Developer: Infinity Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Broderbund Software
Sometimes I play a game so bad I simply can't bring myself to finish it. Though it often comes highly recommended as one of the NES' hidden gems, I can't help but think there's a reason BOO is the acronym for The Battle of Olympus'. It's a monotonous, repetitive, boring slog through a confusing landscape.
This game is nothing more than a clone of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, except without any of the enjoyment. Make no mistake, Zelda II is notoriously hard, but I've always found it the fun kind of challenge. BOO is the exact opposite.
When I say it's a clone, I really mean it. Most of the graphics look like they were ripped straight from Zelda II, as does much of the animation. If I didn't know better, I'd say it's little more than a sprite hack, but Zelda II also features some gameplay elements not found here, making it a deeper experience.
BOO makes good enough use of its Greek mythology theme. There are plenty of recognizable monsters, such as a cyclops, centaurs, satyrs, and a siren, and numerous Greek Gods, but then there are some that look nothing like what they're supposed to be. Take the hydra, for instance. It's a single-headed dragon that bounces out of water and passes through solid ground in order to land cheap hits. The same sprite is later recolored for another boss that's supposed to be a plain old dragon. Then there are odd enemies like little monkey-things and purple ostriches.
Cheap hits are one of the game's many fundamental flaws. There are many areas in the game where you will take unavoidable hits, and it's even possible to get caught up in multiple hits because the stun period is so limited. Just one enemy could hit you two or three times as it passes by, taking a sizable chunk of your lifebar. Then there are the enemies that are too small the kneel and hit. Sure, you can duck and swing your weapon, but what good does that do when slimes and insects just pass right under it? Why can't I jump in the air and slash downward like Link in Zelda II? They ripped off everything else, why not that?
Most of the enemies are just plain annoying. Satyrs bounce around and your weapon has such a short reach, you'll often take a hit just to get close enough to kill them. Bats have no consistency at all. Sometimes they swoop down at light speed, and other times they flutter harmlessly over your head. You never know, so half the time you just have to make a leap of faith over a pit two bats are perched above, hoping they don't swoop down and knock you straight to your death. The hit detection on bosses is atrocious as well. You can be right on top of the boss, swinging your sword, but it doesn't register a hit unless you get it exactly in the tiny hitbox the game expects you to. This makes sense for, say, the cyclops where his eye would be his natural weakness, but why does it matter whether I hit the siren from the front or behind?
Another thing they failed to implement well is the shield. Like Zelda II, you have one, but unlike that game it's fucking useless. Most enemy projectiles are just above its effectiveness, forcing you to make a perfectly timed jump in order to deflect anything. And when you do that, you'll likely just get hit by something else.
Even the game's logic make no sense. There may be stairs that lead down to another screen, but if you jump down right next to them you die. So the next screen only exists if you take the stairs? On top of that, there's one area in the game where a pit leads to a hidden room where you fight a bunch of salamanders. You need to collect 20 salamander skins so a character can make something out of them for you, but since it's in a pit which usually equates instant death, how would you ever know to jump down there? One of the NPCs may mention something about it, but you have no way of knowing which one it is without jumping into all of them until you find the correct one.
The absolute worst thing about the game is collecting items. Enemies drop items randomly. It could be health, olives, which are the game's currency, or something special like the skins, but since it's random, you could be killing the same enemies over and over for upwards of an hour just to progress. These aren't optional items, either. Twice in the game, Greek Gods offer to sell you items you need in order to proceed in exchange for a lot of olives. It took me 43 minutes and 54 seconds to collect 70 of them at one point, and by that point it was the third time I'd had to collect things to progress. I estimate about 80% of the time I splent playing this abomination was wasted walking back and forth across two screens just so the enemies could respawn and I could collect whatever shit I needed.
While I'm on the subject, why the fuck am I collecting olives for gods anyway?! They're gods! Can't they get their own olives? And why are they trying to fleece me for necessary items? Don't you want me to save Greece? Why wouldn't you just give it to me? That's like if the old man at the beginning of The Legend of Zelda refused to give me a sword until I punched a bunch of octorocks to death and brought back 300 rupees.
The world layout is utterly confusing. Certain doors take you to different areas, and other times you just walk to the edge of the screen and you're some place else. There's even a maze-like forest where you're bound to get lost until you figure out the correct path through trial and error. There are fast-travel areas once you acquire a certain item, but the game randomly transports you around the world instead of letting you pick where you want to go. As if that weren't bad enough, the game is full of backtracking, but it's difficult to remember how to get back and forth to specific areas, so you'll likely wander around until you stumble upon the correct path back to Argolis or Laconia or wherever the hell you need to go next.
The only positive things I can say about the game is that the graphics are OK, and the animation is generally very good. The music is fair enough, but though each area has its own theme, each one is very short and repeats endlessly. This wasn't uncommon for games of this era, but when you spend so much time killing enemies to collect olives, the short, repetitive tunes will soon make you want to puncture your own eardrums. Control is actually solid, but as previously mentioned, the mechanics of hitting your enemies and defending against attacks are so broken that it renders responsive controls meaningless.
The last thing I want to talk about is the password system. Lots of old NES games used extremely long passwords, and this is one of those. Not only is each password 26 characters long, but they use both upper and lower case letters and numbers. It's so tedious, I found myself not wanting to continue the game just because I didn't want to input the goddamn novel that represented my password.
After hours of boredom, backtracking, frustration, suffering cheap enemies, collecting random drops, and developing a seething hatred for the very plastic the game's PCB is housed in, I decided to simply call it quits. It's not the first time I've given up on a shitty game, and it won't be the last, but it will be the last time this particular piece of shit defiles my precious NES. BOO, indeed.