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Gremlins 2: The New Batch - Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PC (1990)

Cover

While Sunsoft created the two most famous Gremlins games on Nintendo hardware, UK publisher Elite was entrusted with the home computer licensing rights and put out a completely different tie-in. The first film mostly focused on Billy as the protagonist, but by the time the sequel rolled on everyone had recognized Gizmo's star power, and a bit more emphasis was put on his struggle against the gremlins, which is reflected in the console and handheld titles as seen below. Elite was having none of it, though, and so their game stars good old Billy again.

This interpretation of Gremlins 2 is a truly typical Euro home computer licensed game - a bones-hard, nearly impossible run-and-gun with poor sensibilities in game design. In principle, it's awfully simple: Just walk to the end in the stage, do a minimum of platforming to gather one of five "game completion items" in each stage and reach the elevator. Only two of the stages have a few rooms above that are reached by an elevator, but most of the time it's just a straight line of screens.

The problem is, shortly after Billy enters a new screen, he is assaulted by up to four gremlins at a time, all of which have different behavior and speeds, although most are fast. Some take multiple hits, and they keep respawning indefinitely. The only way to make it through a room unharmed is by knowing the patterns for that screen to the millisecond, and make not the slightest mistake. And just when you thought you made it past a wave, a locker drops on you from the background. Every once in a while, Gizmo drops down with a parachute, bow and arrow in hand, to take out one of the gremlins, but that is rarely enough to safe Billy's life.

Add to that the fact that Billy in this game is an even more unlikely hero than he was in the movies, who cannot do so much as jump over most of the gremlins. He can duck to avoid items tossed at him, but he cannot attack while doing so. His weapon at the beginning is called a "torch", which allows him to shoot bullets of light straight forward, ranging about a quarter of the screen. He can pick up a few other weapons, but only some are more useful than the standard weapon, like the "torch" that shoots forward and backward and the three-way torch. If he loses a life - a single touch by a gremlin or projectile suffices - he reverts back to the default. Some gremlins leave floating bubbles, which for some reason translate to currency when caught, and allow changing the standard weapon in between stages. The cheap weapons are all terrible though, as they go above gremlins that are right in front of Billy. But there doesn't seem to be any way to leave the shop without buying, so as soon as you have ten credits, you have no choice but to waste them on buying the torch again.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Atari ST)

When getting past the terrible difficulty, which is only really possible using a trainer for unlimited lives, there's not much left to the game. Every stage is only a dozen-or-so screens long, and all you have to do is pick up one item, then leave. In stage four you actually get to fight the electric gremlin before he becomes your next "game completion item", and vegetable and female gremlins appear as normal enemies, but there is no sight of the bat or spider gremlin, and after clearing stage five, the game just ends with a short message, no kind of showdown or finale.

Motivetime and Elite brought the game to the usual 16-bit computers and the Commodore 64, which expectedly has weaker graphics but otherwise is virtually the same game. Topo Soft from Spain then ported the game to Amstrad CPC and Spectrum, and despite working with weaker hardware, they actually tried to improve the game. The stages now scroll instead of the screen flipping of the original versions and when you die, you restart at the exact same spot. It's still ungodly difficult, maybe even more so because you can't just exit a screen to save your hide, and you only get five lives in the beginning instead of seven. If you'd ever get past the beginning, however, you'd see a boss battle against a massive, almost screen filling spider gremlin towards the end. And Billy actually gets to use the "game completion" items to reenact the finale of the movie, by hosing the gremlin hordes with water and then taking them out with the electro gremlin.

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Developer:

  • Motivetime

Publisher:

  • Elite

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Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Commodore 64)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Commodore 64)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Atari ST)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Atari ST)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Atari ST)


Comparison Screenshots


Additional Screenshots


Gremlins 2: The New Batch / Gremlins 2: Shinshu Tanjou (グレムリン2 新種誕生) - NES (1990)

European NES Cover

Japanese Famicom Cover

Several months after the second movie, Sunsoft released a tie-in game for the NES. The developers were able to make the game surprisingly faithful, despite being based on such unorthodox source material. The levels are almost all based on scenes from the movie, as are the weapons and many of the enemies. The cutscenes in-between gameplay do a good job of providing a heavily truncated version of the original storyline. It's rather ironic that Sunsoft did a much better job adapting such an oddball film compared to some of their more well known releases such as Batman.

Finally, you get to play as the cuddly critter Gizmo, who still is highly allergic to sunlight, multiplies when it gets wet and mutates into a gremlin if it eats after midnight. It's easy to guess what happens when he gets lost inside the Clamp Centre, a high-tech "smart building" that houses everything from science laboratories to TV studios. A new batch of gremlins are accidentally created and they proceed to take over the entire building. Things only get worse when they break into the labs and begin mutating themselves even further...

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

The game is an overhead platformer consisting of 5 stages, each being made up of 2 to 3 sub-stages. You will be spending most of your time killing Gremlins and other nasties while hopping on moving platforms and conveyer belts. At the end of each stage you'll have to face off with the Gremlin leader Mohawk in various guises (except for the 1st stage which lacks a boss and the third stage where you battle the Electric Gremlin instead). You are then given a weapon upgrade before moving on.

Platforming from a topdown perspective can be a tricky thing to get right, but Sunsoft did a very admirable job of it. You have full control of your trajectory while in the air and you're never confused where you're going to land, since Gizmo's shadow is always visible even when over a hole. Jumping from platform to platform, even moving platforms is rarely a problem once you get the hang of it. There are a few control issues that unfortunately take longer to get used to. For example Gizmo will stop in place every time he fires his weapon, including while he's jumping, which can lead to some accidental falls when trying to shoot enemies while over pits. This is especially annoying since there are several enemies that are placed just out of reach and can only be killed safely by jumping over the gap, attacking, then trying to land back on the platform you originally jumped from. Outside of this tiny snag, Gizmo controls just fine and you should have very few problems mowing down your enemies with flamethrowing matches and paperclips.

Thankfully you're not completely alone against the Gremlins; Gizmo's original owner Mr. Wing makes a posthumous appearance as the owner of an item shop. He sells basic stuff like extra lives, weapon upgrades, health potions and extensions to your health bar, but you can also buy balloons that lift you out of pits and temporarily make you invincible. Destroyed enemies can drop items themselves like a screen-clearing lightbulb, a time-stopping stopwatch and a Starman-esque pogostick. These are awfully rare however and only seem to spawn from specific enemies in the game, not randomly as you would expect.

Each stage is based somewhat on a locale from the film, although they are perhaps not instantly recognisable. After running around the Clamp offices Gizmo gets locked inside the building's ventilation system. From there he goes through various TV studios such as Microwave Marge's kitchen and Grandpa Fred's horror set, then Daniel Clamp's office, the Splice O' Life laboratories and finally the building's main control center for a showdown with the mutated Mohawk. With its abundance of grey and dark green, the palettes could stand to be a bit more colourful, but they are very well presented otherwise. There's an abundance of fluid animation in the background details: lights on the walls flicker, sewage flows from underground pipes and unidentified masses of something-or-other undulate inside glass tubes in the laboratory.

These graphical flourishes aside, one of the game's drawbacks is that the levels don't do a lot to do differentiate themselves from one another. Other than adding in a couple of new hazards, you still find yourself jumping on the same moving platforms, running over the same conveyer belts and avoiding the same rotating ball-and-chains. The game still maintains its fun factor throughout (mostly by not outstaying its welcome) but it would have been nice if the stages had more variety outside of just the cosmetic.

The music is typical Sunsoft fare, by which I mean it's of extremely high quality. These compositions manage to capture the frantic, unsettling atmosphere that the Gremlins franchise is known for perfectly. Ironically the actual Gremlins theme is nowhere to be found, but the music in its place more than makes up for that oversight. Sunsoft seemed to have made a habit of this; Batman on NES was also missing the iconic Danny Elfman theme despite having an otherwise acclaimed soundtrack of its own.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

There is a pretty large variety of enemies, almost all of them being references to specific Gremlin characters that appeared in the film. Some of these are more obvious such as the Bat Gremlin that launches tornadoes and the Vegetable Gremlin that throws a fragmenting pineapple grenade. Mohawk's cohorts Lenny, George and Daffy all make appearances as common enemies: hopping around trying to stomp on Gizmo, breathing fire and spinning around throwing top hats (also a reference to the "New York, New York" number near the end?) respectively. Some require you to dig a bit deeper to figure out where they may have come from, such as the propeller-headed enemies possibly being based on the beanie-wearing Gremlin that briefly appears before being shot dead by the Brain Gremlin. The seemingly random giant tomatoes from in the first stage, along with Gizmo's initial weapon of choice, are derived from an early scene showcasing a genetically modified tomato that bounces like a rubber ball.

Speaking of your weapons, excluding the aforementioned tomatoes, they are all taken from the scenes where Gizmo goes Rambo and constructs a miniature compound bow to take down Mohawk. Your range and rate of fire increases with each new weapon. Things only get better once you buy the weapon upgrade at the shop, which will usually give you some form of spread-fire that culminates with the bow that you receive on stage 4. It launches five arrows at once with a high firing rate, buzzsawing through the bad guys and turning little Gizmo into a furry angel of death... Until stage 5 where you receive the fire arrows, decreasing your rate of fire and giving you a single projectile that simply explodes with a weapon upgrade. It's almost as if the developers realised how much of a cakewalk the regular bow would have made the final stage.

It's quite eye-opening to compare how faithful Gremlins 2: The New Batch manages to be compared to other movie licensed video games at the time. Take Sunsoft's own Batman on NES for example. Undeniably it's a classic action platformer game, but as a representation of its source material it falls flat. Most of the levels have very little relation and the enemies and bosses are a collection of generic cyborgs and robots (although they bear vague resemblances to a number of B and C-list Batman villains). The cutscenes almost seem like an afterthought; the Joker pops up inviting Batman to take a look at his "latest work of art", suggesting a level based on the art museum scene from the film, only to drop you into yet another factory/laboratory setting. If you removed Batman and the Joker from the game, you would never have considered it to be a Batman game in the first place. The events of the Gremlins 2 game are obviously not 100% accurate either, but when you look at it there is no question that it is a Gremlins game.

Overall, Gremlins 2: The New Batch definitely ranks quite highly on the list of actually good licensed games on the NES. It's not a hugely challenging experience and once you're able to beat it once, future playthroughs will probably not last more than an hour. Infinite continues and a password system do a lot to make an already short game even shorter. Nevertheless, it is still a solid effort from Sunsoft. They were at the very least willing to go further than just make a non-descript action game and slap Gizmo and a couple of Gremlins on it.

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Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (NES)


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Additional Screenshots


Gremlins 2: The New Batch - Game Boy (1990)

American Game Boy Cover

Japanese Game Boy Cover

Sunsoft were also in charge of the Game Boy version of Gremlins 2: The New Batch, but you would have never guessed based on the game's quality. Instead of attempting to create a portable version of their NES release, they created something completely different. While the NES version managed to avoid becoming a cheap and nasty tie-in like so many other games of the era, this one was not so lucky.

Instead of an overhead platformer, Gremlins 2: The New Batch on Game Boy is a more typical sidescroller. It's filled with all the old platform game staples such as spikes, conveyer belts and springs. There are only four levels in the entire game, so you would expect the game to be pretty short. But that's only true if you have the perseverance to put up with game's monstrously irritating difficulty.

It feels as if the developers realised that the NES version wasn't too difficult, so this time they decided to amp it up in the worst ways possible. The result is levels that feel like they were designed by someone who took their inspiration from those ridiculously hard Super Mario Bros. hacks. While it's not half as bad as any of those it uses some of the same tricks, particularly platforms that you have to jump on that are positioned right above your head. Some gaps can only be cleared by leaping from the very edge of a platform while others seem like they can't be crossed at all, at least not without allowing yourself to be damaged and then taking advantage of the temporary invincibility. Almost every section involving springs is a problem, as you need to press the jump button at just the right moment to get maximum height and horizontal movement while bouncing on one is very stiff.

The most fiendish sections include one in the last level where Gizmo is completely blocked by foreground objects and you have to traverse spikes and conveyer belts. Another involves a series of spiked blocks you have to jump over while staying on top of a moving platform. At one point the platform moves too fast for you to stay on it, forcing you to jump on the spikes to catch up with it.

The boss battles are equally frustrating. The first boss is easy enough to stunlock to death, but all the bosses that follow him are varying degrees of annoying. The Bat Gremlin throws three homing bat projectiles that fly at two different speeds, the fastest ones being nearly impossible to dodge. The Electric Gremlin bounces around the arena and can only be hit when he stops. Gizmo's plodding pace makes it very difficult to reach him before he starts moving again, unless you follow him around constantly which increases your chances of taking a hit. The final confrontation with the mutated Mohawk is the worst of them all, since his hitbox is so small despite the size of his sprite and spiders literally rain from the sky on top of you. These battles just become wars of attrition where you blunder around, trying to hit the boss at all costs before you lose too much of your own health.

Dealing with enemies is made difficult in general by your lack of weaponry. Gizmo starts every level unarmed and with no means to defend himself. In most stages you can collect the pencil weapon early on, which has pitiful, ill-defined range. You have to get right up in your enemies' faces to do any damage, making enemies like the bats (which have a habit of speeding up and flying right at you when you hit them once) a real pain to fight. The radio weapon gives you a musical note, a one-shot projectile that moves in a wavy pattern. It's also useful for navigating the section with the foreground obstructions; the musical note hovers above your head before you fire it and can be seen through foreground objects, giving you an idea of where Gizmo is standing. The final weapon is a toolbox that Gizmo hides in. It acts more or less like a Starman, except it lasts indefinitely until you take five hits with it or collide with spikes. You all too briefly get to use the compound bow and fire arrows during the final boss battle. There are also random boxes strewn around that launch spring-loaded boxing gloves on either side when you jump on them. They're pretty much only good for killing on or two enemies who happen to be ambling around nearby.

Some effort has been made to keep the game faithful to its source material, like its NES counterpart, although here it all feels much more contrived. The radio weapon is clearly based on the Gizmo dance scene near the beginning of the film and the toolbox is much like the one Billy hides Gizmo in. To use such objects from the film as weapons makes little sense compared to the choices in the NES game, almost as if they willingly avoided using the same ones just to be different. The levels appear to be loosely based on scenes from the movie such as the television studios and the lab, however they all end up looking and playing almost exactly the same. You have to give them credit for including some Gremlin characters who were missing from the NES version though, namely the Female Gremlin and the Brain Gremlin (who only appears on the game over screen). The bonus rounds where you tap buttons to make Gizmo hit a punching bag, much like when he's toughening himself up to stand up to the Gremlins in the movie, is a nice touch too.

The presentation is a mixed bag. Its easy enough to recognise enemies and tell them apart despite how small and sometimes abstract their sprites can be. The Bat Gremlin boss in particular has some pretty nice wing flapping animation. Unfortunately the backgrounds are extremely bland and only differ from level to level in the design of the blocks you're standing on and the faded backdrop. The fact that everything is clearly built out of grid-like blocks leaves us with a rather unpleasant looking game, except for the much more detailed artwork shown during the sparse cutscenes. The music manages to be pretty catchy, even though a lot of it feels undeservedly upbeat and happy. At least the boss theme captures some of the frantic energy from the NES version.

It's a shame how much of a fall from grace Gremlins 2: The New Batch on Game Boy is when compared to its home console counterpart. There are plenty of games that manage to ride the line between being difficult and being fun; this one ends up being far too difficult for its own good. It's certainly not one of the hardest you'll ever play, but there really isn't anything else there to derive any enjoyment from. It isn't difficult enough to warrant the attention of hardcore, masochistic players, nor is it fun enough to appeal to anyone else.

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Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Game Boy)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Game Boy)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Game Boy)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Game Boy)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Game Boy)


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Additional Screenshots


Gremlins 2: The New Batch - IBM PC (1991)

Cover

There was yet another The New Batch game that appeared a bit later than the rest, this time exclusively for IBM PCs. It was published by Hi-Tech Expressions, the same company who also put out a Gremlins 2 Print Kit, which you could use to print greeting cards and stuff with Gizmo and other characters on them.

This interpretation takes the form of a top-down maze action adventure. Once again Billy takes the lead, but early on he can free Gizmo, who then follows him around to give him cover with his trusty bow and arrows. To the left is a diagram of Clamp Center, which shows the gremlin infestation on each floor. Until a floor is completely cleared out, the gremlins continue to multiply as time goes on. At first, Billy only faces mean mogwai, but as the gremlin infestation spreads around, whole hordes of gremlins and even mutations appear. The game knows lightning, bat and spider gremlins, who can cause a lot more damage and are faster than the ordinary ones, but otherwise behave the same.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Hi-Tech Expressions, IBM PC)

Billy takes the elevator to get from floor to floor, which moves in real time, so traveling multiple stories at once takes a while, unless you access the express elevator, which stops only every tenth floor. Then the duo of man and mogwai proceeds to search the rooms for monsters to take out. Billy carries a flashlight, which shoots a bullet of light straight forward, and a camera to clear out whole rooms at once. Both have limited charges - the camera more so than the flashlight, naturally - but spare batteries and films can be found around the building. Gizmo's arrows are infinite, but since he always follows Billy around, it's tricky to align him just right so he can hit the enemies. There are also foodstuffs to restore health and test tubes with colored liquids that merely add to the score.

Hi-Tech Expressions' Gremlins 2 has solid mechanics, but is much too monotonous and boring. Clamp Tower stretches over a whole 45 stories, but they are mostly indistinguishable from each other, aside from arbitrary variations in the room connections and differently colored walls. Finishing all of them is awfully repetitive and just takes much too long, especially because there is no password or save function. Since all mutated gremlins appear all throughout the building, there are no highlights and no proper difficulty curve. At one time you might be fighting through hordes of gremlins on a highly populated floor, then search through lots of empty rooms for a single mogwai in the next instant. The ingredients for a cool game are somewhere in there, but the concept is not thought out and structured very well.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Riedel Software Productions

Publisher:

  • Hi-Tech Expressions

Genre:

Themes:


Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Hi-Tech Expressions, IBM PC)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Hi-Tech Expressions, IBM PC)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Hi-Tech Expressions, IBM PC)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Hi-Tech Expressions, IBM PC)


Additional Screenshots


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