Review: Yo! Noid (NES)

In this review, we pig out on pizza while we play the adventure game Yo! Noid. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was release in 1990. It is one of the few products that featured Dominoes Pizza often forgotten mascot, the Noid.

The story is that an unknown gang headed by a mysterious green guy is taking over New York. It is up to you, the Noid, to arm yourself with a Yo-Yo or return top (as a side note, a court found the trademark of the term “Yo-Yo” was given in error in 2014, though other similar terms may still be considered trademarked) and go out to stop them from wreaking havoc.

There are many aspects of this game. The biggest part of the game is the regular platforming portions of the game. You use your Yo-Yo as your main weapon against enemies that wander through. Some enemies require only one hit, but others require multiple hits to defeat.

Along the way, you’ll encounter scrolls. You can collect both the small and big ones as-is. The small ones will give you a small amount of magic. The larger ones replenish more magic. Alternatively, if you hit the bigger scrolls with your Yo-Yo, you can unravel them and obtain a spell. Often, these spells nit every enemy on screen, though it’s hit or miss if you can figure out how to cast it via trial and error (The magic combination turned out to be down and B which was something I had to look up). If you couldn’t figure out how to cast a spell, no worries, this game is definitely beatable without magic anyway. Magic spells include freeze (kills all enemies on screen) and pizza smasher (earthquake that defeats all enemies on the ground).

Also along the way are Roman numeral icons and exclamation marks. Some icons are visible on site while others are hidden and can only be revealed by striking the right part of the level with your Yo-Yo (which you can collect after if you are lucky enough). The numerals will give you multiplier bonuses in the eating contests while the exclamation marks either give you attack items in the contest or give you a time bonus. Didn’t really determine that in my play-through personally.

The second biggest component of this game are the pizza eating contests. These contests have apparently divided a lot of reviewers. Some say it’s too complicated and almost impossible to understand. Others say it is really easy and requires no strategy. Others say it requires some thought and strategy. The only assessment I completely disagree with is that it’s almost impossible to understand. The other two assessments depends on how far along in the game you’ve gotten. If you are playing the first two challenges, then yes, it practically requires no strategy because either you win by picking the right cards or you win by draining your opponents cards and win by default. The later contests, however, require a little more thought then that because the requirements increase as you go along.

The minigame pits you against an “area champion”. The goal is to eat as many pizzas as possible. The goal may be a little misleading to some, though, because you aren’t exactly straight up eating as many pizzas as possible. There’s more to it then that. You are given a set of cards and your opponent is given a set of cards. Each regular card has a number to indicate how many pizzas there are for each card. The computer will seemingly randomly pick a card before yo get to pick your card. The two cards are pitted against each other and whoever has the higher number wins the round. The winner will eat the difference. So, if you play a “3” and your opponent plays a “2”, you win and eat 1 pizza. Basic subtraction, really. After you play a card, then that card becomes unusable.

The goal for you is to fill the hollow circles on your side of the screen. Your opponent is trying to do the same thing. With the exception of the last boss or two, your goal will actually be substantially less than your opponent. The caveat is that your opponent will always get bigger number cards to balance things out.

While such a game might sound a little boring, there are additional cards you can play that spices the game up (both figuratively and literally). There are four kinds of special cards you can get in all (some are obtained later in the game). The first is the Roman numeral II. If you select this card, then you can select a second car. The multiplier multiplies your total by 2. So, if you pick a “3” card, then your card actually becomes “6”. It’s possible to build a collection of these throughout the game as well. The second card you can get is a III. This, as you can guess, triples your card. While rare and only pops up towards the end of the game, it can still be a game-changer. The third card pops up part way through the game. This is the pepper shaker. What this does is cancel a card your opponent plays. If your opponent plays a “5”, then you can use the shaker to eliminate that card. Your opponent won’t be able to add it to his total. The fourth and final card is the much more common hot pepper (bottle?). If you play it, then your opponent will win the round, but get penalized by a number of pizzas (not all). This can turn things around for you if you are falling behind.

There are strategies you can employ in these contests. One good strategy I employed was to play a weak “1” card whenever my opponent played a strong “4” or “5”. While my opponent got a massive benefit from such a large difference all in one shot, I also burned off a weak card in the process. After my opponent played a number of high cards and I played all my “1”s, I lobbed the chili attack on him, eliminating a large portion of his lead. Because of this strategy, I often found myself with nothing but “2”s and “3”s while my opponent already burned through a number of his high cards (the pepper shaker when he used his highest card helps a lot too). After this, I just tied a few of his remaining stronger attacks, then used my “3”s and “4”s whenever he was forced to use a “1” card. The end result was often an easy victory – especially after using the multipliers to end the game faster.

While there may be plenty of viable strategies out there, I found this particular strategy worked quite well and stuck with it until I beat the game.

While these pizza eating contests may be a dominant component of the game, it wasn’t the only one to be found. There was also the secret whack-a-mole contest. While the instructions ask you to whack as many moles as possible, the objective is actually the exact opposite. You have to whack as many people as possible. The regular enemies are worth 1 point. The muscle guy is worth 3 points. The goal might not really be clear at first, but each point is actually a line on the lower part of the screen. You win if you make it up to the little red arrow that is floating above the lower banner (easy to confuse it for something else). This game is quite challenging even after you figure out that actually whacking a mole produces no points. This game can be accessed by touching an invisible entrance during one of the regular platforming levels.

Other levels include a Pogo-stick-like pizza smasher where you jump around the level collecting items high up. Another kind is the flying gyro level where you press “a” to pull up. There are auto-scrolling levels where the level continually moves right. Another one continually scrolls up (sky scraper level). Finally, there is a level that gets you ti ride a skateboard. The variety in this game is surprisingly good to say the least.

Some people commented that this game is purely product placement. While the mascot of a pizza chain restaurant is definitely product placement, I was expecting the chain’s name to be plastered everywhere. The only times I really noticed it was at the title screen and after I beat the game. Even the pizza eating contest screens where I fully expected the name to pop up merely had a generic “pizza” name plastered along the top. The only thing left in terms of advertising was the games continual encouragement to eat pizza. This is far from the worst or most obvious product placement I have ever encountered in a game. One example was the later produced and released game, Rush 2 – Extreme Racing USA where you collect Mountain Dew cans to earn the Mountain Dew formula 1 race car.

One interesting thing about this game is that people seem divided on difficulty. Some say that this game can be a little on the easy side while others say this game is unbearably difficult. As far as I am concerned, both sides on this debate are correct. Some areas are mind-numbingly easy. Other parts are extremely annoying where you only have one chance to make a particular jump. Otherwise, you get to experience almost certain death. This, I found, to be a major problem in this game. Basically, this game features a number of difficulty choke points. The rest of the level is easy, but there is one part in the level that is exceedingly difficult to overcome. Sometimes it’s a really large pit. Sometimes it’s a particular enemy. Sometimes it’s a combination of enemy placement and terrain. The point is that the game spikes in difficulty at very particular parts of the game. This makes the game seem somewhat disjointed when it comes to difficulty.

Another point in this game that others have made was the fact that controls can be a bit finicky and frustrating. This assessment is something that I do agree with. Some platforms require very precise timing. Even the slightest of mistakes will end a life. The flying levels sometimes requires very specific timing to avoid the flying spike balls. Too early, and you’ll impale your head on a row of spikes. Too late, and you’ll fall into the abyss below. Probably the biggest annoyance for me was the skateboarding level. You had to hit enemies precisely with the back wheel. Otherwise, you die. The controls can definitely be a huge turnoff for potential gamers.

One thing to comment on was the ending. Few people have ever completed this game to see this ending, but the ending was a bit anti-climactic. After working hard to get to this ending, this ending was a bit disappointing because there just wasn’t much beyond a couple pictures, an animation, and a “The End” text.

Generally speaking, this game has strengths and weaknesses. The variety throughout the game can be great. Unfortunately, mastering each level enough to pass it can be quite frustrating between the somewhat frustrating controls and random difficulty spikes.

Graphically speaking, some might remark that, for a NES game – especially one based around advertising that is seemingly out of control – it is quite good. The thing to remember was the fact that this is a NES game that is being released towards the end of the system’s life span. 1991 was when the SNES was released. This game is also competing against graphical powerhouses like Super Mario Bro’s 3, Snow brothers, Captain Skyhawk, and Mega Man 3. While the graphics were by no means terrible, this game was already struggling to compete against other games released in the same year. Throw in the SNES that would dominate in the following year, and this game is threatened with obscurity. Still, the progress map was a nice addition.

Many have remarked that the audio was a major weakness for this game. The music was one aspect this game received a lot of negative criticisms. While it was actual music that wasn’t terrible, there was not really much to be had here that was particularly memorable. The sound effects were OK, but nothing huge.

Overall, this game can definitely be an acquired taste for some gamers. The idea of a red guy dressed to be something that resembles a bunny can be awkward. Still, once you get past that aspect of the game, there was some decent gameplay to be had here. The levels were nicely varied and the minigames did help break up the action nicely. Still, this game is by no means perfect. The difficulty spikes in the level and the sometimes annoying controls can really make things frustrating. The ending didn’t feel that rewarding either. While the graphics were good, the game is drowning in then-produced graphical powerhouses at the time. Because of what was available that year, this game struggles to keep up with the pack. The audio was decent, but there was nothing special to be had here. So, this game is definitely more for the more adventurous gamer who doesn’t mind the occasional difficulty spike.

Furthest point in game: Received pizza (beat the game).

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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