Bonanza Brothers – Review

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?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

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 graphics are a bit too basic when compared to its contemporaries (Screenshot taken by the author)

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.

Although more enjoyable in two-player mode, the game is too easy and becomes repetitve very quickly (Screenshot taken by the author)

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%.[1]

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%.[2]

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.[3]

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.”

My Rating:

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.


[1] ‘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).

[2] ‘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).

[3] ‘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).

Super Kick Off – Review

You stand in the tunnel and hear the chants from the stands echo all around you. Your supporters expect glory. Can you immortalise yourself and your team by winning silverware and reigning supreme? Tie up the laces of your football boots and adjust your shin pads. Its not just Kick Off, its Super Kick Off!

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Kick Off is the sequel to Kick Off 2. It was developed by Anco Software, Tiertex Design Studios and Enigma Variations, and published by US Gold, Imagineer, and Misawa Entertainment in 1991. It was released on the Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, and SNES. I chose to review the Mega Drive version.

The game is played with a top down view, similar to that of World Cup Italia ’90, but the overall graphics are more detailed, especially where the sprites are concerned. The game has also added footballers of different skin tones, making the game more realistic. The pitches are also prettier and the crowd is brightly coloured.

In-game action (Screenshot taken by the author)

The in-game menu icons are not labelled but are fairly self-explanatory. One league and three cup competitions, plus a two-player mode, adds to the replay value. It is also possible to increase the overall speed of the game and adjust the difficulty setting of the oppoenent, to add more of a challenge.

In-game menu (Screenshot taken by the author)

The teams are a random array of Europe’s better teams from the early 90s. The names of the players are not real but are close enough to distinguish who they really are (Griggs = Giggs etc.). Oddly, some players begin out of position. For example, when playing with Man Utd, Spruce (Steve Bruce), starts upfront instead of in defence, so a little tinkering is needed to amend such insanity.

The music is forgettable and not as catchy as World Cup Italia ’90 which had a very Latino feel to it. There are a few SFX but the gasps from the crowd everytime the ball is either saved by the goalkeeper or goes out of play is very annoying.

Half-time (Screenshot taken by the author)

Controlling the ball takes a bit of getting used to. You have to either manoeuvre the player around the moving ball or press the ‘trap’ button before changing direction. The ‘trap’ button also acts as the pass button and so many times the ball gets kicked wildly out of play. Tackling is pretty much non-existant other than running into the opposition to steal the ball, and the offside rule tends to happen at odd times during the match. Once you can beat the computer regularly on the hardest setting (14-0 if you must know), you know it’s time to stop playing the game.

Although an improvement on most previous football games, I am still at a loss as to how computer designers were consistantly unable to produce a realistic football game in the 80s and early 90s. You only need three buttons: For attacking – 1) short pass, 2) long pass, and 3) shoot. For defense – 1) standing tackle, 2) sliding tackle, and 3) control nearest player to the ball etc. It’s that simple!

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I won all leagues and trophies in this game.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The best football game going, and one which every Mega Drive owner, regardless of their interest in sport, should leap out and purchase. Overall 95%”.[1]

Sega Power: “You wanted a decent football game and you’ve got one! You’ll need patience to get used to controlling the players, but it’s more than worth the effort. Overall 5/5.[2]

My verdict: “An improvement on most previous football games, and certainly worth playing. However, they are still a long way to go where football games are concerned.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Kick Off? 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.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Mean Machines Sega. (February 1993). 5:18-21. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-05/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Sega Power. (September 1993). 46:98. (https://archive.org/details/SegaPower46Sep1993/page/n97/mode/2up 25th February).