Bill & Ted’s Excellent Game Boy Adventure is a puzzle-platformer for the Game Boy, released way back in 1991 and based on the Bill & Ted film series. The game was released under the LJN label (a subsidiary of Activision at the time). For anyone possessed of even a shred of interest in playing or learning about older games, especially for the Nintendo Entertainment system, you’ll have heard about LJN, and not in a flattery manner. I honestly wasn’t sure how true everything I’d read about the poor quality of anything with the LJN rainbow attached to it, but I probably should have paid more attention to the game’s sub title, A Bogus Adventure.
So I started up the game and was greeted with a nice cartoonish Bill and Ted to give me an explanation for the bogus adventure the two were about to embark on. DeNomolos is the villain returned from the movie (no knowledge of the film series is necessary to play the game) in another attempt to mess with the space-time continuum. DeNomolos has travelled through time and stolen a host of objects called time fragments in an attempt to alter the future. It’s up to Bill and Ted to travel through several different time periods to collect these fragments and clean up the mess that DeNomolos has made. The story is pretty simple but I didn’t expect much from it anyway, the game is a
puzzle-platformer so really you’re going to be playing this for its gameplay more than anything else.
The game starts you in a small level, small enough that the entire thing is visible on the screen at once. From there you need to run and jump over enemies and onto different platforms to collect the time fragments placed across each stage. Do this and then a door will materialize, reach it and you move on to the next level. At first things didn’t look too bad, I was collecting fragments at a quick pace thinking that the game might not be excellent but not certainly not bogus, then I noticed the first real problem. I had been playing for a little bit and realised that the music hadn’t changed. I had been listening to the same looping metal inspired track for the last three stages. That same piece plays in every level for the entire game. It’s not a bad piece of music but it’s disappointing that a game about a pair of air-headed metal loving musicians only carries one level theme, seems like laziness or a lack of imagination. So the story isn’t great and the soundtrack consists of one short piece, but I did say the gameplay wasn’t bad, at least it didn’t start out that way. Unfortunately Bill & Ted gets worse the further you progress, not better. What I’m referring to with that is when the developers introduce the idea that collecting fragments alters the levels themselves. What might happen is you grab a fragment and then a new platform might appear in the level, or an old one might disappear. Now that sounds to me like good idea. The problem is in practice there’s no indication as to what fragments will do what to the level. What starts out as a slightly clumsy and underwhelming but not necessarily bad platformer later becomes a puzzle-platformer with what is the definition of cheap gameplay. Unless you’re more lucky than a cat-allergic leprechaun there are parts in this game where you’re going to be losing, not because you’re bad at it, but because you grabbed a time fragment that caused a platform to disappear and that made it impossible for you to collect the last one, you’re left with no choice but to carelessly throw yourself at your former friend now brainwashed enemy Abraham Lincoln just to start the level again. Or maybe you grabbed a fragment in mid air only to find that doing so caused 90% of the level’s floor to disappear, and of course you didn’t land on the 10% that remained. That’s the puzzle potion of this game, a trial and error of losses until you memorize the order to collect the time fragments of a given level.
I would sooner every level was a little more simple and didn’t feature the mechanic at all, at least then you’d finish it faster, a lot faster. You do find power ups along the way, like a balloon that allows you to float up to areas that might otherwise be inaccessible and a bomb that can destroy pieces of platform. Even these don’t do much for the game though, with levels themselves being so short, ten seconds floating on a balloon doesn’t really add much.
There’s also a two player mode but I wasn’t able to give it a go, so maybe that would have brought this game from bad to mediocre, if only I knew someone playing this game in 2019.
That’s it really. I paid £5 for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Game Boy Adventure as a loose cartridge and it wasn’t worth that. I’m serious when I say there are a number of games available for the Game Boy for that price which are more enjoyable to play than Bill & Ted. While writing this review I browsed the first page of Ebay for Game Boy games and found two better games listed at £4.95 and £4.99 respectively under the ‘buy now’ format, and even more if you’re lucky in auctions. If you’re a collector you’ll probably give this game a chance like I did, but don’t expect much.
I can only give a poor game a poor score, so it’s 4 out of 10 for Bill & Ted. The game is repetitive in a bad way, dull and cheap in places.
For Stage – Select, this has been Ed, signing off.