I still have a few ultra-obscure NES games that I picked up used at various junctures that neither I nor MobyGames know anything about. To judge the Widget cartridge by its cover, the game deals with a cheerful purple alien by the same name who gains guidance from a being with a big brain (I would later learn his name is Mega Brain) with whom Widget communicates via his watch.
So I feel I’m pretty much on my own to figure this out. Let’s see, it looks like a gang of aliens are invading earth (or an incredible facsimile thereof) and the high elder aliens of your race are tasking you with thwarting this development. The first locale that I must liberate is Australia, land of cactus and pyramids (according to this game). At least the level also features crocodiles, although they might have screwed up and made them alligators; I’m not the type that can discern the difference.
It’s your standard NES side-scrolling shooter. Widget has a weapon that can fire horizontally and diagonal-up. He can jump. He can cower on the ground in abject terror. He can do it all while never breaking that winning smile. But the value-add to this game is the various widgets into which he can transform. This is done via a subscreen, the same one that Widget can use to contact the brain from the cartridge art which offers erudite nuggets such as “make sure to collect all items”.
So from the beginning of the game, I have the ability to transform into a purple, immovable cannon for about 3 seconds that fires more powerful shots (probably, it’s tough to measure). As the game progresses, Widget can also transform into a mouse, rock-man, bird-man, and dolphin. Neat. I wish I could have seen some of that action. Unfortunately, this game reminds me of why I spent so much of my game-playing childhood angry at my television. Widget embodies the worst annoyances of the classic side-scrolling genre, including, but not limited to:
- limited rate of fire: only one fired round on screen at once, and you’re a sitting duck until such time the round makes its way off the screen
- enemy respawn quirks: back up slightly and move forward, enemy respawns or effectively re-energizes if not already destroyed
- jump precision: there are a bunch of chasms where you have to begin the jump halfway off the edge or you won’t make it to the other side
- sheer tedium of rote gameplay: play, memorize, die, repeat
It’s a password game (6 digits), so the designers must have thought it was challenging enough that a player would need more than one sitting.
I don’t think our protaganist is an especially capable hero. I didn’t catch much of the story, but I don’t think the elders who assigned him this mission thought very highly of his skills either and just wanted to get rid of him. Maybe they don’t trust his smile either. In what was probably a running gag in the game, the elders couldn’t even get his name right. No respect.
I can recall a time when I would have dutifully played through this game, and I even have fond memories of those days and determination. I’ll tell you about it someday. However, in today’s fast-paced world, we no longer need the patience to sit through an entire game, not with the advent of tool-assisted game movies. Someone actually made a quick run of this game that takes less than 6 minutes. One of the speed run attributes is listed as “Abuses programming errors in the game”. No joke. This appears to be an extraordinarily glitchy game. This is my favorite bug manifestation: