It's Really Hard To Comment On This "Game"....
Well, it's different. You didn't see a game like this every day on the NES (though there are reasons why). I can't fault it for wanting to try something new, but it can only go so far.
Control's very minimal, but effective enough.
Honestly, the most interest I did find in the game is that I liked some of the graphic illustrations for the "character" cards, and the music.
There were certain companies that really had a distinctive flair with Nintendo's sound chip, especially in the music. Capcom had it, and Rare could pull off some interesting melodies. Taboo has a sort of "haunting" sound to its music, which is appropriate for the subject.
The game also came with a poster that had better descriptions of the cards, and again, I liked some of the illustrations, and the amusement factor of the cartridge actually being wrapped in cloth (seriously) adds a sense of attempted "seriousness" to this mystical occult item that shares the same shelf space as Sky Kid or Clu Clu Land.
It's baffling to know that Rare and Tradewest (I do miss them) actually somehow decided this was a good title to release for the NES. I can't even imagine how the logic process went down to justify this game.
While the control is adequate, trying to enter a question to life's great mysteries gets tedious after a while, and isn't even formatted to keep the word together after a line break.
Outside of the "character" cards, the graphics are very plain with no animation. Sure there's a trippy card shuffling sequence, the Hanged Man card actually animates by dropping down, and at random times, one of the cards will have a skull that appears on it. Whether this is the foretelling of a "bad omen" or whatever is never known or explained. It almost feels like there is a desperation to make SOMETHING visually interesting. Also of note, you can't skip the card shuffling experience. And after a minute or two, you are going to want it to end.
Even more comical is the "Engrish" that comes from a UK-based company, no less. It's pretty bad in some places, and some card readings are almost unintelligible. Half the time, the card readings are nonsensical psychobabble that don't even seem to relate to the question asked.
Even the lottery at the end of the reading is botched. Players are asked to select their state, and not all 50 states are available to choose from. How is that even possible? You live in Texas, you're out of luck, by the way.
The biggest fault is that when this game came out, there really were no "value" games. This was a full price title, same as a Super Mario Bros. 2 or Ninja Gaiden. This isn't a kid's game. Not because the content is so (to use a pun) "taboo", or evil, or uses the NES to summon the dead or whatever, it just has so little content to it that it's hard to justify keeping a kid's interest for longer than a few minutes, if that long.
The Bottom Line
Nintendo's "Seal of Quality" must have been on holiday the day this game concept got approved and the final game passed. It isn't a game, or a "Time Machine" like the instruction manual proudly proclaims that it is. Not once did my NES make like Doctor Who's TARDIS and send me to the age of dinosaurs, or spend a day to hang out and fly a kite with Ben Franklin, or to a future full of flying cars. Seriously, how could they justify this game as being a "Time Machine" and manage to keep a straight face?
Sarcasm aside, it's interesting to play just once. Not because it's a "must play" experience, but it simply has to be seen to be believed It's not accurate enough to be taken even remotely seriously, nor is it compelling enough to retain a lasting appeal for repeated play. At best, it's a novelty piece. A novelty piece that at one time cost $50 retail. And the cloth isn't fine enough material to justify it.
The game's not "evil". But it still manages to cause some pain. Mostly in the wallet, and in your sense of time usage.