Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six

Once upon a time Nintendo games challenged the patience of young kids everywhere. Video games used to present a repeating challenge, such as Pac-Man or Space Invaders, with the idea being each level gets more difficult so the arcade machine sucks more of your quarters.

The 8-bit home console era brought about more linear gameplay, with many games amping up difficulty because there were only 6-8 levels in them – and I assume, you wanted a bit of a challenge so it didn’t seem as if you wasted your hard-earned $50-60 on a game you could beat within hours.

In this light, I’ve long since forgiven some games with stupid difficulty curves. Yet, there are others that are nigh impossible to beat, such as Battletoads. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made by Ultra Games (not to be confused with the fantastic Konami arcade version, ported as Turtles II: The Arcade Game) is yet another of those frustrations I had as a child, only to learn that one area was literally a bug within the title that was hard to get past regardless of skill level.

Over the years I’ve played my share of games with gimmicks, such as Ninja Gaiden, which ratcheted up the toughness with very little health, no continues, and/or a timer to beat. (Gaiden had all three!)

But never did I suspect that I’d run into a game so haplessly thrown together that it would make me enjoy those aforementioned torture fests more than what I was playing.

Enter Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six, a game I sought out during the current Spider-Man multiverse craze, thinking that it might be a cool, lost title of the early 90’s.

Little did I know how far from the truth that statement might be.

Spider-Man looks cool on the screen, and can use his web shooters: getting around the two-button NES controller by using both B and A buttons simultaneously, you can shoot the webs.

But can you use them? Not really.

The distance doesn’t go far, it doesn’t stick to much, and the web-swinging motion is easily canceled out by what I can only describe as the worst controls in nearly any game I’ve played from this era.

You see, you can jump with B. But you can’t really jump in a direction easily. Then all of a sudden you summersault, a la Metroid, but you can’t control where you toss to. And while jumping, you can’t attack.

Actually, you can’t attack while moving whatsoever. And while attacking, Spider-Man moves haphazardly on the screen, oftentimes through or past his intended target, which takes a nice cheap shot at your 4 blocks of health.

You can kind of get that health back, but not easily – and once you die, that’s it. You get one life, and one continue.

That makes the game challenging to say the least, but the collision detection goes beyond that, as every stray bullet (which travels the entire screen) can hit you with ease, while you can’t easily crouch and hit smaller rats which respawn to jump at and kill you. As you attack, you might punch – or jump kick – it’s totally random as to what you do, and if it will hit your enemy. But it will move Spidey, sliding him into more precarious positions, ultimately to kill you and have you start over.

I threw on some cheats to see if I could get further in this game than humanly possible, and well, you can’t really do that either. There are pits where you can’t jump high enough to get out, can’t directionally jump to get out of, can’t sling your webs to catch anything, and pretty much have to die to restart the level – or the game.

Worse, someone decided that Spidey shouldn’t just stop at the top of a ladder, and so he just falls down, to start again, as if it were greased up by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

Since ladders are used everywhere, the jumping mechanic supersedes any need for web-slinging, the primary function of our web-slinger. And since jumping sucks, and you can’t attack in mid-air (like Turtles or Battletoads) you die – and if you have infinite health cheats, you kind of just jump around aimlessly, hoping to stick to something that’s part of a climbable part of the level and not a wall you can’t get past.

Beyond that, there are objectives where you must acquire items to get to the next part of a level. If you’re fortunate enough to find a boss, good luck, because you won’t be able to hit them or they spawn off-screen, or worse, on top of you.

It isn’t a wonder this game was made by the factory of misery known as LJN, famous for acquiring licenses but making terrible games.

Even with my Spider sense of nostalgia, this is a game best avoided at all costs – and easily a contributor to why parents and kids avoided anything licensed from comics, TV, or movies for many years. It was seriously so bad that I couldn’t even attempt to finish it with cheats.

My heart sincerely goes out to anyone who was given this as a kid and forced to play it!


For years I’ve heard the urban legends of Battletoads, a game considered to be one of, if not the hardest ever created for the NES.

I have some vague memory of playing this as a youth, and at some point around the time I started to found this site. For some reason I fell off of playing it, and decided to finally return to see what the fuss is about.

I recall getting stuck on a particular section, and I think I lost interest. That’s all. Granted, I’m not very good at games, and the NES had a punishing selection of titles that would make many kids cry. (I’m looking at you Mega Man 2!)

Heck, this game was founded on the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of which, the first Ultra Games version on the original Nintendo was a tough, tough game. Little did us kids know that it was actually bugged and the jump in the third stage was nearly impossible to achieve.

That didn’t stop us though! No, many of kids just accepted the fact that these 8-bit games were hard. We didn’t know any better.

And then there’s Battletoads… straight up F this game!

There I said it. I was holding back, but I can’t imagine the tools who designed this game actually believed that it would crush the souls of many children when it was unleashed on the public in 1991. I can’t even imagine that someone bug-tested or play-tested this game, and allowed it past QA.

And I’m saying this with the benefit of save states and cheats thirty years later!

Yes, even with those advantages, this game is pure bullsh*t!

From the jump, if you’re using the tried-and-true NES cartridge and playing this old school? Good luck!

The game starts you with three lives. Each life has six health blocks. There are no continues and seldom are there checkpoints, meaning if you die – and you certainly will – you then start over and have to face the same crap over… and over… and over…

Until you break a controller. Or throw the game out the window.

I wish I could say there was anything redeemable about this experience, but let’s face it: the game is tarnished by its difficult and repetitive nature.

The premise of the Battletoads is cool, but it’s clearly lifted from TMNT and feels like a cheap parody at times. It’s a shame, because Rare, the famed developer, did some really cool stuff here too. The graphics and detailed touches, included some animation scenes that are top notch for the NES, is really top of the line stuff.

But it’s marred by how hard the game is. I know I’ve said it a few times, but when your toad throws a punch and the timing is off, only to get hit by enemies – remember those six health bars? Yeah, the enemies might take more than one block off your health.

Then there’s health drainers that appear flying around the screen that will certainly take up to four blocks of life from you at certain stoppages in the game.

It’s a super cheap mechanism that steals from the variety of moves and follows the pattern of similar beat’em up games.

Truthfully, we can all sympathize with Double Dragon or Ninja Gaiden being tough, but this game becomes impossible to pass certain points – most of which include side-scrolling levels where your toad hops aboard a vehicle and the obstalces speed up incrementally to where, unless you’ve played the level a hundred times – and you won’t because of lack of health/continues – you just end up quitting. Forever.

This difficulty even crept through to using cheats within the game, which of course are introducing bugs that will then introduce more bugs. The side-scrolling levels can’t be passed with cheats for the most part, and yes, I am complaining about cheating to experience this game, because it’s damn near required to do so.

Later on there’s a snake block level, that also becomes stupid hard. A water tube level places spikes beneath floor drops that you can’t see from the upper levels. And more and more, it’s almost too much to talk about it. It’s rather clear the developers wanted to punish gamers in every way imaginable and make their game one that only the top 1% of pros could complete.

I’m not sure that any eight-year-old kid needs that sort of challenge, and into adulthood, neither do I!

If you like to waste your time with an unrewarding, difficult, frustrating, repetitive, and downright impossible game to play, then Battletoads is your calling.

If you would rather spend your time watching raindrops dry on a sidewalk, I would suggest that could be more fun – and you may still get to see a toad in the process anyway! Way more fun… avoid this one folks, I’m not kidding!

Paperboy 2

Let it be known I already wasn’t a fan of the original Paperboy. I always felt like the game was full of cheap, stupid challenges, because it was also short.

I get the premise, which is a cool, and how some folks probably loved it – maybe still to this day.

I’m not one of those people.

I also get that it was an arcade game meant to eat your quarters, which I don’t believe translated well to home consoles. So, tack on my frustration and general dislike for the first game, and multiply it tenfold for the sequel, which is every bit of a money grab.

The developer, Tengen, made sure that Paperboy was available on every imaginable console available at the time. It’s sequel also shows up in places it shouldn’t be too. (I’m looking at you Game Boy!)

The reason is the simplicity of the game. In this NES version of Paperboy 2, nothing has really changed from the original!

Oh hey, the A and B buttons toss papers to either side of the road. Very innovative!

There’s also a “Papergirl” now too! Gee whiz! Golly! Take my money!

They also added an intersection in the road, which, I guess, mixes up the game play from the OG title.

I can’t say enough bad things about this intentional attempt to slap a new cover on an old book. Even looking at older reviews from when this game was launched, most of the gaming magazines panned it – some even worse than I did – stating the gameplay is repetitive, and the audiovisual content is dated compared to other games of its era.

Honestly, this is the type of game you only played as a kid because it was one of the four cartridges you owned, gifted to you for a birthday or holiday. You kept putting it in, trying something other than Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, only to be disappointed and frustrated time and again.

We did that in the 80’s and 90’s… there’s no reason to torture yourself today by even booting this up!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Ask anyone who grew up with this game as a kid about it, and the likely reaction is repressed feelings and nightmares.

Unlike it’s (far) superior arcade cousin, the first TMNT game on the NES was a total disaster. Most of the non-boss enemies were not taken from the cartoon or comics, completely ripped out of nowhere. That would be so bad if the collision detection and controls weren’t horrid.

Some of the regular bosses took multiple hits to kill – and they would respawn soon as you went back in a stage, something which is vital on many of the boards. Worse, some of the bosses had second variations where they’d die and then something would float around the screen waiting to be killed. You could not duck or dodge from many of them, resulting in death.

Oh yeah, you can choose between each of the four turtles to play with, but once one died, that was it – unless you braved rescuing one in the scant few areas you can do so in the game.

Then of those four turtles, those with the shorter weapons (especially Raphael) were useless because you couldn’t get close enough to an enemy to hit them, resulting in damage (and more death).

Adding to the frustration are areas which require a precise jump despite imprecise controls and respawned enemies, resulting in you falling and starting over. And if that’s not enough, the frame rate drops to stuttering slow and unresponsive when there are too many enemies on the screen at once!

Then there’s a stage where the boss isn’t always in the same location, causing more backtracking through frustratingly difficult areas.

If you can make it to the final battle with Shredder, a feat in and of itself, he can instantly kill you with his ray gun.

When anyone brings up hard games of my childhood, this is among the top of the list. If you’re brave enough to try it, use save states and cheats – or else “say your prayers Turtles!”

Wayne’s World

Hey Joe, they made a SNES game based on Wayne’s World and I think you should play it.

Shyeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt!

But low and behold, I did play it. This was right next to that WCW game in the “W” section of my collection and made me do a double take. Is that Wayne’s World?! THE GAME?!

Let’s cut to the chase. You already know this is a terrible game. You didn’t even need to look past the box art to figure that much out.

What I can’ figure out is this: who thought it was a good idea to market this game? And what poor game developer had to work on this steaming pile of poo?

That aside, the cutscenes for the game are funny, but that’s about where the fun ends. You start as a half CG, half digitized Wayne, complete with a guitar that “riffs” at animated enemies like coffee cups and drumsets. You walk around each level until you realize you cannot go any further. Then you double back and fall into an area, unable to jump back to where you were until you wander into another dead end.

Rinse. Repeat.

You literally have no clue where you’re going because the graphics are so cluttered with the same repeating garbage that every single screen looks nearly identical. The enemies also respawn, leaving you with no indication if you’ve been in a given area before while trying to find your way out.

Once you do find your way out, Garth is there. Party on, right?


A giant purple hand comes from the side of the screen and pulls Garth away. You then get warped to what looks like the start of the same stage, but it’s just the next level that looks exactly like the previous one. (That happens a few times.)

There are no plot points telling you why you’re in a stage that looks like Honey I Shrunk the Kids in a Coffee Shop, nor do you know why this hand takes Garth away, but then he’s on the couch talking to you between levels.

Actually, there’s no telling what level you’re on because it never says it on the screen other. Oh yeah, and there are “boss fights” too. I fought some mechanical dinosaur snake lizard thing at the end of what I assume is World 1.

But wait there’s more! Wayne has “special moves” which I have no clue what most of them are outside of “Schwing!” which looks like a combination of Wayne air humping and a nuclear bomb detonation.

This game is truly trash and as much as I was chuckling at it, the novelty quickly wore off and I stopped playing. It goes where it belongs, on the blacklist!

Mortal Kombat (Game Boy version)

If you’ve ever played Mortal Kombat and/or Nintendo’s Game Boy, then you instantly know any attempt to port this arcade classic to the small screen would be a bad idea.

My first “blacklisted” game to appear on the website, Mortal Kombat sold over a million copies on the Game Boy. I’m not sure how, but its obvious this was a cash grab that worked by slapping the dragon logo and name on the box.

The first problem, obviously, is the Game Boy’s controls. The console only had two buttons, A and B, aside from the select and start buttons. This altered the game to simply a kick and punch button, rather than high and low versions of each, which were better suited to the 16-bit consoles which had more buttons.

The arcade used a 5th “block” button which was accomplished on the handheld by holding both A and B at the same time.

This created the crap fest that would be MK for Game Boy. From the poor monochrome graphics and tinny sound, ripping half of the moves out of the game as well as censoring the violence like it’s SNES bigger brother, this game is terrible. Add lag in the controls which make it nearly impossible to even complete one fight and you have the makings for one of the worst arcade translations ever.

Avoid this game at all costs. Even if you have a morbid curiosity for awful games like I do, you still can’t fathom how bad this title is without playing it.