Kitten Kaboodle

Kitten KaboodleThe Game: An adorable kitten (and his twin, in the case of two-player games) runs and jumps around a maze of obstacles, trying to stay out of the clutches of such enemies as an insect in a lab coat, a large and angry-looking tomato, and a crocodile that walks upright. (Further levels add new and even stranger enemies to avoid.) The kitten(s) can push the blocks making up the maze, hopefully smashing an enemy against another block or one of the playfield’s outer walls in the process, temporarily removing that enemy from play. A defeated enemy drops numerous items, including coins, diamonds, and one of several keys needed to open a door allowing access to the next level of the game. (Konami, 1988)

Memories: Even in the late ’80s, game companies weren’t above “borrowing” each other’s concepts and play mechanics, and here we have a prime example of Konami “borrowing” the basic play mechanic of one of Sega‘s more low-key sleeper hits, because just six years before Kitten Kaboodle, enemies were being squished by blocks pushed by a penguin. Continue reading

The New Zealand Story

The New Zealand StoryBuy this gameThe Game: You might think this will be the story of Captain Cook and British settlers setting in motion the fall of the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand, interpreted as a video game, but…that’s not it. It’s the story of a walrus who See the videowaltzes into the zoo and abducts every Kiwi bird there, stuffing them into a huge sack and then leaving. One Kiwi bird escapes, and you have to guide him on his quest to free all the other Kiwis. (On the other hand, perhaps it’s metaphorical somehow.) Fortunately, you happen to be the kind of Kiwi bird who can fire a bow and arrow, use a flamethrower, and can fly a little hovercraft around maze-like vertical structures. Other animals try to outfox you, gravity is against you, and your little Kiwi has only three lives. (Taito, 1988)

Memories: This very strange little game from Taito seldom escaped from Japan until emulation and retro collections came along. Thanks to the latter, everyone can now enjoy this strangely compelling little game. Continue reading

Super Burgertime

Super BurgertimeThe Game: Chef Peter Pepper is back, and boy, is he kawaii. As in the original Burgertime, the chef has to climb ladders and cross levels – while being chased by deadly ingredients – all in the pursuit of building the perfect giant burger. If he drops the burger on them, the chef’s opponents can become part of the meal. He can also spray them with pepper, as in the original game, or grab bonus weapons (such as a frying pan with which to brain them) from the sides of the screen when they intermittently appear. If enemies are on a bun, patty, etc. when it’s dropped, they’re temporarily taken out of play. Players advance a level by completing construction of all of the burgers. (Data East, 1988?)

Memories: Sometimes revising a “retro” title results in something really cool. And then there are the times that it doesn’t. Audiovisually, Super Burgertime is a huge step up from the original game, but the payoff for the finer graphical details and cute music is that the game play seems a little bit off. Continue reading

Ribbit!

Ribbit!The Game: Two frogs, Bull and Pip, set out on a hazardous journey…to find some flies to eat. They must grab yummy flies while avoiding several lanes of poisonous spider “traffic”, and they also have to cross the occasional river on See the videothe backs of turtles and logs, snatching more flies out of the air without falling into the water. Each screen is cleared by the frogs eating the required number of flies. (Sega, 1991)

Memories: It’s not Frogger. It’s not even officially a sequel to Frogger (by this time, Konami, the originators of that game, had reasserted their ownership rights). But I’ll be croaked if Ribbit! isn’t at least “inspired by” Frogger – how that one didn’t get the lawyers suited up for an amphibious mission, we may never know. Continue reading

Hyper Pacman

Hyper PacmanThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Large red dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted items appear in the maze, and See the videoyou can consume these for additional points and power-ups. (Semicom, 1995)

Memories: Take Pac-Man, add a Lode Runner-style “only one way to solve this maze correctly” puzzle mentality, add NES-era power-ups, boss battles and vaguely 3D graphics, and the result is Hyper Pacman (note the spelling/punctuation there – a complete divergence from any of Namco’s first-party output). Continue reading

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2The Game: Three of the most popular games from Namco’s arcade heyday are brought back in the ’90s, both in their original forms and in “remixed” versions with updated sound and graphics and tweaks to the game play. Pac-Man Arrangement adds power-ups, new mazes, new graphics and a whole new breed of See the videomonsters to the most classic arcade game of the 80s, while Rally-X Arrangement refuels with power-ups and audiovisual enhancements of its own. Dig Dug Arrangement revamps the underground classic with a new breed of enemies – and a new variety of ways to eliminate them. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Building on the success of the Namco Classic Collection Volume 1 coin-op compilation, Namco returned here to the jewel in its crown. Not that Mappy or Xevious are anything to sneeze at, mind you, and Galaga certainly isn’t a minor entry in the arcade pantheon. But how can you possibly beat a revisitation of Pac-Man? Continue reading

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