The 1990 video game Pesterminator: The Western Exterminator is not as Burroughsian as one could hope. In fact, it’s not Burroughsian at all; it’s a disappointment in every way. The box promises nine infernal levels, the perfect number for a Dantesque descent into a rat-infested hell, but in fact the game only contains eight, one of which is the moon. Yes, the moon, from which Ronnie the Super Rat is “radiating the Earth with his powerful PEST BEAM,” causing our planet’s rats and bugs to rise up and demand what’s theirs. Do you really want to interfere with Ronnie’s project? I, for one, incline to the view that these noble species deserve their turn at the top of the food chain.
The hero of Pesterminator is the Western Exterminator mascot, the stern-looking, long-nosed person with the top hat and the hammer who overlooks L.A.‘s Hollywood Freeway and is variously known as Kernel Kleenup, Inspector Holmes, Mr. Little and the Little Man. Though he’s probably best known in the states where Western Exterminator has offices (California, Nevada, Arizona), I once saw a Kernel Kleenup figurine in a Philadelphia warehouse, and Van Halen fans will recognize his image from 1984 tour merch.
The game was produced by Color Dreams, a notorious manufacturer of unlicensed cartridges for the Nintendo Entertainment System whose subsidiary Wisdom Tree later produced many of your favorite Bible-themed video games. As an irate video game reviewer says on YouTube:
Games like Pesterminator are so horrible that they make you wonder why they were ever made at all. Who in their right mind would want to waste their time on such a futile endeavor? Color Dreams made it? Huh—well, that explains everything. They always seem to waste everybody’s time making shit, but this game is really dreadful, even for them.
“ANOTHER FINE AMERICAN MADE GAME,” the copy on the box boasts:
When you’re bugged by nasty pests, it’s time to call Kernel Kleanup [sic], the familiar character from Western Exterminator. Ronnie, the super rat, and his friends are pushing for a hostile takeover and their territories cover Houses, Office Buildings, Warehouses, Hotels, Swamps, and even the Moon. Watch out bugs, PESTERMINATOR has a big surprise waiting for you!
In the early days of the home video game console, one of the fun things that used to happen was this: you would visit your schoolmate at his mom’s condo and he would spend an hour or two “showing you how to play” his favorite games, after which it would be time for you to move on to a different activity or go home. Today, you can relive those precious moments by watching someone else play Pesterminator below. Let’s hope Ronnie and his army of plague-carriers annihilate the human race this time!
H/T Ben McKean