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Review: Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum

Trash Can Children

Trash Can Children

The Garbage Pail Kids are a bit out of my wheelhouse. I don’t particularly like gross-out humor. Even some of the stuff in Ren & Stimpy is too much for me. I respect gross-out humor. I think it’s probably healthy to find amusement in bodily functions that we all experience but, for some reason, choose to demonize. That doesn’t change things, though. It doesn’t tickle the atrophied humor muscle in my brain.

Except for butts. Butts are forever funny.

However, the NES is part of my domain. So when Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum arrived, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to pick up a physical copy of it for NES. To be clear, I bought this myself. When I covered Blazing Rangers back in February, First Press Games had offered me a copy of it. I’m not sure Iam8bit even has my contact information, and I’m too polite and shy to actually ask for anyone for review copies.

Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum (NES, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Developer: Retrotainment Games, Digital Eclipse
Publisher: iam8bit
Released: October 25, 2022
MSRP: $9.99 (Digital), $79.99 (NES)

If you’re unfamiliar with the Garbage Pail Kids, it was an attempt to take the Cabbage Patch Kids and turn it into the most unwholesome, disgusting mutation possible. They were chiefly a series of trading cards, but they eventually spun off into a movie that has been described as “the worst ever” and a cartoon series that got canceled before it even hit the air. My husband says the cartoon is “interesting” but that I “definitely wouldn’t like it.”

Garbage Pail Kids went away for the ‘90s but came back in the ‘00s, as you can’t keep a good property down. They’re the perfect storm of parents hating them and kids loving them that made them memorable.

There was never a video game spin-off of the property, but there probably should have been, so Retrotainment Games got the license and went straight to correcting history. They created Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum for the NES hardware. Iam8bit picked it up as publisher, and last year it hit consoles and PC with the help of Digital Eclipse. Now, it’s been pressed to an NES cartridge, which feels absolutely poetic.

Butts are forever funny

Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum is a platformer that feels like a mash-up of a lot of different games while also being its own thing. You can swap between four characters at any time, which feels sort of like Little Samson or Bucky O’Hare. However, the levels, while linear, have some exploration elements to them, which prevents the game from just feeling like a clone. It still feels like a license-focused platformer but in a more favorable sense. Like Duck Tales.

Also, like Duck Tales, you get to select the order of levels. There are six in total that cover a range of locations and time periods. Your team of grotesque children doesn’t earn any new skills as they progress, so the order you tackle them is completely up to you.

The children themselves are diverse. They provide the skills of melee, jumping, projectiles, and also projectiles, but these projectiles arc downward. They each have their own health bar, but the different characters are one of the low-points of Garbage Pail Kids’ design.

Leaky Lindsay is easily the most useful, having a direct projectile attack that keeps you out of the way of enemy attacks. Mike is okay for dealing damage to bosses. Patty Putty is exclusively used for jumping, as Garbage Pail Kids doesn’t make for a good hop-and-bop. However, as each kid has their own health bar, they can also die individually. This means you might have to use Leaky Lindsay sparingly, and being stuck with only Patty Putty left alive is just a drag. As you lose children, the experience just gets worse and worse.

Top of the trash heap

Otherwise, Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum is a pretty solid NES title. Some of the levels drag a bit, but on the whole, they’re diverse and interesting. The sprite work is solid, the music pops, and there’s a well-stocked buffet of bosses to take on. It doesn’t really feel like a homebrew game. You could easily mistake it as a title that came out in maybe ‘91 or ‘92 during the twilight days of the NES.

They even managed to work in trading and collecting cards. You pick them up from knocked-over trash cans and can swap them with NPCs scattered throughout the levels. Some of them help you out by resurrecting kids or nuking the screen, but others are just to collect. If you have them all at the end, you get a little certificate telling you that you managed to get them all. It’s fun stuff.

Of course, it’s also really gross. You could probably guess that by the fact that one of the children is perpetually caked in slime and shoots boogers as a projectile. It didn’t disgust me beyond my tolerance, but the gross-out humor is definitely still here.

The grossest gang of goofs ever

The cartridges were done by NESInfiniteLives. Some early images showed the two colors of cartridge, blue and pink, as being opaque. It seems like the production cartridges are transparent, as that’s what I got, which I’m not as much of a fan of. It’s still a quality product, though. They’re just not going to fool anyone into believing these are authentic. The game also doesn’t come with a dust cover, but the boxes are sealed and have stickers on them that look like price tags but really just denote the size of the production run.

Most importantly, though, it works in my NES. The manual it comes with is also very informative and includes a foreword by one of the developers. Iam8bit doesn’t seem obsessive about nailing the authenticity of the product, but they definitely get the job done. Although, it might be a bit more expensive than it should be.

Buying the physical copy also nets you the Steam version of the game if you don’t have it already. The PC version comes with bonus videos and filters that obviously can’t fit on the NES hardware, so it’s nice that you don’t have to miss out on the special features just because you want it on a cartridge.

Better than the movie (probably)

Really, though, Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum is just a decent game. It’s top shelf for the console, but maybe not tippy-top. Like, it’s not a top 10 game, or a top 20. Top 50 is a bit more believable, but at the very least, it’s a top 100. It’s comparable to, say, Vice: Project Doom’s level of quality. Like Shatterhand or S.C.A.T. Not quite great, but better than good, you know?

In a lot of ways, Garbage Pail Kids: Mad Mike and the Quest for Stale Gum demonstrates how far the homebrew market has come. Here we have a licensed game released nearly 30 years after the end of the NES lifespan. It contains all the graphical trickery and polished gameplay of a latter-day title, and you could almost believe that it really is a lost prototype brought back to life. It may be gross, but if you’re a fan of the console or the Garbage Pail Kids, you should definitely find some way to rub it all over yourself.

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