Revenge of the 'Gator
  • Genre:
    • Pinball
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • HAL
  • Released:
    • JP 10/18/1989
    • US December 1989
    • UK March 1990
Score: 70%

This review was published on 04/18/2015.

Revenge of the 'Gator is a pinball video game published and developed by HAL Laboratory for the original Game Boy. It was released in Japan on October 18, 1989, North America in December 1989, and Europe in March 1990. This game is sort of the precursor to Kirby's Pinball Land, which was also developed by HAL Laboratory. HAL Laboratory is best known for working on the Kirby series, but they did make games before the creation of Kirby, and Revenge of the 'Gator is one of them. Upon initial inspection, this is nothing more than a normal pinball game, but it has a few things to help it stand out from the crowd. These features make the game slightly more interesting than the average pinball game. It's not the most groundbreaking thing ever, but Revenge of the 'Gator should provide some entertainment if you're into virtual pinball. You may like it even if you aren't into pinball at all.

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Like any good pinball game, you control the flippers near the bottom of the screen to hit the ball. Pressing anything on the d-pad controls the left flipper and pressing either the A or B buttons controls the right flipper. Unlike later pinball video games, there's no way to tilt the virtual machine, so it all comes down to the flippers. Every time your ball bumps into objects on the board, you earn points. If your ball falls all the way down, then the gator at the bottom will eat it! Lose all of your balls and the game is over. The objective is to score as many points as possible while avoiding having your ball eaten by the hungry gator. A nice feature of the game is that there's no scrolling; every play area takes up exactly one screen, and moving into other play areas simply transitions into another screen. That allows you to always see everything surrounding your ball, which is convenient. The controls are precise and the pinball physics are good, though the ball does sometimes get stuck.

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Not including the death screen at the very bottom, there are four main screens to see. The screens are all stacked on top of each other, meaning you start from near the bottom and work your way to the top. Generally, the higher screens contain greater rewards, so you want to get as high as possible. Traversing the first few screens is a simple matter of shooting the ball upwards, but the highest screens are locked until you complete certain tasks. For example, the second-to-highest screen is locked behind a door that can only be opened if the three targets near it are hit. Each screen has its own thing going for it, featuring different layouts and objects. One screen has a slot machine you can activate to earn extra points. While most objects exist for the purpose of amassing points, some perform other functions, like activating savers. Savers are helpful objects that prevent your ball from falling down by plugging up the holes, but they only appear for a limited time. When at the highest screen, you have a chance to win an extra life, but it only works once. And of course, there are gators everywhere. The gator theme is odd, yet strangely endearing.

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Entering certain holes in some screens will take your ball to a bonus stage. There are three bonus stages in all and they are all about gathering points. What's the point of points? Don't ask. The first bonus stage is like a pinball version of Arkanoid or Breakout, with a bunch of breakable blocks holding up a gator at the top. You use the flippers to hit the ball into the blocks to break them, eventually hitting the gator itself. The second one has you launching your ball at various gator eggs, slowly cracking them open to reveal helpless gator babies that you then brutally murder. Bonus stage the third is like whack-a-mole with a bunch of gator heads, a pinball, and two flippers. In this delightful little game, you wait for the gators to poke their heads out of the holes and then hit them with the ball for points. All the bonus stages feature fun and varied ways to abuse alligators.

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There are two different two player modes in the game. The first one is a super simple mode where both players take turns passing around the Game Boy to see who can achieve the highest score before losing. The other mode is the more interesting of the two and it requires two Game Boys connected via the Game Link Cable. In this mode, both players have their own play area divided by a line going through the middle of the screen. Each player always sees their flippers at the bottom of their own screens and the opponent's at the top. The goal is to shoot the ball into the opponent's area and either hit the opponent's targets or cause the opponent to lose the ball. Gravity of the ball changes whenever it crosses the line, so it will always fall towards the player that it's closest to. The first player to reduce the opponent's points to zero wins. There are also items that float by and hitting them will cause various things to occur. This mode, while a tad hard to get used to, is genuinely creative and enjoyable.

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Why does the gator want revenge? Beats me, but this is still a decent pinball game nonetheless. Aside from the ball occasionally getting stuck, the pinball physics work pretty well and the controls are good. The two player mode isn't too bad, either. However, once you've seen all the screens, the game quickly grows tiresome. That's an issue most pinball games have and this one also suffers from it. But hey, at least the gator motif is cute. These gators are so hardcore, they drink Gatorade.

Word Count: 997