Punisher. Game Boy. Be there.
Though young me couldn’t stand the Punisher as a character, his Game Boy shenanigans were one of the few cartridges I had for that handheld system back in the day. That likely had more to do with the dearth of comic book games available than any acquiescence to Frank Castle’s gun-toting charms — and it certainly wasn’t because of the advertised Spider-Man guest appearance, which was underwhelming in the extreme. (Mr. Parker had his own Game Boy adventures, which had the merit of not being terrible.) The Punisher and his love of firearms made for a simple, convenient transition.
And the gameplay? It was a scrolling point and shoot, with crosshairs moving across the screen to pick off low-level bad guys, drug lords (Just Say No, kids!) and power-ups. The big negative was that you had to start over from the damn beginning every time you died (or lost all your lives) — granted, a failure of many old games. The highlight came in the cutaways. Spider-Man popped in and out of the game’s story, pointing Punisher towards the action and occasionally swooping in to help rescue hostages. One of the game’s conceits was that if you accidentally killed any civilians, some of your life bars would be taken away. Not only that, if you were cooperating with Spider-Man in a hostage rescue (you shooting, Spider-Man grabbing) and killed — again, “accidentally” — too many of the little old ladies, the following cut-scene would have the web-slinger verbally chopping you down to size. Something along the lines of “My God man, you killed all those people. Even worse, you’re a terrible shot. You’re an embarrassment to yourself, your family, and all of the human race, including Red China.” Maybe he was still pissy over getting killed a million times in his old Atari 2600 game.