SNES A Day 196: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends

Approximate Release Date: June 1, 1993
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Imagineering
Publisher: THQ

The Super Nintendo has many bad platformers. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends is the worst yet.

I don’t know why they were making Rocky and Bullwinkle games in the early 1990s. In my memory, the cartoon was relegated to extreme early morning television at that time, usually sandwiched between Flipper and Mr. Wizard. The live-action movie wouldn’t release for almost another decade. It is puzzling and might be reflective of the video game industry at the time; games were cheap to make, developers didn’t need a ton of people working on each title, and people bought them up. There were multiple Rocky and Bullwinkle games released around this time. Baffling.

With that being said, there are some things that I like about Rocky and Bullwinkle. The game opens with a cutscene explaining the premise — moose and squirrel have to recover stolen museum artifacts — and it’s cute. There are cartoon-like visual gags and fourth-wall-breaking jokes along with pretty all right graphics. Nothing revolutionary, just decently executed.

Then you start playing the game.

Rocky and Bullwinkle’s biggest defect is the punishing difficulty level. It is brutal. There are so many enemies on the screen at times that you just have to take hits to get through. Projectiles fly in from offscreen in ways that encourage memorization and not reaction. Actually fighting enemies is useless as far as I can tell, too. Bullwinkle uses his antlers as a weapon, but the range is minimal. I would whiff more often than not and usually take damage. You can only take five or so hits before losing a life.

It’s not just enemies, either! The controls are stiff, so any precision jumping is frustrating. The second level is mostly cycle-based platforms over a bottomless pit that you must get across. Most of these platforms are very small and spend a lot of their time off-screen, so it can be difficult to know where you will be jumping to next. Sometimes it takes a few cycles before subsequent platforms sync up, so you’ll be standing there unsure if that is even the right way. And when you do jump, there’s a chance you will fall through the ground anyway. Then the next level is an auto-scroller, and that’s where I pulled the ripcord.

As an aside, Rocky and Bullwinkle does feature two minigames that are able to be played from the main menu. One is a Sherman and Peabody joint where you have to gum up a fire-breathing dragon’s mouth. The other is Dudley Do-Right being chased by a train. You get three tries to complete the game’s task, and if you succeed you get an extra life. They are uninteresting and not worth playing.

If you’re going to play The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, and I do not recommend it, use save states. Save states will help with the painful trial-and-error game design and you can plow through the eight-ish levels in an hour or so. But there’s nothing interesting here. Why waste time playing a very bad Tom and Jerry?

Next week: Bob’s your uncle in B.O.B.!

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