Most ’90s kids look back Rugrats With much love. As one of the defining cartoons of both Nickelodeon’s decade and the network, Rugrats has spawned its fair share of licensed video games, but last week’s announcement of a new one was even more shocking. That game, Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland, doesn’t just have retro sensibilities — it’s an actual new retro game set in 2023. Although the first Rugrats video game wasn’t released until the late 90s, Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland first aired in 1991, giving you the full retro experience by paying homage to an era of gaming that Rugrats completely missed.

However, while many games pay homage to the aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s (read a preview of PAX West 2023, Mina the Hollower, another game featuring a similar aesthetic coming here), Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland takes it a step further. Not content with simply looking and playing like an NES game, developer Wallride actually created the title for the NES, and working with popular physical game company Limited Run Games, you’ll actually be able to purchase the NES cartridge version of the game it releases. If you’re like me and don’t have a working NES, don’t worry: the game is available on all modern platforms.

My demo, which took place on the NES, spanned one level of the game. In Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland, you can choose between a core baby group – Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil – each with different jumping stats. Levels can be played in single-player or two-player co-op, with players able to revive downed babies if they take too much damage. The story follows the babies after they see an ad for the new Reptar video game, then imagine themselves inside the game. Six stages take place in a pickle residence, but after the opening curtain, the stage transforms into a more spectacular setting.

In my demo, I was first greeted by an 8-bit version of the title card from the cartoon, complete with a chiptune version of the title card jingle. It’s a nice touch, especially given the presentation style the developers have gone for. My stage begins in Tommy’s backyard, and after Tommy’s father, Stu, is distracted by the grill, my character climbs a tree and the world around them turns into a forest setting.

I set out as Tommy, the fittest jumper in the group. After dodging and jumping over various forest animals, I burst a bud, which blossoms into a bouncy flower and helps me reach a high platform. Other sequences require me to pick up blocks and stack them to reach higher. Perhaps the most difficult part of my demo required me to jump from vine to vine while the birds flew back and forth, knocking me into the dangerous pit below.

After a vertical climbing sequence, my playtime ends in a boss battle against a gorilla who is unreachable in a tree canopy. The beast drops projectiles and enemies from above. My way to victory is to jump on enemies to stun them, then throw them towards the gorilla while avoiding the hazards that fall from above. It’s not a very difficult encounter, but I can see how the combat could bother some players.

While I enjoy the 8-bit aesthetic, I was happy to learn that the version on modern platforms includes the ability to toggle to a widescreen HD version with the same visual style as the Nickelodeon cartoon. Since my hands-on demo was of the NES version, I didn’t get to see it in action, but after getting my hands on the final version of the game I can already tell it’s my preferred art style.

Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland was a big surprise announcement, but I was surprised by how much fun I had with the game. Although the Rugrats franchise missed the train during the NES era of gaming, it’s fun to imagine what could have been with Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland. Expect to play it in 2024 on modern platforms and the NES.


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