It’s the greatest adventure upon which a group of friends could embark: the search for a long-forgotten haul of a notorious pirate captain. There’s danger, excitement, a little romance thrown in so the boys in the audience can mutter, “Ewww!” and “Yuck!” at the kissie parts. It’s “The Goonies”, directed by Richard Donner, and if you’ve never seen it then I’m not sure how I feel about you reading the rest of this article. Maybe we shouldn’t even be friends. I dunno. I need a drink. Do whatever, I just…I don’t even care anymore.
Casual NES fans may remember Konami’s The Goonies II wherein the Fratelli family breaks out of jail (again), captures everybody but Mikey (again), kidnaps a mermaid named Annie (aga–wait, what?), and stashes everybody within the maze-like complex beneath that old restaurant in the Oregon mountains. Said complex has been taken over by squatters, including a number of wise old hermits (WTF, Konami?), blind women you have to punch in order to get items (can we get a drug test in here, please?), and some would-be superhero calling himself “Konami Man” (seriously, guys, put down the bong!) I was confused for more than one reason when that game came out. Was there an original Goonies video game I’d missed, or was this supposed to be a sequel to the film? Both? Neither? I’m still not sure. Despite being more confusing than following the conversations of three crackheads loitering at a downtown bus stop, The Goonies was a competent action platformer, and one that could use a modern day remake/conversion to bring fans of the film up to speed. That’s probably not going to happen, but we can dream, right?
Anyway, it turns out “The Goonies” received several games based on its license, the most common being the Famicom version released in Japan in 1986 by Konami. Home computer users weren’t left out of the loop either: the ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64, and the Atari 800 all got their own individual versions of the game as well. Our favorite of the lot is the 1985 C64 version programmed by Datasoft and distributed by US Gold, so that’s what we’re looking at today.
The Goonies on the Commodore is vastly different from its Famicom counterpart, not just in terms of graphics or sound, but in the entirety of its design and presentation. Unlike Konami’s version, one player controls two different Goonies (they change depending on the screen). The pair have to work together to solve the puzzles which will allow them to progress to the next stage and get them one step closer to One-Eyed Willie’s stash. For example, on the first screen, the objective is to get into the passage under the fireplace in order to explore the caves. Two problems are immediately apparent: there’s a Fratelli guarding the lower floor, and a roaring fire blazing away under the chimney. One Goonie has to get to the top floor and activate the counterfeit printing press, which starts spewing money out through the window upstairs. This distracts the Fratelli brother downstairs, who runs outside to catch the rain of money. While your first Goonie is running the press, your second runs downstairs, knocks over the water cooler, and the ensuing deluge puts out the fire, allowing him to enter the secret passage. The first Goonie now has to make a mad dash downstairs as the last fake bill falls and beat the Fratelli into the hole.
There are 8 screens in all, each with different hazards to overcome, mostly through trial and error as it’s never immediately obvious what pulling a particular switch or twisting a particular valve will accomplish. Each screen is based on an actual encounter from the film, with the exception of screen 7 which is based on a deleted sequence involving an octopus. The most nefarious? Scene 4, based on the bowling ball room trap scene which requires much character swapping, switch pulling, and bell ringing. Gaaah…screw you, stage 4!
What The Goonies lacks in the graphical department, it more than makes up for in challenge and charm. It’s reasonably easy to identify each individual kid, and even Sloth makes an appearance in the final stage with Chunk, coming to the rescue of everybody else and fooling Mama into walking the plank. On the stage based on the shower pipe scene beneath the clubhouse, an amusingly naked 8-bit sprite walks back and forth across the top of the screen, hopping from shower to shower in a never-ending effort, we presume, to cleanse his soul. Datasoft clearly enjoyed making this game, and while it has a learning curve for timing of jumps and swapping characters, it makes great use of its source material. Konami’s Famicom looks better and plays more smoothly, but since it tasks you with kicking mice to collect bombs in order to blow up safes, it leads us to wonder where we can get our hands on what they were smoking.
The major downside of the C64? Music. While the digital rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies R Good Enuf” is amusing to hear the first few times, having it repeat through all eight stages is unforgivable. Even the Famicom version had the good sense to change things up with new background music every level. Turn the volume down for this one–there aren’t any important sound cues, and you’ll save yourself the desire to puncture your own eardrums.
Now this is the sort of classic which really could use a modern-day remake to introduce gamers to the proper way to use a license from the 1980s. It’s not likely to happen, but hey, a gamer can dream, right?
Thanks for reading, and as always, we present your retro ad goodie: