“Sure, The Goonies II is an 8-bit game,” you say. “But I’m not convinced it really hates me.” Well, please allow me to show you the truth in all its grim fullness.
Following the Keith Haring graffiti will lead you to another section of the orange caverns, which offer a one-way trip to the exterior of the Fratellis’ hideout — the only portion of the game in which you’re outdoors rather than underground in a cavern or in some sort of man-made structure. Don’t worry, The Goonies II doesn’t suddenly go all open world on us; this is more like the courtyard in Castlevania: A contained open-air section that lends a touch of scale to the proceedings.
In this case, the open air surrounds the bridge that links the west half of the game to the eastern areas. It’s a rickety suspension bridge, as such things are wont to be, and the sense of vertigo the comes from the blue skies makes for a more stressful challenge than if this were one of the many similar platforming sequences within the hideout.
Not that it needs any help creating a sense of stress. The bridge is the single most evil area of the game — not hard in the traditional sense, but capable of inflicting a terrible setback on players that in many ways is much worse than simply dying. After all, The Goonies II barely penalizes you for dying. When you run out of lives, you can continue in the exact spot where you expired with no punishment save the loss of your consumable items (keys and bombs and the like). But the bridge, unless you play flawlessly, can rob you of an incredibly valuable item and force you to backtrack to recover it.
The culprit? These inexplicable metal skulls, which fly swiftly toward Mikey and will continue to spawn every few seconds for as long as you’re on the bridge. The skulls are unique in the game as the only enemies that don’t injure Mikey; when they make contact with him, they hover for a moment before flying away.
So what’s the big deal? The problem is that they have voracious appetites, and the only menu selection in their diet is boomerangs. If a skull makes even passing contact with Mikey, they’ll devour his boomerang, removing the weapon entirely from his inventory. It’s not lost, exactly; you can go back to where you found it and retrieve it. The problem is that the boomerang resides in the ice caverns, which is a good five-minute jaunt from the bridge. Every time you lose your weapon, you need to trudge back — as good a justification for save states as I’ve ever heard.
Getting past the skulls unscathed is no easy task. They’re quick and resilient, requiring three hits before they go down. And no, you can’t hit them with the boomerang to stun them — they’ll destroy it in midair.
The best tactic for dealing with the skulls is to use your other ranged weapon, the slingshot. Slingshots drop very rarely from enemies, and you can also find one in a room in the hideout cellars near the beginning of the game. It’ll respawn every time you run out of slingshot ammo, or when you die (slingshots count as a consumable item). The slingshot allows you to take out the skulls from a distance with three quick shots. Even then it’s no easy task… though it can be made slightly easier if you find the hidden item immediately before the bridge: A pair of Hyper Shoes, which allow Mikey to run faster when equipped. The door that contains them is hidden, requiring the use of a bomb to reveal the entrance, but it makes the dash across the bridge far quicker, meaning you have to deal with fewer skulls (as they appear on a timer).
Keeping the boomerang intact is of the essence beyond the bridge, too. The enemies here are largely similar to the ones in the previous caverns, but they move much more quickly. They don’t hit harder or soak up more damage, but the threat level is automatically much higher here.
You also have to deal with new threats, like these… I don’t even know what they are. Skeletons, sure, but they have demonic bat-like wings. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were the skeletons of Dracula’s demon form from Castlevania. Whatever they are, they’re the worst. They’re powerful, take eight hits to destroy, and respawn on the same quick timer as weak enemies. To date, all other large, dangerous foes — scorpions, walruses, etc. — only respawn if you scroll too far away from where they appear. These guys just keep showing up. The saving grace is that they move pretty slowly, and strictly by making large leaps that allow you to run beneath them safely.
They’re pretty easy to take out from a distance with the boomerang, but god help you if all you have is a
yo-yo Island Star.
Another hazard here comes in the form of the geysers that appear along the ground and blast blobs of scalding water in all directions. You can dodge the water if you’re quick enough, but it’s not easy. Thankfully that’s easily remedied with a direct allusion to the original Goonies:
A waterproof coat that grants you immunity from the geyser blasts. This coat is much easier to find than the one in the original game — it’s hidden in an Adventure Scene, but you quickly gain an intuition for when you should hunt for hidden objects in rooms. It’s nowhere near as arbitrary as the way the coat was hidden in midair in an innocuous spot in the first game. As a bonus, it also protects you from the waterfalls in the caverns on the west portion of the map.
Also in this area you’ll find another Goonie, provided you have figured out how to access the Glasses from the Tool menu. However, this captive isn’t the most important discovery in this area by any means.
No, that distinction belongs to the Diving Suit, which allows you to enter the game’s submerged areas. You may have seen a diving pool earlier; yes, The Goonies II adheres to classic metroidvanian principles, sending you far into dangerous territory in search of a tool to allow you to access an area in previously covered ground. In others words, it’s backtrackin’ time.
Of course, this means you have to make your way back across the bridge, where Fratelli archers mark the least of your concerns. But let the skulls do as they may, I say. The way ahead takes you back to the very Adventure scene where you collected the boomerang to begin with — not a coincidence, I suspect. Konami knew this sequence was kind of a load of malarkey, and while they didn’t get rid of it altogether they did at least mitigate the pain by making sure you’d be certain to collect the boomerang again on your way to the next Goonie. Little by little, video game designers are learning to be merciful and considerate.