Despite the fact that Bill S. Preston and Ted Logan are in a rock band, LJN and developer Rocket Science failed to put any rock music into their "excellent video game adventure". But maybe that's okay, since they also failed to put an "excellent adventure" in it, and only just barely got in an actual video game.
Storywise, the game is a sequel to the hit 80's movie, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. As you might already know, the basic premise of the movie is that a teen slacker duo travels through time in a futuristic phone booth to prevent themselves from failing history class, which could cause the breakup of their band. As Rufus (a man from the future played by George Carlin) informs them, the band needs to stay together because their music will eventually bring about world peace. Along their journey, Bill and Ted meet many historical figures, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Sigmund Freud, Socrates, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The teens are lovably dimwitted, so things don't always go quite as expected, which is the main source of the film's humor.
Are you ready for this?
Shortly after the movie's events, a group of rebels kidnaps various historical people and misplaces them throughout time. Rufus (who looks less like George Carlin now) is once again the messenger. He tells the duo that it will somehow prevent them from ever forming Wyld Stallyns if things aren't put back to normal. How taking Marilyn Monroe from the 50's and putting her in Ancient Egypt could affect Bill and Ted's future is never explained. Also never explained is who the rebels are, nor are they ever seen.
Unfortunately, you won't meet any of the same historical people that were in the movie. Instead, we have figures like George Washington, Jesse James, Confucious, and Cleopatra, which I don't necessarily mind, but one or two crossovers would have been nice.
Upon arriving in a world, it will be either Bill or Ted's task (they alternate turns each world, but are identical in abilities) to find the historical "dude" or "dudette" and return him or her to their proper time period. The way you go about this is by finding a hidden "historical bait". Possession of the right bait will cause the figurehead to suddenly appear in one of the level's empty houses.
There are four historical baits scattered around each world, but only one of them will be what the current figurehead wants. Since you'll have no idea where the right one is hidden, you'll have to search everywhere until you find it. And how does one do that?
You find any random background object.
Launch yourself 40 feet in the air.
Then slam your ass onto it in hopes the bait will be stored there.
I kid you not. This entire game consists almost entirely of launching yourself and slamming your ass onto rocks, trees, fences, bushes, and cacti. Since the worlds are deceptively large (spanning multiple screens high and wide) and contain about a centillion background objects, be prepared to slam your ass for many hours to come.
Sure, the villagers sometimes give you clues. This will inevitably help you find one or two baits. But the clues for the remaining ones are either vague, misleading, or nonexistant, which means you'll still have to slam onto every object you come across. In one example, I was told to "check the last fence". Well, there are about two dozen fences in this world. Which one is "the last"? Then I got that same clue in the next world, and that world didn't even have any fences! Sometimes you'll slam into the correct object, but if you don't land exactly right, you won't find the bait. So, you might accidentally skip a bait because you tried searching that rock, and it didn't work, which leads to hours of endless wandering around.
I'll confess that although I managed to struggle through the first few worlds on my own, I eventually started resorting to a FAQ for the later ones. I have to wonder though - if a game doesn't play by its own rules, how much should I really be expected to?
While you're busy butt-slamming your way around the monotonous environments, you'll be constantly harassed by enemies that either steal your items or send you to jail. Getting out of jail requires that you have a jail key in reserve, or else it's game over. Getting rid of enemies requires that you use expendable items that become progressively more difficult to replenish the farther you get in the game. Villagers that throw you in jail on contact become faster and more plentiful with each new stage, and the damn things never stop chasing you. You will inevitably run out of items trying to deal with them and be left in what I call "Sitting Duck Gameplay", where you have no method of attack.
But wait! There's a way to escape the jailers even without weapons. The enemies can only walk on set paths, but you can leap off the trails and into the background areas (just like you would when searching for the baits). The problem is that once you're off the path, you can't walk anymore. You have to get around by jumping. So, that means (you guessed it!) even more butt-slamming!
If there's any way in which the game tried to be faithful to the movie, it's in the dialogue, which is based on the teen "surfer dude" or "pothead" slang that was further popularized by similar 90's outlets like Wayne's World and Beavis & Butt-head.
While I did find it slightly amusing at first, I only got enjoyment from it out of the first few levels. After that, I found that if you didn't answer people's conversations exactly as the game wants you to, you get thrown in jail. Since Bill and Ted have a limited vocabulary and even more limited thought capacity, most of their answers are similar, making it impossible to figure out which one is "right". The tedium of having to walk all the way across the world again after being sent back to jail or having to start the stage all over again from running out of jail keys far outweighed the entertainment the dialogue provided. It's also regrettable that since they operate in separate levels, Bill and Ted never interact with each other, which renders one of the best aspects of the film absent.
While you may enjoy the movie more for the comedy than its plot, the game's story lacks any value besides serving as the basic setup for its repetitive stages. You go to a world. You find a person. You take them home. That's it. Because of the way the game randomly chooses characters, you sometimes rescue someone from a time period it seems like they belong in (Cleopatra from Ancient Egypt, Sitting Bull from the Old West, King Arthur from the Medieval World). The random select also results in rescuing the same person more than once. I swear I got Julius Caeser four or five times, but never once Christopher Columbus or Thomas Edison.
The only thing that might seem impressive about Bill & Ted is that the isometric graphics are rather nice...until you realize that every stage looks almost exactly the same. The Modern, Colonial, and Medieval worlds all use nearly identical sprites, while the Old West and Ancient Egypt look so similar that the first time I landed in the latter, I didn't realize I wasn't still in the former. Perhaps worst of all is that Bill and Ted are supposed to be in a rock band, but their big stage number sounds like dinky circus music. It might make one believe that rock music is not possible on the NES, or maybe the developers didn't think it was. The game's ending is equally dreadful, and is not much of a step up from a "game over" screen (in fact, it even says "Game Over" right on it).
I suppose every concern I have about Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure could easily be answered with, "Games based on licensed properties are usually lacking in quality". I guess it should also be no surprise that a game in which you spend most of your time falling on your ass should land squarely on its rear, too. Thankfully, the Bill & Ted movie got a proper sequel to cleanse the territory claimed by this forgettable outing, which is more of a "bogus journey" than the real sequel's subtitle suggests.