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Abadox (NES) artwork

Abadox (NES) review


"When you resume play, you'll find yourself again controlling that same slow-moving, impotent piece of junk with which you started. The big difference is that now you'll possibly be starting from a mid-level checkpoint or even a more difficult late-game area. Odds are that you'll quickly lose the rest of your lives and realize that you're playing one of those shooters where, if you can't complete it on one life, you might as well reset and start again from scratch."



Once upon a time, when I was first starting out as a game critic, I penned an amateurish effort for Abadox which may have set new standards in missing the point. While it was quite vague on trifling details such as how the game played, my review spared no expense when it came to gushing over the gory imagery on hand in a game that finds you shooting your way through the innards of a parasitic planet. Yes, despite being just shy of 30 when I wrote it, I had created something best described as the ravings of a Fangoria-obsessed teen, one who was so thrilled to see coiled intestines and floating eyeballs that all reason had left his brain.

Abadox screenshot Abadox screenshot


That was not one of my prouder moments, but it does serve as a textbook example of me only seeing what I wanted to see. Upon revisiting this 1990 NES shooter from Milton Bradley, I discovered that it's difficult to view this game as anything more than a pedestrian affair blessed with a strong touch of the grotesque -- a piece of interactive entertainment that's more fun to look at than it is to actually play.

The main problem with Abadox is its reliance on fake difficulty to turn its relative brevity (six reasonably short stages followed by a high-speed obstacle course escape) into a monumental challenge. At the onset of the game, you'll utterly hate your character. He's slow as molasses and barely possesses any firepower to speak of. Simply surviving the opening moments of the first level takes a decent bit of skill, since you're painfully underpowered.

Eventually, you'll snag a couple speed-up icons and finally be able to cover the screen as quickly as the stage design demands. Your arsenal will be improved with the addition of missiles and improved firepower, such as a spread shot or laser. You'll even acquire shields, so that you don't immediately die when a stray bullet or foe grazes you. Things will be looking up for you, as foes start falling more quickly to your barrage of bullets and you're finally nimble enough to evade their attacks.

Then you die, though, and the good vibes disappear in an instant. When you resume play, you'll find yourself again controlling that same slow-moving, impotent piece of junk with which you started. The big difference is that now you'll possibly be starting from a mid-level checkpoint or even a more difficult late-game area. Odds are that you'll quickly lose the rest of your lives and realize that you're playing one of those shooters where, if you can't complete it on one life, you might as well reset and start again from scratch.

What makes things worse is that this game pulls out all the stops as it works to ensure that you'll experience more than your share of frustrating deaths. Of particular note are the clawed arms in the second level, which lunge out of the walls as you fly by. You won't see them until they're right on top of you, at which point it will likely be far too late to dodge. There a strong hint of R-Type throughout Abadox, as you're constantly forced through narrow, claustrophobic corridors littered with enemies just outside your range. With a bit of tinkering, it all could have been a super fun challenge. Instead, it errs on the side of frustrating.

That troubling design philosophy carries over to other aspects of the game, as well. In particular, the bosses you must face are well-detailed and supply an array of attacks that is quite difficult to dodge… until you realize the lion's share of these baddies have a blind spot available somewhere in their room. If you find that area, you can camp out and simply tap the attack button until they're destroyed for an effortless victory. Oops!

Despite being a frustrating game with a few issues, Abadox is still worth a shooter fan’s time invested, just because of what it does get right. You could almost call it an alternate version of Life Force, since it does seem to copy a lot of that title’s most worthwhile qualities. Here the stages also alternate between horizontal and vertical orientations, except in this case, you're going from top to bottom in the vertical ones. It took me a little while to get used to that, but it is a fitting approach. I mean, if you're descending into the bowels of some bizarre planet-sized monstrosity, it makes sense to be flying downward on the screen, doesn't it?

Abadox screenshot Abadox screenshot


And, of course, there is the imagery. This game really takes the concept behind Life Force's fleshy first stage and runs with it. You'll fight floating eyeballs and parasitic creatures, all while looking at all sorts of intestinal corridor walls and the occasional protruding tumor-like thing with a gaping, fang-filled mouth. It’s not the sort of thing to encourage pleasant dreams, but it's far better visually than the average NES shooter. The experience peaks as you complete the fourth stage. As you travel downward through increasingly narrow corridors, the music fades to a mere heartbeat. You have no room for error. The boss fight is close by, and from the ominous "thub-thub" of the audio, it's a given that something really bad is on the way.

If moments like that were representative of Abadox as a whole, I'd feel no chagrin about that 8/10 I once awarded it. Sadly, like I said, that moment of immersion represents the game's peak. Most of the time, I instead found myself playing a game that merely looked nice and was interesting almost solely because it possesses the sort of imagery that Nintendo usually was so good about preventing us poor Americans from seeing (especially this blatantly). I also found myself growing frustrated by the slew of deaths inflicted on my ship, particularly because each of those deaths might as well have been a "Game Over" screen thanks to the crippling loss of all my power-ups. Abadox has some merit, but a great game it is not…

Rating: 5/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 09, 2013)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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