Dec 13, 2019

One Sharper Image Catalog Too Many Two

Pac-Man Fever

Aw look, divorced dad lets Junior and his girlfriend play with his Pac-Man's Pixel Bash Cabaret ($2995.00), there in the world's blandest man cave. That bar is stocked exclusively with room-temperature Aquafina and saltines stolen from the Shoney's in the mall parking lot.

This is what I wrote in November, as a starting point:

the video shows something called "Hopping Mappy," which I am told by the internet's Mappy Wiki (πŸ™„) is a sequel to the original. Eighteen months ago I had no idea there were any other titles related to Mappy, and this is the second sequel I've run across since.

Not clear to me yet that the game system also includes the original [ ed: of course it does]. Not that I would buy it in any event, but still...

Rally X? King & Balloon?! This thing is a terrifying beast of long-forgotten regret and stomach-churning nostalgia, sold on the boring-ass Pac-Man trademark. Boooo.

Today I (dig-)dug around a little more...

There's a YouTube video for this product. It says the system has 32 "classic" games. As soon as you start looking them up on Wikipedia, you immediately realize that they're all from Namco. (I mean, a real nerd would've just known, but I didn't pick up on it until I searched a couple of the odd ones I'd never heard of.) Twenty-four of these games are in the Namco Museum series released in the mid '90s for the original PlayStation, and they are all subsequently re-released for various consoles from time to time. It looks a lot like a record label milking a handful of hits via repackaging and anniversary-date editions.

The games are (grouped roughly by related-ness):

  • pac man
  • ms pac man
  • pac mania
  • super pac man
  • pac & pal
  • pac man plus
  • king & balloon
  • galaxian
  • galaga
  • gaplus
  • galaga 88
  • dig dug
  • dig dug 2
  • mappy
  • hopping mappy
  • xevious
  • super xevious
  • rally-x
  • new rally-x

and the ones I'd never heard of:

  • sky kid
  • sky kid deluxe
  • bosconian
  • rolling thunder
  • dragon spirit
  • metro cross
  • dragon buster
  • baraduke
  • grobda
  • the tower of Druaga
  • splatterhouse
  • rompers


The (extensive, because of course) Wikipedia entry for the Namco Museum mentions that a mid '00s release of 16 of these games also includes 5 songs from the '80s:

  • "Come On Eileen," Dexys Midnight Runners
  • "Working for the Weekend," Loverboy
  • "She Drives Me Crazy," Fine Young Cannibals
  • "Talking in Your Sleep," The Romantics
  • "Joystick," Dazz Band. ( yessss)

I thought it would be fun to fire up an arcade emulator and play some of the lesser known ones, maybe even take some screenshots or video clips...but first I needed to get the lay of the land; what are these games I've never heard of, and can I find copies of them already in the random piles of files I've downloaded over the years?

Sky Kid seems to be a colorful spiritual successor to the earliest Atari game (afaik), Air-Sea Battle, mixed with Choplifter. Fisher Price-style air-to-ground and air-to-air combat. The Deluxe version seems to be a very minor upgrade?

Bosconian, it turns out, is part of the Galaga family. It's a Galaga-style ship (and the star field looks the same, and the sounds and colors are from the same toolbox). But it's on an open playing field, so to speak. Not stuck at the bottom of a screen, Space Invaders-style. Pretty fun!

Rolling Thunder - A bit like a sideways Elevator Action. Endless gunfire. As an adult I can sort-of see why parents didn't love video games. Not really that fun.

Dragon Spirit - A Xevious-style scroller with different art. Not fun.

Metro Cross - An endless-runner sort of thing. Sounds like it would be Rally-X-like, but it's a joker in a jumpsuit, running sideways. Funny but not fun. Maybe worth a quick 10-second demo. Has a certain Tapper goofball quality.

Dragon Buster - the hardware wasn't ready to do this style of game justice, until Nintendo showed up with the second Zelda game. Not great.

Baraduke - not bad! Sort of a comic-book-y, pre-Metroid Metroid-style game. I guess not really that different from Dragon Buster, with different artwork, but this one has a certain charm that DB didn't.

Grobda - If this came out after the primary Tron game, Tron's got a lawsuit on its hands. This is the tank game from Tron, only fun, on a playing field more like Atari's original Combat. (ooh, it did, this is '84 and Tron was '82. Hmph.) With a better controller than the $4 USB "gamepad" I've got here, I might actually revisit this one.

The Tower of Druaga - Alas, the ROM in my archive is corrupt. Can't play it.

Motos - space bumper cars? it's sort-of fun. It's minimalist, like say, Qix, but frenzied.

Splatterhouse - I like the ones that have a "JAPAN ONLY NOT FOR EXPORT" warning. (They sometimes have pixelated naked-lady pictures. It's very '88 dialup.) Alas, this one's just a punch and kick scroller, made "interesting" with that peculiar late-80s/early-90s videogame gore. Monsters chopped in half and spurts of green blood everywhere. Dumb.

Rompers - a silly collect-the-keys/avoid-the-ghosts game, but there's a little cartoon rhino who flashes and burps fire. Is this a Japanese thing? There are similar baddies, "Dodongos," in the earliest Zelda game (which pre-dates this by at least 2 or 3 years). ((Why do I know this.))

The ones I already know? What are all the updates to them?

Rally-X - still anxiety-riddled fun. New Rally-X is new to me... only a year later than the original (81/80). Different colors, anxiety-producing sounds, but only one baddie, which makes it sort-of more fun, less chaotic.

Xevious - still boring top-scroller. Super Xevious? No appreciable difference. Wikipedia says "New enemy types were added, including metallic Galaxian flagships - some of these will also revert the player's score to zero if destroyed." Gee, sounds fun.

What was Dig Dug II? It's the same but... above ground? Notdig Notdug!

Hopping Mappy - meh. Avoid the things moving in patterns, get the other things that stay in place.

The Pacs:

I've always been of the opinion that Pac-Man prime kinda sucks, while Ms Pac Man might be the greatest video game of all time. (It's definitely the one at which I am most-skilled. Dunno why.)

I remember Pac & Pal being fun. It was at a sketchier-than-most Showbiz Pizza down on the far side of Hickory Ridge Mall, next to a KayBee Toys where I got The Dark Tower. (Down at the other end of that strip mall, several years later, I bought a Golden Palominos album that knocked my socks off. But what was that store? Why was it not in the mall, but in a strip out past the mall? And why was I there exactly once, ever?)

PacMania I don't recognize. Firing it up, I see it's a 2.5D version of Pac-Man. I'm sure this was a technical accomplishment in its time. Its time has faded.

Super Pac-Man is hard to play but hilarious in its addition of keys needed to unlock walls, as well as two green dots that make Pac super-huge. Not fun but funny.

Pan Man Plus - Different colors; faster and smarter AI. I don't think I have the patience to play this particularly deeply and discover the other differences between this and plain ol' Pac Man.

Screenshots? Gameplay? Maybe tomorrow. (Maybe recorded live on Twitch?) We'll see.

Oh hey BTW, "Pac-Man Fever" is like the fourth-best song on its album. This is the best one.