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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (NES) artwork

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (NES) review

"His adventures aren't very interesting."

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a competent yet somewhat bland and unremarkable platformer for the NES.

The plot is told almost entirely in the manual, although the game does feature a couple of still images with no accompanying text. Tom Sawyer falls asleep in class at school, and dreams the events of the game. Ultimately he travels through six different levels in order to save his friend Becky from Injun Joe. The manual also spoils the ending to the game, which is highly unorthodox, to say the least.

Five of the six levels play like a conventional platformer, with the exception of level two, which is more like a vertical scrolling shooter. In the five platforming levels, Tom can jump and throw rocks as his attack. Defeated enemies can drop one of a couple of powerups. There are squares with a "T" in them; collecting twenty gives an extra life. Also there is a square with a skull in it that will make the player lose ten "T" blocks. Since the game has unlimited continues, extra lives don't matter too much. Another powerup, which is temporary, is the slingshot. Tom's normal attack, thrown rocks, have an arcing path. A rock fired from a slingshot goes across the screen in a straight line. Slingshots aren't that important but can be useful in a few situations. Finally, there is a rare invulnerability powerup which lasts for a decent time. The platforming levels are entirely linear, with no backtracking, and have no secret areas or alternate paths.

In level two, the scrolling shooter with an overhead perspective, Tom travels on a raft. Again he can throw rocks at enemies and can jump, which is necessary to avoid a few obstacles. All powerups are available as well. It is possible to move in all directions, which is necessary to maneuver through some narrow areas. The change in gameplay in the second level is an interesting diversion, although it would have been nice to have an additional level like this towards the end of the game.

The six levels are a pirate ship, a river raft, a forest, a haunted castle, a level way up in the clouds, and the final level is in a cave. There's no logical reason for this order, or for the levels. Why does Tom travel to a haunted castle, and then end up in the sky afterwards? Sure, the game is supposed to be his dream, but it is a bit jarring. On the other hand, it does show a variety of environments and enemies to keep the game from getting too dull.

Enemies are generally appropriate for the areas of the game where they are located. Snakes and scorpions are in the underground level, ghosts and skeletons are in the haunted castle, and so on. Each level also has a boss character, which tends to have a simple pattern and is generally much easier than the rest of the level. Some of the bosses are a bit weird, though. The fifth level ends with a fight against an airship. Injun Joe, at the end of the game, appears to ride some kind of dinosaur or the Loch Ness Monster for one reason or another.

Each level has its own music, though the music for boss fights are the same for every level, including the final boss. Sound effects are simple and functional.

The game does not keep score, does not have a save or password feature, and has no option screen or difficulty settings. A skilled player can probably complete the game in a half hour or so, but a novice will take a bit longer. The game is reasonably challenging, but since enemies all appear in the same place and have the same behavior every time, it is simply a matter of patience and memorization to complete.

There is also a two player option, with the second player as Huckleberry Finn, which is just a palette swap of Tom Sawyer. While the game does not keep score, it does record how long it takes a player to complete a level. Players alternate control, so a two player game is basically a race. It's not a feature seen in too many platformers so it's a bit unique in that respect.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is that it feels like an NES launch title despite being released in 1989. The graphics and sounds are simple, the gameplay is relatively unremarkable, and the game itself is short. Even so, the controls work well and there are no glitches or bugs. It also has almost nothing to do with the Tom Sawyer novel. The game could have been called Adventures of Super Kid, for example, and nobody would think the game had anything to do with Tom Sawyer. Don't expect anything amazing from the game but it is a decent experience.

Bouchart's avatar
Community review by Bouchart (September 18, 2017)

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honestgamer posted September 19, 2017:

This is one game I used to want to rent, but somehow I always wound up with something else instead (and I didn't even get to rent except a few times each summer, since I lived out in the middle of nowhere). Then I bought it fairly recently for cheap, but I haven't played it because I don't have my NES hooked up. It always looked kind of interesting but also kind of generic, so this review did a nice job of confirming my suspicions and setting my expectations without making me think I'll never play it. After all, surely I can spare an hour or so to thoroughly satisfy that curiosity. Thanks for sharing your review, which told me basically everything I could have wanted to know!

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