The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

There’s a chance this game could get freaking awesome toward the end, but I can personally attest to the fact that the first five levels out of six are bland, boring, tasteless, artless, thrown together, crappy, slipshod, who-the-hell-cares, quicky, dumb, uninspired, stupid rubbish.

And it pretty much looks like this the whole way through.

Any charm Twain’s original characters might have had is entirely absent in Japanese developer Seta’s ham-handed 1989 adaptation of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. You take on the role of Tom who has fallen asleep in class and is dreaming of having wacky adventures up and down the good ol’ Mississip’. And when I say “wacky adventures”, I guess what I really mean is the most unimaginative, generic adventures conceivable. If Tom successfully fights his way through level after dull level without being pummeled to death or slipping off something, he wins the heart of pretty li’l Becky… in the dream… not in real life. Nope, the real Becky’s saving herself until community college where she’ll give her most precious of gifts to a tortured, chain-smoking, European art major who will dump her the next semester, leaving her a weeping, crumpled, alcoholic ball of self-loathing.

Okay, I took a breath. While an RPG or adventure game utilizing the Tom Sawyer cast of characters might have been passable, grafting the concept onto an action game creates quite the abysmal result. First let’s discuss enemies. While Tom occasionally runs across a human character to match wits with, the vast majority of his adversaries are cute little woodland animals gone BAD. Yes, the designers took the Jekyll and Hyde route and went with the concept that the entire animal kingdom has some unexplained vendetta against young Tom, and has put the warm and fuzzy equivalent of a hit out on him.

Taking this concept to the extreme, the level bosses are gigantic, randomly chosen animals. And when I say randomly chosen, please understand that you’ll be facing a rat, an octopus, and a giant gorilla made up of several smaller gorillas. On a completely unrelated note, drug restrictions are far more lax in Japan. These sweethearts might look docile, uninterested, perhaps even eerily calm, but their poor design won’t prevent them from spawning mini-creatures, screeching out deadly sound waves, or performing any number of other entirely illogical attacks.

A scene based on one of Twain’s unpublished works, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Grape Ape”.

Luckily, our hero has an endless supply of rocks to lob at his foes. Unfortunately, he throws like a fucking girl. Every single toss flies up in an impressively ineffectual arc before landing several feet behind your intended target. To actually hit something, you’ve got to stand exactly the right distance away from it, or just fling wildly in all directions until you get in a lucky shot. No matter what you do, there is no way to just throw straight. Let me reiterate: A direct attack on anything immediately in front of you is impossible. Clever challenge or just dumb? Just dumb. Eventually you’re given the opportunity to pick up a slingshot with a limited amount of ammo. This sucker will shoot straight, but it’s too little too late. Besides, you’ll be used to the rocks by then and probably screw it up anyway. You loser.

Incidentally, one hit will cause Tom to disintegrate into a puff of smoke. Go back and re-read that. You’ve only got three Toms for the game, but collecting twenty T icons (dropped by most slain enemies) will net you another. However, if you accidentally pick up just one of the devious skull icons, kiss ten whole T icons goodbye. Whatever. You won’t care.

If you’re ever rafting up the Mississippi, make sure to watch out for KILLER WHALES!

What’s that I hear you say? Graphics? What, the pictures that come up on the screen while you play? Well, let’s see here, we’ve got some Atari level stuff around here someplace, is that what you’re looking for? No? Well, then we can’t help you. Sky is FLAT purple with only the occasional cloud to break up the monotony. The great majority of the walls and level objects are dark, drab brown. I can’t tell if I’m playing a Nintendo game, or MS Paint. Granted, it was 1989, but come on; we’d already seen Megaman, Metroid, Contra, and tons of other games with far prettier pixels.

As for sound, I actually have to admit the game really delivers. The quality is crisp and well defined, and the tunes themselves are upbeat, catchy, and a total joy to partake of. …Nah, I’m kidding they’re repetitive, two note midi horrors, just like you’d expect.

If you’re a sadist and/or masochist, you can both extend your own time with this piece of junk, and rope a friend into the terror as well. Yes, you and a pal can magically become Tom and Huck as you take turns competing to see who can beat the levels the fastest. Two men enter. One man leave. Actually I recommend both of you leave.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is like that half-eaten Big Mac you saw sitting on top of the garbage on your way to work this morning. It hasn’t touched the rest of the garbage yet, so you could THEORETICALLY eat it, and PROBABLY not die, but dear lord, man, WHY?! When there are so many alternatives, why put yourself through that? The time you’ve wasted reading this review is already too much time to ever spend thinking about this game.


The Good

I refrained from mentioning Injun Joe, who IS in the game. Also I got to use an INORDINATE amount of INAPPROPRIATE CAPITALIZATION.


The Bad

See above.


“Suppose you were an idiot… And suppose you were a game developer for Seta… But I repeat myself.” –Mark Twain (sort of)


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One thought on “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

  1. You’re quite right, I bought this as my “here’s what I can do over thanksgiving weekend” game, and its terrible.

    Though once you get used to the enemy memorization and slowly inching the screen forwards whilst raining down a constant stream of pebbles, you can make some progress. As long as you don’t try to answer the question “why bother?”

    Actually, seeing the bears/chipmunks combine Voltron-style and form Grape Ape is kind of amazing.

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