Tiny Toon Adventures - Nintendo NES
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Tiny Toon Adventures

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Release year: 1991 | Players: 1 player | Developed by Konami

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Tiny Toon Adventures (AKA タイニートゥーンアドベンチャーズ in Japan) is a 2D adventure platformer developed by Konami and released for the 8-bit NES console by Nintendo in 1991. This is known as the first Tiny Toon Adventures-related video game to be released for any gaming console.

Unless you grew up in the early 90’s, you’d mistake the Tiny Toons for baby-sized Looney Tunes rip-offs. They still are, in a sense, but they’re also made by Warner Bros. themselves, as kid-friendly versions of such classic characters as Bugs, Daffy, the Road Runner, and others. The show ran from 1990 to 1992, and oft featured cameos from the older characters – fitting, since they’re explicitly there to teach the newbies their style of comedy.

Tiny Toon Adventures Cover Box

Tiny Toon Adventures Cover (NES)

It makes a lot of sense, then, that a tie-in video game would be in the works. Any seasoned gamer would tell you the peril of trying out the end results of such licensing agreements, not for lack of evidence. So many licensed games have ended up being rushed and generally unpolished in pursuit of quick money, it’s hardly a surprise for gamers to be skeptical of them.

Of course, when your licensed game is developed and published by Konami, you can cast those fears aside. The resultant game is likely to be Konami first, licensee second, for better or worse.

So it is with Tiny Toon Adventures, a 1991 NES platformer game and the first of more than 15 such licensed games. The game’s plot is a Tiny Toons take on the formula – with jealousy in his heart reaching a boiling point, Montana Max kidnaps Babs Bunny and dares Buster Rabbit to save her from a very inconvenient situation. With his pals around and ready to go, he sets off to free her from the jealous human kid’s grasp.

The main feature, as it may, is the ability to select from one of three companions to aid Buster in his journey. Plucky the Duck can glide with repeated taps of the B button and create deadly whirlpools underwater with A, Dizzy Devil can occasionally spin to destroy enemies and blocks with A, and Furball can cling onto and climb walls. Buster himself has no special ability, but he can jump higher than any of the three.

Tiny Toon Adventures Screenshot

Tiny Toon Adventures Screenshot 1

However, you can only switch to you partner in a specific way – by picking up a star power-up first from certain popped bubbles. Worse, you cannot switch back without having to pick up another star first, limiting your options and actually making the star a bad thing to pick up in certain circumstances. It is fairly irksome to be presented an option, only for that option to not exist except when the game says so.

Regardless, Tiny Toon Adventures looks and plays much like many of the platformers in the day, especially Super Mario Bros. 3. The controls are familiar – A to run or activate a special ability, B to jump and attempt to bop enemies in the head – and the characters have a bit of inertia to them. The controls are fairly smooth, though the aforementioned inertia may often work against you.

There are six worlds to travel to, all in all, plus a secret boss encounter that can be faced in between any of the worlds. The first four have three stages within, while both the fifth and the sixth contain a single long stage. This puts the number of stages at a fairly low count of 14, especially compared to the 32 that the original Super Mario Bros. has. Not only that, the stages are themselves rather short – rare is the stage that lasts more than a minute or two in a good run, and the final two stages are long by virtue of being essentially three in one, rather than by being long in themselves.

Tiny Toon Adventures Screenshot

Tiny Toon Adventures Screenshot 2

But what sets this game apart from the others is the way the levels and enemies are designed. This is a Konami platformer first, and a Tiny Toon Adventures game second – and considering their library includes such exemplars of difficulty as Castlevania 3 and Ninja Gaiden, the surprising difficulty of this kid-oriented game becomes far less so in hindsight.

The first stage starts off fairly easy, but it gathers pace quickly, to the point that the third and last stage of the first world alone is a huge spike compared to everything before. From erratically-moving pumpkinheads to ambushing ghosts that demand you run or take a hit, the difficulty only goes up from there.

Even that is only after you make it through two particularly irritating mechanics. The first of these is the way you get extra lives – like quite a few platformers, each one comes every 30 collectables (carrots, in this case), but unlike most, the method to get it is by entering specific doors and waiting out an uninterruptible cutscene. The presence of another character from the show hardly justifies the break in pacing that the cutscene presents.

Tiny Toon Adventures Screenshot

Tiny Toon Adventures Screenshot 3

The second is Elmyria herself, faced at the end of every second stage in the first four worlds. One would expect a good head-stomping or three is what it takes, but to the unfortunate player’s dismay, any contact with her at all results in a boot back to the beginning of the world. Not the stage, the world. Instead, the player is expected to avoid her until an exit door magically appears, and then make a mad dash for it.

But Elmyria is but a part of what makes the difficulty of Tiny Toon Adventures difficult to swallow – and that would be the dearth of checkpoints or health. One hit is all it takes to send a player back to the beginning of the stage, unless they managed to pick up a rare heart powerup earlier, in which case the number rises to two. This is particularly painful when the stage layout demands trial-and-error as to how best to tackle it, which represents the majority of the final stages of each world.

This is not to say that the game suffers particularly hard for it, however. Each failure feels fair, and with the exception of the aforementioned ghosts there is little that a patient player can’t observe from afar and work out. Still, to those that expected a light romp because of its kid-oriented license, consider yourselves warned.

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The music is fairly good, though nothing in particular stands out. The rendition of the title theme is faithful, though with it playing in every first stage, it’s bound to drill itself into your mind after a while. The sound effects are appropriate, though a less grating sound for collecting carrots would have been a nice gesture.

The graphics, meanwhile, are well-made. Both player and enemy sprites are lovingly crafted, with designs accurate to the characters they portray. The colors are crisp, and the whole thing definitely reminiscent of SMB 3’s art, right down to the power meter in the info display below the play screen.

What does that make of the whole, however? For a licensed game, Tiny Toon Adventures manages to rise above the competition and actually deliver a good game. As a platformer, however, its short length, surprising difficulty, unforgiving setup, and a host of other questionable choices leave it unable to rise beyond merely being a good game. From Konami’s library alone, there are better choices like Bucky O’Hare, itself a licensed game. Still, if a challenge is your sort of style, then the short but trying stages of this game are worth a shot.

Tiny Toon Adventures game has only been ported to Nintendo NES (this version).