November Spawned A Monster

Due to the overwhelming box office success of Gremlins in the summer of 1984, it was no surprise that an inane number of licensed products would soon litter the shelves of department and toy stores nationwide. Among that sea of products was a Gremlins video game developed for the Atari 2600 gaming system. Of course, home video gaming sales had started dropping off massively and the industry almost died off completely, thanks in large part to the bad taste left in the mouths of many consumers from the legendary failure that was the E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial video game released just the previous Christmas shopping season.

Home gaming would soon see an unprecedented rebirth with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Surprisingly, only one Gremlins based game was released for that system, 1990’s Gremlins II. Released to coincide with the theatrical release of the largely polarizing sequel, the game wasn’t exactly a critical success, but it’s still a pretty solid and fun 2D action romp. Two more Gremlins based games, Gremlins Unleashed & Gremlins: Stripe Vs. Gizmo, would later be released for Nintendo’s Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance (respectively). Who knows? Maybe I’ll review those games at a later date.

Nearly a decade passed before gamers were “graced” with another game featuring everyone’s favorite little fuzzball, this time for Nintendo’s Wii gaming system. Well, maybe “graced” isn’t the right word to use. Let’s go with “punished”. That seems more fitting.

Gremlins: Gizmo was released for the Nintendo Wii in November of 2011, near the end of that system’s life-cycle. The game was developed by Pipeworks Studios, best known for creating the Godzilla fighting games of the last 15 years, as well as game versions on Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, and Dancing With the Stars. As if that list of titles didn’t raise enough concern, there is also the fact that the game was released by NECA. Yes, NECA. The company best known for making countless toys and other collectibles based on popular movie and gaming franchises, but (until this point) completely inexperienced in creating and releasing video games.

You start the game as Gizmo, but Mogwai versions of Gremlins 2‘s “Lenny” and “Daffy” can be unlocked through gameplay advancement. Also available to be unlocked are two new female Mogwai, “Grace” and “Valerie”. I assume that these two are only here so that the game doesn’t seem discriminatory towards the female gamers unfortunate enough to play this game. Honestly, I’ve always assumed that Mogwai and Gremlins were fairly asexual as they multiplied with water. I really don’t want to see two Gremlins fucking. I don’t even want to think about it any more than writing this sentence has already made me do.

Gameplay takes place inside of a house. Not the Peltzer’s house from the first film, mind you. Just a random boring house. The 1st level takes place in a bedroom, with later levels taking place in other rooms, such as the attic, garage, and living room. Early on, it is noticeable just how muddy and ugly the graphics are, even by Wii’s SD standards. Gizmo wanders the room of his own free will, while the player rotates the camera and “clicks” on various objects scattered throughout the room. This, in turn, launches various mini-games that you must pass in order to rack up enough points to unlock the next room.

These minigames include:

Asteroids Mini-Game: You control Gizmo (here represented by a rather small sprite that is either riding a Big Wheel tricycle, holding a gun, or possibly both) as he moves around a single graffiti-covered screen, shooting at floating Gremlin heads. Or maybe they are little Gremlins on pogo sticks? Due to the pathetic graphics, who knows what you are actually looking at? What I do know is that, despite there not being much graphically happening onscreen at any given time, there is somehow still a very noticeable “lag”. Thanks to the Wii’s infamously wonky Wiimote/nunchuk controller combination, the game’s control set-up somehow manages to feel “primitive” compared to the nearly 40-year old Asteroids.

Constellation Mini-Game: Players are tasked with finding a given constellation hidden amongst a sea of stars. The player has a set time limit in which to click the stars that make up that constellation. I’m sure that this would be just so much fun (sarcasm intended) for children with deficiencies in abstract thinking and spatial reasoning. As the game features a heavily repeated selection of only 4 or 5 different constellations which are usually located in the same spot every time, the “challenge” comes from the timer speeding up between rounds and not from any real uptick in difficulty.

Train Mini-Game: Presented from an overhead view, players are tasked with controlling a model train as it makes its way around train tracks and collecting gold coins. The player is only given the ability to increase and decrease their speed, as well as the option to switch track direction, all while trying to avoid colliding with another Gremlin controlled train. Playing this game is actually less fun than reading about it.

There are numerous other games, including a very short, rudimentary racing game that is nowhere near as satisfying as one would hope. There is also at least one “fill in the spots” coloring book, which actually offers much less creative freedom than an actual coloring book. For whatever reason, you can also unlock costumes to dress your Mogwai in. So, if you’ve ever wanted to see what Gizmo would look like as a pirate or cowboy, you can do so. If you’ve ever wanted to dress him up like a ballerina, you can do that too….. but first, you should probably seek psychological treatment for these issues.

Sometimes, sunlight is better.

With the game’s November release date and its budget price, it’s probably safe to assume that Gremlins: Gizmo was meant to be purchased as an inexpensive, stocking stuffer type gift during the Black Friday/Christmas shopping season. However, the real question lies in “whom” this gift was being purchased for and “why”. Hear me out…..

It is quite obvious that the gameplay is geared toward the youngest members of the family, gamers in the range of 5 – 8 years of age. That said, those kids will probably get bored with the game just as quickly as older gamers. Yet, the franchise in use is not one that was (nor is it now) currently all that popular with younger audiences. Sticking any better known children’s franchise in place of Gizmo and his generic pals may very well have moved more units. There’s a mountain of really crappy mini-game collections targeted towards children that were released for the Wii. I’m almost certain that there were 371 Dora the Explorer games alone.

So, why choose a franchise that debuted 20 (or more) years before the target audience was even born, and hadn’t seen a new installment in almost just as long? I’ve read some speculation that the game was released as a means to gauge consumer interest in not only a fully (and hopefully better) developed Gremlins game, which has yet to manifest, but also to determine if there would be enough interest in a 3rd Gremlins movie, something that is currently rumored to be in development.

While I do not entirely discount either possibility, I have some difficulty believing either option due to the fact that Gremlins: Gizmo is such a piss-poor gaming experience. I mean, you wouldn’t gauge the interest in a 13th Beethoven movie by filling the streets with dog turds. There is arguably more credibility to my own theory that the game was released just to make any kid that received it as a Christmas gift stop believing in Santa Claus.

What I truly believe happened here was that every other publisher passed on the game after noticing what a joke it was, but NECA picked up the rights simply because they are NECA and can sell anything horror related to memorabilia obsessed horror fans. Memorabilia obsessed horror fans that make shitty gift decisions for their children. You know, like I did when I purchased this game for my oldest son a year or two ago.

There have been innumerable games based on popular (and not-so-popular) movies. And as most long-time gamers will tell you, most of them generally suck. Gremlins: Gizmo is no exception. Actually, it’s one of the worst. It’s not quite the epic travesty that E.T. was for Atari, but it’s not far from it.

Gremlins: Gizmo was also released for the Nintendo DS. I have not played that version of the game, but I can only imagine it being just as excruciating an experience as the Wii version, if not more so. Thankfully, due the the small size of DS carts (games), it makes a handy choking hazard, which, really, may be more fun than playing the game.

No! Never!