Too Much Free Time

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

Archive for the ‘Arcade’ Category

First Impressions: Naughty Mouse

Posted by Tracy Poff on February 8, 2016

Naughty Mouse is a 1981 collect-em-up by Amenip.

Naughty Mouse (arcade) [nmouse] - title

First, a point of contention: Arcade-History describes this game as a platformer, and mentions that “The player has a single button with which to make Naughty Mouse jump over [enemies].” In truth, the game is no platformer, and, as far as I can tell, has no buttons. Okay, enough about what it isn’t. What is Naughty Mouse?

Naughty Mouse (arcade) [nmouse] - 01

It’s a collect-em-up, like Pac-Man (and, apparently, runs on the same hardware). The player controls the titular mouse and must touch the eggs on each of the houses while avoiding the birds in order to complete the level, racing against the timer. When touching an egg, the player scores the number of points remaining on the countdown timer. When the timer reaches zero, or when the player touches an enemy, a life is lost and the level is reset.

In the first level, there are five eggs to touch and two enemies.

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In the second level, there are three enemies, instead.

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The second level is as far as I got, though. I was never very good at Pac-Man, and this game seems a bit more difficult to me. Also, I don’t really enjoy this kind of game, so I’m going to call 11,810 points good enough.

Amenip also released a very similar variation of this game called Woodpecker.

Posted in 1981, Arcade, Arcade, Bad, Collect 'em Up | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Kangaroo

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 30, 2013

Kangaroo is a platformer by Sun Electronics, released in June 1982.

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The player controls a kangaroo whose child has been kidnapped by mischievous monkeys. Gameplay is pretty standard for arcade platformers: walk on platforms, climb ladders, avoid pitfalls and enemies while collecting bonus items; pretty much the same as Donkey Kong.

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The kangaroo, of course, can jump, and is also equipped with a boxing glove, so that she can punch the monkeys that harass her on her way to rescue her child. The monkeys throw apples at her, which can be punched to return to sender.

Rescuing the child ends the level and begins the next. There are four variations before the levels replay at higher difficulty.

Kangaroo has simple graphics, music, and sound effects, on about the level one expects from a game from 1982. Its quality is comparable to Donkey Kong: decent for an old game, but nothing special these days.

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Decent, First Impressions, Platformer | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ponpoko

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 29, 2013

Ponpoko is a platformer by Sigma Enterprises, Inc., released in 1982.

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Ponpoko is a very standard ladder-and-platform collect-em-up, in which you play the titular Ponpoko, a tanuki.

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It is required on each level to collect the food while avoiding the pins (bizarrely called ‘apple cores’ in a flyer for the Venture Line release) and enemies (which look rather like mice but are apparently hairy caterpillars). The pots with question marks on them may contain bonus points (good!) or snakes (bad!). When you complete a level, you gain a bonus depending on how much time you used, and move on to the next level, with a different layout and a different kind of food to collect.

Ponpoko features fairly nice animation, but uninspired sound effects and no background music. It’s a decent game for its time, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

I’ve recorded a sample of the gameplay:

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Collect 'em Up, Decent, First Impressions, Platformer | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Donkey Kong

Posted by Tracy Poff on January 1, 2013

Donkey Kong is a platformer, released by Nintendo on 9 July 1981.

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With the proto-platformer Space Panic and its clone Apple Panic out of the way, we can look at something a little more familiar. Though Donkey Kong clearly owes certain design elements to Space Panic, it adds the ability to jump. Without this ability, Space Panic plays more like a maze game than a modern platformer. Donkey Kong‘s kinship to modern platformers is clear.

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Donkey Kong consists of four stages, which are presented differently depending on the port. To quote from Arcade-History:

The original Japanese version had all four stages displayed in their original, logical order 1-2-3-4.
For this US version, they changed it to match the ‘How High Can You Try/Get?’ theme, with the stage order as follows :
L-01 : 1-4
L-02 : 1-3-4
L-03 : 1-2-3-4 (as in all levels of the Japanese version)
L-04 : 1-2-1-3-4
L-05 : 1-2-1-3-1-4
L-06 through L-21 all remain the same as L-05
L-22 : 1 (Kill screen).

There are further differences on console and home computer ports of the game–and Donkey Kong has been ported many, many times.

Each stage has its own goal. In the first, it is necessary only to reach the top of the screen, where Pauline stands, dodging barrels and fireballs along the way. Other stages are more complicated.

Donkey Kong is quite good, for its age. The visuals and sound are simple, but attractive, and Jumpman’s movements are smooth and responsive.

It’s a fine game in its own right, but its influence on later games cannot be overstated. Donkey Kong certainly had some direct influence on later platformers, generally, but it also gave us two characters–Donkey Kong himself and Mario, initially called Jumpman–who would go on to greater glory. There were two more arcade games in the Donkey Kong series, Donkey Kong Junior and Donkey Kong 3, and Donkey Kong would go on to star in the Donkey Kong Country series of platformers, and make appearances in many other Nintendo games. Mario, of course, is the star of a massive and ever-growing series of his own, beginning with an arcade game, Mario Bros., and continuing in scores of games on every Nintendo console and handheld since.

Personally, I don’t care for this style of platformer much, but I feel indebted to Donkey Kong for the great games that came after. I’m planning to work my way through as many platformers as possible, so there’ll be plenty of both kinds, coming up.

Posted in 1981, Arcade, Full Review, Good, 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.

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

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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.

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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 »