Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Space Panic

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 28, 2012

Space Panic - coverSpace Panic is an arcade platform game, released by Universal in November 1980.

Space Panic - Arcade0000

Space Panic isn’t just any platform game. Space Panic is the first platform game. Ever. Take a moment to appreciate that.

Space Panic - Arcade0001

The gameplay of Space Panic is fairly simple. The player character is an astronaut with a shovel and a horde of hostile aliens. Naturally, you use one to deal with the other. The game screen consists of five levels of platforms (not counting the bottom floor), connected by ladders. Both the player and the aliens can move about these platforms and climb the ladders. The player is killed by contact with any alien, but his weakness is offset by an additional power: he can dig a hole in any of the upper five platforms. Should an alien fall into the hole, he can fill the hole in, causing the alien to drop down and die. A new level begins when all aliens have been killed.

As an additional complication, some aliens must fall more than one floor to be killed. For these, it’s necessary to dig aligned holes through two or more levels of platforms, so that an alien falling from the higher platforms will continue through the holes in the lower platforms, eventually falling far enough to die upon landing.

Space Panic supports one or two players in alternating play.

Port comparison

Space Panic was ported to the ColecoVision in 1982, and to the Casio PV-1000 in 1983.

The Casio PV-1000 is quite a rare console, but the Video Game Console Library has a screenshot of Space Panic running on that system. It appears to be substantially similar to the arcade version, if much less attractive.

Space Panic - ColecoVision0000

Space Panic - ColecoVision0002

The ColecoVision port has one major difference from the arcade version: it has one fewer level of platforms, since the screen is wider than it is tall. Other than this, the game is essentially the same.

Conclusion

Space Panic was a highly influential game. Its platforms-and-ladders structure would be emulated by many later games, including Nintendo’s Donkey Kong. In addition to the official ColecoVision and PV-1000 ports, the game inspired a number of clones, including Brøderbund’s Apple Panic and Eaglesoft’s Panique. The digging mechanic (which, Wikipedia informs me, was likely inspired by Heiankyo Alien) was also used in Brøderbund’s Lode Runner. Ultimately, Space Panic inspired future platform games like Super Mario Bros. and its ilk.

For being the first platform game, Space Panic is surprisingly playable. It’s simple, but fun. Fans of platformers interested in a bit of history should check it out.

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2 Responses to “Space Panic”

  1. [...] « Space Panic [...]

  2. [...] the proto-platformer Space Panic and its clone Apple Panic out of the way, we can look at something a little more familiar. Though [...]

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