After 10,000 years of evil, Satan decides to appoint a new ruler to the throne of hell. Scratch that, no one's good enough but him - so he's staying put. As a result, two of his loyal acolytes, Adrian and Cassius, set off to the surface to create a new hell, a hell on Earth. Unfortunately, Satan is a busy man, and he lacks the time to bring them back. Instead, he appoints his daft son, Nicky, to apprehend them in his place. Based on the hit film, Ubisoft's Little Nicky lets you assume the role of Satan's son through 24 levels of hellacious action-platforming excitement. In theory, anyway.
Little Nicky is a game with a great deal of promise that is marred by an execution that falls horribly flat. Similar to Super Mario Bros., the game is a side-scrolling action platformer with superpower elements. Run to the left, jump over obstacles, leap over pits, cast a spell, and try not to die too often - that's the basic premise of Little Nicky. Once in a while, you'll even get the chance to fly like a bird, possess a preacher's body, or call upon the spirit of everyone's favorite poultry killer, Ozzy Osbourne. Before you can journey from one level to the next, you must complete each level's goal, which is usually accomplished by collecting items or exorcising demons. It's not a terribly clever idea, but a standard platform game isn't the worst use of the Game Boy Color's limited hardware. Where the game ultimately fails, and does so miserably, is in terms of control. Digital Eclipse exercised good judgment in making Nicky reliant on fire and heat for replenishing his energy stores and sprinting capabilities, but it absolutely ruined the impact of such a concept with lame hit detection and slippery jump mechanics. Each level has hundreds of assorted beasts, hazards, and death traps that you must guide Nicky through, but doing so is nearly impossible thanks to enemies with unseen limbs and platforms coated in invisible oil. Other than a few vertically scrolling levels late in the game, there's never much call to use Nicky's superpowers, either.
Even though it's not remarkably playable, Little Nicky has a few notable innovations. First, there are five minigames, four of which are target-based: Beefy's duck shoot, dart board, pineapple, and gone fishing. These games are nothing like the main quest in that they're solidly playable and worth revisiting. The fifth minigame, Satan head, is a joking nod to the movie's loyal fans. In it, you've got a bag of Satan's body parts, and using a sketch board, you're supposed to assemble his head any way you wish. Once you're finished, you can even print out your creation on a Game Boy Printer. The other thing worth mentioning about Little Nicky is how positively lewd the game is. This is the first Game Boy Color game to incorporate peeping toms, crippled veterans, transvestites, and urinating hooligans as actual gameplay devices. Come to think of it, it's also the first game to use the phrase "ass canteen" for plot development. Unfortunately, the above-mentioned minigames and these risqué elements are about the only positive aspects of this game.
Apart from some sprite flicker and a poorly tracking camera, Little Nicky's visuals are pleasing. Large, well-animated character sprites and hilarious earthly backdrops do an excellent job of conveying the film's skewed attitude. At the same time, a number of fully illustrated cartoon-style animations crop up between levels to advance the story. From Nicky's introduction to Beefy to his run-ins with Adrian and his subsequent love affair with Valerie, you'll witness everything in 32-color glory. It's no Rayman, but the formula works. The same doesn't ring true for the game's audio, however. Poorly sampled Adam Sandler voice snippets and gritty heavy-metal tunes simply don't sound altogether pleasant emanating from the Game Boy Color's ten-cent speaker.
Unpleasant - that's the best word to describe Little Nicky. The developers apparently spent more time bending the ESRB's T rating than they did striving for a comfortable and balanced game. It's a shame too, because the raunchy in-jokes, minigames, and animated cutscenes would have lifted the game to greatness if only it were playable.