Sunday, June 23, 2024

Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami Release: 02/21/86 Genre: Platformer

What happened to the Goonies I? I am sure I am not alone in wondering that when the Goonies II released in America. Any child of the 80s is familiar with the movie and it remains popular to this day as it captured the childhood dream of adventure and exploration perfectly. While we wanted a sequel to the movie it never happened, but at least we got a game instead. But what about the Goonies? Although virtually unknown outside of Japan it is a solid adventure that in many ways I prefer over its sequel.

The Goonies is loosely based on the film of the same name. Apparently the movie was very popular in Japan as there were multiple versions of the game released in Japan. Technically the Goonies did hit America but not at retail. If you were lucky enough to have a Vs. arcade unit or Play Choice 10 machine in your local arcade or mom and pop store there was a possibility the Goonies might have been one of the titles among its lineup. I was not so fortunate so this is my first time playing the game. What I found is a game that is both familiar yet different and still just as good over thirty years later.

The Goonies 002 The Goonies 003

The goal in each stage is to find three keys to unlock the exit as well as find one of your fellow Goonies. There is one possible exception as you can potentially skip stage four through a warp. But the game adjusts for that. Despite being level based the Goonies will be very familiar to fans of the second game. Each level is decently sized with warp points to different parts of the map. Enemies respawn and drop items in a similar fashion and you can build up an inventory of items even though they are not necessary. What you will not find is the frustrating first person rooms that did nothing but annoy players and stymie progress.

Initially Mikey can only kick enemies. Within seconds you will gain bombs that can destroy skull doors to find items or damage enemies. You can only carry one at a time but pretty much every enemy drops one. Each door randomly drops an item and these range from potions that restore health, keys, a Goonie, or slingshot. Ammo is limited but chances are you will carry it between levels. There are a handful of items that aid in exploration. The raincoat will protect against falling water, the helmet blocks falling objects, the backpack lets you hold two items, and the spring shoes lets you jump higher in one specific instance to access the previously mentioned warp. As cool as they are these items are not necessary and only make the game easier.

The gameplay in the Goonies is simple but it works in the game’s favor. The level design is generally excellent. The maps are large enough to offer a sense of tangible sense of exploration without being too complex. The random nature of the item drops in each door means you can find every item you need almost immediately and bee line to the exit or you might have to thoroughly explore each map in totality to complete your goal. The way they thread that needle so well is admirable considering how many games during that period utterly failed in that regard. They introduce just enough new hazards and enemies to keep things fresh even though the game is short overall. The features they would add in the Goonies II to expand the gameplay were both exciting and frustrating. This simpler experience is refreshing in comparison.

By virtue of its brevity the Goonies is easy overall. Your life bar is very long and most enemies ignore your presence. Even though life potions are random you will not need them most of the time. If you do need to heal collecting eight hidden diamonds will refill your health. These are easy to find; chances are you will stumble on them by accident constantly. There are no bosses and there are only six levels with two of those being very short. While I wish it were a little longer I respect a game that does not overstay its welcome.

In Closing

I really like the Goonies. I expected a simple game limited in scope compared to its predecessor but found a great game that set the groundwork for its successor. For a game released in 1986 it is still impressive today and makes for an afternoon of fun. Honestly I am baffled as to why Konami did not give this a full release considering the popularity of the movie. I would take this over Circus Charlie any day of the week.

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