Too Much Free Time

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

Archive for December, 2012

Apple Panic

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 30, 2012

Apple Panic is a 1981 clone of Space Panic for the Apple II, created by Ben Serki and published by Brøderbund.
Apple Panic (19_000000001

Since Apple Panic is a clone, the gameplay is nearly identical to the original: you climb ladders, dodging the apples and digging holes in the platforms. If an apple falls into a hole, you can beat it over the head to make the apple drop down and die.

Apple Panic (19_000000009

One difference I noted is that in Space Panic, when an alien climbs out of a hole, it ‘levels up’ to the next type of alien, and must fall an extra floor to be killed. In Apple Panic, there doesn’t seem to be any negative consequence to allowing apples to free themselves.

Apple Panic is inferior to Space Panic in several ways. First, it’s not nearly as pretty–a minor detail, I admit. More importantly, it’s very difficult to dig a hole in Apple Panic. As the instructions indicate, if the player character’s feet aren’t in the right position, he won’t dig. Unfortunately, it’s relatively rare for his feet to be in the correct position, making it very hard to dig exactly where you want. This can be fatal, if an apple is coming at you and you hope to dig a hole before it arrives.

If you want to play this kind of game, you should play Space Panic, instead.

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Posted in 1981, Apple II, Bad, Full Review, Platformer | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted in 1980, Arcade, Casio PV-1000, ColecoVision, Full Review, Good, Platformer | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Night Mission Pinball

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 22, 2012

Night Mission Pinball is a pinball game for the Commodore 64, published in 1982 by subLOGIC.

Night Mission Pinball 01
Night Mission Pinball supports up to four players, and can be controlled with either the keyboard or a joystick. The controls are responsive, and the movement of the ball is pretty decent, for an old game.

Night Mission Pinball 02
Old 2D pinball games often feel like the ball is just sliding around, influenced by the objects on the screen, but not really bouncing off them. There is a little of that feeling in Night Mission Pinball, but it’s not bad. If you think you could do better at balancing, you’re in luck, because this is one game that will let you tweak to your heart’s content.

Night Mission Pinball 03
You can adjust 38 variables here, to make the game play however you like. If you’re more artistically inclined, you can also adjust the colors, though your options there are a bit more limited.

Night Mission Pinball is a good game. For gameplay, it’s about on par with Pinball for the NES, which I reviewed previously, though its graphics aren’t as good. Pinball is a year or two newer, though, so that’s reasonable. The table layout is good, but it’s nothing special. If you’re a fan of old games, this one is competently done, but the state of the art in pinball games has advanced quite a bit, over the years, so a more modern game is likely to be more satisfying.

Edit: I’ve included a brief video to demonstrate the gameplay.

Posted in 1982, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Pinball | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »