Retro Game Review: “Fox’s Peter Pan & The Pirates: The Revenge of Captain Hook” (NES)

Today we’re going to look at Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates: The Revenge of Captain Hook, an action-platformer published by THQ (aka Toy Headquarters) for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991.

Developed by Equilibrium, Revenge of Captain Hook is based on the animated series of the same name that ran on Fox Kids’ Saturday morning cartoon rotation, Peter Pan and the Pirates. The game naturally puts players in the boots of the titular “Boy Who Never Grew Up”, who is engrossed in a battle to rid Neverland from the villainous Captain Hook and his dastardly pirate crew.

The game features nine stages, with the first six stages alternate between tropical jungle and caves, with the final three stages being exclusively left for Hook’s pirate ship, the Jolly Roger. Each of these stages are littered with pirates, hazards, and other enemies and obstacles. Most of the pirates are carrying pistols and take shots at Pan, while there is also a worthless, obese pirate that simply wanders back and forth aimlessly. Were there any fat, worthless lumps of codfish excrement in Hook’s crew in the cartoon? If there were, I’ve forgotten about them, because fat characters are dumb. And fat.

In addition to the swashbuckling (or buckle-busting) pirates, the great Pan also has to contend with giant bats, spiders, and the ever-present Croc who is waiting for you to fall into the waters below. Most of the requisite environmental hazards in 8-bit platfomers are present, including falling pieces of stalactites, fire, and cannons. All in all, this a disappointing set of enemies and traps considering that the world around you is supposed to be the magical world of Never-Neverland. 

Flying is indiscriminate from jumping when paused

Pan traverses these treacherous traps and dispenses with the pernicious pirates by running, jumping, slashing with his trusty dagger, and flying when you have enough magical fairy dust to do so. The flying ability controls well enough, but having to recharge it is a bit of a bummer and you can’t attack while flying either, which makes zero sense. Otherwise, the controls are really rough, and Pete gets hung up on the environment like a boy who never grew up, nor did he ever get off the short bus. He doesn’t even walk up the stairs, instead he does an annoying, unwieldy hop. To make matters worse, your dagger is pitifully, pre-pubescently small, so getting in close enough to score a slash or stab against your enemies. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah… Where’re all ‘dem mermaids at?

Peter must defeat all of the pirates in an area before moving on to the next stage. While this can be a bit annoying considering how poorly the game’s combat feels, it still makes sense to force you into these fights so that you don’t simply fly over all of the enemies like the easier stages in a Kirby game. At least there aren’t any time limits, so backtracking won’t penalize you or cost you anything other than wasted time of your life. 

Once you’ve bested Hook’s lot of underlings in each stage, you’ll have to face off against the prosthetic-powered Captain himself. This is essentially the same lackluster fight, at least until the final battle where you must knock Hook off his ship into the waiting jaws of the Croc below. 

Pan’s blade isn’t small. It’s… cute.

One aspect of Revenge of Captain Hook that can’t be accused of being boring is the graphics, but not in a good way. Many of the color choices are garish, with an overwhelming presence of pink. There are pink pirates, a pink Tinkerbell, pink spiders, fire, giant balls, and even a pink Peter Pan himself. Even the title screen is pink. To borrow a phrase from the time of this game’s release, it’s all kind of gay. At least the giant bats are black and Hook himself is more reddish, but its just bizarre that some other colors weren’t used for the character sprites. 

The audio experience in Revenge of Captain Hook is much of the same. There are only three songs that play in the background, none of which are very good, and are often just as grating to the ears as the bright pink characters are to your eyes. At least the television series’ theme song is present at the main title screen, albeit in 8-bit chiptune form, of course.

A bonus stage featuring – you guessed it – more pink.

At the end of the day, perhaps Revenge of Captain Hook’s worst crime is that it doesn’t make use of the Peter Pan franchise very well. Sure, there isn’t much that is inconsistent with the franchise, as the most critical boxes are checked: Pan, Hook, Tinkerbell, pirates, fairy dust, and even a brief appearance by Wendy at the start of the game. Otherwise, there is very little creativity on display for a game that is set in Never-Never Land. The forests could be forests from any other game, the caves could be any caves, and the overall stage design could be endlessly recycled. There’s no creative boss fights or broader use of the Peter Pan mythos such as the Lost Boys or a stage filled with sexy mermaids. There’s not even a flying-themed stage, for crying out loud.  

Everything about the video game experience of Fox’s Peter Pan and the Pirates is tedious and uninspired, and I really can’t recommend it to anyone for any reason other than it being a pop culture curio.

I suppose Captain Hook’s revenge is truly complete. Pan is finally undone. Well done, THQ.

It’s really not, though.

Thanks for reading!

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