The Rube’s Review: Beetlejuice (NES 1990)

The Rube’s Review: Beetlejuice 1990

Almost 99% of all Nintendo games can be figured out, not by a manual but by simple button mashing. Sadly, LGN’s Beetlejuice throws that logic right out of the f#cking window…

PUBLISHER: LJN
GENRE:
Side-scrolling Adventure
DEVELOPER:
Rare
PLATFORMS:
NES
MODES:
1 Player

You start with a well-detailed map that depicts key areas from the hit movie. I won’t bore you with the scene by scene details but if you haven’t yet seen Beetlejuice, just stop reading this, drop whatever sh#t you had planned for today and go watch it. Now.. where was I… oh, the map. It’s awesomely drawn and gets you excited to play this title. Unfortunately after you hit that B Button, it’s all downhill.

The first level begins with Beetlejuice next to a locked house, which is a great way to start any game… with frustration. You continue to your right, spend a button-mashing minute in a futile attempt to kill a large beetle, and find a key just for you to turn around and go back to the house.

Beetlejuice_NES_mapReally LJN, this is how we’re going to start this relationship? I know it’s petty of the Rube to automatically bitch about a game’s opening but why would you start a game with a locked area, go one screen over to get a key just to go back to the left (which is so counterintuitive for a left to right side scroller) to open that area? Why not just start yourself at an open house or better yet inside the house, skipping all of the unnecessary getting the key bullsh#t…?

So, after wasting your time on that mundane task, you enter the house where it’s a vertical ascending zig-zag adventure to flip switches that turn on clouds and turn off heat lamps (?) so you can finally get to the top, where you grab a copy of the “Book of the Recently Deceased” and jump out the window. Sounds easy but you have to dodge all of these !^#@ flaming torches that you assume are mere background décor until you bounce back after being touched. Oh, remember when I mentioned how counterintuitive this game was? Well the fun doesn’t stop there. When you get hit by everything – and you will – the word BEETLEJUICE is displayed. A little box starts at zero and counts up. If you get called by your surname three times, you die… huh? WHAT?!?! Why the Fug would anyone design a health system like this? Heath meters are supposed to go down not up? *Huff*huff*

Beetlejuice_NES_insidehouse

With another glass of Banana Nes-Quick and the power of Greyskull I picked up my controller, and continued… before I destroyed my controller in a blind nerd rage.

After pausing for a bit to scream into Ye Olde Frustration Pillow, we carry on with our adventure, now outside and on the roof. You continue from left to right (as it should be), you jump on clouds, dodge bugs, and eventually land on another platform with a house, a giant pacing scorpion at the door and holes in the ground with tiny fleas jumping around. At this point I was kinda stumped. All I kept doing was jumping over the fleas and scorpion or going into the house where you can buy special abilities with money that came from GOD™ knows where. Other than that, you can either continue left to a bee infested tree and a cloud that doesn’t go anywhere, press down to a lower cliff to enter a hole which is only leads to a deathtrap of floating skulls and bottomless pits, or you can backtrack and fall/jump off a cliff.

Three minutes of button mashing and taking useless leaps of faith in all directions later, the Rube took another pillow break, got a glass of Banana Nes-Quick and restarted my adventure three more times until I declared, “F#ck this game” and left to watch an episode of Dinosaurs on Netflix (hey, where’s that game?). While I was chuckling at a fat pink baby dinosaur bashing his father’s skull in with a frying pan, I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’m just too old to be playing these games. Maybe the Rube should hang up his hat and be content with playing Scrabble for the rest of my days?” Then I looked at the %#&@! little grey and black box and said, NO!! THIS %#@&$ GAME WILL NOT BE THE END OF ME. F#CK IT, LET’S DO THIS!!!!

Beetlejuice_NES_house2So, with another glass of Banana Nes-Quick and the power of Greyskull, I turned on my NES, picked up my controller, aaaannnndddd continued for about 15 minutes before I destroyed my controller in a blind nerd rage and stormed to my computer to find an online copy of the instruction manual.

Luckily in this day and age, you can find anything on the Internet. The Beetlejuice instruction manual, which literally reads like stereo instructions and goes on for 17 pages explaining the purpose and goal of each of the five levels, how the purchased items can be used a weapons, those fleas are actually beetles to be squashed for cash, and most importantly instructions how to use the three different types of controls which vary from level to level.

Yeah, this is all helpful, but what child in 1990 (or for that matter, at any time) is going to study a booklet first to play a new game. Did you ever do this? No! What you did, like everyone else, was put the game in your NES, turn it on, and start to play. Yeah, if you got stumped, you would look at your instructions for help but for any game to be a good game, you should be able to figure out within a minute of simple random button mashing what does what and continue to have a good time.

Beetlejuice_NES_afterlife

Then in a moment of clarity I remembered the three classifications of all NES games:

THE GOOD

A NES game usually developed in house by Nintendo with great graphics, good controls, challenging gameplay, and hours of fun replay value… Zelda, Metriod, Blaster Master, Goonies II, etc.

THE BAD

NES games usually from a third party developer that were either a bad copy of an arcade game or a rushed title with poor controls and game dynamics (Example: Dragon’s Lair for NES).

THE UGLY

NES games that were so convoluted and confusing that it was designed for one purpose, for you to call the LJN Game Counselor Line found on the first or last page of the manual, at &%$#@ $3.99 A MINUTE!

It’s no big secret that LJN was notorious for putting out the worst NES games in history, but since 99% of the titles they published were based on that year’s hot summer movie blockbusters, we were all suckers with dreams of great graphics and gameplay. But instead… we ended up with a bunch mediocre dogsh!t that was scraped from the bottom of the LJN barrel.

Beetlejuice_NES_adLJN games were so bad that not only did they make a fortune duping children into pay-by-the-minute phone calls but Nintendo got hip to their shenanigans and started to give in-depth walkthroughs of all LJN games, forcing kids to spend their milk money to buy Nintendo Power Magazine. Remember, this was before the Internet, so if you wanted to beat your $30 LJN 8-bit nightmare you really had no choice but to call the number (and get ready for a beating when the phone bill arrives) or shill out hard earned lawn mower money on the latest issue of Nintendo Power.

After reading the instructions and referring to a couple of walkthroughs on Youtube, I was back in the game until reaching the house/attic levels which consist of 20 sub-screens where you dodge a mind boggling number of random pattern enemies and pick up items to continue to the next level. Adding to the 8-bit drama, some sub-screens either have warp doorways that need to be entered in a certain order or auto-scrolling levels that crush you if you don’t hurry (I F#CKING hate those). OH, and get this sh#t… if you’re too slow, there’s a blue door that chases you. WTF?! If the door touches Beetlejuice, you end up at the afterlife mini-level and will have to defeat an impossible sandworm before you can continue on your now monotonous adventure.

All of this running and dodging bullsh#t just makes this game feel like more of an endurance trial, which in turn sucks all of the remaining fun out of the game. After about an hour of dying over and over again, I just called it quits and played a quick game of Goonies II (which I beat) to calm my nerves.

1
OUT OF 5
AWFUL

Yes, Beetlejuice is challenging but what’s the point of playing a game that you literally have to research to play? What’s the fun in that? I would rather spend my time beating easy fun favorites like Super Mario Bros or Trojan for the hundredth time than playing one more minute of another LJN 8-bit mockery of a fantastic film. Shame on you LJN… shame on you…

PROS

+ Decent graphics and music
+ …it came in a nice box?

CONS

Awful gameplay and controls
No real connection to the film
Insanely hard levels
It’s an LJN game

Written by The Rube

The Rube is co-owner of Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade & Museum in Minneapolis, MN. He is also a Special Effects Artist, Master Chef, and Multiple Threadless Design Winner. Other than writing reviews and doodling, he enjoys watching bad movies, building monster model kits, and collecting games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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