The Game: You pilot a high-speed starfighter through both open space and narrowly-confined tubes bristling with obstacles and enemies, ranging from scarab-like tanks complete with pincers to tumbling, TIE-fighter-esque ships. Your job is simple: shoot everything, and don’t collide with anything. Periodically, if you survive long enough, you’ll get to dock with your mothership between stages and refuel, and then you plunge back into battle until all of your ships are lost. (Nichibutsu/Fujitek, 1984)
Memories: If you’re docking with a mothership, it’s gotta be Nichibutsu’s game (see also: Moon Cresta). An interesting and eminently playable coin-op from the makers of Crazy Climber, Tube Panic is a bit of a cousin of Tempest. In fact, Tempest designer Dave Theurer has said that originally, the knob in Tempest rotated the geometric playing field and not the player’s cannon. Tube Panic goes back to the “rotating playing field” concept a bit and, yeah, one can see where Atari might have wound up with some play-testers with motion sickness back in the day. But Tube Panic is its own game, and it’s a lot of fun.
It’s also a lot of fun to listen to! The attract mode in Tube Panic has some of the catchiest music I’ve ever heard in an arcade game. Granted, it’s an endless loop of a jazzy little tune, but still very enjoyable – sadly, it doesn’t play while you’re actually playing the game.
The key to surviving Tube Panic can also be found in the attract mode: zig zag your way through the game, and don’t be afraid to throttle down and cut your speed before you slam into something. Overall, another unjustly obscure winner from Nichibutsu, and a game that could be revived in modern form without flushing the entire basis of its game play down the tubes.