One of the best “coming of age” films doesn’t involve moody teens or angst ridden decisions before prom night — it involves ruthless criminal thugs, Cyndi Lauper, dead bodies, the Truffle Shuffle, booty traps, a search for pirate treasure, and a troop of friends who call themselves the Goonies sticking together on through to the very end. Directed by Richard Donner from a story written by Steven Spielberg with Chris Columbus doing the screenplay honors, the 1985 classic still resonates today as an amazing film.
And of course, back then, it had to have a movie tie-in which DataSoft relesaed in the same year the movie came out. The good news was that the film had a lot of pieces a video game would be at home with stringing along traps, puzzles, and dangerous challenges that the Goonies have to overcome on their way to One-Eyed Willie’s hidden treasure.
Programmers Scott Spanburg and Rick Mirsky along with Kelly Day who handled the graphics end would take those basic elements and turn them into eight screens of “Rube Goldberg style mazes” inspired from the film. It even had an 8-bit version of Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” as the main title theme (the rest of the game was played in silence).
It was also incorporated multiple characters — in this case, two. The player switched between controlling two different Goonies on the screen to solve the puzzles in each. Neither Goonie stood out apart from their appearance but juggling both was required in manipulating each area’s various levers, switches, pressure plates, and doorways to get their partner through. Control-wise, it could be a bit dodgy with some of the running jumps, but things were relatively simple with only two things to remember — switching between characters and jumping.
Stages were only a screen and it was up to the player to figure out how to work their way through each whether it was tricking Mama Fratelli in the beginning with money from the sky to the climactic ending with Sloth and Chunk saving the day. Players started with five lives which were essentially attempts at making it through each screen with BOTH Goonies. If one bites the dust, it was back to the start although for some puzzles, not everything was reset to the point where you had to repeat every step.
The variety of puzzles were also as inventive in the game as they were in the movie. The first scene brilliantly works in a counterfeiting machine and the water cooler (that ultimately led to the Goonies discovering the underground tunnel beneath the Fratelli’s hideout). There’s also a scene in the game based off of the organ scene from the movie complete with disappearing floors and another based on the steam pipes the Goonies were banging on to try and signal for help when they just wanted out from the scary underground.
In the end, players were given a score based on how many lives they had left along with a short cinematic showing the silhouettes of the Goonies and their new buddy, Sloth, as they watch One-Eyed Willie’s ship sail off on one last voyage just as it did in the movie.
But that’s not the end of the story for this game. Konami had apparently also bought into licensing the movie for two games of their own. The first was released for the MSX in 1986 as a Japan-only game featuring a completely different structure from the DataSoft version.
According to the English text on the back of the Japanese packaging, players starred as Sloth in the game (even though the in-game character looked nothing like a tall, bald-headed giant and more like Mikey) and their goal was to collect a series of keys, unlock doors, and rescue all of the Goonies in each stage to move on to the next one. Special items such as a helmet to protect against falling rock or a coat to guard against water damage were part of the play mechanics including an experience bar that awarded a lump of points every time it filled up.
Another Goonies game by Konami was also released in 1986, this time for the Nintendo Famicom (although would only apparently show up in America thanks only to the Nintendo PlayChoice-10 cabinet in the arcade) which relatively followed the same formula from the MSX version with updated graphics, stages, and gameplay. It also showed up on the PC-88 and the Sharp X1, both Japan-centric PCs and would remain a Japan-only title on those platforms and the Famicom (NES).
The movie would also get something of a sequel with The Goonies II, again from Konami, which was like an early Metroidvania-style adventure. Released for the NES and in the arcade, it featured Mikey on a new quest.
This time, he’s off to not only rescue his fellow Goonies but also Annie the Mermaid while avoiding the Fratellis and one new addition with Cousin Pipsqueak. Players could explore rooms for gadgets to add to their arsenal or talk to NPCs for hints, a password system ‘saved’ their inventory, and “3D” rooms added a nice addition to the side-scrolling stages that covered a wide variety of climates from brick layered Castlevania like rooms to ones frozen over with ice and snow.
But the original Goonies from DataSoft was a great game. Short but incredibly imaginative with its arcade-styled puzzles, it really stands out as an old classic. It was also an early precursor to other team-based puzzle solving efforts found in titles like Ocean Software’s Head Over Heels in ’87, Interplay’s The Lost Vikings in ’92, and even Ratchet & Clank especially with the time-duplication feature found in A Crack In Time. Or even World of Illusions with its two-player co-op support, also in ’92.
Other fans took their appreciation for the film a step further both for the original DataSoft title and for Konami’s MSX entry. A remake for the DataSoft game was released in 2010 by a team of super-fans: Luis Barrachina (coding), David Vassart (graphics), Steve Fenton and Mihaly Horvath (music).
Not only does it have new graphical updates to all of the stages, but the challenges have also been a bit tweaked with one or two stages shuffled around. Also, there’s new music that accompanies players throughout the game loosely based off of the film’s soundtrack. Challenge-wise, a few puzzles have even been tweaked to make it harder than the original. Remember how you could stay on one of the lower platforms safely in the steam pipe stage and avoid bullets? Yeah, that won’t work here.
Indie devs, Brain Games, competed in the Retro Remakes competition for 2006 with a remake of the MSX version of The Goonies by Konami which they made available on their official site. It features updated graphics but also seems to be a bit buggy — rescued Goonies don’t seem to be registered on the status bar at the bottom, or keys — but it has music, neat sound effects, and this time, there’s no mistaking that you’re definitely playing as Sloth.
There’s also another remake floating around there from the MSX community thanks to Kralizec, a group of MSX fans that were well known for continuing to build games for the MSX computer.
Yes, you read that right — the MSX — just as the homebrew community continues to support the Dreamcast and Neo Geo with releases like Last Hope. Or create projects like Halo for the Atari 2600.
From what I’ve been able to see, this new Goonies remake is Kralizec’s vision of what Konami’s original MSX title was trying to be like featuring more story, better graphics, music, and a new title: Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.
You could have bought it in cartridge format for your MSX when it was initially released a few years ago in 2010, but as a final farewell a few months after leaving the scene, Kralizec made the ROMs for their games available for free and will run with the help of an MSX emulator.
“Goonies never say die” …and apparently, neither does the hope for a new movie and, perhaps, a new game to go with it.