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Peter Pan and the Pirates (NES) artwork

Peter Pan and the Pirates (NES) review

"It's like Equilibrium slapped together a basic platformer, crudely inserted characters from the television series, then tacked on the ability to fly and called it a day. Even if you are a fan of the show, you deserve way better than this. You're much better off browsing old episodes on YouTube and forgetting this awkward license title exists."

Joe's Contribution to Review a Bad Game Day #1 - Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates

Put a bunch of twenty- and thirty-somethings in a room together for a long enough time and they'll eventually gab about '80s cartoons. I can't count the number of times I've been there. Somewhere between the euphoric remembrance of Duck Tales and the hyperbolic claims to Transformers's "superior" quality of animation, I tend to open my mouth and lose control of my words. Out spews a name, the conversation drops as if time has screamed to a halt, and everyone stares deep into my soul. I then realize the faux pas I've made in bringing up the cartoon-that-shall-not-be-named: Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates. No one claims to remember this show, though their eyes say otherwise. Either the name kills the conversation--because nothing signifies the end like scraping the bottom of the barrel--or some talented talker is able to get it back on track and make everyone forget the show exists.

This is not to say that I didn't watch the show. I watched it plenty as a kid, and still didn't like it. Everyone in my circle of friends was drawn to it, yet I could tell very few of us were actually enjoyed it. That's evident by the fact that few of us remember a single episode or scene. The spell it held over us was powerful enough to convince me to rent the video game when it hit shelves. Similarly, I'd forgotten what the game entailed, but something told me I liked it. I decided to give the game another whirl because maybe it held some brilliance I'd not realized.

I think you know where this is going...

Peter Pan and the Pirates assetPeter Pan and the Pirates asset

The first few screens you see are a warning. If the THQ logo doesn't scare you off, then the title screen might. Rendered in a nauseating pink, blue and mango-yellow is show's trademark title. There you see an image of Peter Pan flying through the air, arms spread, mouth wide open in idiotic elation, and eyes vacant as if he were a soulless wraith bent on stealing the soul of every child outside of Neverland.

Peter Pan and the Pirates asset Peter Pan and the Pirates asset
Left: Dario Argento is Peter Pan! Right: Something about this profile screams "stinky kid."

I'll be fair. I can't very well tear this game apart based on its source material. The game does a pretty good job of that itself.

If you signed up expecting anything but a standard platformer, then prepare for disappointment. What follows the early warning signs are several stages of advancing to the right. Here and there are basic platformer structures. You might notice that sometimes jumping over even the simplest pitfall can result in disaster. I remember many times trying to leap onto one of the mushrooms sitting over a large pit in the first stage. The space between the edge of the land and the mushroom is negligible. In almost any platformer, you could complete this without even thinking. However, there's something strange about Peter's jump. He leaps high, but struggles to close gaps. Because of this, you will plummet to your death a lot.

You might also notice that jumps never grow especially dire. You either have short distances to cover, as in the first few stages, or long distances that you couldn't hope to close with a basic jump. Obviously, this is because Peter can fly. Unlike some games that feature flying protagonists, Peter Pan & the Pirates doesn't bother with tricky jumps or tough situations. Why would you need to when you can fly over everything? I will applaud the developers on one thing. Unlike Kirby, Peter doesn't get unlimited flight. You can't just fly through the stage, heedless of all obstacles. You actually have to pace your flying ability and use your judgment on different scenes to know whether using it is appropriate or not. Just the same, it still demeans most of the jumps in the game. If it looks like you're about to biff a tricky jump, you can hit 'Up' on the D-pad and save yourself from eradication.

...most of the time.

Now that I've performed my mitzvah for the day by praising this maligned game, I can royally rip it to shreds. The game's biggest fault is the flight mechanics. That's right, this is a game starring Peter Pan--which would entail that one of the key functions is flying--that features horrid flight mechanics. Peter can never hover in place, and has to remain in motion until he lands. If he flies into a platform, even into the side of it, he will instantly drop. Even if you save yourself from a pitfall, there's no guarantee that you're still safe. I've struggled many times to recover from a dive, only to fly back into the platform I was initially standing on and fall to my death anyway.

Shifting in air is the worst part about flying. Sometimes you'll try to correct yourself before flying into an enemy or platform. You'll press the opposite direction, and Peter will keep on chugging toward the obstruction, gleefully wishing death upon himself. It's especially terrible if you're moving diagonally. Just getting him to move diagonally is difficult enough, as he sometimes won't obey you. Getting him to go from a diagonal motion to a horizontal one almost never happens. The end result is usually you flying into a platform above and falling yet again. You will waste a lot of flight power by falling and restarting, and you will lose a lot of lives just getting the mechanics down.

Not that it matters much. The game is really short at under ten levels, and incredibly easy once you realize what you need to do.

Peter Pan and the Pirates assetPeter Pan and the Pirates asset

Traveling to the right is not the main objective. Any time you try to complete a level, Wendy will bicker about the overwhelming presence of pirates in the area. The solution is clear. Peter has to hunt down and horribly knife every pirate in the area to death before completing a stage. I know ranting about violence in an NES game is pointless, but isn't that something you don't want in a game based on a kid's show? It's not like you're jumping on them or punching them. You're stabbing them to death like a thug in a back alley.

With this objective in mind, you'd think the developers would have put some emphasis on the combat. All there is to it, though, is getting within hug range of a pirate and shanking them with a tiny silver knife. There are no fancy moves or tricks to killing your opponents. Most of them pace back and forth, awaiting their bloody fate. Apparently loitering is the worst offense you can commit in Neverland. You walk/jump/fly up to them and execute them for their crimes. Simple as that. The only screwball to take into account is that some pirates are packing heat. Doesn't matter, because bullets moves slowly enough that you can easily dodge them.

Even though you will likely take damage when stabbing an opponent, there are health power ups all over every stage. I'm not exaggerating, either. There has to be more than a dozen in the first level, including ones gained from hidden bonus stages. By the time I got to the end of the game, I had well over 90 health points.

I get the feeling that the developers never really cared about Peter Pan & the Pirates, much in the same way my friends and I never really cared about the show. It shows in almost every aspect of the design. It's a platformer with dull, challenge-free level designs. No biggie, it stars Peter Pan, so level designs will be simple thanks to the ability to fly. Oh, but flying is wonky and usually troublesome. Combat is the main attraction! Yeah, but the combat is also dull and challenge-free. Nothing about this sounds organized or thought out. It's like Equilibrium slapped together a basic platformer, crudely inserted characters from the television series, then tacked on the ability to fly and called it a day. Even if you are a fan of the show, you deserve way better than this. You're much better off browsing old episodes on YouTube and forgetting this awkward license title exists.

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No, it isn't


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (August 08, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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