Liam’s Game Room #14 (The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, NES)

Introduction

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer is an NES platformer released in 1989 developed by Winkysoft and published by SETA. The game is based upon the book and story of the same name, which was written by Mark Twain and was published in 1876. There are however differences between the Japanese and English versions that make the story progression inconsistant. The level change between the US and Japanese versions is that the English version has Japanese level 5 as level 1, meaning that the story order in the English version is in the incorrect order. This change also means that the pirate ship stage in the beginning is a much tougher introduction level to the game than the simpler original Japanese level 1.

Story

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The story of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is that Tom is in a classroom and during the middle of the lesson, he falls asleep. During this dream, he has to save Becky from Injun Joe or otherwise he wakes up during class and gets in trouble with his teacher. However, if the player beats the 6 stages and saves Becky, he will make up in the classroom, but instead of getting in trouble he sees a feather from the dragon he defeated to save Becky. The game however, doesn’t confirm or deny whether the events in the dream were real or not, leaving it up to the player to decide whether it did or didn’t happen.

The story of the game is actually done very well because it adapts the original story, but makes it much more appealing to a video game story. If the game had of followed the original story exactly, then potentially the game wouldn’t have been as interesting storywise, but I am glad the developers used inspiration from the story rather than taking the story exactly and just extracting it.

Gameplay

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a platformer game where the main goal is to get to the end of the stage and defeat the bosses in the stage to progress to the next stage. Each stage has it’s own aesthetics that make each stage quite unique, as well as making each stage feel like it’s own adventure, rather than the same adventure.

The backgrounds in this game are really well designed and all have their own unique feel to them because each background looks like it was hand drawn and has almost a storybook feel to it. Whether it be the Oak Brown textures of the pirate ship stage, or the steel metallic grey of the castle, each background looks distinctive and it almost makes the stage feel like it’s own adventure. As well as the backgrounds, the sprites in the foreground really adds another element and adds some fantastic detail and it adds to the aesthetic to each stage. However, the only downside to this is that the game required only 6 backgrounds because the game has only 6 stages, which means that the game is actually quite short.

There is a major problem in the game with enemies and projectiles appearing off screen and then when the player runs in that direction, the projectiles and enemies appears giving the player a very small amount of time to react to it. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem in other platformers because the player could take more than one hit, however in Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, the player can only take one hit. What this means is that the player doesn’t know the stage at all, the game then becomes more trial and error and repeating sometimes large sections of stages over and over.

The other problem is that the attack the player has is a rock that when used in thrown in an arc, meaning that if the player is right next to an enemy, then the attack will miss the target more likely than not. This is more of a problem in the later stages where accuracy with the attack is extremely important because there will be situations where the player has to defeat an enemy before progressing.  The inaccuracy of the attack can also mean that the player ends up in situations where there are 3 or more enemies on screen, which both causes lag and the fact that all these enemies are moving in a variety of patterns can make some situations impossible to escape from.

The player can get a temporary powerup, which replaces the rock with a slingshot and is a much better weapon to use. The only problem is that there are very few enemies that drop the powerup, as the drops from enemies are always consistent based upon how many enemies the player had defeated before defeating the enemy. Also, the powerup has a set period of time for which it can be used and if the player doesn’t use it at all in this time period, then the powerup goes away.

Difficulty

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’s difficulty is annoying because the game is designed in such a way that when the player has to do a lot of trial and error to remember where the enemies spawn. The problem is that the enemies spawn off screen to the right, which means that the player cannot see what enemies are coming towards Tom Sawyer until the very last moment. What this means is that the enemies that the player will encounter will always be in a set pattern, however the first time playing through, the player doesn’t know these patterns.

The second problem with the enemies is the fact that sometimes that they are really unpredictable, making even knowing the enemy patterns not at all useful. Some enemies also never despawn, especially birds meaning that the player might think that the enemy is off screen and not a threat, but the bird can dive into the player without warning. In some situations the screen can lock meaning that the player cannot scroll the screen back to potentially avoid some situations where multiple enemies can crowd the player out. Now in other platformers this wouldn’t be much of a problem because platformers like Super Mario World allow the player to take more than one hit and has checkpoints. The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer has checkpoints, but where these checkpoints are unknown and quite random at times.

I think the difficulty of the game is way too high and most of the difficulty is simply because of the huge amount of cheap deaths the player will encounter. Also, the fact that the game has no continues makes for a difficulty built upon trial and error. I am not a fan of difficulty like this because it takes a game, which in principle was a good idea but makes the game unnecessarily and annoyingly hard for the sake of it.

Music and Sound Design

The music in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is okay, but there is nothing too special about any of the themes sadly. The themes for each stage work modestly well with the theme of each stage, but the music is quite repetitive and loops very quickly, meaning that there is no time for the each theme to develop and build. The problem with the music is that each theme feels quite generic and very stock.

The sound design in this game is pretty much non existent with there being very few actual sound effects. That is the major problem with this game is that there is very little in terms of overall audio and the music and sound that is there is sparse and uninteresting. The lack of quality in the music gives the impression that it was an afterthought and composed and designed at the last minute.

Conclusion

Overall, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer could have been quite a fun game because the ideas behind the game were sound and had some potential. However, the gameplay and difficulty are frustrating and annoying to get used to. The music and the sound design are of a below average quality and there is so little of it however, the graphics and the backgrounds are decent.

3/10

Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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