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The Adventures of Bayou Billy (NES) artwork

The Adventures of Bayou Billy (NES) review

"Three games in one, and none of them are worth playing."

Video game hype and disappointment are nothing new. In the late '80s, my buddies begged their moms for extra chores and allowance money so they could afford the new, "revolutionary" Konami game: The Adventures of Bayou Billy. This wasn't just any action title, but THE action title. A commercial promised us a brawler, a racer and a rail shooter all in one amazing adventure. How could any of us not scream at our parents for this?

Eventually, you scored the necessary cash and the time came. You popped that sucker in your NES, quivering with anticipation. The title danced on your screen and you entered the single player mode. A voice then called out: "THE ADVENTURES OF BYEoo BEE-EEE." You didn't cringe or take this as an early warning because holy crap a freakin' video game just spoke this is going to be awesome oh my god.

It wasn't.

A groovy BGM starts up, calling back to "Crocodile Dundee." You dance a bit to the tune and throw your first punch, noticing straight off that combat is stiff. Billy pauses before you can throw another haymaker or kick, nixing combo attacks completely. In order to continuously strike, you need to fall into a button pressing rhythm, hoping your opponent doesn't get a lick in while doing so. This happens more often than not, and the game ends up feeling like a turn-based brawler.

The Adventures of Bayou Billy screenshotThe Adventures of Bayou Billy screenshot

You learn early on that punches are next to worthless, and you only stand a chance if you kick a foe and then run away. So you awkwardly scramble around the screen, kicking, retreating and repeating the process. This would be more tolerable if your opponents died quickly, but it takes numerous hits to drop one punk. It only gets worse when tons of goons show up, because you then bounce around the battlefield, waiting for an opening among three to four targets and only striking when the coast is clear. These guys also love to gang up on you and take advantage of your slow fighting style, so you can't expect to hold still for too long. Sure, you can spam a flying kick here as you could in other beat 'em ups, but even then you can't rely on it because of the wonky mechanics.

After a ton of practice, dying and crying, you make it to level two. The game prompts you to plug in your light gun and get ready to shoot. Maybe mowing down evildoers will help you blow off some of the steam you've built up...

You manage at first, blasting assassins with city bus-sized hit boxes. The going is pretty easy and relaxing at first, but then the screen starts to fill up. Before long, there are too many targets in the fray, shooting, throwing knives, launching rockets. Unless you're swift, you can't expect to take them all out with losing blood or running out of bullets. You fire, you scream, you perish, and maybe you persevere. It's doable, to be sure, but more needlessly frustrating than entertaining unless you're a dead shot or willing to stand very close to your TV.

The Adventures of Bayou Billy screenshotThe Adventures of Bayou Billy screenshot

You reach a boss, an antsy helicopter that can only be killed by a trigger-happy marksman. It moves around too quickly for you to damage it efficiently, dumping henchmen left and right all the while. Since you can't move on your own, you can't mitigate damage. Reports from enemy guns and the copter spell instant damage, and unless you keep the board clear or destroy the chopper with ease, you'll die quickly and often. At least the music bumping during this scene is catchy and thrilling.

Honestly, you can get through the first two stages with practice. The question you should ask, though: is it worth spending hours to train yourself to complete a clumsy brawler segment and a mediocre-at-best shooter level? If the driving scenes are any indication, then no.

Stage four rolls out, and Billy hops into a jeep armed with infinite bullets and grenades. You race down a narrow road, negotiating curves and avoiding wooden posts with stiff control response. One collision with anything subtracts a life from your supply. Oh, and there's a time limit, too! Because every driving game with slim roads and clumsy play control needs something that forces you to drive at breakneck speed, right? On top of that, you have other vehicles and the like to deal with, including cars that spawn along curves. Although it's possible to nail them while taking curves, my bullets always flew diagonally off the screen. I only managed to take out these guys by accidentally slamming into them, burning both my target and myself alive.

The Adventures of Bayou Billy screenshotThe Adventures of Bayou Billy screenshot

Like any other section, driving scenes are doable if you're willing to hone your skills, and that's the main problem with Bayou Billy. You play it, you hate it because it's difficult and awkward, you practice until you're able to weather the storm, and then you realize it still isn't any good. Even with proper training, the melee stages are tedious struggles where you spend more time avoiding punishment than dishing it out. Shooter levels feel unnecessary because they're technically shallow once you get the hang of them, and seem more tacked on as a result. Finally, no matter how good at driving you become, those stages remain twitchy and annoying.

How did Konami biff it so hard on this one? I mean, you fight alligators and angry dogs. And throw grenades at helicopters from a jeep. And battle a couple of tall, muscular villains wearing power armor. Plus it's got a funky soundtrack, with songs that smack of cheesy action movies. This campaign sports some seemingly awesome content, unfortunately lumped in with a ton of needless frustration. I get that face-breaking challenge factors were typical for the late '80s, but that doesn't excuse such awful control response or clunky combat.

Over the years, Bayou Billy faded into the background. No one was talking about it after a year or two because we all knew it was a disappointment. It was too hard for fledgling players, and not worthwhile for skilled veterans--especially not when arcades already had superior brawlers that ran smoothly. Today, it's remembered as a disaster, and only admired by the few who tolerated its underhanded nonsense. More power to them. Personally, I wouldn't mind if I just forgot that Bayou Billy existed altogether.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (March 03, 2019)

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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CptRetroBlue posted March 03, 2019:

Yeah, I do agree the game is unfairly tough nut at the same time I can't help how campy it is at the same time ha ha
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Ogreatgames posted March 04, 2019:

Good review!

Beating the game The Adventures of Bayou Billy was every NES kids' dream back in the days.

It's like Indiana Jones meets Crocodile Dundee.

Bayou Billy offered different gameplays.

And just like other old NES games like Silver Surfer and Battletoads, it was also quite of a challenge.

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