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Dick Tracy (NES)

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Dick Tracy
"ONE guy?! No continues?! Like, seriously, give me a reason why there's no continues. WHY ARE THERE NO CONTINUES?! WHY ARE THERE NO FUCKIN' CONTINUES?! WHHHYYYYY?!?!"
— The Angry Video Game Nerd
Genre(s): Action
Platform(s): Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: August 1990
Developer(s): Realtime Associates
Publisher(s): Bandai
Series: Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is an action/adventure game featuring the comic strip character Dick Tracy that was released for the NES in 1990. It was developed by Realtime Associates and published by Bandai as a tie-in for the Disney movie of the same name.


The game is spread over 5 "cases" in which the objective for each is to explore the city and collect enough evidence to find and arrest the suspect. The gameplay itself is split into two sections, an overhead driving section and a side-scrolling section where you punch and shoot criminals.

Bad Qualities

  1. Driving around the city is stiff. Since the car always moves on the right of the road, stopping in the middle of an intersection is a very bad idea since it will make the car virtually unmovable. The horrible driving control is pretty similar with Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  2. Dick's car doesn't shield him from damage while driving it.
  3. If you exit the car, you can't move very far from it. This can prevent you from successfully avoiding bullets that snipers shoot at you.
  4. While driving around the city you will often meet an orange car that always stays before you on the street and will inevitably damage your car when it comes back after encountering a dead end.
  5. Convoluted map design e.g. if you're at 7th & B on the map and you drive north expecting to find 7th & C, you'll end up at 8th & D.
  6. Imperfect jumping system makes it hard to jump on tiny platforms (like the "poles" at the piers).
  7. There's no extra ammo for the pistol in the levels. You have to drive back to the police station to refill ammo.
  8. Hints you have collected can't be viewed on the driving sections, even worse is that you can never review what interrogated criminals told you.
  9. Enemies in later levels fire at too fast a rate to avoid.
  10. Your bullets do not hit enemies situated behind or near a sofa or a table, but they can always hit you.
  11. Rats are nearly impossible to escape from. Unless you have tear gas, and that caps out at eight, you will get swarmed by them before long.
  12. A minor flaw is that in some instances, safes that fall from above are too fast to avoid.
  13. The game suffers from quite poor details: every male character in the game (which means everyone except Breathless Mahoney, who has her own sprite) are palette swaps of generic criminals, meaning that you will see the iconic and famous rogues gallery only when you view the mug shots or when you interrogate them. What's worse is that The Blank has a face. The tommy gun has a sprite only as a collectible item on the game levels, when you pick it up it shares the pistol's sprite; only the fire rate changes.
  14. There's a glitch when fighting Big Boy (the final boss and suspect) where the last shot on him before dropping his gun counts as shooting an unarmed enemy, meaning you'll instantly die while in critical condition despite defeating him fairly.
  15. Activating first aid can be difficult to do: press Select to highlight it, then hold B and then press Select again. Because it doesn't work like the other items in the game, it's easy to mistime the needed inputs for it.
  16. Depending on where a getaway car spawns in some Cases, you may take unavoidable damage if your car was nearby where it spawns.
  17. Some clues are out of reach, and may take some trial and error to get them.
  18. In one Case, due to a bug in the game's programming, there's no exit to the level. The player is required to interrogate the criminal who has nothing to do with the case, resulting in an abuse of power.
  19. There is no way to save progress in a current case. This means having to complete that case in one sitting; dying or getting dismissed from the case means either having to start again, or re-enter a pass code to the beginning of the current case you were in, but with all of the progress gone.
  20. Arresting or interrogating the wrong suspect counts against you, in which you're allowed to abuse your power twice. The third time means an immediate game over. These accumulate from case to case if you play it in one sitting.
    • Even if you have a clue that reveals the culprit, arresting the culprit results in an abuse of power, unless you collected every single clue in a case.

Good Qualities

  1. It has a password system that allows the player to start after the last level is completed. This also resets the player's "abuses of power". However, the inventory will also be emptied when resumed this way and the case starts from the beginning. Killed snipers will also respawn.
  2. The game offers you medkits to heal you, though only two can be carried simultaneously. Even better, it restores all of your health.
    • You can heal at the police station if you have less than a heart remaining, but it only refills one full heart. Hand gun ammo can also be restored by visiting a police station.
  3. The gameplay idea of being a detective is interesting, even though this game could have done it better.
    • Likewise, it had some good intentions during the production of the game itself, but it was completely butchered by poor decisions.
  4. You can use tear gas grenades to wipe out all enemies on the screen.
  5. While it is true that you won't find ammo for your pistol, you can find Thompson guns in levels that will add 50 bullets to your inventory. When you run out of them you will still have the pistol ammo you had when you picked up the Tommy gun.
    • It is possible to restock on pistol ammo at the police station. This is very useful early on when you need to fight and don't have access to the Tommy gun.
      • These items respawn in the same place the next time you enter the same building where you find them, allowing you to have a "safe place" where you can restock ammo and heal yourself as much as you want.
  6. Sniper shots can be 100% avoided by staying behind your car. From this position, you can effectively shoot them without taking damage. This tones down the difficulty of the game at least a bit.
    • Snipers shoot only at a 45° angle regardless of your position. This fact, combined with the previous point, makes killing them sort of an easy task, with practice.
    • Killed snipers don't respawn if you're playing in one sitting.
  7. Decent soundtrack.
  8. Good graphics, some sprites look very detailed.
  9. None of the enemies or hazards deal more than one full star of damage. Safes can be avoided with good timing.


  • There are several other Dick Tracy games published as tie-ins for the 1990 movie. One was released for the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System, one for the Game Boy and one for the Atari ST, Amiga, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS along another computer game titled Dick Tracy: The Crime Solving Adventure for the MS-DOS and Amiga; all of these are completely different games.
  • Despite it being released around the time of the movie's popularity, it doesn't follow the plot of the movie at all.
  • This was one of the few video games to rely on detective work before L.A. Noire was released in 2011.
AVGN Enraged.jpg "What were they thinking?"
The Shit Scale
Games that are debatably bad High level of shit contamination The very high category The severe zone Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Major code red
This game/console belongs to the "High Level of Shit Contamination" category of the AVGN's Shit Scale.



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