It’s been a while since the random number generator gave me a crappy NES licensed game. But, today it gave me one that I had played a lot growing up. I’m pretty sure I had actually played the game before I had ever even seen the movie. This was one of those games that even though you knew it wasn’t very good, you just kept playing it. There’s a lot of those for me on the NES. So, how does Predator stack up so much later?Like many old licensed games, Predator takes a lot of liberty with its source material. For those unfamiliar, Predator is the story of a group of commandos on a mission gone awry as it turns out that a single, highly advanced alien is stalking and killing them. In the game, apparently the alien had a whole lot of help with him.
I understand that when making a video game, you typically want to have several enemies for the player to encounter, but this seems to run completely counter to the entire point of the movie. In the game, you’ll fight against giant scorpions, floating jellyfish, human soldiers, whale monsters that look like they came straight out of Bubble Bobble, some overweight Shy Guys from Mario 2, giant moths, and more. I’m not sure where they came up with these enemy designs, but it kind of feels like maybe this shouldn’t have been a Predator game.
Predator is a 2D platformer, like so many other bad licensed games from this era. Also like so many of those games, it doesn’t control very well, which unfortunately is one of the most important parts of the genre. In the time I spent with the game this morning, the majority of my deaths came from the game simply not reacting the way I think it’s going to. This is especially rough when trying to jump onto small platforms overlooking bottomless pits.
To fight off enemies, by default you only have your fists. This proves to be a problem, as getting close enough to your opponent to hit them almost always results in you getting hit too. Also, for some reason, you cannot punch while ducking. Several of those enemies, including the scorpions I mentioned earlier, are not tall enough to be hit while standing up.
Thankfully, there are weapons you can pick up throughout the game. Right at the start of the first level, there’s a very easy to miss machine gun hanging in a tree. This makes the game much more playable, as you can now hit enemies from a distance and shoot while ducking. There’s also grenades you can pick up, although they replaces the machine gun. The cool thing about the grenades is that they can destroy certain blocks to open new paths. The pathway from the grenade ends in a wall of those blocks, forcing the player to learn how the grenades work. For what it’s worth, this is actually really smart design.
Graphically, the game is kind of a mess. Enemies look okay, and are fairly distinct. Outdoor levels look fine too, with some huts and trees that add some nice detail. But caves, which make up a lot of the levels, look awful. None of it really looks like a cave. You’re just kind of in this strange blue space with surprisingly easy to fall into traps. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t look anything like himself, and instead just a generic dude in a pink jumpsuit.
But then, after completing a few stages, everything changes. On the screen that appears before each level that usually states what number stage you’re on and how many lives you have, it suddenly says “Big Mode”. For this next level, Arnold is suddenly a much larger sprite, which, while not very good looking, does look more like real-life Arnold. In these Big Mode stages, you’re constantly running forward while bubbles fly at you. Destroying the bubbles drop various power-ups. After running for a while, you’ll encounter the Predator, who throws what appear to be small Predator heads at you. Shoot it a whole bunch, and then you’re on to the next stage, which is back to normal mode. It’s not very good.
Predator is a bad game, but there are certainly much worse out there. While I certainly cannot recommend the game, if you are a fan of the movie, can find the game for cheap, and just want something to laugh at, I say go for it. Just don’t expect to find anything too great.