Sam's Journey NES Review by Thermoptic! Will this be another HIT game?

As a kid growing up with the Nintendo, every time you got your hands on a new game, it was an exciting moment. Back then, time seemed endless, but the choices of games were limited, each game from that era became a treasured gem. Over the years, a handful of games remained etched in our memories - titles like Mega Man, Duck Tales, Metroid, and of course the iconic Super Mario Bros series. They all shared something special: vast worlds of levels to explore, challenges to conquer, and a selection of abilities, equipment, or power-ups to aid you in your adventure. Even today, we still play these classics, but finding new ones in the same style as Super Mario Bros. 3 or Kirby's Adventure is a rarity. However, this is about to change. This year brings forth a fresh, epic adventure to the Nintendo Entertainment System - the name to remember is Sam's Journey!

The dedication of NES community game developers never ceases to amaze. Despite the system’s limitations, they keep defying expectations with their creations. Sam's Journey is a shining example of this trend. It is developed by Knights of Bytes and is produced and distributed by retro game publisher Poly.Play. And you can tell that the developers have created something really special here, and in my view, they've delivered one of the best indie games ever made for the Nintendo.

When you sit down to play Sam's Journey, you instantly get the same feeling and vibe as the games we grew up with on the NES. From the well-crafted level designs to the huge world map that slowly opens up for each level you complete. It's clear that this game holds a lot in store. Not to mention the graphics, which are simply stunning. Everything in the levels, from the smallest things to the backgrounds, looks incredible! The game pays a lot of attention to even the tiniest details, making the world you play in both beautiful and interesting.

There are 27 levels to play through, each crammed with things to discover. I love that once you have cleared a level you can see from the word map if you missed anything and have the option to try again if you feel you want the perfect 100% score on each level. As you progress you'll explore various settings, each packed with exciting and clever challenges. These challenges range from figuring out how to reach different areas to locating keys for locked doors or switches that change the level's layout and hidden pathways within walls. 

And now the favorite part of the game, the costumes! When you explore the levels you will find different costumes that not only will change the appearance of Sam but also give him a unique ability! Some of these costumes can help Sam in many different ways, for example the Ninja Costume that lets you climb walls or the Disco Costume that lets Sam float in the air, and many more. All of these costumes are sometimes essential to finishing a level or finding all the secrets. 

Sam's Journey also comes with some really great quality of life features, starting with my favorite, unlimited lives! Losing lives and ending up with a game over screen is a thing of the past that has its roots in arcade games. I'm so glad that Knights of Bytes added this feature and also included respawn checkpoints throughout the levels, as well as the ability to save the progress of the game between each stage. And as I mentioned before, you always have the option to enter old levels if you wish to get a perfect score on them, and at any time during a level you also have the option from the pause screen to restart the entire level or from your last checkpoint or simply exit back to the world map. With all these options and knowing that a frustrating game over screen will never appear really lets you focus on the exploration of the levels and the journey through the game.

Sam's Journey is a blast to play and a game I would recommend to any fan of the classic games on the NES. For me Sam's Journey is a timeless creation for the Nintendo that sits there with the old classics and will be an essential game to my collection!  

If you want to get your hands on a copy of Sam’s Journey you can choose between two physical editions or go for a digital download. The soundtrack of the game is available as well on CD, MC, and also LP.

The Standard Edition of Sam’s Journey comes in a standard-sized NES cardboard box along with the game cartridge (either NTSC or PAL), a dust sleeve, a game manual and a printed world map. The typical polystyrene distance piece at the bottom of the box has been replaced by a little treasure chest with some goodies in it.

The Ultimate Edition is limited to 100 units. It comes in a large box which contains the complete Standard Edition plus an 8 cm Sam figurine, a numbered signed certificate, a poster, a CD with the soundtrack, an SD card with game-related content, and a fabric world map.

As of July, the physical editions are open for pre-order. The first batch of units is already in production. They are expected to ship in a couple of weeks.

When the pre-orders are served, the game will go on regular sale. This is when the digital download will be made available as well.

- Review by Thermoptic


  1. Great to see Sam landing on the NES. Kudos to the authors for spreading the joy on a new (old) platform!

  2. I want it on Amiga.

    1. Amiga version in SNES style would be great. But most of all I want Knights of Bytes to bless the C64 with their magic on a completely new game in a another genre!

  3. The review the world needs is an objective comparision between the C64 and NES version. NES games are notorious for sprite flicker and slowdowns, so much that reviewers rarely comment it.

  4. I have double feelings with this title. I mean for one it's great to see the 8bit NES being supported ofcourse with a great game. On the other hand it gives some 'old-school' envy. The original C64 version felt like a 'NES' type exclusive C64 game, with hopes of a sequel or some other title following soon. Basically the NES game seems a better version of the C64 one (graphically speaking at least). It's childish ofcourse, and I totally get the market reasons for it, but still.

    1. I don't think the C64 version has anything to be ashamed of compared to the NES one. No sprite flicker problems, greater freedom of palettes, more powerful sound chip, and the game can show the score panel the whole time at the bottom.

  5. I disagree with that for a part. I think that the C64 version is beautiful and that it really pushed the limits of the C64. Soundwise it's even an easy win for the C64, because of the SID chip, that is used to the max. Lots of attention were given tot the packaging of the C64 version also, with a big box release with goodies for instance.
    The bright colours of the NES version are typical for the NES and 1 of the strong points of that machine. Nothing wrong with that. And besides, the NES is from 1985, the C64 from 1982... Both machines are still popular today and both deserve this great game I think.

  6. I'd love to see what the Knights of Bytes could do on the SNES. Come on guys, do a Super Sam's journey next :-)


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