Cosmic Guerilla

Cosmic GuerillaThe Game: The invaders are back, and this time they plan on making quick work of Earth’s defenses. Columns of alien invaders descend from space, staying safely outside of the range of the player’s cannon. A few aliens at a time break formation and attempt to reach the player’s floating stockpiles of ordnance and extra ships floating in the center of the screen; if the aliens are able to reach these items, the player will lose a life. The only option is to take out the invaders before they succeed. (Universal, 1980)

Memories: In the beginning, some of the most respectable future names in the video game business got their start cranking out clones of Pong. The ubiquitous success of Space Invaders had a similar effect; some of the earliest arcade efforts from some surprising names (including Nintendo) either remixed Taito‘s quarter-grabbing mega-hit, or copied it outright. Universal, the future makers of Mr. Do! and Ladybug, was not immune to Space Invaders fever either. Continue reading

Magical Spot

Magical SpotThe Game: The good news: Darwin was right, evolution is a thing. The bad news: this does not work in your favor. You man a laser cannon trying to intercept alien insects making their way toward the bottom of the screen; at the most inconvenient times, the bugs revert to a pupal stage during which they’re either impossible to hit or invulnerable. They then emerge in a newer, faster, deadlier form bent on destroying you. (Universal, 1980)

Memories: Evolution is a pretty interesting idea to try to frame in the context of a game; almost without exception, it’s been used as an excuse for the game to suddenly make either the player’s enemies stronger and faster. The strangely titled Magical Spot – referring, perhaps, to the single-pixel points on the screen upon which enemy bugs can perch and shrink down to un-shootable size – is a prime example. Continue reading

Space Panic

Space PanicThe Game: An astronaut is trapped in an enclosed, vertical space with aliens who have a taste for human flesh. With his oxygen supply running out, he must dig holes in the floors of the multi-level structure and lure the aliens into those holes, which gives him mere seconds to dispose of the trapped aliens by filling the holes in. Clearing a level of aliens replenishes the oxygen tank and deposits the player on a new screen full of aliens, some of whom require extra effort – namely, the carefully-planned digging of an entire vertical shaft to fall through – to kill. (Universal, 1980)

Memories: A fiendishly hard and oft-copied game (particularly in the home computer arena, where it inspired such games as Apple Panic and Lode Runner), Space Panic may well be the first game of its kind: a game in which the player controls someone climbing up and down vertical levels on the screen. Continue reading

Cosmic Avenger

Cosmic AvengerThe Game: You pilot a space fighter, bombing and blasting away at enemy ground installations, ships, and missiles. Strafe away! (Universal, 1981)

See the videoMemories: Okay…it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Universal was copying here. Cosmic Avenger is a somewhat more colorful ripoff of Williams’ 1980 hit Defender, and Universal wasn’t entirely nuts for trying to copy that game – Defender was raking in huge amounts of dough. There were also numerous elements which were strikingly similar to Vanguard. Continue reading

Ladybug

LadybugThe Game: You control a nice, big, juicy ladybug waddling around a complex maze, gobbling up food and avoiding your nasty fellow insects. Doors in the maze can throw pursuers off your track momentarily – or they can trap you into an See the videoeven worse situation than whatever you’re trying to escape. (Universal, 1981)

Memories: Like Lock ‘n’ Chase, Ladybug is a fine example of a game which, though clearly inspired by Pac-Man, features enough unique game play elements to make it an individual game. And it’s a rare instance of a game I have to praise for its music and sound effects – they were really rather catchy. Continue reading

Mr. Do!

Mr. Do!The Game: As the clownlike elfin dweller of a magic garden, you must avoid or do away with a bunch of nasty critters who are after you, while gobbling up as much yummy fruit as you can. (Taito [under license from Universal], 1982)

See the videoMemories: Mr. Do! is a curious chicken-or-the-egg case. Many elements of Mr. Do! are very similar to Dig Dug. However, Mr. Do! is a much more challenging game.

It was also one of the earliest entries from Universal, a company – unrelated to the Hollywood studio of the same name – whose business model appealed to arcade owners, but became a bugbear for competing arcade game manufacturers. Though Mr. Do! was sold as a standalone cabinet licensed through Taito, Universal’s primary product line was “kit games” – a kit with a new circuit board, marquee and cabinet artwork that could transform any cabinet with similar controls into Universal’s latest offering. Continue reading

Mr. Do!’s Castle

Mr. Do!'s CastleThe Game: As cuddly clown Mr. Do, you’re scrambling to squish all the unicorns who are invading your castle. You can repel them momentarily with your clown hammer, but you can only squish them permanently by knocking a brick out from the floor above. Most bricks contain cherries, but some also contain keys that See the videounlock the door at the top. When that door is completely unlocked, touching it will transform the unicorns into letters that make up the word EXTRA. As with Mr. Do!, collecting all five letters merits an extra “life.” Clearing the screen of monsters or cherries advances you to the next level. (Universal, 1983)

Memories: Another of my favorite obscure games, Mr. Do!’s Castle is truly cool, fun and addictive – all the requisite qualities of a good video game. In my mind, it easily outshines the original Mr. Do! by miles, and is one of the most unique and original entries in the ladders-and-levels genre since Donkey Kong. Continue reading

Mr. Do!’s Wild Ride

Mr. Do!'s Wild RideThe Game: Mr. Do, having vanquished unicorns and other beasties, decides to take a little bit of vacation time at the nearest amusement park. But there’s one problem! (Isn’t there always?) The roller coasters are trying to kill him. Your job is to guide Mr. Do along the roller coaster tracks, avoiding deadly fast-moving roller coaster cars and climbing little ladders to reach cherries (is it my imagination, or does this guy eat more cherries than anybody since Pac-Man?). Watch your head at all times! (Universal, 1984)

Memories: The fourth and final entry in the obscure attempt at a Mr. Do! franchise, this one is also my least favorite – but that’s not to say that it isn’t fun. First off, I just find the theme appealing. In Do Run Run!, one is required to kill off endless waves of killer kritters, making Mr. Do the blood-thirstiest clown since John Wayne Gacy. This game, however, takes a less violent approach – things can happen to you, sure, but they’re not the deliberate acts of sinister characters who are hell-bent on destroying you. Continue reading

Mr. Do! Run Run

Mr. Do! Run RunThe Game: As everyone’s favorite pixellated clown since Bozo, you guide Mr. Do around a multi-level platform, pursued by multicolored killer critters. You have a magic power ball you can shoot at them, but if you score a hit, you’ll have to scramble around and pick up fruit and other items on the platforms until you have the See the videostrength to hurl another power ball. If, in the other hand, your power ball doesn’t score a direct hit, it will ricochet back and forth across the screen until you retrieve it, or it hits a monster that has wandered into that part of the screen. (You can only have one power ball bouncing around at a time.) (Universal, 1984)

Memories: An odd cross between the game mechanics of Mr. Do! and the almost-but-not-quite-3-D graphics of Congo Bongo, Mr. Do! Run Run was actually quite a fun and frantic little game. It also sported some killer music for its time – very weird in places, almost Carl-Stalling-by-way-of-Devo, but still very enjoyable. The graphics are very clean, and the evil critters are actually cute. Considering the game’s “kill-’em-all” premise, it’s pretty cute for such a bloodthirsty exercise! Continue reading

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