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Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES) artwork

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES) review


"“Gremlins 2” isn’t exactly “Contra”, but it’s a fairly enjoyable video game, which is more than I can say about a lot of other movie-inspired games. On a scale of movie games, “Ghostbusters” for the NES being the worst and Sega’s “Aladdin” being the best, I’d say “Gremlins 2” ranks above Nintendo’s “Batman” but doesn’t quite stack up to “New Ghostbusters II”. It’s well above mediocrity but a few notches below genius, finding a comfortable niche in the realm of “just plain good”. "



“Gremlins 2” isn’t exactly “Contra”, but it’s a fairly enjoyable video game, which is more than I can say about a lot of other movie-inspired games. On a scale of movie games, “Ghostbusters” for the NES being the worst and Sega’s “Aladdin” being the best, I’d say “Gremlins 2” ranks above Nintendo’s “Batman” but doesn’t quite stack up to “New Ghostbusters II”. It’s well above mediocrity but a few notches below genius, finding a comfortable niche in the realm of “just plain good”.

This is an overhead action/adventure game that has the prudence to make an interesting creature like Gizmo the main character. If you don’t remember the movies, Gizmo was this cute little fuzzy creature that was peaceful and would sing this serene melody whenever his master played the keyboard. Getting wet in any degree would cause Giz’ to spawn evil little creatures from his back, first manifesting themselves as menacing tribbles, which would then unfurl into Evil Gizmos. These nasty characters would eat after midnight, enter a cocoon state, and awaken as some sort of cross between toad, reptile, cat and demon. These are the Gremlins.

There are five levels in “Gremlins 2”. The first one is pretty much a softball throw, an office where you fight off rats, bats, bouncing tomatoes, and spiders. The Gremlins don’t enter the picture until the second part of stage two, which you get to by crossing a somber air duct. They come in all varieties: bouncing, flying, meandering, fire-spitting, throwing, dancing, skateboarding, etc. Gizmo starts off throwing tomatoes, but each level brings an upgrade in arsenal. By the time he makes it to the television studio in stage three, Giz’ has traded up his tomatoes for a fire-slinging match and his match for a barrage of paper-clips. By the end of the game, he’s armed with Rambo’s exploding arrowheads.

You’ll immediately find that your life support in “Gremlins 2” is the power-up shop, the entrance of which can be found in each of the dozen levels. It’s run by Mr. Wing, Gizmo’s former caretaker who ran a mysterious and fascinating shop before kicking the bucket in “Gremlins 2”. He sells healing potions, extra lives, weapon power-ups, balloons (useful for when you fall into a pit), and a heart container. You pay for these items with crystal balls, which are dropped in abundance by defeated enemies.

When I say the shop is your life support, I mean it. Gizmo begins each game with no extra lives, only a single balloon. Enemies do not drop “hearts” or anything that replenishes health, only currency, which is why there’s an abundance of it. Outside Wing’s shop, you’re truly on your own, at the mercy of increasingly tricky obstacles and a growing Gremlin population. This lack of variety in pick-ups is the one serious flaw of the game. On the bright side of things, you at least have unlimited continues.

“Gremlins 2” would be much better if less of the gameplay revolved around limping to the power-up shop for salvation. It has some very cool bosses, like an all-electric Gremlin that zips around the room and hurls dissipating sparks. The music is very catchy, especially the haunting second stage track and the pouding boss theme. The cinematics do a nice job of creating context for each level, and the controls allow you the freedom to move and attack in eight directions. These elements come together in a game that’s humble and rarely goes for cheap-shots. For a game of its genre and time, it holds up pretty well.

Rating: 8/10

joseph_valencia's avatar
Community review by joseph_valencia (July 03, 2009)

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aschultz posted July 03, 2009:

Well, I had vacation time and got bored with my own review, so I think this helps. You mentioned in the other topic that you were working on certain things, so I thought I'd offer what I could.

Quotes are a bit awkward. What you can do is go to workpad and replace the quote with [i], then every other [i] with [/i] to make that less of a task.

The first paragraph is a bit too much name-dropping--with Contra not being movie based, I was thrown off. Maybe you can say it isn't exactly Sega's "Aladdin" as movie-inspired games go, but at least it is not "Ghostbusters." Or maybe this sort of sentence is better in the conclusion. The last sentence is good, and you may want to work the first sentence of paragraph 2 into the opening. eg "It's an overhead action/adventure game that lets you control Gizmo, who was more interesting than any of the people in the movie, with how he spawned miniature evil Gizmos when water hit him."

I think that makes the transition to the next paragraph "There are five levels" easier as otherwise it's awkward. Maybe you could mention if you feel it's too short or too long before, and you might want to mention big-picture stuff like better weapons right after how many levels, or you mention the new weapon with each level. Is the weapon any more practical, or does it just look cooler? Also, you may want to mention Mr Wing's just after "There are five levels" or even say "The game's five levels are easy to get through with the power-ups you get. You start throwing tomatoes and wind up with [xxx], while you can (also) buy healing stuff from Mr. Wing's in abundance. Balloons are useful for when you fall in a pit, and [xxx] does [yyy] ... " Also, I'm a bit confused about power ups for weapons. You mention they improve level to leve, and it sounded like you just got them on completing each level.

...kicking the bucket in "Gremlins 2" <- do you mean the film? Maybe you can discuss, in line or two, how the game compares to the film of the same name. Is it closer to the film Gremlins or Gremlins 2? Maybe you can mention in the intro which film this game is closer to. I found it odd there was no "Gremlins."

I think the level descriptions, which are good, can come after this general stuff.

This part also confused me: This lack of variety in pick-ups is the one serious flaw of the game. On the bright side of things, you at least have unlimited continues.

Do you mean you wish you could find actual items and not crystal balls when enemies die? Also, if you only start out with 1 balloon then life support is not such a big deal--do continues kick you back too far in a level? Drain all your items? How inconvenient are they?

The last paragraph is also good, but the conclusion is too abrupt, and "gameplay segment" is a bad phrase. I think it's good to have 3 sentences in a concluding paragraph that didn't seem to fit everywhere else and might not grab the reader immediately, but they make sense once you're done, and you didn't want to leave this out.

As your review stands, I read along wanting to know more from you, though it went beyond clarifications. In a very very good review, the reader has the feeling he has to look into this game. While a lot of technical stuff goes into a review, I know when I sit down, I find there are 5 levels of interest that come from my gut. I try to use this to see how people would feel about my reviews--I find the quality of the game reviewed does not affect this scale

1. the review is badly written and actively annoying me
2. I am uninterested in the review
3. I am interested in what the person has to say, but I feel like interrupting the review to ask for clarification
4. I am interested in what the review has to say
5. I am interested in the game and using the review to imagine it, even if the review is about a bad game.

5 all the way through is rare even for the best writers around here. Your review falls in 3 and can move up to 4 with some better organization and description of important points. By anticipating what questions the reader might ask, or the most general parts where they might be confused, and becoming specific, you can also move up into 4, where you can try for the brass ring of 5.

Hope this helps!
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randxian posted July 03, 2009:

I don't like the approach here. Yeah, you bring up a good point about how enemies never drop extra lives or even health, but maybe you should explain why better drops would be necessary.

It begs the question: Why would you need a bunch of item drops in a perfectly designed game? Why do you need both a store and drops? If you need that much help in a short, action platformer, then maybe the real issue is level design and play control. Sure a lot of good action games have item drops, but they don't typically have both shops AND drops.
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zippdementia posted July 03, 2009:

Two Gremlins reviews in a month? What the hell is going on here?
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randxian posted July 03, 2009:

I thought I wrote mine more than a month ago. At least it seems like a long time since I wrote it.
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joseph_valencia posted July 03, 2009:

It begs the question: Why would you need a bunch of item drops in a perfectly designed game? Why do you need both a store and drops?

That's a good point. The game could probably afford to drop the item shop.

If you need that much help in a short, action platformer, then maybe the real issue is level design and play control.

Nope. I thought the level design and play control in "Gremlins 2" was solid. The real issue, as you pointed out, is the item shop. Either it should have been excised for item drops, or it should have appeared more frequently in each level. Maybe they could have made it a part of the pause screen, too.
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JANUS2 posted July 03, 2009:

Personally, I hate item shops. I'd rather just be playing, not planning what I need to take with me. It's a platformer not an RPG, dammit!

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