Sunday 27 December 2020

The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout (NES review)

Developer: Kemco
Publisher: Kemco-Seika
Released: 1990

The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout is an action-platformer that's exclusive to the NES.

Your mission is to guide Bugs Bunny to his 50th birthday celebration party by defeating the other Looney Tune characters that are trying to stop him. There's six worlds (with four rounds each) and your method of attack is swinging a hammer with the B button. Carrots can also be collected to earn a chance for extra lives in the Bonus Rounds. The first thing you'll likely notice is the substantially choppy animation and scrolling; this can make it challenging to line up hammer swings correctly and when coupled with the wonky hit detection the game doesn't exactly make a good initial impression. The stage design does feature multiple paths to the exit, but there's no real visual stimulation on offer, or anything that differentiates the start of the level to the end. There are some minor standouts, such as the sand that falls beneath you in Stage 2, but they feel like cheap ways to force trial-and-error rather than incorporating cool set pieces to delight the player. Similarly, enemies often spawn and fall from the sky, resulting in you taking damage when you're making what looks like a clear jump. One thing I do like is that a box featuring the Warner Brothers logo is always left behind when you collect a carrot; these boxes can be jumped on and used to reach higher platforms which is a nice way to encourage exploration. Also, the ability to grab onto ladders mid-jump is a good idea for avoiding enemies with some swift manoeuvres. The same can't be said for the pathetic boss battles though, as they feature basic attack patterns and the only challenge you'll likely have is timing hammer swings with the inaccurate hit boxes.

The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout is hard to recommend over more accomplished (and polished) titles in the genre such as Tiny Toon Adventures (1991, NES), as it fails to excite in most of the key areas. In particular, the stage design is lacklustre and the various technical deficiencies loom large on its overall fun factor.

Random trivia: A prototype ROM is available online that features numerous differences to the released version.

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