Tag Archives: Game Boy

Spiritual Warfare Review

You probably know all about Wisdom Tree by now. An unlicensed publisher called Color Dreams changed its focus from making typical games into religious edutainment. In some cases, under its new badge, Wisdom Tree simply reskinned its Color Dreams games. Many of them panned as being badly made, while a lot of others were merely competent.  In other cases they were original titles ranging from bad to passable. But there was one game that was a stand out.

PROS: A Zelda clone with Christian overtones that actually fit its premise.

CONS: Biblical trivia interrupts the flow.

OKELY DOKELY: This game could be a Ned Flanders sight gag at times.

Spiritual Warfare is a stand out in the Wisdom Tree roster of games. It’s the lone attempt at an action RPG, and it borrows liberally from Nintendo’s flagship Zelda series. From the starting position, it’s patently obvious that it is going to. In Zelda walking into a cave introduces you to an old man who gives you a sword. In this game, you’ll find an angel in a building who gives you a pear. Shortly thereafter you’ll find canisters that work the way the bombs in Zelda do. Just like Zelda, you’ll scroll through an overhead perspective taking on enemies, and pushing objects to find secrets. There is a pretty key difference in the overall goal though. In Spiritual Warfare you’re going on a quest to find physical representations of allegorical pieces of armor. Why? Because you’re also going on a quest to save souls, and kill the Devil in the process.

The game starts you out in a park filled with criminals, and bullies. After getting your pear you’ll be able to defend yourself by throwing fruit at them. Throughout the game you’ll find other fruits of the spirit. Tossing them at enemies doesn’t kill them. Instead, it causes them to repent from their ways, and pray to God. Some of these people are actually possessed, and so this process will cast out a demon. You have to then kill the demon with the fruit of the spirit. Throughout the game the areas become more diverse. You’ll go through a metropolis, a section of suburbs, the slums, an airport, a forest, a beach, a prison, and Hell itself. All the while saving souls, and trying to survive.

Along that process you’re going to find extra heart containers to expand your life, and other items. There are also storefronts run by angels who sell you other fruits, or power ups with a currency called spirit points. How do you get spirit points? The enemies whose hearts you’ve changed will drop them. You’ll need to have them on hand for many of the game’s power ups, and even some of the pieces of spiritual armor. You can also use them to restore health by going under the inventory screen, and selecting the praying hands. You can also gain spirit points by answering biblical trivia questions. Every so often you’ll see an angel fly around the area you’re in. If they touch you you’re taken into a game show setting where you’ll be asked random questions about the bible. This is where the game is a little bit flawed. Because instead of working this information into the actual game world, it takes you out of the game to take these quizzes.

The problem isn’t that there is bible trivia. The game is a Christian focused game. One would expect any edutainment title to have some sort of educational aspect of the subject matter to be there. In this case Christianity. The thing is, it would have been much more effective to have these moments come out in the gameplay somehow. Meeting an important character, who quotes a line of scripture that can be applied to that moment in the game whenever running into them would be more effective. Instead, this just takes you out of the game, and feels like homework given to you by a religious educator. Plus if you ignore the angel, you won’t have to take the quiz. So it defeats the purpose of having them there. The only time you might want to take the quiz is if you are low on health or spirit points. Because if you ace it with a perfect score your health will replenish, and you’ll get a decent number of points.Toward the end of the game, you may find yourself taking quizzes more as enemies begin getting quite difficult, and your energy tank equivalents running low. But instead of feeling invited to learn more about the bible you end up feeling forced. Which can make a player feel more resentment than welcome.

Thankfully the core gameplay is good enough here you may want to try it out anyway. The game controls well enough, and there are a lot of surprisingly well thought out puzzles. Boss fights are surprisingly good too. Many of them are more than a simple act of shooting fruit. Many require pattern memorization, dexterity, or puzzle solving skills. Many of the pieces of armor are guarded by bosses too. The boss rooms also require keys you can find throughout the game. The keys also open up secret areas locked away in buildings or other areas that have highly needed items inside.

When you finally do find your way to Hell, you’ll find one of the most challenging dungeons you’ll likely ever play. Newer, monstrous enemies appear, and take a lot more damage to go down. Other times the game will throw waves of low-level grunts at you in these areas relentlessly. The dungeon also has a door maze element to it, as you continually end up going back, and forth through floors. This culminates with a showdown against the Devil himself.

Spiritual Warfare also has a password system like the one found in Metroid. The game has one major flaw in it though, some of the passwords will easily be written down wrong due to the fact that some of the characters are so similar. You can get through large chunks of the game, only to jot down a single character wrong, and have to restart the entire game. So be especially careful when writing these down. Spiritual Warfare isn’t an exhaustively long game, but it does have a duration that most won’t complete in a single sitting. Though there are speed runners of the game who have managed to blast through it in 20 minutes or less.

The game was initially an NES game, but it did make its way over to the Game Boy, Genesis, and computers as well. It isn’t as rare as some of Wisdom Tree’s other bible games. But it is still uncommon, and fetches a bit more than typical NES Game Paks these days. Still, if you’re a collector, or a Zelda fan you might want to check it out. If you’re not terribly religious you can skip the quiz portions, and if you are you can probably ace them to your benefit. Either way, you’ll probably get a laugh out of seeing the Devil go down from a pear to the face. Not bad for something that could pass for a Ned Flanders sight gag on The Simpsons.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Reposted Review: Donkey Kong ’94


 (Originally posted on the defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog in 2012.)

1994 saw the release of the last classic Donkey Kong. On the Gameboy, it was also one of the earliest cartridges designed with the Super Gameboy peripheral in mind. It is easily one of the best in this puzzle/platformer hybrid.


PROS: Tons of levels. Gameplay additions improve a classic formula. Humor.

 CONS: High difficulty on some puzzles.

 WTF?: How the hell do Donkey Kong, AND Pauline fit through those tiny lock doors?

Long before he moved to the Mushroom Kingdom to slay Bowser, and have Toad tell him the Princess was in another castle, Mario worked construction. He also worked in a cement factory. Some have called it a pie factory. He also dated a woman named Pauline.

Before Super Mario Bros. Became a cultural phenomenon Mario was the protagonist of Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong of course, was a puzzle meets platform game. Where players tried to get from the bottom of the screen to the top armed with only a jump button, and ladders. If you made it to the top of the screen you saved Pauline, and moved onto the next level.

Around five mainline Mario games or so later, Donkey Kong had become a star in his own platforming games. And while few would argue that these Country titles were indeed good games, many old timers including Cranky Kong became wistful for the classic gameplay DK starred in during  the golden age of arcades.

Donkey Kong 94 answered their prayers. Not only does the game bring back the original stages from the arcade, but it then kicks into an entirely new set of stages

Like the earliest Mario games, DK94 is set up into sub-levels. For instance, what one might call stage 1 is actually several levels. Stage 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, and so on. Around halfway through each set of sub-levels is a mini boss stage. Every final sub-level is a boss stage. These stages are the sorts of things you would see in a typical Super Mario Bros., game which makes the fact you play as Mario work in the game’s favor.


In addition to mixing up the game with bosses, and mini bosses DK94 adds a few surprises in it’s regular gameplay. Mario no longer simply jumps, and climbs ladders. Now dashing back while running, and pressing jump will make him back flip. Some stages have tight ropes Mario can swing on.

There are bounce pads. There are even ladders, and girders you have to strategically place in order for Mario to solve puzzles, and move onto further stages. There are also a lot of new stage hazards, and new enemy types. Some monsters crawl along any adjacent surface, others require timing to barely make a risky jump over to progress through a stage.

And there are a LOT of stages. 101 to be specific. This game simply gives you a lot of value for the price of admission. Suffice it to say, you will be busy for some time. The original cartridge release had a battery save for this specific reason. Picking up the game pak now means there may be a chance the battery inside is dead so like many of these you may wish to have someone who knows what they’re doing open the cartridge, and replace it. Barring that, the game is available on Nintendo’s e-shop for the 3DS. Donkey Kong 94, was also one of the earliest Super Gameboy compatible games. As such, there are proper colors associated with every sprite, and playing on an SNES also puts a border around the screen with artwork reminiscent of the original arcade machine cabinet art.

As much as I tout this game’s many strengths, there are a few minor nitpicks.  Some of the later stages really kick into overdrive, meaning people who play almost entirely puzzle games, and rarely touch platformers may be turned off by the difficulty. The game does fortunately hand out a lot of 1-UPs to compensate for this but for some it may grate. The other main gripe, and admittedly is mainly wishful thinking on my part is that there was no official Super NES cartridge made for it. Playing on the Super Gameboy adapter is indeed a lot of fun, but one can’t help but think what might have been.

Finally, as those in 1994 can attest, DK94 has confusing box art. Anyone who wasn’t reading EGM, Gamepro, Nintendo Power or other popular game magazines back then would have thought they were getting a really late port of the NES port of the arcade game.

Though years later Mario Vs. Donkey Kong would prove there is still a market for DK as a puzzle game, it still doesn’t have quite the same charm of classic Donkey Kong.

For those who missed it in the mid 90′s or younger folks wanting another classic under their belt, this version of Donkey Kong is easily one of the best.

Final Score: 9 out of 10 (Buy it now!)