It’s not Wally Bear’s fault that he’s a pawn.
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
PUBLISHER: American Video Entertainment
DEVELOPER: American Game Cartridges
RELEASE DATE: 1992
Wally Bear and the NO! Gang was created with the assistance of the American Medical Association and the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information*, so it’s less a game than a preachy PSA. You control Wally Bear, a self-righteous anthropomorphic teddy bear who’s got nothing better to do than interfere in the lives of others. Ostensibly, you’re trying to wrangle up your NO! Gang and head to your Uncle Grizzly’s house, but the NO! Gang is too busy buying dope off subways, and getting stinko in the sewer. Every cutscene between levels has Wally bailing his gang out of trouble, like they have no will of their own. Assuming Wally Bear is the head of said gang, wouldn’t he have picked talking animals who can actually say no to peer pressure? When Wally finally assembles the NO Gang at Uncle Grizzly’s, I have a feeling demerits will be passed around like rank doobs of justice.
Wally skateboards through each of the eight levels, avoiding seagulls, bulldogs, rats, lizards, and of course, crack and malt liquor. Until the final sewer stage (where the difficulty level jumps from “little” to “tremendous”), all you do is cruise and hope to God you don’t get hit by an erratic bird. There’s little platforming, no action and no bosses; it’s boring, but at least the game is over fast. Wally only has one hit point and no way of attacking the bad influences, unless he finds a flying disc. The disc is a decent weapon, but if you get hit while you have it, you’re back to staring down creatures with your shades. The only other upgrade is a skateboard which enables you to go faster, but it too will disappear if you get hit. The upgrades do function as extra hit points, which is nice: if you have a flying disc or skateboard in your possession, you can get hit more than once. Of course, you won’t really need a lot of hit points until the very end of the game. Indeed, without the aggressive sewer level (the game throws every enemy from the previous stages at you all at once, plus more) and dive bombing birds, Wally Bear would be over in ten minutes. Because of those elements, it’s a needlessly hard game to skate through.
Like the “Just Say No!” campaign itself, Wally Bear was a pointless endeavor that the publishers pushed much harder than it deserved. In the back of the instruction manual, there’s a tear-out card that invites children to join the NO! Gang Club, and receive a poster, stickers, and a “bi-monthly newsletter featuring Wally Bear and the NO! gangs (sic) adventures and products.” Hopeful thinking on American Video Entertainment’s part, to be sure. Wally Bear never made it past this game. The moral of Wally Bear and his NO! Gang’s adventures is, if kids (or turtles, or bunnies) want to do drugs, they’ll find a way. No sunglasses-wearing, frisbee-throwing bear will be able to show them the light.
*Wikipedia cited a 1991 USA Today article about these associations being involved with Wally Bear, but the link to the article was unavailable. I wouldn’t doubt that it’s true, but I’m unable to verify it 100%.