Reviewed 10/12/00

Forget about Spanky's Quest, Goemon or even Fish Dude, Stinger is without a doubt the kookiest game you will ever play. This early-NES Konami shmup' is riddled with just the kind of off-beat stuff that helps make the NES the best system in existance. Just listen to the story; the professor of all candy is kidnapped by a mysterious force, and calls upon his greatest inventions, pastel colored flying ships with boxing gloves called 'Stingers', to save him.

The game is actually the original Twinbee, which you may be familiar with if you are a shooter fan, and Stinger remains the only game of the series to ever be ported to the US. It plays similar to the Gradius series, only it has a much more open level design that focuses entirely on dealing with different enemy attack patterns, there are no land obstacles to get in your way. There are 2 sidescroller levels and (I think) 4 overhead levels, I personally am glad they decided to mix it up. The first thing you will notice when you play the game is the very bright and limited color palette, there are no traditional dark backgrounds until the very end.

Enemies include such things as coat hangers, lollipops, penguins, boots, gigantic watermelons, and I don't know about the kitchen sink, but there is a faucet boss. As you see, it's pure insanity. Power-ups can be attained in 2 ways, the main way is to shoot bells (not balls or globes as every other Stinger review claims) out of clouds that are passing by constantly, shoot it 6 times to turn it into a speed-up, 6 more for a weapon upgrade, and so on and so on. It is VERY hard to get a high-end power up like a force field or options, and it can be hard to focus on getting any power-up at all due to the insane amount of enemies on screen at any given time in the later levels. Other power ups, such as the ability to shoot left and right and the elusive ultimate weapon, the spread gun, are hidden in buildings or structures along the ground.

The game doesn't have many music tracks, but what is there is good. Basically it has one track for the opening scene, and one that plays throughout the entire game. When you get any kind of power-up the music changes, this other song has a higher tempo, it really lets you know "OK, your powered up, now get in there and kick some ass".

If anything really sticks out, it is the boss fights. The screen goes dark, and the bosses are more or less the only thing with a lot of detail in the graphics, but unfortunately none of them give you much of a challenge. As for extras, the game gives you 1ups for scoring lots of points, and sometimes gives you a bonus level at the end if you find a secret token, where you can score 1 or 2 power-ups. Make no doubt about it though, the game is really tough. I would even venture to say it's tougher than Life Force, except that Stinger gives you unlimited continues (believe me, you will need them). In terms of enjoyability, it only falls a hair short of the great shooter Life Force. If you are a shmup' fan, pick this game up as soon as you can. If you're not, pick it up anyway. How many other games give you a chance to fight an army of evil lollipops and coat hangers, for the fate of all the worlds candy?

Graphics 8
Distinctly bright, and very early-NES
The simplicity of it may turn some people off
Sound 7
3 tracks
But what is there is good
Innovation 10
Certainly the first and only shooter of it's kind I've played
Just about the only game that slipped by before game makers started seriously Americanizing U.S. games
Gameplay 8
Classic Konami shmup action, but without as much restrictiveness as Gradius or Life Force
Often the same fleet of enemies attacks over and over, boss fights are not challenging
Replay Value 8
Infinite continues, will take a lot of your time
Good for a quick play

Overall Score