The Halloween Grab Bag!
Beetlejuice: The NES Game!
by: Dr. Boogie

So for the most part, movie tie-in games are all a bunch of crap. We all know that. But I wonder if you know just how bad a movie tie-in game could possibly be. I'm sorry, am I giving away the main thrust of this article too soon? Yes? Well, let's talk about Beetlejuice for the NES anyway.

Beetlejuice is a game based on one of the last original films Tim Burton had his name attached to before he devoted his life to employing Johnny Depp and producing merchandise for Hot Topic. The game assumes you'll have some knowledge of the plot and characters of the film. If you don't, the only thing you'll take away from the game is that God is an asshole who wants you to suffer for wanting to see everything in video game-form.

The only thing you really need to know about the game is that it was made by LJN. While this company made a variety of great toys, their video games were another story. In the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, LJN was a name synonymous with shit: Give them an intellectual property and they'll wipe their asses with it while shitting on the fans. If you ever played Jaws, The Karate Kid, or Back to the Future on the NES, you can thank LJN for those experiences. But don't take my word for it.

Take my words for it.

Already, we see the weakness of the product. A flesh-colored Beetlejuice is somehow more disturbing than a normal clown white Beetlejuice. Ah, nevermind. There are much greater problems with this game.

As in the film, Beetlejuice's only weakness is hearing his name three times. Unlike the film, the only time his name is uttered is when he brushes up against an enemy, as though he were using his own name as an expletive. To make matters worse, most of Beetlejuice's enemies are bugs. I recall him eating bugs, including one that was larger than himself, in the movie, but here he struggles with even the most modest of giant beetles. He does have one special move:

The stomp

That's right. The only way to defeat a giant bug is to... avoid it, because touching it at all will hurt you. Stomping is only used to squish normal-sized cockroaches, which heals you and relieves some tension from having to avoid all other forms of vermin in the game. What, no Zagnut bar to lure them in with?

But that's not fair; he doesn't ONLY fight giant bugs. From time to time, Beetlejuice will have to contend with actual monsters:

These fights play out in much the same way, except that a single hit will cause him to blurt out his name three times and instantly die, or discorporate, or whatever the undead do.

You may also find yourself in a pit, fighting slightly weaker ghosts. A single hit from one of them won't kill you, but it will launch you off the narrow platform you're standing on. Heck, one such enemy, a flock of flying skulls, will hit you and then freeze in place, as though waiting to see if that one blow will be enough to send you hurtling into the blackness below. (spoiler: it is)

So how are you expected to deal with enemies, you ask? By scampering back and forth, praying you don't get hit because the recovery time is almost nil, and the game is roughly 80% bottomless pit, not including the pit of despair brought on by playing the game.

There is one other way to fight back:

Points in this game are referred to as "help vouchers", and can be used to buy "scares" from the Shrunken Head guy who everybody remembers in the film (update: his name is appared "Harry the Haunted Hunter"). If nothing else, it's good to see that he found work in the afterlife. Anyway, scares will temporarily change your character model (a few of which are references to the movie such as the merry-go-round hat) and let you shoot a few piddly crap fireballs for some reason. Some even have a special ability tied to them, so it's sort of like Kid Chameleon for jagoffs.

The main difference between all of them is that the more expensive varieties let you shoot more fireballs. Of course, since most of the household pests you'll face are immune to such attacks, you'll have to just save your attacks and hope you don't get hit enough times to negate the scare. Oh, did I not mention that before? Yeah, it turns out you have a limited number of weak attacks to squirt out before you lose the power, and you'll lose it early if you get hit thrice. And you have to pay to use these crappy powers. Well, start stomping those cockroaches, I guess.

So the main character looks and plays like crap, but I'll bet the level design more than makes up for it, right?

Fuck you.

This is the first building of the first level. A shark in a tub, and lasers from the light fixtures. In the writing world, we call this "setting the tone." Just about everything you see here can hurt you. In fact, most of it can kill you because you die if you fall past the bottom of the screen, and the screen won't scroll down unless you land on a platform very near the edge.

I was well on my way to the top of the building, but then I died because a torch on the wall knocked me into a pit. I just thought they were there to provide atmosphere, but I just walked across a giant bathtub that looks like it was pulled from one of our rom hacks, so I really should have known better.

What game would be complete without boss battles? Here, you face off against a nondescript man with a can of bug spray. Can you feel the excitement as you struggle to push him to the edge of the screen with your impotent fireball attacks while simultaneously avoiding his spraying, because it kills you instantly? Can you?

Lest you think this game is entirely bereft of any artistry or cinematic vision, the stage wraps up with a shot of the car crash that killed the Maitlands in the movie. At least the game is making an effort to tie in something from the movie by telling you the story by way of simple cutscenes like this.

No, that's not what's happening at all. This is the only time you'll see something like this. The rest of the time, you'll just get a finger pointing to a new spot on the map once you've killed the boss. There's probably a joke in there about the game giving you the finger, but there's really no need for something that subtle in a game that hates you like this.

Now you're playing through a level based on that scene from the movie where Beetlejuice went rafting in the sewers and fought giant frogs. Remember that? Maybe it was just in the junior novelization. Anyway, a sewer level calls for a boss that evokes the feeling of a sewer.

That's why it makes sense that the boss is one of the football players seen in the film. Where else would he hang out, other than in a sewer in the afterlife? Just dodge that football and bean him with raisin-sized fireballs until you can't stand it anymore.

By Level 3, even the developers got tired of the bullshit platforming levels. Now all that business about buying scares is out the window, and you have to either avoid your enemies or hit them with an even less reliable attack:

Sure, you've lost the ability to shoot fireballs, but you've gained the ability to throw a bottle and have a ghost start tearing ass around the screen! Hell, he might even bump into the enemy enough times to kill them before they've had a chance to kill you too many times.

Losing your only "useful" method of attack is bad. Losing your ability to jump over or outrun the quick, annoying enemies that can kill you in seconds is worse. The worst part of these levels, however, is the occasional detours to "Saturn".

Later in the top-down levels, you'll be stalked by a floating door. If it manages to touch you, you'll be transported to that weird desert world for more bullshit. This time, you're back in the platforming universe with all the scares you had leftover, plus one bonus scare a few steps to the right.

Is it the two-headed one? S.
Do you have any in your inventory from before? O.
Did you activate the two-headed one, but miss hitting the giant sandworm with all your fireballs? L.

What's that spell? Why, it spells what you are: fucked. That sandworm is going to take an inordinate amount of fireballs from all your other scares, and killing it is the only way to escape the level. And once you escape, you'll be back in the level you just left where, hopefully, you won't get caught by the door again. Or accidentally exit through one of the many fake exits in the top-down levels.

At least there are some interesting cameos in these levels:


Look, it's Michael Myers! What's he doing in a Tim Burton movie? And why does Beetlejuice keep calling him "Otho"? Otho shouldn't look even remotely like Michael Myers. Leave it to LJN to forget to acknowledge an iconic movie monster.

I kid, of course. This is just what happens when you hire an art director who prefers to draw without looking.

How else could you account for this? It's the annoying housewife from the film, Delia Deetz. I mean, obviously. Don't you recognize her trademark spiky yellow hair and featureless pale face? Boy, Catherine O'Hara has never looked hotter!

After about forty different top-down levels, the game switches back to platform mode for the last two levels: a graveyard where you fight a wizard.

Because why not? For god's sake, you fought (well, you dodged and fled in mortal terror from) land-bound octopi and giant frogs on the way here. Are you going to complain when they put you against something that's actually threatening, or would you rather the boss be a bellhop that slings suitcases at you? You smarmy bastard.

Thank god this is the last level: It's a very loose recreation of the netherworld office complete with that flat guy on the clothesline. Let me tell you, that guy will hound you like Beetlejuice owes him money. I mean help vouchers, sorry. All you have to do in this level is collect numbers one through six and the nightmare is over. No more killer bugs, no more lesser bugs to squash for health, no more candy-ass scare powers, no more dying at the hands of pathetically nonthreatening enemies. Just you, and the ending sequence.

That's it. There's no credits to roll because nobody wanted to take credit for this garbage. It just starts over as if you wanted to play again. It's that presumption that you would ever want to revisit any part of this game after completing it that bothers me more than anything else.

Still, if NECA winds up making an action figure out of this ugly, beige Beetlejuice like they did with Freddy and Jason, I'll consider that a point in the game's favor.

God help me if LJN ever winds up making the game version of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.


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Reader Comments

Comic Artist in Training
Sep 16th, 2013, 02:03 PM
I rented this game once. I didn't much care for it.
Forum Virgin
Sep 16th, 2013, 02:52 PM
"Still, if NECA winds up making an action figure out of this ugly, beige Beetlejuice like they did with Freddy and Jason, I'll consider that a point in the game's favor."

After a quick few minutes in photoshop...
Pickled Patriarch
Sep 17th, 2013, 03:16 AM
Alan - Haha yes! Though I think in the game, his hair is yellow as well. It'd be one weird looking figure, but if they made it, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
Forum Virgin
Sep 17th, 2013, 01:26 PM
I was going by the closeup sprite for the hair, but I suppose useing more beige would work better there.
Legendary From Hell
Sep 17th, 2013, 07:50 PM

Beetlejuice: The NES Game!

I rented this game once, too. Back in August of 1990, if memory serves correct. I didn't care for it either and never went back to it. Thought it was too difficult. I remember the sandworms being particularly challenging. Anyone else have trouble playing it or perhaps had an easy time with it?
Im one good looking Troll
Sep 26th, 2013, 03:56 PM
Sean i also had rented this game and had a problem with the first or second level with the one that shows nothing but a cliff seriously i wonder what the fuck are you suppose to do in that level.
Legendary From Hell
Sep 27th, 2013, 03:09 AM

Beetlejuice: The NES Game!

Beetlejuice is pretty straightfoward. In the first two levels, you just move Beetlejuice from one end of the stage to the other and that's it. Besides that, you just stomp on alot of beetles so you can stock up on things from the store. The game really gets hard at Level 3. Once you hit Level 3, it's hard to avoid taking hits, you have to start navigating mazes AND you have to start fighting those darned sandworms. I never could beat those things. Maybe I
could on an emulator. I don't know. But as for the stage with nothing but a cliff, I think you're talking about the start of Stage 1. You start by going right, grabbing the key, then you head back left into the house. Watch out inside the house. Practically everything is an obstacle there.

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