When you’re young and the world was a more greener innocent place, Saturday nights was held in suc hhigh esteem, in part due to the power of television. The UK was greeted by someone hosting a house party, “our Graham” and a Scouse lady trying to pair off the single people of the country and also this – muscle-men and muscle-women in tight lycra fighting off the peons of the land in one great spectacle. With AWOOGAS here and the Wolf there, Gladiators was an important aspect of any childhood of this generation which was ripe for being in a video game. The UK did not get the joy of a Gladiators video game however those fine folks across the pond got American Gladiators on NES so how does it fare up – is it a hearty awooga or a-waste of time?
American Gladiators was released on a number of platforms in 1991 and is based on the television show of the same name (to note, not the UK version). It would be difficult for this reviewer to comment on how much the game is similar to the television program but for those not in the know, contestants compete in various events which would test speed, agility, strength and a whole host of other qualities to defeat the Gladiators. The game, akin to California Games or Skate or Die is a multievent game in which you choose which event out of 5 to compete in. They are:
Your character whose dressed in royal blue has to pugle fight his way through a number of Gladiators, mashing the d-pad and the B button in order to knock the Gladiator off the stage. After you knocked the Gladiator off you have to jump on various platforms with the A button until you reach the next Gladiator. This is all against the clock so you have to mash that button and be as powerful as a snake eating a tub of butter. Defeat 4 of the Gladiators and you win the stage, twirling it like a cotton bud (or Q-tip for those across the pond). Sorry, should have said **SPOILERS** – you twirl the pugle around at the end. Sorry about that. #notsorry. Not the hardest mini game but has solid controls.
Bring on the Wall!! Well, a yellow-bricked wall where you mash the A and B button like you’re competing in the final of Track and Field whilst pressing the d-pad in the corresponding direction. Oh yeah, to try and put you off Gladiators swarm around you – if they touch you then your character falls off. No safety net. Mashing the A and B buttons will cramp the hand or your fingers and at times you need to be precise in where your character goes – the bricks on the wall are unforgiving. A more challenging mini game.
Your character jumps on what looks like a firebar from the Mario Series, to which this swings until you press the button and your character jumps. To what purpose? Who knows, tried making the character jump before the platform and he fell in. Tried making him jump afterwards to jump over the Gladiator but if you hit the platform you bounce straight off. Jumping off the firebar is with the A button but without an instruction manual it is difficult to know what to do. You could have patience and maybe with luck you would get how this minigame works but this one is lamentable and should be passed.
No, not the lottery but Powerball – similar to a game of Bulldog but you run from one side of the screen to the other to collect a ball to then deposit this in one of 5 baskets around the pitch or field. Frustration doesn’t begin to describe this minigame – the Gladiators are unpredictable, they are faster than your character and in fact your character doesn’t fight back – you have to dodge the unpredictable Gladiators which is not easy. If they touch you once whilst you hold the ball, the ball flies off and you have to grab it from the other side of the screen. The worst aspect? The colours – dear me the colours and the background give you two things – a headache and nausea. Words cannot begin to say the effect the background has on your eyes (screenshots do not do this justice) so good luck not having paracetamol after this infuriating game. The music? Dreadful. Avoid.
A man in a tank firing cannons at you which you have to dodge in order to win the round. The round is long – not quite as long as a round of Ikari Warriors but bad enough, and the Gladiator’s cannon fire is unrelenting. The A and B buttons again don’t work, like Powerball it is all about reflexes and speed which doesn’t come easy and the background, it’s just as nauseating as Powerball. Wear sunglasses, look at the horizon just don’t look at the background whatever you do. 3 hits on this one and you lose a life so be careful.
Experience with multi-event games have left this reviewer feeling disappointed, as most multi-events game are mediocre at best. American Gladiators is no different – five events of which two will give you headaches, one is not playable and the other two are button mashing exercises. In some ways it is like being on an episode of Gladiators which can be physically and mentally though. It must be said that without the instruction manual, a mini-game like Human Cannonball is difficult and frustrating, but the last two mini games noted above will make you wish you hadn’t reminisced to Saturday nights gone by and played something better instead. The background colours are headache-inducing and naff, the background music sounds like squealing insects being burned by the power of a magnifying glass on a sunny day. What happens when you win all 5 events? That is the power of YouTube because honestly, it was bad enough trying to play this game for more than 20 minutes without feeling frustrated (in a bad way) and wanting to lie down through exhaustion. The only redeeming feature is the two player option…oh wait, no it isn’t. Do yourself a favour, pick up Action 52 instead because 52 mini games in one can’t be bad can it?….
Rating – 1 out of 5