Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Sunsoft, 1990)

I love video games. If I didn't, I'd be one miserable man writing these articles thrice a month, wouldn't I? But another love of mine, every bit as deep, is a love for horror films. I especially love the monster films. I am of the old guard, those who maintain that the glory days of practical FX outshine the glossy, fake looking CGI seen in modern cinema. Work by pioneers like Tom Savini, Stand Winston, Kevin Yagher, and Chris Walas. 1984's Gremlins, and to a lesser extent, its sequel, have always been favorites of mine due to the amazing creature work. They are also violent, funny, and well-produced movies. The idea of a horde of little reptilian humanoids wreaking havoc in the human world always fascinated me as a kid. I loved how mean (but funny) the titular monsters were, as well as the campy monster gore and gross-out FX... all the fluids and green goo.

I mean, who didn't love shit like this? Cinema gold, man. Cinema gold.

I mean, who didn't love shit like this? Cinema gold, man. Cinema gold.

I don't write much about Atari 2600/5200 games because there's rarely much substance to them, but there was actually a Gremlins game for both systems. Neither version is anything to write home about, unfortunately. However, the 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch got an NES game, and it represents the kind of treatment I wish the original film had gotten in video game format. Developed by Sunsoft, this top-scrolling action game was received better than any other attempt to translate the franchise to video games, at least up until that point. While other games based on Gremlins 2 were released by other companies for the ZX Spectrum, Atari, MSX, Amiga, and even DOS, none of them held much lasting appeal. Sunsoft's effort went over pretty well, as the NES was still very popular and the film had been a hit due to its more kid-friendly setup compared to its predecessor.

In Gremlins 2, you play as Gizmo. Not Billy, not even Mr. Futterman... but Gizmo. Just like in the movie, you've been captured by the questionable researchers working for Clamp Enterprises. They've locked you in a cage in the lab, think of you as just another animal.

Their mistake.

The game simplifies the plot of the movie out of necessity, with the end goal being to reach the Gremlin Control Centre and wipe out the Gremlin infestation from the building. The beginning cutscene shows Billy setting you free, but then he takes sort of a background role.

Yeah, f*ck you too.

Yeah, f*ck you too.

Gizmo hardly needs help anyway; he starts out armed with a truly lethal weapon... an unlimited supply of tomatoes. Hurling tomatoes at rats is the first thing you find yourself doing, but you soon run into tougher foes as you progress through the floors of the building.

A lot of the areas tie into scenes from the film, like this spooky little spot in the TV station level. 

A lot of the areas tie into scenes from the film, like this spooky little spot in the TV station level. 

It's worth noting that there are also a lot of spikes, pits, and other obstacles... OSHA would have a field day with Clamp Enterprises for keeping their building like this. I mean, there are A LOT of floor spikes in this office building. I'm pretty sure the normal specs for office space dictate exactly zero (0) strips of mechanically pulsating floor spikes.

Definitely an unsafe work environment.

Definitely an unsafe work environment.

Another cinematic eventually shows Gizmo getting wet, his new “offspring” disposing of him (so they think) in the air vents. Once you fight your way out, you learn that history has in fact repeated itself... the Gremlins are back. From this point on, your enemies are predominantly Gremlins, in one form or another. The first major boss is Mohawk, who you tackle at the end of the second area (air vents); it is presumed he does not die, because, well, you've seen the movie, and his spider form shows up later in the game. He shows up one more time beforehand... with an automatic weapon.

Shit.

Shit.

Double shit.

Double shit.

You battle flying Gremlins, disembodied Gremlin arms, rats, bats, genetically modified Gremlins, and a few things I can't readily identify. Thankfully, Gizmo occasionally picks up new weapons (and eventually pieces together the paperclip and match stick bow seen in the film). Also, Mr. Wing occasionally sells you stuff to help you, which is kind of funny, because:

1) he dies in the beginning of the film

2) the manual for the game says he's dead too

3) you enter his shop through Mogwai-sized doors throughout the building of the man who aggressively tried to buy him out before he died

Eh, video game logic, right? Besides, even if Mr. Wing is just a vengeful (and helpful) ghost, the life potions and other items he sells you are pretty useful. All he asks in return are the little crystal balls you keep picking up from defeated monsters. Some of the powerups you get have to be activated from the pause screen, which acts as a sort of inventory tally. Balloons are incredibly handy; since there are approximately 1,000,000 bottomless death pits in the Clamp Building, being able to float for a few seconds is pretty nice.

You can tell two things by Mr. Wing's expression: he knows this is bullshit, and he's not terribly upset about being dead.

You can tell two things by Mr. Wing's expression: he knows this is bullshit, and he's not terribly upset about being dead.

The graphics are really cool, with some fantastic cutscenes that draw directly from the film's memorable moments. The bosses are pretty creepy, especially Mohawk in his final form. As usual, Sunsoft went with a sort of “drab candy” color scheme for everything, making it seem gloomy but undeniably 80s/90s.

...triple shit.

...triple shit.

The soundtrack is surprisingly good; as with Batman and Fester's Quest, Sunsoft really stretched the boundaries of what could be done with the NES's audio chipset. The music is equal parts spooky and goofy, but never lazy (as is the case with all too many movie cash-in games of the era).

I give Gremlins 2: The New Batch 6 stars out of 10. I like the game more because of the movie, but it's not a bad game. It packs a decent challenge, looks and sounds great, and stands tall alongside Sunsoft's other titles of the time period.

Goodbye for now, RetroFans! More goodies in the works for March and beyond!

Goodbye for now, RetroFans! More goodies in the works for March and beyond!