Yet another Sunsoft Looney Tunes-based Game Boy (Color) game? Back in the nineties, when the original Game Boy version of Looney Tunes was released, the label Sunsoft used to mean something. Something promising, something compelling. Something that guaranteed at least a little bit of quality. Sadly, as time passed by, and is the case here, Sunsoft’s steady stream of games started declining in greatness.
Speedy Gonzales: Aztec Adventure is not to be mistaken by the 1993 Game Boy title Speedy Gonzales that indeed also comes with a promising Sunsoft logo, albeit then it was developed by Citizen Software and merely distributed by Sunsoft America. Both games have more than their protagonist in common—and both games share something strange with a much more popular certain blue hedgehog: speeding through levels and running around upside-down in loops.
Although in Aztec Adventure (and the ‘93 original), the illusion of speed is made by faster scrolling and the ability to move too far off screen for the Game Boy to follow, resulting in a quick death by tumbling down a pit. I can’t help mumbling “you should have paid more attention when playing Sonic” throughout my play sessions. If you gotta steal something, then at least try to get the basics right! Speedy has a life bar consisting of hearts, and then there are Mario-like question blocks that contain hidden power-ups such as a boomerang. On top of that, his jumps are very floaty, while controls in Sonic games are usually very tight.
Rings are replaced by cheese cubes, and the borrowed but crude speed enhancing arrows make Speedy zip through levels in no time. If you manage to make your jumps, that is. Even in the first level of the first world, the game makes it very clear that it wants you to speed through, but it also wants you to learn every location of every single trap. Moving platforms over botomless pits just after a speed boost arrow—that kind of thing.
So what does Speedy Gonzales right? If you can’t tell by looking at the screenshots, this is a very pretty 8-bit game that is even compatible with the original Grey Brick since it comes in a black cartridge: it’s not a GBC-exclusive. I do wish that the developers put more effort in the gameplay instead of the graphics, though: if I’m cursing, dying, and not wanting to play anymore, then I can’t quite enjoy the hard work put into the pixel art either.
Another thing in its favor is perhaps the length of the game: it has six worlds with multiple levels before ending in the inevitable (and genuinely awkward) boss fight. You’ve got your run-of-the-mill vulcanic world, the lush and “airy” world where tornadoes chase you, and you of course start the adventure in a quiet Mexican village, where the dogs are especially vicious and the mice especially helpless.
Speaking of enemies: you’ll never see more than one in a single screen. It looks like a real hardware limitation that you can put to your advantage by luring enemies next to each other: the last one that should appear just doesn’t. If this is due to the fairly large sprites or due to lack of juice because of the intricate background work, I do not know. What I do know is that it’s yet another strange property of a strange game that tries to be immersive but simply falls apart as soon as you start running around in it.
Even if you’re a Looney Tunes aficionado or a Speedy fan, it’s very hard to recommend this Game Boy Color Aztec adventure. I’ll end this review with a quote from IGN’s review 22 years ago:
As a fan of good side-scrolling games, I can’t really recommend Speedy Gonzales: Aztec Adventure to anyone. You’d have to be looking for a pretty hard challenge where you may end up ripping half your hair out. The Game Boy is plagued with bad platformers and this one doesn’t help the situation much. If you want some serious action, check out Super Mario Bros. DX or the newly released Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins.
It’s funny ‘cause it’s true?