The biggest bottleneck to progress in The Goonies II really amounts to simply figuring out how things work — where to punch and hit in Adventure scenes, how to use the second page of tools like the diving gear. With those things sorted out, the game actually moves pretty quickly. You develop a routine of investigating rooms: For instance, punching the back wall, hammering the wall and ceiling and floor, examining the room with the Glasses, and finally checking the Transceiver for that scene’s hint. It’s a little pokey thanks to the interface — every action requires a slow text crawl of explanation — but compared to contemporary pixel-hunts, it’s really pretty innocuous. There are only three possible hotspots per room (hidden objects, to my knowledge, never appear on the side walls), so it moves along at a pretty decent rhythm once you sort out the limitations and possibilities.
The world of The Goonies II really isn’t that big, either. The Front/Back arrangement can make it a touch confusing in places, but the in-game map can be a big help in keeping things straight. Once you reach the first underwater sequence, the final pieces of the game fall into place and the remainder of the quest becomes a matter of finding the last few Goonies and sorting out where Annie is located. Actually, you get a glimpse of her prison in this area; like the slice of the Fratelli hideout you could peep at early in the game, there’s a screen at the very bottom of the underwater lake that exists entirely so you can see a mysterious door well out of reach, giving you something to work toward.
The lake itself completely changes the mechanics of the game, though it shouldn’t be too hard to cope with if you’ve played Super Mario Bros.; Mikey swims just like Mario, by pumping the A button to create buoyancy that counteracts his natural tendency to sink downward. The difference here is that the map doesn’t stick to ratchet scrolling — you can move freely in either direction — and Mikey’s diving suit comes with a spear gun that fires in a straight line across the screen. This sounds all well and good, but trying to draw a bead on fast-moving fish while bobbing along demands good timing.
Annoyingly, pits still function like video game pits here, despite the fact that you move vertically between areas. You can only make those transitions by using pipes embedded in the floor or ceiling, though. If you let Mikey drift down below the bottom of the screen, he’ll die, even if there’s an explorable portion of the lake below where you drop off.
The only other weapon that works underwater besides the auto-equipped speargun is the bombs you can collect from fallen enemies. They drop straight down to land on the bed of the lake before exploding, and besides being very useful against foes like crabs they can also reveal hidden doors, like the one above.
The underwater zone contains the final two key items players need in order to advance: The Ladder and the Jumping Shoes. The former comes into play during the Adventure scenes, allowing Mikey to climb to other levels through holes in the floor or ceiling. The latter you need to make an action jump back in the geyser caverns across the bridge. Yes, you have to face the skulls again before you can complete The Goonies II. No one ever said NES games were very nice.
The Goonies II doesn’t really give you any guidance as to which tool you should put to use next. The Jumping Shoes actually come into play further from where you collect them than the Ladder….
You may recall a hole in the ceiling in one of the first Adventure scenes in the game; well, now you can use it.
As it turns out, there was a Warp Zone up there all along. If only the Fratellis had invested in some stairs or something. This Warp Zone leads to the hideout’s attic, which appears to have been based loosely on the attic upstairs at Mikey home in the movie, where his dad kept overflow exhibits from the museum where he worked. It’s full of the bat-winged skeletons from the caverns and a new ridiculously powerful enemy, knights.
In terms of platforming action, The Goonies II ceases to hold up quite so well here. With the arrival of the knights, you’re suddenly faced with multiple enemies that require nearly a dozen hits of any of Mikey’s weapons to defeat. (Well, Knights will actually go down with a single Molotov cocktail, but those are a limited resource and don’t drop from defeated enemies nearly as often as you might like.) The narrow passages of the attic, combined with the powerful and difficult to defeat enemies, can make it difficult to advance without dying frequently. Of course, there’s no permanent penalty for death in this game, but continuing reduces all your consumable to zero… which can be maddening when you’re trying to unlock a jail cell or safe in this area. You have to grind against those same powerful enemies until one of them drops another key.
Also new to the attic zone is the final Fratelli: Ma Fratelli herself, who throws deadly and accurate bouncing bombs at Mikey and takes four hits to stun. You may wonder why an hunched elderly woman has twice the endurance of her sons, but I’ll allow it: Anne Ramsey was a tough old lady.
If you follow the path through the attic zone through to the end, you’ll eventually come to the isolated underwater area you spotted earlier. Yes, it’s the end of the game, where you’re greeted by an army of Moai heads. The door above your entry point contains nothing but a massive steel door… which at this point won’t open. You can advance to the end game early, but it turns out you can’t rescue Annie the Mermaid until you’ve saved all of your fellow Goonies. Alas.
There’s no benefit to trying to sequence break, either; the Adventure scenes you encounter in the latter half of the attic and beyond are completely useless. At this point, you’ve acquired all the weapons and items in the game. You don’t need additional key rings. And there aren’t even that many skirmishes in the final sequence, so there’s no real benefit to addition Bomb or Fire Boxes. So you encounter a lot of empty rooms and safes whose message consists of the most annoying platitude in the game: “It’s fun to play The Goonies II.” Which, ironically, creates a valid counterpoint to its own claim.
No, in order to see the game through, you have to head back across the bridge of boomerang thieves for the true climax of the action scenes: The terrifying fire caverns. And you’ll almost certainly have to face them without a boomerang. It’s fun to play The Goonies II… maybe.