Bonanza Bros.

Platform: Arcade
Other Platforms: Mega Drive, Master System, Sharp X68000, PC Engine Super CD-ROM2, Amiga, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Astro City Mini
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1990
Genre: Platformer - Stealth
Players: 1-2 (Co-op)

Bonanza Bros. is a somewhat ambitious attempt to turn what should be a slow-paced game- an early stealth-like game, having to avoid being detected by an entire security force- into something that could be played in the arcade, with somewhat inconsistent but interesting results. As either Robo or Mobo, you must break into a variety of exotic locales such as a department store, a luxury cruise ship and even a pyramid to steal all the valuables (as evidence for corruption, honest) and get out without getting caught!

Stealth, in the world of Bonanza Bros., amounts to leaning up against walls (usually in the background layer, as you have two 'lanes' you can walk on) and staying out of the view of the various guards patrolling each location. Most of the time, this works well- stun enemies by shooting them to zip past 'em, watch their patrol patterns (obviously across a smaller space than something like Metal Gear to keep things going) and exploit their short-term memory by hiding to make them lose your scent. Not especially realistic, sure, but this works for an arcade game to keep things ticking over at a decent clip, even if it's still a bit slower than the usual arcade fare. However, given the vintage of this game, it sometimes feels like a bit of a dice-roll- some enemies like bomb-throwers and dogs can seemingly spot you even when they're not looking in your direction, for instance- and the fact that so many of the guards will shoot you on sight, with sometimes no reliable way to avoid being spotted, makes the game a little frustrating at points. The level designs are also a little here and there, with some being excellent for co-op and others being way more linear, which is a bit of a shame.

Still, it gets by with what it does, and it's backed up by a truly great visual style- heavy with gradients and highly abstract character designs that, thanks to the System-24 hardware, have way more animation frames than what you'd expect and make exellent use of colour. While they don't have proper faces, these designs still exude personality and charm! The sense of humour is on point too, with little slapstick elements like smacking doors into enemies to incapacitate them, tripping on a rake and getting walloped in the face with it, seeing the guards occasionally slack off as you slip by them... The great soundtrack helps add to the somewhat goofy atmosphere too, as do the over-the-top sound clips (there's plenty of big fans of the EH-HEH-HEH when the Bonanzas grab treasures, in particular) and so a lot of charm comes through thanks to the unique and amusing presentation.

I wouldn't say that Bonanza Bros. lives entirely off that charm, mind you, but it's definitely a little uneven, especially with how trigger-happy some of those guards are. Even so, this is a decent little arcade game that fares better in co-op mode, and there's not that many games like it, certainly not at the time and especially not in the arcade. Fortunately, some of these issues were fixed for the Mega Drive port if you want to try that version, but the arcade version is pretty alright with its foibles.

For being a comical 'reaction' game, Bonanza Bros. is awarded...

In a sentence, Bonanza Bros. is...
A unique arcade stealth-em-up, for good and ill.

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