With a name like "Joshua: Battle of Jericho" you'd expect a war game
of, well, Biblical proportions. Stick it into your NES however, and you
basically have Solomon's Key with Bible quizzes thrown in.
The game is a series of puzzle rooms, each slightly more complicated
than the last. It's never quite clear whether the arenas are a top-down
view like Legend of Zelda, or a side-scrolling view. Your character Solomon
- er, I mean Joshua, can walk anywhere onscreen, but after taking away a
support, boulders or objects fall "downwards" to the bottom of the screen.
The idea is to gather iron, brass, silver, and gold along with five Bible
question icons to make the exit appear. All the while you must deal with
Amorite soldiers, Balaam the Soothsayer, and Stubborn Gezerites among
others. It's at times reminiscent of Pac-Man, collecting stuff in a maze as
fast as you can while avoiding enemies. But you're not unarmed. The A
button is your Priest's Trumpet, and it's your task to break rocks and
destroy Hittite citizens with its toot in your search for treasure. Musical
notes fire out of it like photon torpedoes. There are plenty of extra
goodies too. Finding "The Lord's Favor" makes you temporarily invincible,
and using "The Breath of God" freezes enemies. If only real life worked
that way. Eventually you'll need to obtain the Ram's Horn, used with the B
button. It's basically a timed bomb, able to blow away crowds of "Laboring
Gibeonites" and "Lingering Canaanites" to reveal the treasure they hide.
Upon completing each level you're given five multiple choice quiz
questions about the Old Testament. Each one answered correctly awards you a
Bible, and ten Bibles gets you an extra life. "Joshua wanted to: Conquer
Jericho? Convert Jericho? Befriend Jericho?" I failed most of them, but
it's okay; when you run out of lives you're given a password to start off
at the last level you reached. At the start screen you can even jump ahead
five levels at a time by pushing "up," so you can start as high as level 81
if you want.
Controlling Joshua is simple and straightforward, though he doesn't
really have much to do besides run around and toot his horn at things.
There are minimal sound effects and no music unless a special item is
active. But I have to give them extra credit for including actual (though
very fuzzy) voice samples of "Good job Joshua!" and "Be courageous Joshua!"
The bare-bones graphics seem purely utilitarian. You're shown only what you
need to know about, and destroying all the objects in a room leaves you
with a simple black background. After reaching some of the more advanced
levels it becomes clear that the only way to figure out the puzzles is to
play them over and over and over. And that's exactly what you'll do as
traps and cheap deaths claim Joshua again and again. Inescapable
predicaments will happen like indestructible boulders pinning you in a
corner because you weren't fast enough or didn't go the right way. But you
can always hit start + select to martyr yourself in suicide.