Sega coin-op conversions are known for snazzy gimmicks, not depth of gameplay. Could this be the one to prove they can do it (if they try)?
What have arcade and console kings Sega ever done for us, eh? So they got the ball rolling with hydraulic excuses for arcade entertainment (Space Harrier, OutRun et al) and - indeed - are continuing to bring the arcade machine closer to being a fairground attraction than ever, but so what? When it comes to producing full-blooded playability, Sega have done nothing for me. (Well, apart from Sonic The Hedgehog.) Almost without exception, everything Sega have ever released has fallen short of the mark, playability-wise. Their wares always seem to have healthy bones but never enough real 'meat' on them - and Bonanza Bros proves no exception.
That said though, Bonanza Bros is probably the most impressive Sega creation to date. And here's the reason why - the Bros have style, something sadly missing from most computer software today. Robo (the short fat one) and Mobo (the tall thin one) are two small-time crooks with big hearts, who've decided to go straight. Which is why a mysterious stranger, sick and tired of having his property burgled every five minutes, has 'employed' the boys to test his security force. If the Bros can retrieve the items placed by 'Mr. X' in various heavily-guarded locations, he will reward them. And that is all.
The game consists of ten such situations, each with its own theme. The security force the boys find themselves testing consists of living guards as opposed to complex electronic systems. Then there are a few 'natural' hazards to contend with, too, such as rakes and soft drink cans which have been carelessly left lying around.
Bonanza Bros' scenery and cast have a slick and realistic look to them - almost like those computer-generated cartoons which are becoming increasingly elaborate by the minute. Here is a visual approach which is distinctive and attractive, yes, but also somehow serves to create the illusion of more depth of play than actually exists. With any luck it will inspire other authors to experiment, and we'll see a host of releases that look wildly different from anything that's come before. (We can but hope.)
Unfortunately, the Amiga conversion doesn't look quite as clean and wholesome on screen as the game does in the arcades (the visuals are smaller and less detailed than in the original arcade machine), but everything else seems to have survived the process of translation intact, and the result stands proud. A bravely different game then, and one you can't help feeling something for - though as entertainment in its own right, Bonanza Bros is not without fault.
The biggest flaw is a lack of depth. The action comprises of little more than trotting around, finding hiding places to avoid getting shot up, and shooting the security force or slamming doors in their faces while scoping the scene for loot. It's a formula for a fun time to be sure, but not for long - there are only ten not-entirely-sizeable stages to complete, and there's precious little scope for experimental play.
And that's not the only problem. The obvious potential of the subject matter hasn't been taken to the extremes it should either - the situation should have thrown up much more interesting puzzles, traps and whatnot than are found here. Equally, the ever present promise of hours of slapstick fun never fully materialises - Mobo and Robo slip over on Coke cans and tread on rakes that hit their faces, but that's as far as it goes. Other characters aren't affected by these obstacles at all!
A more varied security force would have been appreciated too, but it's more of a pity than the existing cast doesn't interact with each other enough. It'd have been fun to be able to trick two Security Guards into shooting each other or blowing each other up, but no. It'd have been nice to see lone and hard done by Security Guards calling on their copper mates to come and give the boys a good kicking, like in the bonus stage, but nah. And it'd have been great to see more use of the doors (What if you shut one in the face of a burglar-hungry dog, leaving it in such a mental state that it mauled the first character it came across - preferably the other Bonanza brother for some top-notch two-player twists?) but you know what I'm going to say, don't you? That's not in here either. The two player possibilities of the game haven't been explored at all (in fact, having both brothers involved tends to slow down the action in this conversion, though not to an unplayable extent).
I don't know. It's as though the designers ran out of ideas or time and so the theme hasn't been developed enough. Maybe it's a dry run for something bigger and better - who knows? Come on Sega. More, please. More Mobo. More Robo. And, most importantly, more content.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: An original(ish) theme complemented by a unique and interesting visual approach. And it's fun to play, too. At last, a Sega game you can really say has character!
Downers: What's there is a right laugh, but only for ten limited scenarios. A promising theme left almost criminally unexplored.
Stylish, but lacking in longevity. Like Storms' recent Rodland, Bonanza Bros is more of a snack than a full-blown nice-course meal (but it's tasty, tasty, very tasty all the same).