Sunday, September 4, 2016

Game 27: The Adventures of Pinocchio

Another exciting adventure awaits us here at No Batteries. Pinocchio, the very difficult to spell hero of such classics as "Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night" and "Pinocchio's Revenge," is a favorite for companies trying to cash in on a Disney classic without actually paying for the license. I'm all for this sort of appropriation, but it doesn't typically bode well for the quality of the actual product. Semi-underhanded attempts at cashing in on more famous media aren't usually known for their quality.

So I didn't have high hopes when I booted this game up, especially considering the wide array of mismatching fonts on the title screen.

But in a way, we've stumbled across a lost treasure of the Game Boy. The game itself is awful, but the story behind the game is very interesting.

Which is why we're saving it for last. Foreshadowing and all that.

Oh god
The Adventures of Pinocchio is an isometric action platformer slash puzzler. Kind of like Equinox but with only a little of the charm, and none of the polish. The reason for this lack of polish will become apparent at some point in the future (foreshadowing).

Actually, let's get the charming parts out of the way here. The title music is pretty good! I suggest playing the song below and reading the rest of this, because the song is very long and just keeps changing.

The rest of the music is also pretty good.

Aaand that's the charming part of this game. It is otherwise an ugly, messy, inconsistent game that asks the player to perform acrobatic feats while staring at tiny characters and landscapes that are about as legible as a prescription written by a doctor who is pressed for time because there's an earthquake and about as easy to understand as this sentence.

The primary goal is to take the tiny little Pinocchio sprite and guide him to the exit arrow. The obstacles placed between Pinocchio and the arrow of freedom vary, from terrifying serial-killer-esque hooded monsters who chase Pinocchio at an unnatural speed, to simple spikes. But even the spikes aren't very simple when determining Pinocchio's position in space is very, very difficult.

And then stuff like this happens anyway
The idea of putting an isometric game requiring near-perfect input onto the tiny, 4 color Game Boy borders on sadistic. It's pretty neat tech to be sure, but the actual end result of it, especially with these tiny graphics, is practically unplayable.

But play it I did! Until this nightmare:

I actually said "OH GOD" out loud when I saw this
You may be able to (barely) see that this is a room covered almost entirely in spikes, requiring 5 pixel perfect jumps in a row. And one of them is a diagonal jump, which is just cruel.

So cruel.

After about 25 attempts on this I gave up, I'm sorry to say. This level defeated me.

Then I did some research. Here's where it gets interesting (for nerds (like me)).

Adventures of Pinocchio was a game made by the uninspiringly named Bit Managers. Bit Managers was a Spanish game development company that mostly made games based on European cartoons and comics. Also Smurfs. Lots of Smurfs.

However, Pinocchio never saw the light of day - they shopped it to Infogrames but Infogrames wouldn't release a game that didn't have an existing license on it. Adventures of Pinocchio was later released as an entirely different game, Otto's Ottifanten - Baby Bruno's Nightmare. But it has the same music and many of the same levels. In fact, it almost looks playable.

(If you're interested in more information, I'm paraphrasing a translation of an interview in Spanish, which you can find here.)

This explains the lack of polish on Pinocchio's Pterrifying Padventure - it's essentially a Prototype! The engine is there, it just needs a couple (thousand) revisions to be a good game.

With this in mind, I decided to finish the game (by cheating and getting a password for level 96). I can definitely be a lot more forgiving of a game that was never actually finished.

Looks easy enough
And I actually did it!

Levels 96-99 were not so hard. Level 100 was a waking nightmare.

It involved standing on a platform that would follow me only while I was in mid-air, then jumping and moving 1-2 pixels to work through a maze of spikes. If I ever moved 1 pixel farther than I should, I died. If I was 1 pixel short and tried to turn a corner, I died. It was unforgiving and took me a solid 30 minutes of trial and error.

I did it for you. And you know what? You're worth it.


So there you have it! An unreleased game for a Japanese hand-held about an Italian story designed by a Spanish company rejected by a French publisher and now played by an American idiot. Pretty sure this was an international adventure that Bond would be jealous of.

Next week (ha): Another adventurous game, but this time with a real license.

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