The Game: As in the original Bagman, you’re a crook trying to heist all the gold out of an underground mine as a bunch of pesky cops try to catch up with you. What’s different in this sequel? You can also find a loaded gun in the subterranean caverns and take out your pursuers…but this only intensifies their determination to find you. (Stern/Seeburg [under license from Valadon Automation], 1983)
Memories: This is an “enhancement” we didn’t need. The original Bagman is a total hoot without the gunplay. Now, I’ve played Berzerk and Robotron and Wizard Of Wor and dozens, if not hundreds, of other games in which one shoots at one’s adversaries…so why do I object to the gunplay in Super Bagman? There’s a simple reason.
Bagman was what I would classify as a cutesy game in the climbing/platform genre. Super Bagman introduced real-life violence to that rather harmlessly inoffensive, cute game.
I’m sure by now that someone is saying “Uh, okay, Earl, Bagman has always been based on the premise of helping a crook evade the law. Why the high horse when he picks up a gun? What’s the difference?” My answer is the same. Bagman was, like Lock ‘n’ Chase, or Activision’s Keystone Kops for the Atari 2600, a cute, whimsical game, not to be taken seriously as an advocation of criminal activity (a common theme in all three). Super Bagman raises the stakes from felony theft to homicide, and passes it off as “cute,” which it isn’t.
Perhaps this is me getting on my video game violence high horse just a little too fast – after all, is it any less gruesome a fate to be eaten alive by Pac-Man? – but I still contend, to this day, that we didn’t need Super Bagman to get trigger-happy on us.
The only consolation here was that, in an almost Ultima IV-esque demonstration of video game morality, shooting one of the cops would bring about Bagman’s own death-by-pixellated-firing-squad. The cops wouldn’t shoot you unless you shot at them. But if you let so much as a single bullet fly, all bets were off – or, as Samuel L. Jackson says in the rehash of Shaft, “It’s Giuliani time!”