Playing With Power: BeetlejuiceBy Raymond Gallant
Posted on April 11, 2012
Welcome to another edition of Playing With Power. The review article that looks at all things Nintendo Entertainment System. If ever there was two things that should never go together, it’s movie licenses and LJN. The company was notorious for creating some of the worst video games imaginable, and handling certain films poorly. I’ve talked about one particular game that still haunts me to this day, and now it’s time to talk of one that certainly scares me. But definitely not in the way they likely intended. This week, we’re looking at Beetlejuice. Does this game truly have the ghost with the most? Or is it just a game that is lame?
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1991
GENRE: Action Platformer
Beetlejuice was a 1988 horror comedy directed by Tim Burton. For those who actually haven’t seen the film, the movie is about a recently deceased couple who have to deal with the obnoxious family that have moved into their home, as well as deal with the insane, devious, and charismatic “bio-excorist” named Beetlejuice who has plans of his own, namely marrying Lydia, the daughter of the Deetz family.
The movie was a box office smash, and it was only a matter of time until a video game would be released. Interestingly that matter of time would be a whole three years, and of course the ones to procure the rights to the gaming license were our old friends at LJN.
Rare would be the ones responsible for developing the game, and in May of 1991, Beetlejuice was released for the NES, with a game boy game that would follow as well (that one being based on the animated series). But with over 3 years since the movie’s release, and the reputation of LJN being very shaky at that point, was this going to be a better outing than their other movie games like “Friday the 13th” or “Back to the Future”? Let’s find out.
It’s just the cover to the film. While nothing astonishing, it still works due to how recognizable it is. If you owned the film, or at least the poster, than the cover to the game is definitely an eyecatcher. Like I said in the Bill and Ted review, LJN knew how to do this right, and this is definitely one of those cases. And since this is an iconic poster, it works great.
It’s Showtime. The bio-excorcist Beetlejuice has a job to do. And that’s to scare the Deetz family out of their new house. If Beetlejuice can get the job done, maybe he can finally get out of the afterlife once and for all. is the Ghost with the Most up to the task?
So, technically it’s very loosely based on the movie, with Beetlejuice being the main hero of the game. while loose, it still manages to retain some of the movie’s plot, and doesn’t feel as poorly handled as other LJN movie licensed games. I mean, at least Beetlejuice isn’t walking down endless roads throwing bowling balls. I mean, what kind of movie game would add something so odd?
Beetlejuice is a one player game. You control Beetlejuice through eight levels, as you try to scare off the Deetz family, among other things in the game. The D-Pad controls Beetlejuice, using the A button will make him jump, and B will execute a stomp attack, or use certain attacks when activating scares. However the stomp attack itself doesn’t do damage to regular enemies. It’s actually used to stomp on tiny beetles.
You need to stomp on the beetles to earn currency to buy scares. Each stomped beetle will earn you currency (Known as help vouchers). There are different types of beetles, each worth a different amount. They range from the small red beetles, worth 10 vouchers, to the gold beetles worth 75. You can also earn vouchers from different enemies destroyed like for example the giant octopus creatures in the sewer levels.
The main gimmick of the game is the scares you can buy from the shops in each level. You can buy the scares with the help vouchers you earn. These scares will turn Beetlejuice into different monsters for a short period of time. Most of them basically give him a firing attack. These scares include a skeleton, a two headed monster, an ogre, a bird face, and an umbrella head. The scares range in power for their attacks, as well as some having better jumping ability than others. The best strategy with the scares is to buy as many as possible. Preferably from a shop close to a beetle spawning ground that can earn you plenty of vouchers, making for a somewhat annoying, but effective shopping trick.
The game’s eight levels take you throughout certain areas of the movie, along with other detours. You’ll have to go through the Maitlands’ house, go through rivers, graveyards, and finish off at the afterlife waiting room. Most of the levels are your basic side scrolling affair, where you go through the level, dealing with the many dangers that will kill you, and make it to the end, where you’ll usually face off with a boss. There aren’t too many bosses, a mere three. Even the last level doesn’t have a boss in it. the three bosses can be killed quite easily with a good scare attack.
In the middle of the game, the gameplay changes entirely to a side scrolling level. This can be insanely hard as you have to go from room to room, face off with some of the more annoying enemies in the game, and have to find items to deal with the Deetzes and the Maitlands as you progress. The level is very maze-like, and some rooms will have the screen auto-scroll, meaning you can get easily squished if you’re not careful. This level also will sometimes have a door that will chase you. If you get caught by it, you’ll end up in Saturn, where you’ll have to fight a sandworm to survive. You can get an extra life through the affair, so it’s not all bad.
Speaking of lives, You have 3 to start the game, as well as three continues. You do get extra lives as you progress, but they can be few and far between (But you can buy them in shops for 1250 vouchers. Better get squishing). You also have three hits (or three beetlejuices. You know, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice?) which will usually take effect for most enemies in the game, though there are a ton of one hit instant kills in the game. The jumping in the game works pretty well, with no real issue, and the hit detection is okay at best, despite some very minor cases.
But there is one thing that has always bugged me about this game. If you go too high on a platform, or at least enough where the floor below is off the screen, should you fall off the platform or whatever you’re on at the time, this will lead to an instant death. First off, this game was released in 1991. There really is no reason for the screen to not auto-scroll with you, so that you won’t die so easily from these hazards. Unless the floor simply vanishes below you for no really well explained reason, this should not be happening.
For a ghost, Beetlejuice can certainly die very easily. You will die a lot in this game, it’s almost a given. The game is very challenging, due to the enemies in the game, and a lot of the bad platforming (the aforementioned vanishing floor for example). Trust me, you’ll be seeing that password screen a lot, as well as the game over screen. And with no passwords, saves, or level selects, you’re in for a challenge. But to be honest, a challenge that really isn’t all that worth taking.
The game’s graphics are pretty good. The sprites are well designed, along with the levels. Not to mention Beetlejucie’s mug is especially creeping on the title screen (along with all of the game’s “cut scenes”). Rare usually delivers, and manages to keep with the feel of the movie, which leads for an okay looking experience all around with little to no complaints.
I don’t know how Rare does it, but it’s almost as if every bad video game they made is somehow slightly redeemed with an outstanding soundtrack. and this one is certainly no exception. There are so many amazing tracks in this game, including the first level theme, as well as the top down level. They are some of the most excellent tracks I’ve heard in any NES game, and among my top favorites of all time. I would say a lack of any 8-bit rendition of either the Beetlejuice theme, Jump in the Line, or Day-O is kind of disappointing. But what you get is still awesome work.
Beetlejuice is a bad game. It suffers from annoying gameplay with stupid choices (again, the vanishing floor just annoys me to no end), along with a difficulty that isn’t worth dealing with at times. The graphics are okay, and it boasts a top notch soundtrack, and there are some things that would have worked in a better game, but sadly not enough to help this game.
In the end, it’s just another one of the many horrible LJN games that could have been so much better. While I find there are far worse movie games that LJN made for the NES, this one is still pretty close to the top spot. Another issue I’ve had is that it really doesn’t truly capture the feel of the movie, and just feel like another bland platformer. If you want a game that has a ghost scaring a family out of their home, I suggest a very underrated Sega Genesis game known as Haunting: Starring Poulterguy. That game is still one of the most original, and fun games I’ve seen on any console.
Even if you’re a fan of Beetlejuice, I’d say avoid his NES outing. I’d say unless you’re a collector like I am, that’s the only real reason to pick this one up. The ghost with the most is in a game with the least.
RATING: Thumbs Down
Special thanks to Ken D. Blackwell for the font in my new logo.
I also want to send a special shout out to Retro Review Revolution. Thank you very much for your support of Playing With Power, as well as linking to my articles from your links section.