"While it makes sense to port the flagship games of the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis, which featured gaming icons like Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Earthworm Jim, one has to wonder what sort of logic was behind the decision to port The Three Stooges, an obscure NES game based on characters from a fifty year old black & white television show."
Whoever’s idea it was to port this should have been triple-slapped.
The Game Boy Advance’s reputation as a receptacle for re-released games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras is now well-established. While this practice may annoy older gamers who grew up playing all of these titles in their original form, the fact does remain that porting to the Game Boy Advance is a convenient means of reintroducing beloved games like Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to a younger generation of gamers – much in the way that older popular PC games are often re-released in compilation packages and updated to work properly on newer machines.
While it makes sense to port the flagship games of the Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Genesis, which featured gaming icons like Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and Earthworm Jim, one has to wonder what sort of logic was behind the decision to port The Three Stooges, an obscure NES game based on characters from a fifty year old black & white television show. Nevertheless, it was done. Badly. In spite of superficial visual and audio touch-ups, everything else about the game still feels 8-bit, and what had been in it’s day a decent game on the NES becomes a below-par and painfully dated dinosaur on the GBA.
Much of the game is based on scenarios that are either strongly inspired by or taken directly from the Three Stooges comedy sketches. As such, I can really only recommend it to those relatively well-versed in Stooges lore. Otherwise, the aggressive cracker-stealing clams, the hospital intercom call “paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard,” and Larry wailing about his broken Stradivarius to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel will be totally lost on the player. These “in” references do give the game some charm, but again, only to those who know enough to get all the jokes.
The story, insofar as the game has one, centers around the Stooges doing what they do best: acting utterly stupid for a good cause. Larry, Curly and Moe decide to help out Ma’s Orphanage by raising enough money to pay off the money-hungry banker, appropriately named I. Fleecem, who is threatening to close the orphanage down if he doesn’t get paid.
The Stooges have 30 days to get the cash, which works out as 30 “turns” around a boardgame-like arrangement of pictures that each represent a different scenario. These could be anything from finding a random bag of money in the street (a very lucky occurrence that doesn’t happen very often), or paying a visit to the banker to plead for a break (although he never gives you one).
Mainly however, the Stooges have to take odd-jobs to get money, which come in the form of mini-games. Though they make up the meat of the game, the mini-games are extremely disappointing. Granted, in the NES version the controls were a little unruly and weird, but it was the NES and we could better tolerate that kind of thing. In the GBA version, however, absolutely nothing has been improved upon. Curly’s sluggishly moving spoon in the cracker eating contest is always too slow to reach the crackers in time before the oysters snap them up. Larry’s side-scrolling obstacle-dodging stage based on the Curly vs. Killer Kilduff boxing match sketch has serious hit-detection issues, as does the hospital mini-game where the Stooges trail behind a white-garbed nurse collecting discarded medical supplies while trying not to bump into patients. The remaining mini-games, a classic Stooges pie-fight that pits the three “waiters” against some snooty restaurant patrons, and a Stooges slap-fest which amounts to Moe poking, slapping and kicking Larry and Curly until the timer runs down, also suffer from the same frustrating controls that feel a though the gamer is fighting with the buttons rather than manipulating them.
Graphically, the GBA version shows some improvement from the NES version, but these improvements are basically just color enhancements on existing models, as well as the retouching of the existing still pictures and the addition of a handful of new ones. The game is no longer infused with a sickly salmon-orange hue, and instead has healthy whites, blacks and browns. (Still drab, to be sure, but better than orange.) Overall however, the graphics still seem uninspired. It’s as though the visuals were enhanced just enough to eliminate the cringe factor that the primitive NES graphics would have on the modern gamer – but went nothing beyond being a simple patch job.
The sound quality, on the other hand, descends well past mediocrity into borderline abysmal. The music sounds painfully primitive; again, betraying the game as a poorly touched up NES port. The Stooges’ Pop Goes the Weasel theme and the handful of other musical selections in the game are rendered as annoying walls-of-sound completely lacking nuance, and loud enough to drown out the voice sample sound effects. Not that it’s a big loss, because what sound manages to nudge its way through the barrage of music is equally ugly; from I. Fleecem’s annoying looped laugh: “HA Ha ha heh heh… HA Ha ha heh heh…” to the outbursts of random Stooges catchphrases at the most pointless times. For example as the Stooges are about to take a waitering job, Larry interjects “what are ya’a scaredy-cat?” “Woo woo woo” answers Curly. Mm hmm.
The reason why I know that the game is well and truly a CHEAP port (as opposed to something that someone put a modicum of effort and care into such as, for example, the Super Ghouls & Ghosts or Zelda: Link to the Past remakes) is the presence of palette swapping that is trying to be passed off as something new. Yes, apparently someone thought that they could make a pizza-throwing mini-game from the pie-throwing mini-game and set it in an Italian restaurant…and replace the hospital carts and medical supplies with grocery carts and vegetables…and no one would notice.
The addition of a password system is of course a welcome addition to any portable title. Not as good as a save feature, but better than nothing. However, the extent to which it will actually get used is questionable, since an average “game,” that is to say 30 days around the “board” will only take about 10 minutes. It gets repetitive quickly, and when combined with dodgy controls, poor sound, and graphics that are nothing special, the game emits a general feeling of Ick. While I will readily defend the Game Boy Advance from people who say it’s nothing but a mini-NES/SNES/Genesis, ports like The Three Stooges make my job decidedly more difficult.
Staff review by Erin Bell (April 07, 2003)
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