records. Up to a point that’ll be fun but there are only so many different methods you can try. There are no shortcuts in the levels or anything like that so once you are good at consistently dodging the obstacles that are present I fear that you will plateu quite quickly. The replay value here just won’t last you for very long in the end so this is the kind of game you pick up for a day or a weekend. It’ll be fun during that period though which is important.

Overall, Vs. Excitebike is basically the original game but with an extra feature so by default I would recommend this one a little higher. It’s pretty interesting that the NES Online has both. I really wouldn’t have expected that so it’s a pretty nice surprise. If you like racing games then you owe it to yourself to try it out. This is one of the original racers after all and spawned a bunch of spinoffs. My favorite game in the franchise is definitely Excitetrucks. I remember playing that in the very early days of the Wii and it was a really nice way to start off the console.

Overall 6/10

Balloon Fight Review


It’s time to look at another NES game I recently finished playing through. Balloon Fight is definitely a pretty popular one despite the main character not becoming playable in Super Smash Bros yet. Don’t worry, it’s only a matter of time until they fix that. In the meanwhile it’s fun to look back at how the franchise began. The game has aged quite well and does something almost no other NES game at the time had even thought to do….it has 2 modes. In almost all of my NES reviews I have to mention that there isn’t really anything to do in the way of replay value. Well, that’s not the case for this game. In Balloon Fight you’ve got the main mode and an endless score version.

So the main gameplay of Balloon Fight is that you have to try and pop the balloons carrying your enemies. Then you knock them out before they can grab more. The game is endless so you just see how many levels of this you can survive. Each level has around 4-8 enemies for you to beat. At first this is pretty easy as there are no obstacles or elements getting in your way. The game gradually gets harder though as eventually you have lightning bolts being fired at you and things of that nature. It’s a challenging but fun experience. Your main incentive will be to keep trying to beat your old score.

Then you’ve got the other gameplay mode where you’ve got an auto scrolling screen and a bunch of balloons floating around. Every few balloons you grab lowers your ranking. Your goal is to make it to Rank 1 and then you’ll have beaten the mode. It keeps on going endlessly if you want to keep getting more balloons but that is your main goal. It’s pretty fun and certainly different from the main mode so I like the diversity. You can tell that this game had a good amount of development time behind it. This is what I like to see.

The graphics are simple but effective. The enemies are colorful and the background is catchy. The music theme is also pretty iconic at this point. There’s not much else to say on a technical basis but it doesn’t disappoint. Between the two modes this game should last you close to an hour. There’s also a little replay value in trying to raise your high scores although I wouldn’t say that the replay value is too high either. It’s just right considering that this is a free title with the NES Online.

The controls are very smooth as well and I like how the physics are handled. You can’t just turn at the drop of a dime or anything like that. You do have to account for gravity and everything. If you tried going somewhere very quickly then you will not be able to stop as fast as you would have liked. Also, one fun thing about the game is that crossing the edge of the screen actually doesn’t result in you losing a life the way that it does in most games. That’s a fun little element that may seem pretty random, but I think it does serve to help make the game even more unique. It’s all pretty impressive if you ask me.

There’s not a whole lot more to say about this game in part because of how simplistic it is. The gameplay you’ll understand within seconds of playing it because moving and floating is really all you can do. You beat all of the enemies the same way after all. Sometimes it seems like the simplest games ended up being some of the most addicting ones. It’s the same principle behind a lot of current mobile games that hit it big. There’s just something fun about doing repetitive actions. You start to do them real automatic like and it works out quite well if you ask me.

Overall, Balloon Fight is definitely one of the better NES games. This is exactly why I played a bunch of the low budget type games first. I figured that the longer I kept putting off the big games the more satisfying it would be when I ultimately started playing them back to back at the end. Now all I’ve got are the really big games and the marathon works quite well. I’d definitely be up for a big budget sequel to this someday. I think that would really work well since there is a ton that you can do with the balloon setup. You could even throw a plot in as that’s not something you typically saw a whole lot of back in the classic days.

Overall 6/10