Bible Adventures (NES) review
"This is especially true of Noah. He can lift pigs, snakes, turtles, horses, and even cows (see, you thought I forgot my promise to get back to that). Amusingly, he can even rotate the order of animals in the stack, for when he needs to discard an unwanted one. This sometimes leads to Noah running toward the ark while a horse, cow, and pig are balanced atop a single acorn."
Your name is David, and you herd sheep. Your only companion is your sling, and you use it to keep yourself and the sheep safe. It's a good thing you have it, too; waiting for a taste of mutton are an assortment of devious fiends such as lions, chipmunks, bears, and the dread Philistine soldiers. What's a Hebrew to do? Why, save all the sheep and chase away the big bad soldiers of course!
But wait. Your name isn't David at all. You're not a young Hebrew lad. In fact, you're more like a young woman, and you have a child. His name is Moses, and he has the cutest little cheeks you ever did see! The problem is that Pharaoh's soldiers want to teach him how to swim before any boy in his right mind would test the tepid waters of the Nile river. This leaves you with no choice: you must dash down to the Nile river, avoiding soldiers and brick-tossing children, evil spiders and a swan dive into the muck the entire time.
No, no. I was wrong. Actually, you're neither a young lad nor a mother. Instead, you're as old as the hills. Over 100, in fact. And your name is Noah. You've just built this ark (a big ship with a cooler name), it's starting to rain, and you've been left with the task of driving a bunch of ungrateful animals into your nice boat for a delightful ocean cruise.
The three scenarios have a few important details in common. Of course, the most obvious is that they're all famous stories from the Bible. But also, they're the set-up for the three different games packed into Wisdom Tree's single cartridge, Bible Adventures. So, if it has three games, it must be a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, right? Actually... yes.
In case you weren't aware, Wisdom Tree was the fancy name for a small company that never really got around to getting Nintendo's permission to release games on the NES system. The cartridge this game arrives on is a pale blue color (or black, in later releases) and it has a funky shape that definitely sets it apart from the normal shape you'd expect from most of the system's software. Not only that, but some of the games from Wisdom Tree (I can't really remember if this is one of them) actually blink on and off seven times, and did even when they were fresh out of the box. If this is discouraging, well, it's just a small inconvenience. And as it turns out, the developers at Wisdom Tree actually knew what they were doing when it came to designing games.
As you now know, there are three games on the cartridge. Premise aside, though, they don't seem all that different one from the next. This is most especially true of the play control. First the good news: the characters have decent range when you properly execute a good jump. Unfortunately, this is where things grow a bit stodgy. See, while it's true that Noah can dash along the top of the ark and make a flying leap toward the trees off to the left, it's also likely that you'll grow nervous and not press the button just right. If this happens, your character will jump as if he's carrying a cow over his head, and stumble down to the ground (more on the whole 'cows over his head' thing in a moment).
In the Noah's Ark section of the game, the inconsistent jumps are not so much of a problem. But for David & Goliath, particularly in the last two areas, carefully-timed hops are absolutely essential. It's possible to make it most of the way through a stage and then fall back to the start just because of a missed leap, in fact. Nowhere, however, is the play control more irritating than in the last segments of Baby Moses, where the infant's mother must carry him along ledges that seem little wider than the heads of pins, while children toss bricks and spiders pour out of windows above. It's all too common to land on a ledge, then see the character on-screen take another set of tiny jumps for no apparent reason, plunging to her doom. If there's anything that works to kill the game, it's those stupid jumps.
Fortunately, the game isn't just about jumping. Working in the game's favor is, well, just about everything else.
One thing you might notice is the visual presentation. Each of the games is quite vividly drawn. The trees look a little like something a third grader might draw on paper with a few crayons, albeit with more detail and perhaps more branches. The buildings throughout Egypt are typically rendered with pleasant pastels that make clear their overall structure. Egypt really does look the way it mostly should, with pyramids in the distance and the like. The water even seems to have ripples. While a lot of the later levels in any of the three games just swap palettes, nothing ever really gets truly old before a given game is done. And the final stage of Noah's Ark is truly enjoyable, with darkness illuminated only by torch light and the distant flashes of lightning. It's one of the most atmospheric stages I've ever seen in any title on the system, unlicensed or otherwise.
Music is another high point. No, it's not amazing. Yes, you'll probably turn it down rather quickly once you've listened to the same tunes more than a few times. Still, I'm quite fond of what Wisdom Tree provided. The music seems to accompany the on-screen action quite well.
But the games share more in common than the problematic play control, merry music and vibrant visuals. Something else they all possess is the same life meter system. When you begin a game, you'll see that your protagonist has what look like stone tablets on the left side of the screen. These are his or her life. When Moses takes a hit from a dashing boar, he loses part of a tablet. Same if David loses an argument with a lion, bear, ram or soldier. The only way your plucky hero can feel all better is by grabbing spare tablets that are conveniently placed throughout the stages. While this is admittedly exciting all by itself, you'll also be pleased to find that many of the stones come inscribed with inspiring passages from the Bible. Between tossing soldiers into the river and conking lions on the head, you can read all about how God delivers us in times of trouble.
I knew you'd be thrilled, and you were likely so distracted by the idea of some on-the-spot reading that you missed my reference to tossing the soldiers. So I'll go into more depth and we can forget about reading the Scriptures for just a moment.
You see, the most exciting element that each game shares is the ability of the hero to lift everything short of the kitchen sink. See a menacing lion contemplating what spices to use when preparing that leg of lamb? Knock it out with an acorn, then pick up the slumbering beast and throw it somewhere out of the way so you're free to continue your herding duties. The sheep can be carried, as well, up to four at a time with a squirrel or pot of honey for good measure. No matter who you are controlling, weight seems to have gone out the window with Atheism. This is especially true of Noah. He can lift pigs, snakes, turtles, horses, and even cows (see, you thought I forgot my promise to get back to that). Amusingly, he can even rotate the order of animals in the stack, for when he needs to discard an unwanted one. This sometimes leads to Noah running toward the ark while a horse, cow, and pig are balanced atop a single acorn.
Now, don't think for a minute that the game isn't realistic enough because of this. The developers thought threw that angle too, and some of the heavier animals may fall off your stack if you jump too vigorously. Fortunately, you can just pick them up again as you usher them to the door leading into the arc.
Joking aside, the system is more enjoyable than I've perhaps made it sound, as is the game. In fact, there really are a shockingly small number of flaws. It really all comes down to the jumping. If you can put up with rather crummy footwork on the part of the three Bible heroes (and if you're not disgusted at the mere mention of the word 'Bible'), you'll likely find that Bible Adventures is a truly charming oddity worth every second of your time that you care to lend it. You'll be glad you kept an open mind. As for the rest of you... go fornicate or something.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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