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Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure (NES) artwork

Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure (NES) review

"Because of the way things are organized, most of the game is spent fetching items and dodging the hazards that get in your way. Suppose you're after that salad dressing I mentioned. When you first enter a stage, you'll have no idea where it is located. If you talk to the locals, they might give you general clues about its location, but even then you have to do a lot of searching because the prize is never on the roadway."

Bill & Ted's Excellent Videogame Adventure is a bad game. There's no question about that. Yet somehow, in spite of everything, there are times when it's an engrossing experience like few others on the NES or any other system of the time. Playing it, you can feel things almost working at every corner. You start to feel like you're really hopping through time and seeking out exciting people from ages long gone. Then the game, much like the titular protagonist, stumbles and falls.

Each session begins with you flipping through a phone book. Some famous person has gone missing, and the world will never be the same again unless you head back in time to find the historic figure, then convince him or her to return to the appropriate period and do that which people expect of important dudes and dudettes.

Once you find the phone number for the desired individual, you jump into the circuits of time, which is basically a mini-game that serves as your gate to an actual stage. Here you'll find bubbles placed along a grid with numbers inside. You can launch your whirling phone booth along to save some time and coins, or you can follow the circuits on their set path, spending one of your precious quarters at each juncture. There are risks both way, since the booth spins quickly and it can be difficult to determine just when to press the button. Worse, skull bubbles line the path and will not only steal a coin but send you backward. It's rough and at times it can feel downright cheap.

If you manage to get through the circuits of time, then the game begins in earnest. You're dropped within the appropriate period and left to explore.

Your real goal here is twofold: you need to find your quarry and you need to locate the bribe that will convince him or her to return with you. Each stage contains four (deviously hidden) key items. In one area, you might pick up some salad dressing when you're trying to talk to Robin Hood. That's no good. Only Caesar cares about seasoning his lettuce. The legendary thief you're seeking is all about the bling-bling. So you have to keep searching until you find that special something that will do the talking for you. Then it's back to the circuits of time, and perhaps the end of a level if you don't run out of coins on the return trip.

Because of the way things are organized, most of the game is spent fetching items and dodging the hazards that get in your way. Suppose you're after that salad dressing I mentioned. When you first enter a stage, you'll have no idea where it is located. If you talk to the locals, they might give you general clues about its location, but even then you have to do a lot of searching because the prize is never on the roadway. Instead, it's often hiding in some brush or behind a boulder along the side of the road.

That's where things get really frustrating. If you jump off a path to grab an item, you have to wait as your character lands flat on his back, then stands up. By taking that leap of faith, you may find the treasure you seek, or some pudding cups or a stereo. Alternatively--and more frequently--you may find absolutely nothing. Then you have to hop back onto the path and search some more. Once you've narrowed the hiding place of your historical object down to a small area, you have to repeat this process at length until you finally secure the trinket.

Even when you're just trying to get across the map, you'll wind up flat on your butt more times than you'd like. Sometimes you have to jump over a fence and you don't realize it but the place where you're about to land (despite a lack of visual cues) isn't suitable for walking. Other times a crazed jailer dude is chasing you so that he can throw you in jail (a place you can leave quite freely, but a place you generally want to avoid because it's not often located in an ideal sector of the map). You can toss pudding or boom boxes his way to serve as distractions, but sometimes you don't have any in your inventory and instead must flee. Whether because you're being chased or you're just in a hurry and looking for goodies, you'll spend a lot of time dropping to the ground for reasons that aren't immediately clear.

Along the way, you might also take a ride down a raging river in a canoe, or hop on the back of a horse and ride through an obstacle course to grab some coins at the end. Either of those diversions can be enjoyable despite clunky controls, but finding them often means traipsing across a map while angry citizens hunt you down. If they catch you, you'll either have to part with a precious coin you want to save for the return trip through the circuits of time or you'll be tossed back in the slammer.

The whole game plays out like that, with you jumping and stumbling your way through hours of treasure hunting. Once you complete one stage, it's on to the next. Many of the locales are repeated several times throughout the game. By the time you reach the end, there are so many people out for your blood that you can hardly take a step without running into a jailer. Certainly, such challenging moments can prove exhilarating, but that's only when you're not cursing at the television screen because you dropped to the ground yet again. Like I said, Bill & Ted's Excellent Videogame Adventure is occasionally engrossing, but the plodding pace means you'll mostly find it to be a waste of your valuable time. Sorry, dude!

Rating: 4/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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