Syd Lexia on Abadox: The Deadly Inner War
Today we're going to talk about two companies you may have heard of. The first is Milton Bradley, a board game company known primarily for games like Candy Land and Twister. Man, I used to love playing those games. The elderly guy next door used to invite all the neighborhood kids over to his house to play Twister, and he'd give us special grape juice, and then he'd bring out his Super 8 camera, and he'd invite his friends over, and... Well, long story short, I spent half of my eighth year on this planet undergoing a series of anal reconstructive surgeries and the other half in therapy. The upside to this was that learning fun and exciting words like "affidavit" and "coercion" at such a young age gave me a lifelong love of vocabulary that I carry with me to this day. The second company we're going to talk about is Natsume. Natsume is a Japanese company that is most famous in modern times for their-long running Harvest Moon series of video games, which by rough estimates currently includes well over a million titles. They also made Pocky and Rocky, a cult favorite from the SNES days. Eventually Natsume would acquire the resources to publish their own games, but in the NES days, they relied on other companies to publish their games in North America. And in the case of Abadox, that company was Milton Bradley. Milton Bradley's foray into electronic games began in 1978 with the release of Simon, the futuristic light-up memory game. The product was a big hit for Milton Bradley, and it encouraged them to pursue expansion into the video game industry. In 1979, they launched the Microvision, a portable cartridge-based gaming system. And since you've never heard of it before, I bet you can guess how successful it was. At this time, they also developed games for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A home computer, another flop. Then, when the designer of Microvision went on to create the Vectrex, Milton Bradley went on to make games for that too. Guess how that went. Here's a hint: Milton Bradley developed Vectrex games and a handful of Atari games through 1983; in 1984, they were bought out by Hasbro. In case you didn't figure it out, the answer was this: NOT VERY FUCKING WELL AT ALL.
In 1989, when Nintendomania was in full swing, the Milton Bradley name was used to publish NES games. The first string of games they published was Marble Madness, California Games, Jordan vs. Bird, and World Games, of which all but the last title met with some level of commercial success. Encouraged by this, a second wave of games came in 1990: Abadox, Captain Skyhawk, Cabal, Time Lord, and Digger T. Rock. These games did not fare as well in the sales department, and Milton Bradley's second foray into video games soon came to an end as well. And that's unfortunate, because at least one of these games, Abadox, was pretty fucking awesome.
Abadox takes place in the year 5012, because why not? If a game takes place in a future setting, you might as well just pull numbers out of a hat to determine the year. Or better yet, roll 4d10 and then arrange the numbers to your liking. Anyway, at some arbitrary point in a timeline that's probably fictional, there's a planet named Abadox. One day, the planet is invaded by an alien parasite named... Parasitis. Yeah, I know, that's an awful fucking name. I'll give you a few minutes to loudly and sufficiently groan over the parasitic parasite that is Parasitis and then we'll regroup.
And we're back. So Parasitis consumes Planet Abadox, essentially turning it into a techno-organic version of the Death Star. Or, if you prefer, you can imagine the Parasitis/Abadox hybrid as Galactus in Madball form. Realizing the fate of the galaxy is at stake, an assault is launched from nearby space stations. The attack fails, and pretty much everyone dies, with two exceptions. The first is Princess Maria, who was on a hospital ship that has been swallowed by the planet. The second is Second Lieutenant Nazal - that's you. You were forced to retreat early in the assault due to your ship's faulty energy drive, and now you're the only soldier left alive. An entire fleet of ships failed to stop Parasitis, do you:
A) Jettison from your ship and attack a giant planet monster with nothing but a jetpack and a dinky little laser gun.
B) RUN THE FUCKING HELL AWAY
If you chose Option B, you probably don't really understand much about how video games work. The correct answer is Option A. Yes, even though it seems unlikely that one man will succeed where an army failed to make so much as a dent, one person will probably succeed. Or maybe not; this game is pretty fucking tough. Did I mention that Abadox is an autoscrolling shoot 'em up, not entirely unlike Gradius or Darius? Because it is, and that's probably a bit of relevant information that you'd like to have.
The game opens on the planet's surface where you are attacked by body-themed enemies: skulls, eyeballs, different eyeballs, vagina dentatas, and of course, pterodactyls. As you battle these monsters, you fly past the blood-soaked wreckage of your fallen comrades. Considering Nintendo of America's notoriously strict censorship policies during this era, it's amazing this game was allowed on the market. Blood and guts generally aren't considered family-friendly, and this game is pretty much nothing but blood and guts. And bones. And then I guess some other stuff too. But the burning question is this: where they hell do these monsters all come from? Is Parasitis able to resuscitate creatures it has engulfed as its zombie-like servants? The game manual doesn't really address this, because we weren't supposed to ask these kinds of questions. We were just supposed to accept the universal law of NES games: things will try to kill you, but if you kill them first they might turn into delicious candy. Full disclosure: nothing turns into candy in this game.
Every so often a jet-powered blue horse thing will fly towards you. Shooting it will release a power-up. If you've ever played a shoot 'em up, the usual suspects are all here: the speed boost, the bullet shield, the laser, the spread shot, the wide shot, missiles, and temporary invincibility. While our past Contra experience would dictate that the spread shot is always the best weapon, the spread shot seems to be fairly underpowered in this game. In the world of Abadox, I generally favor the wide shot with missile support. This provides a much better damage radius than the laser, and is only slightly less damaging.
Welcome to the Level 1 mini boss. I call this guy Bone Doggy, because he resembles a canine skeleton. Also, he's got an Abadox attached to him. Wait, Abadox is the planet. Doesn't Abadox sound like it should be the name of the parasite? It's a very aggressive sounding word, to the point where it could have been the name of an 80s thrash band. If I could draw, or had friends who could draw, this is the part of the article where I'd show you ABADOX written in the style of the Slayer logo. But, back to the Bone Doggy. He jumps and he shoots diamonds. Occasionally, the parasite fires a conjunctivitis-colored bullet. This guy takes a decent amount of hits to die, but he's pretty easy. If you have problems here, prepare to hate the rest of the game.
With Bone Doggy defeated, you leave the planet's surface and enter its mouth. What, you didn't know planets have mouths? Well, they do. Mouths filled with sharp teeth and off-brand Cheep Cheeps. Why are there fish in a mouth, you ask? Well, maybe it's not the type of mouth you were thinking of. Forget I said that. I'm not doing that joke. If I do that joke, people will say mean things about me on Twitter and Tumblr and accuse me of smell-shaming or something. "Death," they'll say. "Death to the cisgendered white smell-shamer!" Well, no thank you. I don't need that sort of trouble. No vagina jokes today, my love has gone away. This fish canal stands forlorn, a symbol of the dawn.
And now there's a tongue. If you're a regular reader of SydWhatever.com, you might be familiar with the tongue. It pulsates and it wants to make out with you... TO DEATH. But you can just fly over it. Problem solved. Past the tongue, one finds... I don't know, tonsils? Tongue depressors? Extra long gumdrops, ribbed for her pleasure? Oh shit, that was a gender-specific joke that makes assumptions based on traditional gender roles. PLEASE DON'T CASTRATE ME, TUMBLR. I'M SO SORRY. God, I don't know why I made a condom joke; I don't even believe in condoms! I mean, it's not my fucking job to make sure girls don't get pregnant. And besides, that's what postcoital Rosary prayers are for.
This is the boss of the first level, a giant bloody face that fires the same diamonds and yellowish brown bullets at you that Bone Doggy did. As you can see, this face is gender neutral, having both male and female traits. The razor-like teeth are reminiscent of a woman who has just seen a sale on candied chocolates on her way to the soap opera store, while the compassionate eyes immediately call to mind the impossibly handsome Mel Gibson. Oh Mel, you could be MY lethal weapon any day. Well, not next Tuesday, because I have a dentist appointment. But other than that, my schedule is pretty free. Moving on, as far as NES games go, this is pretty fucking terrifying. Nintendo of America was very concerned that allowing crucifixes in Faxanadu might offend some people, but they weren't concerned that a gruesome face that emerges from a sanguine mess of entrails might be considered nightmare fuel. Such is life. This boss is pretty easy to beat. Shoot and dodge, and this thing will explode in no time. And then, it's on to Level 2.
For the second level, the game switches to a top-down shooter, a style used by games such as 1943 and Raiden. But unlike those games, Abadox scrolls downward instead of upward. There's a reason most games scroll either upward or left-to-right, it feels more intuitive. Scrolling upward implies ascension, which implies progress. Scrolling downward, in turn, implies descent, which is generally associated with regression and failure e.g. a descent into alcoholism, a descent into pop culture madness. In terms of Abadox, the choice to scroll downward was probably intentional, because you're descending further and further into the parasite-infected planet. Along with the perspective change, we have new enemies. There are more eyeballs, but there are also metal platforms that send blue rectangles at you. What purpose they serve is beyond me. In fact, what the fuck they're even supposed to be is beyond me. Are these more of the crashed ships we saw on the planet's surface? Perhaps, but they seem far too square for that to be the case. There are also some bizarre worm-like things that I assume are either Chinese dragons or some sort of demonic sperm. Since the game is subtitled The Deadly Inner War, I'll let you decide which option is more likely.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night screaming that there are motherfucking geckos crawling around inside you and you can feel them clawing at your veins? If so, your fears might not be entirely unjustified, because there are little orange lizards roaming around inside Abadox. Oh, and you see those aorta-type things on the walls? They spray bullets at you. But that's not the best part of this level. No, the best part of this level is that blood-soaked arms emerge from the walls and try to grab you. If trigger warnings had been a thing in 1990, this would have totally constituted one. This stage is really fucking hard. This is a game where one hit kills you and death means you restart from the beginning of the level or the midpoint. So, good luck with this bullshit.
Here's the second mini boss, a snake made entirely out of eyeballs that circles the screen and sprays bullets at you. This thing is a fucking pain in the ass to beat. It's not so much that it's hard to dodge its attacks as it is that's it's hard to hit this goddamned thing. If you get too aggressive and try to shoot it when it's coming up the side at you, you run the risk of getting hit by an errant bullet and having to start the whole level over. Play it safe, take the easy shots, and this thing will go down. It will take forever though.
This is the second part of Level 2, also known as Planet Bullshit. Do you enjoy navigating narrow passageways while the walls shit bullets at you, arms try and grab you, and geckos try and bite your face off? If so, you'll love this part of the game. If not, prepare to scream obscenities at your TV screen. Don't worry though, you'll be able to continue from the midpoint when you run out of lives, and you get unlimited continues. After a couple thousand tries worth of practice, this isn't so bad.
This is the second boss, and nothing too difficult. Dodge the red fuzzies, dodge the blue diamonds, dodge the purple horseshoes. The purple horseshoes will be especially easy to dodge because they don't exist. We decided I'm not doing yonic jokes anymore, right? That's unfortunate, because that's really all I've got to say here. I've got like three and a half really good yonic jokes about this boss, and you're going to get to hear none of them. So instead, I'll leave with you this: this thing resembles a basic enemy from the final level of Contra, right down to its projectiles.
And now we're in Level 3. This level is gray, because not every fucking level can be red. This is either supposed to be bones or brain matter, I'm not entirely sure which. My guess would be bones, just because I'm pretty sure that brains aren't arranged into columns. This level returns to the sidescrolling format of the first level, and once again introduces all-new enemies for you to murder. This time around we've got red blood cells, flowers with eyeballs and little blue eye monsters. In case you haven't noticed yet, whoever designed this game had a serious fucking eye fetish. It's really fucking creepy.
MINI BOSS! Here's some weird flying prehistoric fish thing. Unlike most other creatures you encounter in this game, the fish thing wants to be your friend. It compliments your hairstyle and then shoots free power-ups at you. After that, it maps out the the rest of the planet for you and explains how to beat the rest of the game's bosses. After a parting hug, the two of you exchange friendship bracelets and go your separate ways. Fittingly enough, the popular Journey song "Separate Ways" plays in the background as this happens. And now comes the part where I tell you that none of what I just said is true and the fish just floats back and forth puking bullets in your general direction. Except, all that other stuff I said actually is true. Don't believe me? Play the game yourself and prove me wrong.
The second half of the level finds a return to color. We're now surrounded by... DNA strands? I guess? Does it really matter? I really like the colors and design of this section. It is aesthetically pleasing to me. Also, we're now fighting trilobites and brine shrimp. So, uh, maybe these are DNA strands. Between the prehistoric fish monster and the trilobites, it would seem that Parasitis is using mosquitoes trapped in amber to clone long-dead creatures. I know what you're thinking: that's a total fucking rip-off of Jurassic Park. But Abadox, originally released in Japan in December 1989, predates the publication of Michael Crichton's novel by almost a full year. So, in a way, it's like Jurassic Park ripped off Abadox. That's probably not true at all.
So here's the Level 3 boss. It's a dead alien with, surprise, an eye monster in its chest. The eye monster shoots both projectiles and red blood cells at you. Still, it's not that tough. For the most part, the bosses in this game aren't as frustrating as getting to them is. This thing is damn cool though. One scale of 1 to JESUS CHRIST MAKE IT STOP, this thing is slightly more horrifying than the first level's boss. There's something completely unnerving about slowly approaching a giant terrifying monster, expecting to have to fight it, only to discover it's dead and you're fighting the giant oculus protruding from its chest cavity.
Welcome to Level 4. The game gets a little boring here. We're fighting bubbles, crabs, and snake-like things that replace the bloody arms from Level 2. I really have nothing further to say about this. I feel obligated to write a paragraph about this part of the game, because that's my typical review style, but there's nothing to say, other than the walls have a texture similar to strawberry skin. But that's it. Have I written enough words yet? I'm not sure. I generally prefer to have lengthy walls of text between screenshots, but it's just not always possible. This seems looks a decent amount of words. Let's move on.
Here's the Level 4 mini boss. It's a slightly bigger crab monster thing! But wait, here's the twist: instead of blue diamonds, it shoots blue CIRCLES at you. Yeah, so this part of the game is kinda sorta boring as hell. And this is like the ONE fucking boss in the game that doesn't resemble a lady crevasse, so I can't even make inflammatory vagina jokes to take up space. But girls, if *your* vagina is inflamed, let me recommend Monistat 7 Antifungal Cream. Monistat 7 is safe and effective, and it's currently available for only $14.15 on Amazon.com. Remember, you can't be a fun gal without an antifungal cream. That's a scientific fact.
The second half of the level is a little better. It finds you scaling your way along a demonic colon. Or maybe it's a demonic esophagus. But whatever it is, I think we can all agree that it's certainly demonic. But we probably can't. There's always gonna be some contrarian asshole who disagrees just to disagree. But whatever sort of vital organ we ultimately decide this is, four things are indisputable: it's veiny, it's spiky, it's oblong, and it's covered in eyeballs. Maybe it's a heart. That sounds an awful lot like a heart.
And then you get to the bottom, and it's a boss fight! And guess what? There's yet another eyeball for you to shoot at. I'm starting to think this game was financed by the CIA as a mind control experiment to see if test subjects could be compelled to gouge their eyes out. If so, it didn't work on me. While playing this game, I never once got the urge to take an ice pick and jam it into an eye socket, mine or otherwise. But you know what I did get? A raging boner. Yes, even when I first played this game at nine years old. In fact, especially when I was nine years old. The imagery is this game is just so fucking hot. I know you've been thinking that this whole time, and I just wanted to vindicate you: this game is highly erotic.
Onward, to Level 5. The game takes a really fascinating turn here. Suddenly, everything has shifted from organic to electronic. I guess there's only so much you can do with the blood and guts and eyeballs motif, huh? Besides, this is the year 5012, goddamit. How are we supposed to remember that if we're not shown exciting futuristic technology that's so fucking advanced that we can't even begin to speculate on its precise functionality? Just look at all those tubes, coils, and wires. What could that shit possibly do? Our feeble modern brains, lacking nearly three thousand years of evolution, can't possibly comprehend such things. This section is really fucking annoying; the walls are just as deadly as the actual enemies.
The fifth level's mini boss is actually pretty damn cool. It's a trio of your fallen comrades, now possessed by Parasitis. What's really neat about this battle is that the soldiers mimic your weapon. If you have the laser, they shoot lasers at you. And if you have the super fabulous 1980s hoop earring gun, they will fire big blue bangles at you. And that's not fun. Thankfully, you don't have to kill these guys individually. Just keep shooting and eventually they'll all explode in one nice pyrotechnic display.
I don't think I've really driven this point home, but starting with Level 2, this game gets really fucking hard. One hit kills you, and you are constantly dodging bullets from every direction while simultaneously navigating passageways that like to bottleneck you into small spaces. In many cases, you will find yourself in a situation where all you can do is choose *how* you die: death by bullet, death by wall collision, or death by enemy collision. Yes, you get an upgradeable shield that helps deflect bullets, and there's an invincibility power-up that protects you from a few direct bullets, but they both dissipate quickly in sticky situations. And neither one protects you against collisions. So when the second half of Level 5 introduces GIANT FUCKING GREEN LASERS that blink on and off, it's complete fucking bullshit. As if the game didn't already throw enough at you. Fuck you, Abadox.
And now here's a giant robot for some reason. I mean, what the hell can I say, other than it looks like a less sexy version of an Autograph album cover? It sure is.... metallic. And... robotic. And like $10 fried dough from a traveling carnival with cinnamon on top, there's a very healthy splash of red. Okay, $10 is probably a little high. That fried dough is probably only like $5, maybe $7 tops. And it's worth every fucking penny. But getting back to the game, let me say this: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, shoot the robot.
Welcome to the sixth and (mostly) final level. The technology theme continues with more robot skull monsters and even more lasers. The twist is that this time the lasers are yellow instead of green. And there's a giant compactor thing too, just for good measure. The compactor is the literal embodiment of the game's ultimate ambition: to crush your hopes and dreams with its irritatingly high difficulty. On an awesome side note, kudos to this game for its use of my signature #9966FF brand of purple.
If you've been disappointed by the lack of eyes over the last level and a half, fear not: the final mini boss is Momma Eye and her four babies! I'm pretty sure if you concentrate your firepower on the big eye, the little ones will automatically explode when it dies. I'm not sure if that's actually true though, because I always go out my way to kill the babies first. I mean, why wouldn't I? When you have an option to either kill babies or not kill babies, I always kill the babies. It really takes me back to the good ol' days, when I got drafted into Vietnam. I got so much pussy and killed so many babies. It was awesome.
More of the same, but with some Wacky WallWalkers. Enough already, let's just get to the final boss...
And here we are, the end boss! I guess this is Parasitis at its most parasitic. It fires the diamonds at you and flails lobster claws in your general direction. Oh yeah, and it summons ghosts. That's reasonable, right? This thing is pretty annoying, as one might expect an end boss to be. You've got to dodge the claws, the bullets, the ghosts, and the walls, and it's just too much. I know I said no more vagina jokes, but what about clitoris jokes? Because I've got a pretty good clitoris joke, and it's this: the average guy has about as much chance of discovering this clitoris-like boss as they do of finding an actual clitoris - zero. Oh snap, take that, guys who aren't me. I totally found the clitoris, and I did it the same way I beat the original Metroid: trial and error, and lots of hand-drawn maps.
THANK YOU, SPACE GUY! BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER ABADOX. Wait, no she's not. That part of Parasitis that looked like a mummy was actually Princess Maria, who had been cocooned by the evil organism. Why Parasitis immediately killed every other living thing it encountered, but chose to hold the princess captive, I'll never know. Actually, I do know: it's because rescuing princesses was the popular style at the time. Gamers were assumed to be heterosexual male youths at the time of this game's release, and what heterosexual male boy didn't want to rescue a cute girl from extreme danger? In this case, me. I prefer girls who don't dress like Hare Krishnas.
Parasitis is dead, which means its host is rapidly dying as well. And that means you get to partake in a super tedious escape sequence. This sequence isn't necessarily hard, but it does require rote memorization due to the speed at which it moves. Imagine a slightly less unfair version of the Battletoads level Volkmire's Inferno; that's basically what this section is. One thing you'd notice, if you were actually playing through this sequence yourself, is that you're flying through all the level textures you fought your way through, but in reverse order. See, because you're escaping. The fact that you get infinite continues makes this section rather undaunting, but if you don't like it, you can always just give up. You already killed Parasitis and saved the galaxy... who really gives a fuck if a soldier and princess escape?
If you do complete the escape sequence, you're treated to a shot of Nazal and Maria escaping from the planet Abadox right before it explodes. You survived. Hooray. Overall, this is a pretty awesome game. It's creative, it's tough, and it's completely uncharacteristic of the sort of stuff Nintendo of America was usually wont to approve for the NES. I feel like perhaps if the Milton Bradley name hadn't been attached to it, it wouldn't have been allowed in North America in its unedited form. Perhaps the good folks at Milton Bradley even made some bullshit pitch to NOA executives about how the game was educational and taught kids about anatomy or something. As we've seen, it most certainly did no such fucking thing. But the idea that some clueless bureaucrat bought into such an obvious lie is just plausible enough that I choose to believe it's true.
Did I beat this game back in the day? Yes, yes I did. But only because there are cheat codes that enable invulnerability, instant power-ups, and a level select. You can look those up on your own if you want, but I recommend at least trying the game before looking up the cheat codes. As for me, I still can't beat the game without the cheat codes. Maybe someday I will. But probably not. This game is fucking tough.
Posted by: Syd Lexia
PRESENTED BY NATSUME