THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER / Seta / NES
 
 
Every once in a blue moon, the estate of the author of a cherished literary or cinematic classic either gets desperate for money, or gets bequeathed to some coked-up little party boy, or just has a brain fart of epic scale about what constitutes appropriate licensing. When these blips happen, you get things like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for NES.

I don't think Samuel Clemens would roll in his grave at the sight of this game; maybe raise his eyebrows at how little it actually has to do with Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn or really anything he's ever written, and then pen a satirical essay about shitty 80s games. The game isn't offensive so much for treatment of Tom Sawyer as it is for just being insanely balls hard and having generic-to-poor level design.
 


The premise is that Tom is asleep in class, having grand dreams of adventure. Each level is a new dream - he starts out taking on a pirate ship, then an overhead-view rafting level on the Mississippi, then a forest, evil castle, and sky land before finally taking on Injun Joe in his cave hideout. If he loses all his lives ... there's a short cutscene of him waking up, and apparently he has to actually endure getting an education rather than growing up to be a Creationist and a Tea Party voter.
 


The game's difficulty lies entirely in the fact that Tom is a one-hit wonder, dying and going back to the last level checkpoint when absolutely anything that moves makes contact with him. And the game is not at all shy about cheap-hitting you from off the screen. Every level is infested with these speedy little shithead enemies - rolling barrels, mice, porcupines - that come zooming in toward your ankles at random times, and you have only a second to jump before they mildly injure you to death. Dodgy jumping control also leads you to crash into deadly obstacles and plummet over cliffs much more often than you really should be.

If you can tolerate the janky action for long enough, there's actually some fairly impressive boss battles with large detailed sprites, such as a giant octopus and a zeppelin. And the final boss might be both the most racist and the most random of the NES library; whereas in the book Injun Joe was a shiftless homeless drunk, in the NES game he's not only decked out in full war regalia shooting arrows at you like a champ, but also riding a giant brontosaurus. Unfortunately all of the effort/budget seems to have been expended on boss battles, as the rest of the game looks very plain.
 
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