#162 - American Gladiators NES Game
8-bit Gladiator Action making us feel like
Malibu in Human Cannonball
NES Game (1991)
Text by: Robert Seidelman
Gametek is a video game company from the mid-late 80s
to the mid-90s who for the most part is known for cranking out game show
based video games.
Wheel of Fortune for the NES is a good game show game. It plays like the
show and is genuinely enjoyable.
Double Dare for the NES is an ok game show game. It plays like the show,
but the execution of the physical challenges is lacking a bit.
American Gladiators for the NES is an awful game show game. It plays
nothing like the show and the execution of everything is beyond asinine.
And that's the subject of this induction.
Where to even begin? Firstly, the game itself is based off of the show's
second half of season 1. And I use the word based really loosely. The
game is split up into four levels with five mini-games for you to play
based on events on the show, except for Breakthrough And Conquer, which
is the only event that was in rotation when in the show that never got a
video game release. I guess it was that hard to lift Tecmo Super Bowl
and a simple test of strength struggle to put into a game for Gametek.
Completing all 5 events in a level gets you an extra life and move on to
the next level. After 4 levels, you go on to the eliminator.
Before we get to the games themselves, let's get to the graphics and my
god are they awful. This looks like the game was released in 1986, not
1991. The gladiators don't look anything like the gladiators that we
know and the pictures that we see of them before the event look really
I don't know if that's supposed to be Lace, but
my god does that not look appealing at all, and she was supposed to be
the sex bomb of them all, not some plastic WWE Diva.
And now I will describe how the game butchered it.
Powerball: Ok, they actually did this one well. Basically all you do is
grab a ball from one side and then put it in a bucket. Then you go to
the other side, grab another ball and put it in a bucket you haven't
used. You have to put a ball in all of the buckets before time is up.
But here's where this game becomes a blessing in disguise. You keep on
playing until time is up, meaning you can get extra lives by doing it
all again. So, this game is fine. Now, to Assault.
In the NES game, you have to avoid Laser who is in some sort of tank,
and grab these icons with missiles on it and promptly shoot Laser with
them. You have to destroy Laser and his tank before he hits you three
times, or cross the finish line. Sounds easy enough, but the problem is
in the slippery as hell controls. So slippery that more often than not,
if you try to avoid the projectiles shot by Laser, you will get hit with
the other two. A good idea, just terribly executed. Let's head to the
The Joust: Instead of a head to head competition, you play against four
gladiators in a gauntlet style. After you knock one down, you have to do
some platforming to go from one gladiator to another. The jumping
mechanics used here are kind of crap too. Sometimes you can make a good
jump and still miss the next podium and fall to your death. Beat all
four to move onto the next round. And next up, Human Cannonball.
Simply put, you take the problems with Joust and put them in with Human
Cannonball. Instead of bad platforming you have bad jumping mechanics
and bad aiming mechanics. In this event you swing back and forth on a
rope and when you feel like you can hit the gladiator, hit the button
and pray you knock him off. You have to do this four times, but either
with the gladiator's podium moving up and down or the actual rope itself
moving forward and backward in position. It's not as bad as the last
event, but it's still frustrating. Now to The Wall.
And ladies and gentlemen, here's the worst round in the game. In order
to climb the wall, you have to hold the direction you want to climb and
then tap both the A and B button to move. What also hurts is that the
wall itself is difficult as hell to navigate. Another irritant is that
female gladiators just jump out at you for no rhyme or reason. In later
levels, the wall becomes borderline impossible due to its length, so you
can't complete the game in the time limit and also in it's precision of
where you have to grip, otherwise you fall off the wall and have to
start the entire thing all over again. The Wall is where you'll be
burning all of your extra lives. After beating all five mini-games four
times, you get to run the eliminator.
This isn't the worst game, but it is the most frustrating thanks to it
being force-scrolled, which requires you to think on your feet. You have
to do some precision platforming to start off with when you have to jump
on what seems to be the balance beams, while the gladiators throw
medicine balls at you. Yeah, this seems rather extreme. I doubt the guys
on Ninja Warrior could pull this one off. Then you get to the hand bike
where it controls like The Wall. Hold right to go forward and hold left
to go back. Now getting hit by the medicine balls will take you down. My
main problem here is that the hand bikes weren't brought in until Season
2. Oh well. The conveyor belts are a pain as well. You compound the
precision of the Balance beams with the technical aspects of a conveyor
belt and the force-scrolling, then you got a really painful part of the
course. Finally, you get to the zip lines. You descend from one zip line
to another until you reach the bottom and hopefully the podium. If you
miss, you have to do the whole thing all over again. Completing the
eliminator means you win, and now the ending!
Yeah, this ending was pretty lame. No Mike Adamle giving you a car or
$10,000 or a trophy saying you are the American Gladiators Grand
Champion? It makes you feel like Malibu taking a foot to the face.
At the end, this feels like another game, but in between production,
they slapped the gladiators name on it and hoped it would move
cartridges. It didn't, but the games we got on the Super Nintendo and
Sega Genesis felt more like the actual show, doesn't mean they didn't
suck too, but at least they put more effort into that then they did
Well, with Christmas time coming up, it's time to go to the naughty list
and see what we have coming up next.
Why couldn't this have won the Wayney last year instead of the Aussie
Price Is Right Revival?