I watched Total Recall a few nights ago, and it reminded me of two things:
1. Once upon a time, I used to write "Retro game of the week" posts, preferably every other week. I'll try harder.
2. While the movie itself is spectacular, the game I played on the NES back in 1991 was, as we say in Sweden, skitdåligt.
Total Recall is a 2D platformer with some top-down racing moments. The game was developed and released by Ocean Software for various systems such as the Amiga, but there was also the much-maligned NES version which was in fact different (worse) from the others, developed by Interplay and released by Acclaim.
Being a video game based on the movie, Total Recall had very little to do with the film. Aside from a few settings (such as the apartment, the subway and the arrival terminal on Mars), the developers threw in a few imaginary things to flesh it out. For example: There is a obscene amount of generic flying robots with lasers appearing everywhere, except in the actual movie. There's also a bearded midget in a pink jumpsuit who, no matter how many times you kill him, returns with a vengeance. Maybe his scenes got cut out of the movie? Maybe it was too weird having Arnold getting assaulted by a dwarf in a pink jumpsuit poking out of windows and garbage cans every five minutes, spraying bullets? I don't know. I'm just speculating.
Story wise, if you hadn't seen the movie (and chances were that your parents wouldn't let you watch it, since there's a girl with three boobs and a decent amount of graphic violence in it), you had absolutely no idea what the game was trying to communicate, as you get no information on why everyone is trying to kill you.
Now, being a mediocre gamer as a kid back in the early 1990's (and even worse some fifteen years later), I never made it past the second boss encounter, in the industry area after the subway level. One of the reasons for this is that Total Recall was fairly difficult. You only had one chance to complete each level - when your energy was depleted, the game ended. To calm down any frustrated kids, the Continue and Game Over screens showed an impressive recreation of Arnold's beautiful face, with classic Arnold references beneath it (as in the screen above), but never with reference to Total Recall, the actual movie licence you were playing. Smooth.