The Game: Swimmers and snakes and turtles, oh my! Help patrol your beach by picking up litter and saving drowning swimmers while avoiding snakes, sharp sticks, and other obstacles. You’ll need to be quick on your feet (and in your innertube) to succeed! (Activision, 1984)
Memories: In Activision’s Park Patrol, you play the role of a litter-collecting park ranger. Your goal is to keep your lakefront property clean by picking up litter (cans and bottles). To do that you’ll need to use your handy-dandy motorized raft to pick up the trash floating in the lake, and run as quickly as possible to clean up debris lying on the shore itself.
Of course, you won’t be alone in the water. Snakes, swimmers and other obstacles will be floating along side you. While snakes and swimmers will poke a hole in your raft and sink more than your hopes of winning, hitting the end of a log will jettison you straight up in the air. If you can pull it off, you can land on top of the log and start running lumberjack-style in order to gain bonus points. If not, it’s glub glub glub, bub.
The shore is no picnic either, with turtles and ants constantly nipping at your heels. If a turtle happens to slip off the shore and fall into the water, you can take it out of commission by running over them in your raft. Likewise, dropping one of your limited snake repellant pills into the lake can dissipate any snakes in your immediate area. You’ll also have to keep an eye on those swimmers – occasionally one will start drowning, and it’ll be up to you to rescue him. (Yeah, the same swimmers that will try and kill you. That’s gratitude for you.)
You’ll have to do all of this while racing the clock as well. The park ranger has a hut on the shore where you can duck in and get some more time (think “air” in the swimming level of Jungle Hunt), but it won’t be easy running past all those land critters.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this game. The graphics are cute and enjoyable, and the musical tunes played throughout the game gives each level a bit of personality. A built in level editor in the menu allows players to set the difficulty of each level (and even choose between a boy or a girl ranger), something that was pretty uncommon back in those days. Park Patrol is what classic gaming is all about to me – a fun little platformer with bright graphics, happy music and lots of action.
Easy to understand but tougher than it looks, Park Patrol is probably the most fun you’ll ever have picking up litter.