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Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Goonies (Datasoft, 1985 & Konami, 1986)

Datasoft's "The Goonies": Originally written for the Apple ][, Commodore 64 and Atari 800 in 1985 by Scott Spanburg and Kelly Day. Game design by Scott Spanburg, Kelly Day, John Ludin, Roy Langston and Terry Shakespeare. Music for the Apple ][ and Atari 800 by Richard Mirsky, and for the Commodore 64 by John A. Fitzpatrick. Converted for the Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum by Scott Spanburg for Paragon Programming Ltd, and released in 1986 through US Gold. Unofficially converted for the Commodore Plus/4 by Péter Mucsi and Zoltán Csory and released by Muffbusters in 1991.

Konami's "The Goonies": Two different versions were created and released for the MSX home computers and Nintendo Famicom/Euro-NES in 1986, the latter of which was also released for the Nintendo Disk System, and later converted for the NEC PC-8801 and Sharp X1. Finally, the Nintendo version was also released for the arcades as both a PlayChoice-10 coin-op and a VS. System.

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GAME STATUS, PLURAL

It's time to feature another second timer here on the FRGCB: a game from Datasoft, the company we started on. Datasoft has always been one of my favourite game publishers for some reason, and this time, we will dig into a rare occurence from their catalogue - a movie license game, based on Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg's The Goonies. To make things more interesting, and simultaneously more difficult, Konami went and published TWO different games based on the same movie a year later. So, it's also time to take our second - and third - Konami game under inspection. All three games have their own followers, all of them declaring their version is of course the best of all, regardless of whether they have ever played the others properly. I think it's time to dig deeper into this threesome.

Datasoft's game has clearly a just slightly above average score everywhere: 101 voters at Lemon64 have given it a very fine 7.9, 55 voters at World of Spectrum have given it a just slightly lower 7.88, Pug at CPC Game Reviews has given it a score of 7 out of 10, Atarimania voters have given it a respectable 7.5 with a surprisingly huge number of 6526 votes, and as usual, the Apple ][ reviews are nowhere to be found. I would guess there is no such community for this sort of thing in the Apple camp, am I right? =P The unofficial Plus/4 version has a rating of 7.6/10 with 6 votes at the Plus/4 World website. As for the other versions, I was only able to find a rating for the one for the MSX, which surprised me none at all. Generation MSX users have given it 3.5 stars out of 5 with 147 votes.

This is the second time I'm very much aware that I have taken on a game set that has been rather well covered already at the Hardcore Gaming 101 website here, but it was written over seven years ago, and as a cultural phenomenon, The Goonies can never be talked of too often. Besides, I always thought their article failed in going into enough detail regarding the gameplay characteristics between all the different versions, and even more precisely, between the different releases of the three different games. And I will not talk about Goonies II any more than I have to.

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DESCRIPTIONS & REVIEWS

I feel it somehow important to summarize the movie plot here, before heading on to describe the games and how each of them compares to the movie. A group of friends living in the "Goon Docks" neighbourhood of Astoria, Oregon, call themselves "the Goonies", and their favourite pastime is to go on adventures. Now that the two protagonists' family, the Walshes, are preparing to move because of a planned golf course, the Goonies are preparing to have their last adventure weekend together - and so it happens that an old treasure map is found from the Walsh's attic, promising enough money to let the Walsh family buy their property back from the golf course builders. Unluckily, the entrance to the caverns containing the massive treasure is located under the house of evil thieving family, the Fratellis. Luckily, the Fratelli's youngest son is treated badly by the family because of his severe disfigurement, and so the Goonies befriend him, and get him to help them find the lost treasure. Naturally, as this is a treasure hunt, the Goonies overcome with many traps and puzzles before arriving at their destination: One-Eyed Willie's ship, the Inferno. Of course, the movie ends on a series of predictably happy notes, but it's a family movie, so why shouldn't it?

Now, the first game to have a release was the one from Datasoft. The game features 8 screens of puzzles and traps, starting from the Fratellis' house and ending in One-Eyed Willy's pirate ship. Your mission is to control two of the eight Goonies in each screen, make them work together in order to get to the next screen, while staying away from dangers, such as bats, steam, skulls, lava, a giant octopus and whatnot. At the start of the game, you have 5 lives to back you up, but other than gaining three extra Goonies when you complete the Cannonball Chamber screen, you have no other possilibity to gain extra lives. The game designers were fair enough to include a hint sheet within the package, which you really needed in order to make any sense of the puzzles.

The more wide-spread Konami version made its appearance first on the Nintendo Famicom, and was also released on the Nintendo Disk System, the NEC PC-8801 and Sharp X-1. This game is very much a platformer with some very minor puzzle elements. The player character this time is solely Mikey, and he can defend himself with a kick, bombs and a slingshot. Your mission is to get from the Fratellis' house down through the maze of caverns to the pirate ship, while rescuing all your Goon friends from behind closed doors, which you must blow up. If you fail to rescue each Goonie during your playthrough, you will start at the beginning, instead of getting access to the pirate ship. The game consists six stages, each one more confusing than the previous, and all have some hidden secrets within that you will find useful, if you can find them. Considering that, a map would be very handy, so one should probably make one or either download one from the internet. Instead of having just plain old traps and puzzles, in this version of the Goonies, you are faced with an army of rats, bats, foxes, and some Fratelli brothers that you cannot kill. You can stun them, though, so evading them is generally quite easy.

Solely released for the MSX by Konami, this one version is again more of a platformer than a puzzler, and features five stages, which themselves contain their own specific number of "scenes". According to the English manual, you play as Sloth (the Fratellis' disfigured offspring), trying to save all the seven Goonies from the caverns, but if you compare the player sprite on the MSX to the one in the other Konami version, you would be hard pressed to admit that it was anyone other than Mikey. This game has a slightly bigger emphasis on puzzle and RPG elements than the Nintendo version, requiring you to fight a lot to gain experience points, which in turn give you more energy, and due to your character only being able to carry one key at a time, retrace your steps and plan your routes more often than you might wish to. Although the game has a password system that enables you to start the game from any stage, it is highly recommended that you play the game through in one sitting, due to the items you will find in the earlier stages, and them not being carried in with the passwords. Each stage ends with a cutscene, where you have gathered all the Goonies, and an evil Fratelli brother comes and snatches them away again. In the fifth and final cutscene, the setting is very similar, only this time, the Fratelli man gets his arse properly kicked.

All of these games have their strengths and weaknesses, but I would say that the MSX game is the most interesting one in the long run, due to its RPG'ish elements. The Datasoft game follows the movie the closest of all three, but is a bit of a chore to play through. But once again, it's each to their own, and I wholeheartedly recommend you to try them all out.

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LOADING

Most versions of the Datasoft game have a disk release as well as a tape release, but as the loading times comparisons only make really any sense when comparing tape loaders, I will concentrate on those again. That said, these will not be counted in the end results, but here they are anyway, so one of you dedicated groups can rejoice in having the quickest loader for this particular game.

Copyright screens from the Atari and C64,
shown in the middle of loading.
The Atari tape and C64 tape versions have in common, that they only load the intro screen first, and every level must be loaded sequentially after each one has been completed. The C64 tape version has about 5 minutes 30 seconds of data on it, and the Atari tape... well, I cannot be entirely sure, because my emulators wouldn't load the tape properly for some reason, but by converting the .cas file, the audio file can become anything up to 28 minutes! Hoo, boy! So, if anyone could give me the real length of the Atari tape, I would appreciate it very much.

The Spectrum tape loads all data at once in 3 minutes 30 seconds, and the Erbe release on Spectrum is 33 seconds slower. The Amstrad tape loads everything at once as well, in 4 minutes 24 seconds. Apple ][ only ever seems to have had a disk version, so that's it for the Datasoft game, unless you count the Plus/4 conversion.

Konami's more widespread game has been released on three disk-operating systems: the Nintendo Disk System, NEC's PC-8801 computer and Sharp's X-1 computer. Since it was also released as a cartridge for the Famicom/NES, it clearly wins this one. In any case, the other two machines are so rare to find and I have no idea whether to trust the emulators I have found, so I have not included any loading times for them.

Also, since the MSX version is the only one of its kind, and was only released on a cartridge, it seems only futile to even talk about it.

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PLAYABILITY

Let's start with the MSX version, because it's so much easier describing something without feeling the need to compare it to anything else... other than for being a game based on the Goonies, of course. And being a game by Konami, which makes it significantly similar to the other Konami versions. And.. oh, never mind.

So, Konami made a unique version for the MSX computers, for who knows what reasons. The most important difference here is, that it has the least plot similarities with the movie: you play as Sloth or Mikey, whichever you prefer to think the sprite is supposed to represent, and your mission is to rescue the seven other Goonies from the caverns beneath the Fratellis' house. There are very little puzzle elements as such, other than you having to collect a lot of keys and open a lot of doors with them. The game is a flip-screen platformer, and additionally to all the regular platformey movements (climbing up and down, walking/running left and right, jumping from platform to another), you can also use a fist to hit the bad guys. You are offered no projectile weapon, but as you will notice, it is also not needed. You might, however, come across some hidden upgrades every once in a while, such as a helmet, running shoes and a rain coat, which can become useful as the game progresses. At the end of each scene, you must go through that different-looking door, provided that you have rescued all the Goonies. Once you get enough of those useful little upgrades, the game becomes quite pleasant to play.

Moving on to the other Konami version, then. It certainly feels like an enhanced idea on the MSX version, in many ways. It's a side-scrolling/flip-screen platformer, for one. You don't need to collect as many keys or backtrack your steps, because every time you finish a level, you go further down in the caverns, and there is no coming back up, until the game is over. You can also collect some useful objects to help you on your way, but not nearly as many as on the MSX. One of the objects is a sling-shot, which you can use to kill rats and skeletons from afar and knock down some Fratelli brothers. In one particular way, though, it doesn't feel quite as important as the MSX Goonies: it has no experience points system to make your life last longer (although you can collect hidden diamonds to replenish your energy once you have collected eight of them), and you can almost too easily gain extra lives, which is an idea the MSX version would probably spit on. There are two vastly important matters, however, which separate these other Konami Goonies games from the MSX game. The first one is the jumping mechanics - you can change your direction in mid-air here, but not on the MSX. The second is how the game follows the movie's plot. Well, to be fair, it doesn't really all that much, but it is ever so slightly closer to the movie, and thus earns my respect more over the MSX version.

How do the three versions of the more conceptually valid Konami Goonies game compare, then? The Famicom and the Famicom Disk System versions are otherwise the exact same game, but the disk version loads occasionally. So, in other words, the Nintendo and NEC PC-8801 versions play very closely to each other, with only a few noticable differences in the NEC version. Basically, the NEC version is much more difficult, because there are more enemies on screen from the beginning, and the hidden objects are more randomly placed and thus more difficult to find. Interestingly, the NEC version is played as a flip-screen version, but most of the basic gameplay elements are very much there, which means that taking damage is more probable there. The only thing I'm actually missing from the Nintendo version is the ability to change direction mid-jump. The third actually comparable release of the same game would be the Sharp X-1 version, then. Having not played anything on the machine previously, I was surprised how similar it looked to the NEC version on the outset. However, the Sharp version is a scroller, unlike the NEC version. What lets the Sharp version down, are its controls - at least what I experienced through emulation. The Sharp version's controls are similarly useless as you might remember my comments on the DOS version of Saboteur 2 - if you jump or kick or turn direction, your man will halt for a second and only then continue. Not quite as bad as Saboteur 2, but not good either.

So, considering that the Famicom Disk System is nearly impossible to get a hold of in this part of world, and even then the disk version would actually have to load every now and then, if you happened to own one; apart from the MSX game, the Konami playability list looks like:

1. NINTENDO
2. NEC PC-8801
3. SHARP X-1

Datasoft's The Goonies is a bit more tricky, since there actually are some level design differences on some platforms. But first, let's take a look at the game's basic controls that affect every version of it. In each of the eight stages, you control two of the Goonies, either in turns if you play in one-player mode, or simultaneously, if you have a friend playing with you. If you play by yourself, the fire button on your joystick will switch control turns between the two characters. Otherwise, it's all basic platforming - up and down climb and jump, left and right run in said directions, top diagonals jump diagonally. Operating different machines are accomplished simply by standing beside them or jumping on a lever or something of that sort, and you can push some moveable objects by a rather obvious method - and that's really all there is to it. In a way, it is less physical game than either of the Konami ones, but you do need to use a lot more of your brain cells in order to get through the game. All things considered, the Datasoft game also follows the movie plot line in a more creative way, but at least it actually follows it, thus making it my favourite game of the three.

For later reference, I will write in some level characteristics according to the original versions, although it will likely ruin some of the mystery behind the puzzles, if you haven't been able to complete the game yet. In the Fratelli's house, you need to jump over the chair and push it under the otherwise too short ladder, and when you are printing money in the attic, you need to be slightly to the right from the ladder. Also, quenching the fire in the fireplace needs to be done with a right diagonal jump from the corner. Next level's notable thing has to do with the barrel in the inner pond in the middle of the screen: it goes right under the ledge on the left, which makes it easy for getting up. In level 3, there are two important factors: when does the shooting Fratelli come from the left-side ladder, and how are all the shower leakpipes places. The cannonball puzzle starts off with the bell mallet already in its final position before it alarms the bats. An important bit that makes the skull cavern even the least bit playable, is how the big bird drops the skulls for you: there should be at least one easy drop point, right by the left side of the right hand moat, and the second easiest drop point is in the small top-right cavern with the right hand bridge lever. The next stage involves a water-based organ, which toggles platforms in three colours, and some versions seem to work it in a more frantic manner. Also, at the exit of the level, the way the final platforms are situated differ in some versions, but in the originals, you are suppose to jump to the left side ledge, before jumping over to the right side by using the reappearing white platform. The octopus puzzle has a lot of variety - the flow of the water (which is quite slow in the originals), the way the flippers are done (both sides usable, but the left one is blocked at first by the lever holding the box), how the bats behave (they seem to have four flight paths, but I don't know how to describe them here), and how easy is the box to get on top of (Atari and C64, quite easy; Apple ][, infernally difficult). Finally, Willy's ship puzzle and Mama Fratelli's behaviour seem to have at least two varieties, and in the original, you are supposed to climb the ladders past her with Sloth, and lure her to jump from the ship by a similar method as you did in the first level. All of these matters I will now have to concentrate on.

All the (assumedly) three original versions - Apple, C64 and Atari - play very much the same, but the Apple version feels just a tiny bit quicker, it's almost unnoticeable. Only the skull cavern and the octopus screen play somewhat differently on the Apple ][: the birds seem to know their way around the skull caverns better than on the other versions, and the dropped box in the octopus screen is almost impossible to climb onto. Other than that, the controlling of the Goonies feels a bit bulky, as they are supposed to be, but thankfully, you don't need to be pixel-perfect on every jump.

The Spectrum conversion requires annoyingly accurate controlling, most of the difficulty in the game comes from having to be pixel-perfect in jumps. On a couple of occasions, though, you are able to walk through walls and jump on levers without having to be just in the middle of them to be able to touch them - the octopus puzzle being more particularly unparticular about it. Also, the water container in the first level is a bit more difficult than necessary to turn over. Additionally, some of the stages have significantly different enemy behaviour (the shower scene, skull cavern, octopus puzzle and the pirate ship) and different sort of puzzles (octopus puzzle and the pirate ship), most likely to keep everything within the possibility of one load. Most notable differences, then, can be found in two levels, so let's concentrate on those for this conversion. In the octopus puzzle, you cannot jump on the left side flipper at all, and you are able to hide inside the wall beside the right side flipper, and the bats act a bit differently, although it matters little in the end. In One-Eyed Willie's ship, most of the ladderways are free to climb through, Mama Fratelli walks back and forth in the low part of the ship, making your entry there difficult. So you need to drop the box down from the deck to make you reach the lever. You need to get the treasure chest appear so that Mama Fratelli keeps herself to the right corner of the ship, and you can climb the ladders up to the bow. To cheapen the deal even more, you have no choice to play in a co-operative mode.

Amstrad's order of levels is a bit mixed. Level 2 was originally level 3, level 3 was originally level 4, level 4 was originally level 5, and level 5 was originally level 2, but the rest of them are in correct order. The worst part of the Amstrad version is the skull cavern, where the big bird drops the little skull-shaped eggs a bit differently - most of them drop in/on the moats, unless you are ready to pull the levers, and all too rarely the eggs are dropped right next to the right side moat to make it easier for you to build the ladder. That is the part where I nearly gave up, but instead started using insane amounts of save states, so kudos to the emulator programmers - I heavily doubt I will ever try this version again. What is originally the first underground level, is the fifth on the Amstrad, and the big differences here are your falling speed (which is a bit quicker, so you have better chance at getting yourself killed by the bat), the ledge in the middle watery cavern, which you need to jump onto in a diagonal motion (which has a great chance of going wrong and sending you back to where you came from), and the speed and rhythm of the three stone smashers is a bit different from the originals. And these actually apply to the Spectrum version as well. Level 6 gets you back to where you should be, at the water organ. Here, the waterdrops come more often than on any other version, so it's harder to dodge them. Also, the exit area is similarly constructed as on the Spectrum, although here, it's a bit more bothersome due to the heavy rain. The octopus lair has another variant on the flipper issue: first, you need to stand right at the edge of the left flipper to be able to use it, and you can only jump straight up from the left flipper, so you need to use the right one to get out of the flipper pit. Thankfully, the bats here at least have more friendly flightpaths, and you can exit the level relatively peacefully. Finally, the pirate ship has the same puzzle as the Spectrum conversion. So, although there are lots of similarities to the Spectrum version, the difficulty level is even less comfortable, and so I think it's the worst of the official lot.

Although the Commodore Plus/4 version is an unofficial conversion, it is a rather good one,  considering. It feels almost exactly like the originals, only there are a few quite disturbing problems. It starts off very nicely, no problems whatsoever. The second level brings a little hint of some unfinished business, that will become more worrisome later on, but here, it's just a bug with the music routine: when it stops playing, the game will become slightly faster, but it ends once the level has been completed. Level 3: no notable problems. Level 4 - the cannonball puzzle - seemed to be rather strange, because I was able to complete this stage without losing a life. I don't know if I did something differently than usual, or if the bats have a new flightpath, but there it is. Otherwise, it plays exactly the same as the originals. Then we get to the skull cavern, which is a major problem. The big bird only has one route, and the drop-off is always at the left side of the cavern, which makes moving the skull-eggs to the other side rather impossible. Luckily, the game has an in-built cheat, which allows you to restart the game from any chosen level. So, on to level 6, the water organ puzzle. Other than the waterdrops dropping more or less at the same time (or in groups), it feels much like it should. The octopus screen has an intriguing problem: the water flows only in a graphical sense. This makes the box-hopping bit a piece of cake, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's an improvement. The final screen again is the same as in the originals, so all in all: a very nice try, but needs an update or two, so I have to give it the last place.

1. ATARI 8-BIT / COMMODORE 64
2. APPLE ][
3. ZX SPECTRUM
4. AMSTRAD CPC
5. COMMODORE PLUS/4

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GRAPHICS

Since I began the playability section with the MSX game, let's continue with the same form. Overall, the graphics are very nice: the colours are suitable and comparable with the other games, and the sprites and all the solid objects look very Goonies-like. There is a bit less graphical variety on the MSX than what can be seen on the other Konami game, but then it's a different game. There are three kinds of basic doorways, two of which you can't go through and one of which you have to open with keys, and then there's the end-level doorway, which only opens up after you have picked up all the kidnapped Goonies. All the areas have their characteristic colour-coded look to them, and some of the areas have some elements in them that only exist in those areas, such as the water pipes. Considering that I can't really compare this game to the others as much as I would like to, there are only so many connections I can make, and move on to the other games. Let it be said, though, that the graphics are very suitable for this type of a game.

MSX screenshots.


Now, the other Konami game has two basic looks: the Nintendo one and the other one, because the Sharp X-1 and the NEC versions look almost exactly the same - only the score display has a slightly different font. Basically, the main differences here are the screen size and palette, but as mentioned before, the NEC version is a flip-screener all the way for some reason.

Screenshots from the Nintendo and NEC versions.
Above and below left: Nintendo / Middle and below right: NEC.


Having read some other reviews on the internet, I had gotten the impression that the NEC/Sharp version looks much worse than the Nintendo version, but I'm definitely getting a different feel here. First of all, that title screen looks amazing on the NEC/Sharp, compared to the cave-painting style title screen on the Nintendo. Secondly, there are a lot more textures on the NEC/Sharp than what's on the Nintendo. The only thing I can think of that doesn't really tickle my aesthetic sensors is the palette, which can be a bit too bright and sprightly for some. Overall, I think the Sharp version actually looks and feels the best graphically (mostly due to the scrolling), but of course, everyone has their own taste, and the Nintendo version might suit better for some other's eyes.

Unfortunately, the game is much more difficult on the NEC/Sharp, so I have so far been unable to complete the game on any other machine than the Famicom, and therefore I have no screens for the later bits.

1. SHARP X-1
2. NINTENDO
3. NEC PC-8801

The Datasoft game has quite a restricted colour scheme in most versions, but the two conversions from Paragon Software have a surprisingly colourful palette. Whether they work in the context or not is another matter entirely, but I will leave that pondering for later. This time, I will present a list of colours on every version of the game, and then move on to comparing the levels. Note, that for the graphics comparison, I have "corrected" the order of levels for the Amstrad version.

APPLE ][: white, black, orange and light blue.
ATARI: white, black, red and blue.
C+4: yellow, black, red, blue and light brown for the score display.
C64: white, black, red, blue and cyan/turqoise for the score display.
CPC: Depends on the level, but the score display always has yellow and white, and all the levels have at least white, black, grey, red, blue, orange, brown and yellow by default, PLUS:
-- L1: light blue, green, cyan and dark cyan.
-- L2: light blue, green, light green, cyan and dark cyan.
-- L3: cyan, dark cyan and a darker shade of yellow.
-- L4: dark red, light blue and light green.
-- L5: light blue, green, light green, cyan and dark cyan.
-- L6: light blue, cyan and dark cyan.
-- L7: light blue, green, light green and dark cyan.
-- L8: dark red, light blue, green, light green, cyan and dark cyan.
SPECTRUM: depends on the level, but the score display always has green and white.
-- L1: white, black, red and blue.
-- L2: light grey, black, blue and two shades of yellow.
-- L3: white, black and yellow.
-- L4: white, black, yellow, red and two shades of cyan.
-- L5: white, black, cyan, blue, red and magenta.
-- L6: white, black, red, blue and magenta.
-- L7: white, black, yellow and blue.
-- L8: white, black, red, blue and magenta.

As I kind of implied there, the colours are not necessarily indicative of a proper atmosphere for the game. The colours do make the characters more recognizable, but everything else... I'm not so sure. In my mind, the version with the closest colours to represent the atmosphere of the movie would be the best one, and not necessarily the one with the clearest or highest quality graphics. If it weren't for the connection with the movie, I would actually go a bit wild with this one and say that the most pleasing graphics overall would be on the Amstrad, although some levels look rather brilliant on the Spectrum, and the three originals along with the unofficial conversion for the Plus/4 have the most constant look throughout.  The thing is, the movie is quite dark for most of the time once the Goonies get to the Fratellis' house, and so I feel the game should be. And this is how it looks like on the six released versions, official and unofficial.

Above, left to right: title screens from Apple ][, Commodore 64, Atari 400/800, Commodore Plus/4.
Below, left to right: Amstrad CPC loading screen and menu screen + ZX Spectrum loading screen and menu screen.


Beginning with the title screen, or loader screen if you prefer to think of it that way, loads up for the original versions along with the main program. The Amstrad and Spectrum versions have it as a  loading screen, but since the title screen was originally also a cleverly hidden options screen, I shall treat it as such. The Amstrad and Spectrum versions have their own separate menu screen, which has no graphics, apart from the title logo, so for a change, I will not take that into account when trying to give scores for this game's graphics.

First things first: the Goonies logo looks closer to the original movie title logo in the original versions, so it gets a point right away. Another point is given to the originals for having the house more true to its movie counterpart, for you can see the back door there and the wheelbarrow, which many people don't pay that much attention to. It's all the little things, really. The Apple ][ version gets a minus point for showing only 7 Goonies in the title screen instead of 8 like all the rest. Also, somehow peculiarly, one of the lot has been separated from the rest in the lower two title screens. From the originals, the Atari and C64 versions look the best. But the Amstrad and Spectrum screens look much nicer, less blocky. More to the point, the Amstrad's colours look more what they are supposed to look like. Unfortunately, this has to be judged by a straight comparison with the movie, and therefore I have to say the C64 and Atari screens serve the purpose the best, but the Amstrad screen looks the best, closely followed by the Spectrum version with slightly awkward colour choices. So, I would have to say everyone else wins except the Spectrum and Apple versions.

Level 1 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


In the movie, the Fratellis' hideout was nothing if not old, worn and dusty, not to mention filled with hidden secrets, such as the money-making machine in the basement, along with Sloth, the Fratelli boys' little mentioned and deformed brother. In the game, the house layout is significantly different, but then it has been made so to serve the puzzle with the money-printer and the water bottle that Chunk breaks in the movie, and reveals the passage under the fireplace. I can't say for certain, if the characters used in this level are what they are supposed to represent from the movie, but it doesn't really matter, since all the versions have similarly unrecognizable characters. Although the Spectrum version has the most sharpness in the graphics, and the colour scheme is pretty much what it's supposed to be like, I think overall, the Amstrad version takes the lead here. I can't really put the rest of them in order, because all of the four left have their own particular characteristics to them, all of which can be counted as pros or cons. My favourite of the four is the Apple ][ version for some reason, but that's just me.

Level 2 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


Level 2 (or Level 5 in Amstrad's case) is the first one properly under the ground. As such, there should be very little in terms of colour or light, considering that the Goonies didn't have much of either in the movie at that point. The level seems to represent all of the plotline between their entrance to the caves up to the point where they get out of the wishing well. In the movie, the key is found from the dead Chester Copperpot, but here it seems to be in a container in the ceiling of one of the rooms. Well, you can't have everything in an 8-bit game, but so far, surprisingly many things have been covered from the film, including the bats (although in not as many numbers).

So, graphically, level 2 is... to be honest, a rather poor level on all of the machines, but the two Commodores and the Atari seem to represent the movie's darkness at that point. I would also take some points away from the Amstrad version for using Sloth and Andy (?) at this point, but in the long run, it doesn't really matter. It is rather bright, though, so it will have to settle for the second place. The Spectrum version looks horribly yellow here, which is completely unsuitable for this bit, so it will have to take the last place here.

Level 3 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


Somehow, I get the feeling that this bit with pipes and showers came before the wishing well scene in the movie, but nevermind. What is also weird here, is that one of the Fratelli brothers is so close behind you already, even though they only catch up at the bridge after the big skull thing in the movie. Oh well, in an old 8-bit game, it's amazing you are able to get even this much of continuity, particularly in a movie licence game.

Apart from the Amstrad version having no visible floor at the bottom, it looks best overall. The pipes and ladders have nice shading going on, and the one part where you need to jump around, has not been too much altered, and is actually much more comfortable than the same bit on Spectrum (which is horrible, as you have no space for preparing for the jump). All the other four can share the second place this time.

Level 4 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


The cannonball puzzle didn't exist as such in the movie, although there was a scene with a cannonball running through some drainpipes or whatever, finally providing the Goonies an exit from a room that seemed like a dead-end, in a not completely safe way. In the end, Data was the first one to go down the new hole in the movie, and I think that at least in the original versions, the other character looks like he could be Data.

This time, I would say the four similar-looking ones take the lead here, as they serve the feel of the puzzle the best. The Spectrum version looks a bit too sharp and cornery, and the Amstrad has a bit of the same problem, and they are both a bit too bright. However, the Amstrad version has more colours, so it's easier for you to follow the cannonball rolling on the differently coloured background objects.

Level 5 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


This is a difficult one. In the movie, the big skull wasn't in such an important role, although it certainly made an appearance. It is an impressive set in the movie, though, and having played the  game more often than watched the movie, I sort of wish that Donner and Spielberg would have spent more time using this set in the movie as well. In the movie, the skull's doorway oozes some yellowish light, making the unofficial conversion look the most like the one in the movie that way. However, the Amstrad skull has some nice grey shading, and the bird looks nice there as well. The small skull-eggs themselves look the best on the Apple ][, however, and there the lava looks more like lava as well. The Spectrum skull looks strangely stretched and disformed, and the cyan colouring of the cavern is a bit too bright. I really can't decide here, but I'll say that all the other five have some good bits that the others don't have, so I have to call it a tie between the five, and put the Spectrum version again on the last place. If not for other reason, then for affecting the gameplay with the longer bone-ladders.

Level 6 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


One of my favourite goof points in the movie is the bone pipe organ. Andy is set to play the chords (as opposed to melody, which the map's backside clearly has), and if she plays wrong notes, some of the ground will fall from under the Goonies' feet. The biggest facepalm moment is definitely with the A#/Bb mix-up, although some say it was intended as a joke. Anyway, you shall not have to use any sort of musical knowledge in the game, because you only need to keep an eye on the waterdrops that fall on the three differently coloured pressure plates, that affect your pathways over to the other side. So I like to call this mechanism the water-organ.

None of the bone keyboards look anything like the one in the movie, but I think the Atari/C64/Apple one looks the most spooky. There is just too much party going on in the Spectrum and Amstrad versions. Also, the exit area has been handled differently in those two, requiring different maneouvres, and more importantly, making the whole middle section looking less symmetrical.

Level 7 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


For me, the Goonies was one of the rare cases, in which I had played the game before I saw the movie. When I saw the movie, I thought, "where did the octopus go?", and only later found out that they had cut the scene off. Luckily, it's now available on the DVD and Bluray, so you can see why it was left out. I guess Scott Spanburg had seen the movie in its uncut form before programming the game, so he implemented the octopus into the game before knowing it would not be featured in the movie. Which is fine, because this is one of the most rewarding and aggravating puzzles in the whole game, mostly depending on the format you happen to be playing it on.

On the Amstrad, the flippers pit looks a bit silly, but on the whole, the colours are quite agreeable. On all the other versions, the characters' own colours mix up with the background when climbing ladders that it's sometimes difficult to see anything properly. The Spectrum version has been affected so  much by the graphics, that you cannot even use the left flipper, and you can even hide inside the wall by the right flipper. I have no idea if it's intentional or not, but it certainly feels sloppy. The flippers pit looks the best in the originals, but the colours are a bit iffy. I'm going for the Amstrad in this case.

Level 8 screenshots. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


One-Eyed Willy's ship is, of course, the most fantastic set in the movie. The game doesn't even begin to describe how awesome it is - the other Konami game managed to fake it a bit better. In the original versions of the Datasoft game, it is a whole different puzzle. Most of the passages are blocked with trapdoors, which must be opened with levers, but they are missing from the Amstrad and Spectrum. Mama Fratelli is busy with a treasure chest on the second floor of the ship in the originals, while in the two conversions, she is at the bottom, walking back and forth, so you need to find a way to distract her so you can get to the bow of the ship with your two Goonies. In the original, you need to get Mama Fratelli overboard by dropping the other treasure from the front so she will go after it, but in the two conversions, you don't get to throw her overboard, which is a pity.

Naturally, as you have to see where you are going, the ship has to have that sliced look to it, so it doesn't really look much like a ship. Since the ship is made of wood, it should have a woody colour to it, and so I think the Amstrad version looks the closest to it, followed by the Apple version. On the Spectrum, the ship looks a bit too rectangular and squeezed, so I don't feel entirely comfortable looking at it, but it's not as bad as a ship with blue-and-red colours, which the Spectrum version shares with the two Commodores and the Atari. I'm going to have to let all four share the last place this time.

Ending screens. Above: Apple ][, Atari 400/800, Commodore 64.
Below: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Plus/4.


The movie ends in a bright setting, in broad daylight on the shore, with the Goonies and a bunch of other people watching One-Eyed Willie's ship sailing out from the cave and to the open sea. Because of the game's dark basic colour scheme, most of the versions don't allow for such a bright scene, and instead is spoiled with the utter blackness. However, the Apple ][ version has a brighter basic set of colours, so the ending looks slightly nicer than in any of the other versions. The Amstrad and Spectrum conversions don't have a proper ending as such, so they share the last place here.

Overall, the graphics for the Datasoft game might as well be counted together from the levels, because I cannot come up with a proper line-up for this one. For the most part, the Atari/C64/+4/Apple versions feel more proper considering the movie's atmosphere, but as I said before, all of the versions have their own good and bad factors. So, the graphics score will be done mathematically, whatever the outcome. The scores will be given up to 3 points per section, and in the following order: title/loading screen, levels 1-8 (based on the original order) and the ending screen.

1. APPLE ][: 2+3+3+2+3+3+3+2+2+3 = TOTAL 26 (4 points for the overall count)
2. AMSTRAD CPC: 3+3+2+3+2+3+2+3+3+1 = TOTAL 25 (3 points)
3. ATARI 8-BIT: 3+2+3+2+3+3+3+2+1+2 = TOTAL 24 (2 points)
4. COMMODORE 64: 3+2+3+2+3+3+3+2+1+2 = TOTAL 24 (2 points)
5. COMMODORE +4: 3+2+3+2+3+3+3+2+1+2 = TOTAL 24 (2 points)
6. ZX SPECTRUM: 2+2+1+1+1+2+2+1+1+1 = TOTAL 14 (1 point)

Well... perhaps I wouldn't be as harsh as that regarding the Spectrum graphics, although its graphics are definitely the least fitting match for the movie. I'm still not so sure about all the others, though. In my mind, the should be on the whole a bit darker than the Apple ][ version is, but then again, it is also a bit easier to see things in the Apple ][ version. Oh, whatever. Let's just go with it for now - it has taken enough time to do as it is.

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SOUNDS

The connecting factor for most of the Goonies games can be found from the sound department - all the games have, or at least should have, their own version of Cyndi Lauper's "Good Enough" for the basic soundtrack. For those of you who don't know, that is the song's officially registered title, but Warner Bros. insisted the single's title should have a more pointed marketing device regarding the film, so they tacked on "The Goonies 'R'" in front of the title. Allegedly, Cyndi Lauper hates the song, and for 18 years since it's release, had not been included on any of her albums or compilations, until 2003's "The Essential Cyndi Lauper", and the first time she performed it live was in 2004. Well, I happen to like it, if only because it has been ingrained in my mind through extensive playing of the games. The original does sound quite a lot like "Girls They Want To Have Fun", but is more complicated, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to refresh your memory, go check Cyndi's original version here. The song starts at 2:15 in the video, if you don't want to see the intro.

Now, having listened to that again, I dare you to take a listen to the Spectrum version and hear even one 4/4 bar of the same melody as the Cyndi Lauper song has. I couldn't find any, although it might be because it sounds so horrible with two simultaneous fart sounds playing throughout the game, that it is difficult to decipher the melody as it is. There are some clicky-beepy sound effects, but you can't really make them out all too well from behind the constantly playing soundtrack, and although I went through all the buttons on the keyboard, I couldn't shut it down. I have to say it - this is the most annoying and badly made soundtrack I have ever come across on the Spectrum.

Moving on to the Amstrad version, you finally get to hear what's actually going on in the Spectrum song, and it's not really a bad tune. It just isn't what you would expect from a Goonies-based game. I tried to find any info on it, if it had been rearranged from another song from the movie soundtrack, but no. So, logically I would have to guess, it's a completely original tune by Spanburg himself, or someone else who was brought in the team to create the new tunes for the Paragon conversions. There still aren't many sound effects, but at least they have more character than what you get on the Spectrum.

The most properly converted Cyndi Lauper tune can be found on the Commodore 64, and even there, it's sliced up into two or three parts, which play in different levels. The Atari version isn't far off, but
is slightly out of tune, as Atari seems to usually have it. However, the Atari version has more a bit more sound effects than the C64, although I can't say for sure I like them more or less. I would say the C64 wins this time around because of the better rearrangement of the Lauper tune.

Taking a quick listen to the unofficial Plus/4 version at this point: there seem to be no option for sound effects, and I couldn't turn the music off. It is polytonic, but the tune is played too high and it gets on your nerves quite quickly. Still, it manages to perform slightly better than what you get on the Spectrum.

On the Apple ][, the tune is closer to the original in tempo, but lacks in polytonics. This problem has been dealt with by having no music at all during the game itself - you only have sound effects. Actually, this suits this particular version excellently, because if the machine isn't very capable of multi-channel sounds, you might as well have the song playing only when you're not concentrating on the game, because the sound effects are a better indication of things working in the game. And the effects are surprisingly good, considering the hardware. This is what I would have preferred to hear on the Spectrum.

Moving on to the MSX version, it has some other nice little bits of melody in addition to the Cyndi Lauper rendition, which is nice. There are no drums here, but instead the programmers have left some space for the sound effects, which are nice and varied. This is the best one so far, but also out of the competition due to the game being so different from the others.

The Nintendo version has at least three different full-length tunes, and a very nice set of sound effects to go with it. You get a nice version of the Lauper tune with drums, bass and the melody, and both the original tunes have a similar setup. If you get something done, which requires the game to play a new short melody, the music stops for the duration of the sound, and then starts from the beginning again. The sound effects are very characteristic of this game, though, and so you never feel too bored of the constant interruptions.

Contrary to the Nintendo version of the other Konami game, the NEC version has only kept the Lauper tune in the game, which is strange, because the Sharp version has all the other tunes in as well. However, the NEC version uses some sort of MIDI-like sound device, which sounds rather brilliant, and can use more simultaneous channels than the Nintendo, which allows for constant playback of the main tune without interruptions from the sound effects, that play a bit more quietly in the background. The Sharp version uses a bitonal beeper sort of a thing, that makes it sound almost like an old DOS game, so that makes it worse. The Nintendo version beats both of them, though, because it has the best of both worlds, and more character in the sounds. I do recommend you to check out the NEC sounds, though.

So, in the end, here are the results for the sound comparisons, not counting the MSX:

KONAMI #2:
1. NINTENDO
2. NEC PC-8801
3. SHARP X-1

DATASOFT:
1. COMMODORE 64
2. ATARI 8-BIT
3. APPLE ][
4. AMSTRAD CPC
5. COMMODORE PLUS/4
6. ZX SPECTRUM

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OVERALL

There is no one version that would fit for all gamers here. For the casual gamer, the Nintendo version is probably the most enjoyable. For the slightly more difficult to please, the MSX version is the way to go. For a more puzzle-oriented adventure enthusiast, the Datasoft game will be your choice. However, if you really want to have a Goonies gaming experience, that would follow the movie as closely as possible, you would then have to choose the Datasoft game.
  

Because the MSX version is the only one in its category, it will not be included further in the overall lists. It is a very good game in its own right, however, and a very recommended option. Now, though, we will count the scores for the other Konami game.

NINTENDO: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 8
NEC PC-8801: Playability 2, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 5
SHARP X-1: Playability 1, Graphics 3, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 5

And now, the Datasoft scores, including the unofficial Plus/4 conversion:

1. COMMODORE 64: Playability 5, Graphics 2, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 13
2. ATARI 8-BIT: Playability 5, Graphics 2, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 12
3. APPLE ][: Playability 4, Graphics 4, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 12
4. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 2, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 7
5. COMMODORE PLUS/4: Playability 1, Graphics 2, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 5
6. ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 3, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 4

Of course, you might not agree with my method of judging certain things, particularly the graphics, but this is a special case, requiring special sort of attention. When you are comparing a game based on a movie to the movie itself in atmosphere and style, you really need to pay attention to more than just what is technically better.

There are some things I would like to add in a non-specific order to complete my comparison: Kudos to the Plus/4 converters for trying to do what they did, but the game is unfinishable in its current state. Fix it to be as playable as the C64 and Atari versions, and it will share the same spot as the Amstrad, which isn't much, but it's something. Next: I don't remember, whether the Atari palette is as dark as it seems to be in the emulators, but for me, it's a bit too dark, but I didn't take any points away from it because it might have been a mistake. Next: the Spectrum version is better than it appears to be, but the soundtrack and some of the graphics ruin the experience. Finally: All in all, the Apple ][ version surprised me by how good it actually is, and I would have liked it to win, but there are just a few things in it that would need a small fix. As it is, the top spot is properly earned by the one that got it, say what you will.

As a bonus, I will add my current order of favourites for the Goonies games:
1. MSX - because it's so different and unknown to me.
2. COMMODORE 64 - because it's the most comfortable combination of elements of the best game.
3. ATARI 8-BIT - it seems a bit too dark, but it's the same game.
4. APPLE ][ - surprisingly good throughout.
5. NINTENDO - the most playable and enjoyable version of the other Konami game.
6. ZX SPECTRUM - better than the sum of its parts, and an interesting variation.
7. NEC PC-8801 - a very playable, but difficult version of the Nintendo game.
8. AMSTRAD CPC - not very playable, but enjoyable in many other ways.
9. SHARP X-1 - the horrible controls ruin a nice alternative for the Nintendo release.
10. COMMODORE PLUS/4 - a surprisingly good conversion ruined completely by unfinished business.

The Goonies' Remakes by Sloth Games (above)
and Brain Games (below).
Now that I have finally written everything, I came across an unofficial DOS conversion of the MSX game, made in the mid-1990's by a group of fans. One of the first remakes, if I'm not mistaken, but it's really more of a conversion than a remake. The game plays, looks and sounds EXACTLY like the MSX version, so having it included here would have resulted in nothing anyway. Just so you know, you don't need to have an MSX to play the game, or even an MSX emulator, although original hardware is always preferable.

Speaking of remakes, here are a couple of remakes that I know of, both well worth trying out:

Datasoft's game remade by Sloth Games - http://thegoonies.zxq.net/
Konami's MSX game remade by Brain Games - http://goonies.jorito.net/

Thanks for reading again, hope you enjoyed it!
Next time, hopefully something less time-consuming again... ;-D
Corrections and comments are welcome, but my game suggestions list is quite long at the moment, so please, keep them to yourself for now. :-P

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VIDEO LINK!

--UPDATE! 11th of November, 2014--
I recently gained a permission from the owner of the YouTube channel Gaming History Source to link the channel's videos to support my comparisons, so here's the GHS video comparison of The Goonies, featuring the two Konami games. I'm still looking for a video featuring all the versions of the Datasoft game, but while I'm at it, take a look at this one.

2 comments:

  1. Used to love this one on my speccy and i even forgot that it existed. Those screenshots really take me back.

    There was one time that i used to watch this movie every day.

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  2. Just looked this over ! Astounding work ! Great job !

    ReplyDelete