Revisiting retro video games can be perilous. Over the years, our gaming prowess increases (or decreases for some of us), our tastes change and many games simply don’t age well. This week, I revisited Bonanza Bros., a game that I thought was lots of fun in the early 1990s…after almost 30 years, does the game still hold up?
Bonanza Bros. is a 2D shooter platform game created in a 3D style. It was developed and published by Sega for the Arcade in 1990 (U.S. Gold published the game for home computer systems). In 1991, it was released on the Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amiga, Master System, TurboGrafix-CD, Mega Drive, Sharp X68000 and ZX spectrum. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).
In the game, you are hired by the Police of Badville to test the security of buildings around the town where some very valuable objects are housed. These include a mansion, yacht, bank and a casino. To steal the objects, you must use your stealth skills and your wits to evade the security stationed to protect the valuables. Once you have all the valuables, you must reach the roof so that you can be whisked away in a hot air balloon.
Bonanza Bros. can be played in both one and two-player modes. The characters consist of Robo (red) and Mobo (blue). In the European version, they are named Mike and Spike. The two-player mode is co-operative, with the screen split horizontally, allowing both players to explore each level individually.
The game contains three difficulty settings and allows you to increase or decrease the number of lives you are assigned. This adds a lot of replay value to a game that is pretty short and easy to complete for any gamer with half a brain cell. There is also a time limit of three minutes for each level.
The controls are very simple. You can walk, jump and shoot your gun…that’s it. To make the game a little more interesting, you can move back and forth by one square from the foreground to the background. This enables you to hide behind walls and objects, as well as dodging shots from the guards. When you shoot the guards, they do not die, they are simply stunned for a few seconds. The guards are alerted to your presence when you either walk into their field of vision or if you make a noise near them, such as kicking a soda can. Some guards are armed with riot shields, protecting them from your gunshots. If you are hit by a bullet or if the guards are close enough to hit you with their truncheon, then you lose a life. Running out of time also causes you to lose a life and you must restart the level.
I first played Bonanza Bros. back in the early 1990s when my older brother either borrowed it from a friend or rented it from the local Blockbusters. At the time, I thought it was one of the best games I’d ever played (bearing in mind I was only about nine years old), and was really looking forward to revisiting the game.
So does the game hold up? Sadly no.
What are the pros?
I think the music is great! Its upbeat, funky a fun, and fits well with the game. I also think it is a game best played in two-player mode, perfect for a parent and child or for an older sibling playing with a younger one.
Some nice little touches to the game come in the form of being able to splat a guard against the wall when you open a door, and a fly buzzing around and landing on you if you stay still for too long.
Now the cons:
The game is very easy, even for less experienced gamers, and the gameplay is so simple that it becomes boring very quickly. Frustratingly, you cannot duck which becomes frustrating particularly in the later levels. Also, for a game that is supposed to be designed around stealth, there is little finesse to it. There are very little consequences to alerting the guards to your presence as all you need to do is stun them and run off screen and they seem to forget you were even there.
The graphics, although quite cute, are below standard, even for 1991. When compared to contemporary games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Quackshot (1991), the graphics were found wanting.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but I don’t think I will be revisiting it very often.
What the critics said:
Mean Machines: “Fans of the coin-op will love this – but others might find the action a little too repetitive. If in doubt, check it out. Overall 82%”.
Mean Machines Sega: “Like Alien Storm, this is another superb conversion which is let down by the fact that it is just too easy. The two-player action is fun, but at the end of the day what you need is a challenge, and unless you’re a games novice, this simply fails to deliver. Overall 73%”.
Sega Power: “The graphics are faithfully reproduced, the split- screen two-player mode is included and the gameplay, if a bit repetitive, is all there. Overall 4/5”.
My Verdict: “This game is not without its charm. Its cute, and quite fun in two-player mode. However, the graphics are below standard when compared to its contemporaries, and the gameplay becomes too repetitive too quickly. Definitely one for younger gamers.”
What are your memories of Bonanza Bros.? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Mega Drive Review – Bonanza Brothers’. (July 1991). Mean Machines. Issue 10:86-8. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-10/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 10th December 2019).
 ‘Review: Mega Drive – Bonanza Bros’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).
 ‘The Hard Line – Bonanza Brothers’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:53. https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 10th April 2021).