The Anatomy of The Goonies | 4 | But I’m not a Goonie

After a short interlude stage crammed full of hidden diamonds and skeletons – or else after leaping over a giant cliff with Data’s spring shoes – Mikey Walsh reaches the fifth stage. The game continues to do a nice job of taking key story moments and scenes from the film and turning them into action set pieces; certainly it’s a damn sight better than the standard NES licensed platformer, which tended to have practically nothing whatsoever to do with the game outside of the sprite design.


Granted, there’s some out-there material, like the inexplicable bonus raccoon you can find, but still.


Stage five is the next-to-last level of The Goonies, your last stop before reaching One-Eyed Willy’s hidden boat. In the film, the final run up to the boat involved the kids sliding down chutes of water; here, that translates into hazardous waterfalls in the background. Also, there’s that whole deleted scene after the chutes involving the kids pretending to freak out about a fake rubber octopus, and hey – the new enemy in this stage is an octopus. (Also, there are fish that leap out of the water, not unlike the Cheep-Cheeps in Super Mario Bros.)


You can also collect a UFO because… video games?


Stage five is considerably more compact than the past few stages. Rather than sprawling across multiple screens, it features a much higher density of integral hazards; aside from the dangerous critters that wander the platforms, you also have to contend with the waterfalls (which hit hard, not unlike the stone counterweights in the previous level), falling rocks, inexplicably deadly water droplets, and so forth.

Now, if you happen to have collected the various protective items hidden along the way, stage five becomes fairly trivial. All you have to worry about are the creatures, passing with impunity through the other obstacles. Because the level design is so dense, you can collect the keys and kidnapped Goonie in about a minute. The challenge level of this stage really comes down to how well you’ve sniffed out the hidden secrets prior to this point – basically, the first time you reach this level, it’s incredibly difficult. But the more times you play the game and more thoroughly you learn its secrets, the less trouble you’ll have here.


And, with the waterfall caverns and subsequent connective corridor complete, Mikey reaches One-Eyed Willy’s ship. I don’t know that his boat was ever given a name in the film; let’s just pretend it’s called Revenge. He won it from a dread pirate in a game of dice.

Final stages often have a gimmick of sorts, and The Goonies is no different. Unlike the other levels, you don’t need to gather keys here in order to move on. The condition to complete this stage is simply to locate and rescue Andy, newly inducted into the Goonies order. She appears in one of four safes at random, and as soon as you open her safe and “collect” her, the level ends. However, the stage also contains a number of valuable treasures scattered at random throughout the other safes, so it’s worth collecting them first so you’ll work your way closer to an extra life for the second loop of the game.


This is more easily said than done; this stage begins with a mere 100 seconds on the clock, and while it’s relatively small (even compared to stage five) it has a fairly intricate layout that involves lots of obstacles and climbing. If you find Andy and pass her over in order to gather the treasures first, you could easily run out of time before you make your way back to her.


Every enemy type in the game comes out for this stage: Fish, octopi, mice, and of course the Fratellis. Despite the lack of passive and environmental hazards, this level puts your twitch skills to the test. If you’re really good, you can find a couple of hidden guys. There’s a weird-looking dude that presumably is meant to be Sloth. And then there’s this Japanese guy with a samurai topknot kneeling and bowing. I honestly have no idea.


With Andy rescued – no word on what happened to Stef, though hopefully she escaped on her own steam and blew off the Goonies so she could go crab spelunking in local barrels – the game comes to an abrupt end. Mikey, Sloth, and the rescued kids stand on the beach and watch Revenge sail off into the sunset. The end!

Well, kind of. The game enters a second loop in which more enemies spawn (for instance, both Fratellis can appear on-screen at once) and your collectibles are reset to zero. The second loop either moves the collectibles to new areas that I can’t seem to find or else does away with them altogether, so it’s either much harder (or maybe impossible?) to beef up with layers of defensive gear. Whatever the case, the second loop is seriously tough – I’ve made very little progress into it, despite having learned quite a lot about the game in the course of writing this series.

So, The Goonies. A pretty decent little platformer for its era, more typical of 8-bit PC action games than the more linear and limited design of most NES games – but decidedly one that looks and feels like an NES game. You can see the designers striving toward something deep and excellent here… it didn’t quite work out, but they tried. Fortunately, many of the underlying ambitions here found purchase in the sequel, which we’ll explore in due course. Still, it’s a fun little action game, one of the more solidly made of its particular NES/Famicom vintage, and I could see myself having been quite a fan had it made its way to the U.S. on the NES itself. C’est la vie!