The Retro Critic


What do we know about The Punisher? In a nutshell?

– He’s tough.

– He pulls off silly emo T-shirts better than most.

– He likes to shoot things.

Well, turns out that’s all LJN knows about the character too and boy are they gonna squeeze the most out of that!

Basically The Punisher on the NES is an arcade-style shooter where you get to control the vigilante himself as well as choose where you want the guy to shoot. The fact that the game isn’t the usual point-of-view shooter we’re all familiar with is both surprisingly innovative and kinda confusing. On the one hand you’ve got a game that demands that you multi-task, which is challenging.

On the other hand, it sort of feels like you’re some Sesame Street puppet and someone’s under your torso manipulating you as you destroy whatever seems to be paraded on a conveyor belt in front of you.

I’m not alone in suggesting this (check out Mr Eric Bailey’s review of the game) but The Punisher might just be LJN’s finest effort.

Now I know that’s like saying that New Moon is the best flick in the Twilight Saga but it’s so easy to mock a lot of that developer’s output that when it does something decent, I should probably point it out.

Truth be told, The Punisher has its plus points.

The destruction involved is enjoyable, you get to massacre pretty much everything on screen as ammo, health and newspapers pop out of boxes, lamp posts and whatever else is around.

Yes, newspapers.

You shoot them and they give you tips or talk rubbish.

See, The Punisher’s so badass he not only reads the papers in the middle of  gun fights but he SHOOTS THEM OPEN!

The bosses you face are pretty challenging since they require you to aim and shoot properly but also dodge and have a punch-out session with them.

At least I… think that’s what they’re doing…

You get the choice between several different missions which each last 3 stages. This basically means you’re choosing which final boss you want to try and beat first.

You’ve got Jigsaw:

Who ends up looking like this when you beat him:

You’ve got this robot dude:

The deal with him is that he flies around and your job is to dismantle him little by little.

“It’s just a flesh wound!”

There’s also a helicopter you need to destroy (Punisher villain Hitman’s piloting it):

And finally The Kingpin to battle:

He’s kinda hard but if you’ve got the right weapon and full health then you should be ok to just give it all you’ve got and do away with him.

Man, this guy’s wearing a polo shirt and my bullets aren’t piercing through his skin…

What is he? A rhino?

It’s actually weird it’s so tough to beat these guys since the rest of the game sees your bullets cause maximum damage to anything that comes your way. Suddenly, you’re struggling to kill off this one dude and challenging him to weird punching face-offs when your guns are fully loaded?


Actually, although The Punisher is probably LJN’s best and as unique as it is in terms of gameplay, there’s still some aspects of it that bring it down, I feel.

Maybe I’m nitpicking but they do bother me ever so slightly…

Take the backgrounds during the game itself: Static, repetitive, occasionally hard to even make out due to them being too dark…

Bit lazy.

Then there’s the music which pops up every so often but most of the time just isn’t there. Like, at all.

Gotta hand it to saxophone guy for trying to liven things up a bit!

Love this guy!



Oh well.

He should have known better, it’s war out there! Hardly a time to sax-out!

What’s he thinkin’?

But it’s fine, there’s loads of him. I won’t kill him next time.


Then there’s the missions themselves which are pretty repetitive and sometimes look identical to each other. And as much as I find the whole third person rail-shooter thing interesting as an approach, it can get a bit tiresome after a while. Maybe a side-scrolling mini-level every so often would have been good? Like make Stage 2 something different? I don’t know.

I am nitpicking, aren’t I?

Basically, by LJN standards, The Punisher is a decent game. For the NES, it’s fine but with a little extra push of creativity we could have had one hell of a Marvel rail-shooter! As it stands, I do enjoy playing this Punisher game, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.

But in small doses.

I like how even The Punisher himself is surprised the game’s over at the end:

The guy’s bummed out he can’t shoot things anymore! Well, maybe a couple of gratuitous hero shots should cheer him up:


This is Frank 1MoreCastle, signing off.

*shoots at wall*