In 2014 Nintendo suddenly realised that it could recreate the experience of a light gun game by using the pointer controls of the Wii Remote. Duck Hunt arrived on the Wii U eShop that Christmas and a few other NES Zapper games have followed since. Now we have Konami's The Adventures of Bayou Billy, although it should be noted it only actually features a little Zapper action. The bulk of the game takes the form of a scrolling beat 'em up, and to add a bit more variety everyone's favourite pachinko machine maker decided to throw in a couple of driving stages too.
The story behind the fighting, firing and reckless driving involves Billy West. No, not the voice actor, but a crime fighter/Crocodile Dundee cosplayer who recently annoyed Godfather Gordon the Gangster King of Bourbon Street. Seeking revenge the game begins with Gordon kidnapping Billy's lady friend Annabelle and it's now up to you to battle through nine tough stages to get her back.
The game has a simple look as you would expect from a NES title, but there's some variety provided from the various character designs of Gordon's gang. The stages and background scenery are likewise basic, but effective. There is also a bit more detail later in the game when Billy finds himself in the city, with a selection of differently coloured buildings and signs.
The audio in the game is very good. The music is a variety of catchy upbeat, adventurous tracks that are worth listening to outside of the game via the sound test. Effects are simple, but work well - explosions have a particularly satisfying sound. The title is spoken soon after starting a new game and there are a few other instance of sampled speech too – if "uggh-ahh" and "hahahaha" count as speech.
Five of the levels (including the opening one) feature left-to-right fighting shenanigans. You use the control stick or d-pad to move around, there's a button to punch, one to kick and pushing them together performs a jump kick. There are no other moves you can perform in the game, but there are several weapons you can pick up. The controls are responsive, but getting Billy to clobber someone can be extremely frustrating. You must be positioned right in line with an enemy for your attacks to connect, which isn't easy due to the way they move around. Foes require several hits to dispatch and it's not possible to get close and repeatedly pummel them. You can get one, maybe two hits in, but try three or more and you'll soon take damage yourself.
There are quite a few health-restoring cooked chickens to be found in the game, but you should expect to die, and die a lot. It should be noted that not all combat is slow, some enemies you can follow behind, punching away until they blink out of existence. Quite often however you will find you and your attacker circling each other until you are level, at which point you hit a button and hopefully connect first. The dance then repeats until one of you is defeated.
Though combat can be slower than expected, the game does at least make an effort to keep things interesting by throwing a variety of thugs at you who attack in different ways. Some just punch, others have weapons and one type throws rocks at you. Enemies will drop their weapons when attacked, which you can then use yourself for a time. The weapons make combat a lot easier (though not much quicker) as you can keep your distance, particularly with a throwing knife or a gun. One good touch is that the CPU characters can also pick up these weapons, so you may find yourself taking part in a mini knife throwing contest as you and one of Gordon's goons take turns in chucking a knife across the screen at each other.
During these stages you have to find a balance between being careful not to take too much damage and being quick enough to avoid boredom setting in. It's difficult to judge correctly especially when there are multiple enemies to contend with. If you're not careful many lives can be lost due to impatience.
There is animal as well as human opposition in the game, with Alligators swimming around under water before surfacing to snap at you. Your best chance at survival is to just rush past them, but there are instances where you must defeat the reptiles (again requiring several hits) to proceed. You'll also be attacked during the game by dogs (who sound like Pac-Man attempting a chicken impression) and birds that can be knocked out of the air with a well-timed punch.
The second level of the game is the first of two Zapper stages. Here you are faced with a variety of men-with-guns; some stand, some run, others drop in from the top of the screen and a few hide behind trees. There's also an occasional bazooka pointed in your direction and a few sticks of dynamite thrown your way. The level is mostly an auto-scrolling one, with the occasional stop where you are forced to dispatch everyone on screen before you can move on. The second shooting stage comes later on in the game when the action has moved to the city. Here you'll find gun-toting thugs hiding behind windows, in manholes and also have to contend with motorbike riding attackers too.
The Zapper experience is handled the same as in previous Virtual Console releases, with the same on-screen reticle, Wii Remote rumble and springy trigger sound emanating from remote speaker. As before you can turn off the reticle with a tap on the d-pad if you're finding it makes things too easy – although it does still flash-up when a shot is fired. For those who don't have a Wii remote lying around (or who would just prefer not to use one), it is possible to play without. Selecting Game B rather than Game A on the title screen will let you tackle the shooting stages using a d-pad/control stick to move a reticle around the screen.
It's faster paced than the fighting stages and a lot more fun. The men shooting at you are not super quick to fire, but you can run in to trouble if there's a few of them on-screen. As well as death by repeatedly being shot at, you will also lose a life if you run out of ammo. The game does reward accurate shooting, however, as should you hit a gunman your bullet count will not decrease.
With a number of power-ups (include those that replenish health and ammo) scattered throughout, the shooting stages are not as difficult as the rest of the game – in fact they are quite easy, but they are a definite highlight.
A part of the game that is difficult however, is the driving section (levels 4 and 5) that sees you racing against a clock as you drive from the bayou to the city in what feels like a cut-down version of Atari's RoadBlasters. The roads are narrow and other vehicles and obstacles get in your way; planes and then helicopters also attack from the sky. Luckily your vehicle is armed, capable of blasting the other road users to oblivion and chucking grenades to take down the airborne attackers. It's satisfying when you clear one of the stages, but that can take some doing. The difficulty comes from the fact that any hit results in you losing a life. Though practice makes the stages easier it can be frustrating to speed around a corner past one car, blast through another, dodge a bomb a plane has dropped, only to then clip a rock and see your Jeep transform into a fiery ball of death.
Simply trying to beat the game will keep players occupied for some time. You begin the game with three lives and what seems like a generous four continues, but until the various modes are mastered this will be insufficient. You can make things a bit easier by trying out the practice games, each a sample of one of the types of level. Not only will these practice stages get you familiar with the three game types, but once completed you are given bonus items to help in the main game. Anyone still struggling can of course make use of the Virtual Console restore point feature. When you do clear the game there's some replay value in trying to set a new high score as your points total is reset whenever you use a continue. Counting against replaying the game however is the painfully slow combat that frequently occurs during the fighting stages.
Though a bit too easy, the shooting stages are fun to play. The driving stages are tricky, but are entertaining as you try to get through without a mistake. The funky music is another positive but the fighting stages which make up the bulk of the game are the weakest part of the package. Fairly basic, the variety of enemies and weapons in these levels are nevertheless a plus, but combat can quickly become tedious. The Adventures of Bayou Billy can certainly entertain, but the best bits unfortunately have the shortest amount of game time.