Quattro Adventure (NES) review
"I was tempted to call Quattro Adventure a “compilation” until I realized what exactly that word implies. This long-forgotten (if it was ever remembered in the first place) NES title features four full-length games. I think of a compilation as being a re-release of a number of old titles that are either classics or overlooked potential classics that need an audience. Thing is, Quattro’s four titles were never released in any other form, because, as you may have guessed, they ..."
I was tempted to call Quattro Adventure a “compilation” until I realized what exactly that word implies. This long-forgotten (if it was ever remembered in the first place) NES title features four full-length games. I think of a compilation as being a re-release of a number of old titles that are either classics or overlooked potential classics that need an audience. Thing is, Quattro’s four titles were never released in any other form, because, as you may have guessed, they were too crappy to be released individually. Alone, they whimper in the darkest depths of the black hole of terrible NES anti-classics, not even bad enough to be remembered negatively. But together, as a single formidable force, they combine their powers to create an unimaginable low, a crapfest so awful it sinks to new, unexplored levels of suck.
But hey. At least you’re paying for four horrible games, not just one.
The four games included in Quattro were all developed by Codemasters, yet they all feel as if they were tackled by different people. Oddly enough, though, they all share a number of striking similarities. All four games are a variation on the side-scrolling platformer. All of them ignore several fairly basic rules of platformer design and control that make even the simplest tasks a challenge. And all of them suffer because they place too many limitations on the player. Three of the four games don’t even allow you to attack; when you can attack, what should have been a simple aim-and-fire mechanic is reduced to a painfully slow exercise in tedious button timing.
Perhaps the one game in this ill-advised compilation that I’d label as “tolerable” would be Boomerang Kid, which does its best to recover from the initial disappointment you’ll inevitably be faced with. You see the title and you think, “Cool, I’m gonna be throwing a boomerang! And boomerangs are fun!” Tough luck. You merely collect them in a series of simple platforming challenges that kind of reminded me of the extended version of Donkey Kong that was released for GameBoy many years ago. You’re unable to attack, and if your character falls more than just a few feet, he dies.
The resulting game isn’t exactly what I’d call “entertaining,” just it does offer a few thought-provoking instances in which the player must carefully analyze a stage and plan a course that doesn’t end in death. More than anything, much of this puzzle-solving (if you choose to call it that) forces players to avoid deadly falls; enemies are just thrown in there as an extra annoyance, and since you can’t attack you must simply avoid contact with them altogether. The package could have been truly solid had play control been a bit tighter; something always seemed amiss with my character’s jump and too often I would blame my failure on his inability to respond correctly. I wouldn’t pay money to play Boomerang Kid, nor would I spend a significant amount of time with it were I not challenged to review Quattro. But it’s a passable diversion that acts, perhaps, as Quattro’s only saving grace.
If you choose to play these games in order, though, you’ll be given a right punch to the nuts with a pair of hefty brass knuckles right from the get-go. Linus Spacehead is a truly despicable offense of inane, broken platforming, starring a character who’s every bit as lame as he looks. Like Boomerang Kid’s unnamed Aussie, Linus is unable to attack… but then he also jumps like a pansy. When you’re confronted with an enemy, you have no choice but to jump over it – and even that’s difficult, since Linus can barely make it a foot off the ground.
The design for Linus Spacehead is simplistic enough that, at a glance, it would look to be a cakewalk to all but the most inexperienced 2D gamers. If the game controlled like, say, Super Mario Bros., I could probably clear the game in a matter of minutes. But violations of fundamental platformer principles spare me such mercy. Linus has this thing where he likes to slide around as if he’s on ice, which doesn’t exactly gel with the game’s tropical locales. In addition to this, Linus will also sometimes jump again, involuntarily, after landing a player-controlled jump. Don’t ask me why, but here’s what that means: Simply landing on a platform guarantees nothing. You might slide off or, if all else fails, Linus may decide to jump again without your consent. And a videogame star who acts without his master’s command has no place in such a game!
The next title on the list, Super Robin Hood, appears to be just as bad but thankfully (?) has less focus on silly platforming obstacles and more emphasis on action. Robin has a bow and arrow he can shoot, which is great – except when you hit the B button, there’s about a one-second delay until he actually fires. Time your attacks accordingly!
Super Robin Hood’s design revolves largely around dodging booby traps. As such, control is not nearly as precise as it should be, especially as far as jumping is concerned. The distance of each jump seems proportional to Robin’s speed before he lifts off the ground. So, for example, if he jumps while at a standstill, he won’t be able to move in midair. Likewise, if he’s sprinting, hitting the A button will send him soaring uncontrollably, most likely into some sort of pit or trap where he’ll die because the play control made him die. There are a few other missteps, and they mainly pertain to combat; for instance, you can’t duck and attack at the same time. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
The level design of Super Robin Hood is decent enough I suppose, with the right blend of action, platforming and puzzle-solving that could have made for a compelling title. It is another example of a passable concept being made virtually unplayable by horrendous oversights in even the simplest of control functions. At least Quattro has one more chance to change our minds!
That one more chance is called Treasure Island Dizzy, which stars an egg-shaped fellow whose name I assume is Dizzy, for the same reason I’d assume Linus Spacehead’s main character is named Linus. The first minute or so seems to indicate that, while the game still controls poorly (jumping once again doesn’t give enough power to the player), at least they downplayed the action elements in favor of simple puzzles. Dizzy – if that is his name – can pick up objects and use them for purposes of level progression, and while he doesn’t have any attacks, the enemies are few enough that he doesn’t need them.
I get a little bit into the game, and then Dizzy dies. It seems I stepped beneath a cage, which promptly fell right on top of Dizzy, killing him and ending my progress. Not a problem. I’ll just try it again, and this time I’ll know to avoid the–
Wait. I’m back on the TITLE SCREEN?! What the hell?!
So I only have one life in Treasure Island Dizzy, and that one life can be taken away by something as random as a cage that falls out of nowhere? Sigh. I’ve played through four unwanted titles, and I’m growing weary of this. I have come to realize that bundling four cruddy games together is not an act of charity – it is a curse to a reviewer such as myself, a curse that takes the unpleasantness of one miserable NES title and multiplies it, so that one single gamer can barely handle the amplitude of suck that emanates from it. I know this page tells you that I’m only reviewing one game here, but trust me… I’ve suffered a lot more than that.
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