Being a huge fan of the film Beetlejuice ever since I saw it as a kid, my search for a good game based on the movie began early.
Over time, I played three of those games, two of which were more based on the cartoon series than the film itself. You had the DOS game Adventures Of Beetlejuice: Skeletons In The Closet which was pretty playable but which, ultimately, was nothing more than a puzzle game, albeit a well made one.
Then LJN graced us with an infamous NES outing which, for some reason, steered clear from the classic music theme, thereby starting things off with disappointment. Even if that house is shown to us early on, promising us similarities with the movie:
Not sure the afterlife has a sign but I’ll let that slide.
The game crashes any hope you had of playing something close to the film as soon as you push start, unfortunately, as you find yourself playing a glitchy, awkwardly-controlled mess where a tiny Beetlejuice fights off all kinds of random creatures and outlandish “things” in various irrelevant settings.
From giant shark-infested bathtubs:
To big bugs:
The biggest insult of the game was that, because you do eventually get used to how clunky its controls are, it’s actually somewhat playable, meaning that it’s one of those games you don’t necessarily like playing but which you finish anyway because we’re weak-willed people who can’t say no to a challenge.
This is a game which concerns itself with a store, believe it or not!
As if Beetlejuice, a dude we assume has been dead for quite some time, is interested in purchasing skulls.
Hell, the only thing the character is interested in buying in the movie is living-dead prostitutes from some afterlife brothel but you don’t have that option in the game!
That’s… actually probably a good thing, in retrospect.
Beetlejuice on the NES isn’t the worst game on the console, it’s not even the worst LJN game but it’s definitely a lazy, rushed effort with its share of problems. On top of that, it’s not even easy so you can’t just fly through it with your eyes closed, despite what the bio-exorcist himself says:
I don’t recommend it but if you’ve never played it, you might as well try it, though I can’t guarantee that you’ll want to stick around all the way through or even play past the 5 minute mark.
Take a bow, NES Beetlejuice, you’ve earned your Mediocrity Award:
Congratulations on being the worst thing to happen to Tim Burton since Mark Wahlberg (see Planet Of The Apes).
One year later, Nintendo released another Beetlejuice game, this time more directly based on the cartoon series and, to my surprise, it wasn’t just a crappy copy of the NES game and was actually somewhat enjoyable.
The game opens on Beetlejuice and Lydia chatting:
Um… “spook”? I know it means “ghost” but I wonder if they knew the other meaning of that word when they decided to use it in this particular game.
Oh well, at least they don’t use the word relentlessly.
When the game finally starts, we realise it’s about to, once again, throw all sorts of out-there enemies at us. One of the earliest sprites you battle are pants, for crying out loud!
I’m totally fine with that.
This game’s based on a crazy show in which literally anything could happen. The fantastic opening title sequence alone had enough surreal content to give you twisted dreams for years and years to come.
It’s not like adapting the movie which had a handful of key scenes that you would have wanted to see represented in the NES game. I mean, all the cool stuff that happens in the film is brought on either by Beetlejuice himself (the snake monster, the creepy sculptures coming to life) or by the afterlife environment around him (and Otho) so having him be the boss in every level and having you play as Alec Baldwin or Geena Davis’ character would have made more sense, or Lydia even.
Maybe have the final boss be one of those giant sand worms?
When adapting the cartoon, none of that matters: as long as the main characters and the animation looks right and the spirit of the show is captured appropriately then it’s all good.
And this game does achieve this surprisingly well, despite the lack of the Beetlejuice theme once again. It helps that, this time, the controls aren’t awkward and glitchy, though.
The game is a side-scrolling platformer tied together by different mini-games which add variety to the whole thing. Some levels are basically extended boss battles:
And they can be pretty darn challenging.
This is no easy game and it only gets harder as you keep playing so make sure you bring your A game. Though it mostly requires patience and concentration, not so much out-of-this-world talent.
You’ve got a Funny Faces Contest mini-level in there:
That obviously requires you to make up silly faces and the “grossest” they are, the higher the rating gets. You even get to play with some scary face in the next level:
This part demands some mad thumb skills as you’re meant to follow what the on-screen D-pad instructs you to do as fast as possible, before that little dude gets to do it himself. It’s an ambitious idea for an original Game Boy game and it works.
A pipe-themed mini-game introduces the next part:
It’s standard puzzle stuff, nothing too interesting, and it leads to a pipe-themed level/boss battle:
I wonder where all this water’s coming from…
Ugh, that’s disgusting.
And I thought it was water…
Two mini-games we could have probably done without, mostly because they’re in every single game which has mini-games in it, is that old memory card game:
And that rearrange-the-face thing:
They’re not bad or hard or anything, they’re just overly familiar and a bit of a waste of time. You could literally replace the Beetlejuice theme with anything else, any other cartoon show, and the games would still be exactly the same.
Another thing we’ve seen time and time again in games is a mine-cart level (Duck Tales, Rugrats: Time-Travelers, about a hundred others) and this game gets one too:
Why not scrap the mine-cart altogether and just have that yellow skull roller-coaster you see in the show’s animated intro? That way you could still have the exact same level but have it refer back directly to something specific from the cartoon.
There are a whole bunch of goofy, weird-looking creatures in the game like balls with wings, fluffy muppets with moustaches, slugs and alien-looking monsters but, to cut a long review short, I thought I would address the one dude who really stood out from the game for me:
There’s something really messed-up about this.
Why is this dude in a diaper by the side of the road? And why is he so content with that lifestyle?
I’ll let you make your own twisted conclusions.
So that’s Beetlejuice on the original Game Boy and, you know, it’s a pretty solid game. Proof that if LJN actually put some effort into something, they can come up with a game that’s half-decent. It does get a little lazy with its mini-games here and there, admittedly, and it can be annoyingly challenging at times but, as a whole, it’s a fun little Beetlejuice-themed adventure.
If you find the cartridge for it somewhere, I do recommend you picking it up. Chances are you won’t be disappointed with that one. Not too disappointed, anyway.
I leave you with Beetlejuice in a bubble: