Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Popeye (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D#1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1986

Popeye is a multi-screen platform game that was originally released in the Arcades in 1986. 

Supporting 1-2 players (alternating), your quest as Popeye is to battle Brutus, Seahag and Bernard and win Olive Oyl's affection. Your main attack is a punch that can defeat most projectiles and enemies, but eating spinach grants you temporary invincibility to stun Brutus. The first screen takes place at a Dock and tasks you with collecting 24 hearts that Olive throws down; these must be obtained before they sink in the water otherwise you lose a life. Ladders and stairs allow you to move between platforms and similar to Pac-Man (1980, Arcades) there are areas where you can exit and reappear on the other side. Next up is the Street with 16 musical notes to collect; there's also a springboard to launch yourself upwards. The final screen takes place on a Ship (with the added threat of Bernard who swoops in to attack) and you must continually collect letters that spell out HELP; this then builds a ladder to the top to free Olive Oyl. Once you've completed all three screens the game loops with a higher difficulty. What makes the action fun is that despite the simplistic gameplay there's always tons to think about; Brutus has a wide range of unpredictable attacks, including an uppercut from the platform below, that really keeps you on your toes. The constant threat of an item sinking is the water heightens the intensity and the shift in music during this time is helpful in focussing your attention. A minor criticism is that you can't hide on a ladder between platforms meaning it's all-or-nothing when climbing them. While the graphics are basic the music is good with a nice rendition of the Popeye theme.
Popeye has pretty much everything you could want in an early Arcade game and this home console port is recommended to anyone that enjoys Donkey Kong. Being an early NES Black Box title means it is light on content but the gameplay is so fun that you'll find yourself returning to it time and again for a quick blast.
Random trivia: The game's designers were Genyo Takeda (creator of Punch-Out!!!) and Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario).

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