Monday, 3 March 2014

Paperboy


What's amazing is how many colours can this kid wear.


I've often enjoyed the period of games design where people used to create games in small groups, or alone in their bed room while waiting for their enthusiasm for bad porn to return, in which they would make games about almost anything under the sun. Kicking off around 1984, Paperboy was a game that seemed to come from out of nowhere in the creativity department. There have been more random games, granted, but it's the notion of taking something run-of-the-mill, or even mundane like a morning job as a paperboy, and kicking it into a higher gear that deserves some recognition.

The idea is simple enough. You have to last a week as a paperboy. You start with a specific number of customers and on your route, you have to collect newspapers and deliver (see: throw) the papers to the customers and have them land upon their porches or in their mailboxes. It's a very suburban idea and approach to the whole 80s Americanisation approach. Speaking volumes of how life was and how life could also be spruced up.

Your typical suburb, crashes, papers and smilies defacing property

While the initial concept sounds dull (and it is) the game is made all the more interesting with the fact that the occupants of this street are batshit-insane. Seriously. Everything on this street is a hazard from joggers, skateboarders (more 80s fun) street break-dancers (seriously did we just copy the whole of the 80s from MTV at the time? You know, back when it used to play music, I remember those days), runaway tyres, remote control cars, the Sinclair C5 even turns up now and then (wow, talk about bombing products), knife wielding nutcases, DEATH, someone on a chopper, drains (yes, not exciting but still, watch out) people backing their cars out and a lot more.

Each day goes with the player having a series of lives to try and navigate from the bottom of the street to the top of the street, delivering at least one paper fully (because all undelivered or damaged customers will cancel their subscriptions) and then to traverse the obstacle course for bonus points though dying here will end the level with no lives lost at all.

Things can get fairly hectic, fairly quickly

On each progressive day, the levels get harder with sometimes more or less subscriptions depending upon how well you managed to do in the game and there WILL be more enemies in your path to serve no purpose other than to increase the chances of you fucking it up. Where you saw a nutcase running from the house on day 1, there might be 2 of them on day 2 with a dog that follows you unless you hit maximum speed to avoid the dog. While a lawnmower tries to give you a back massage. (I.e. kill you)

Your bike won't stop. (Actually it does upon dying) So you'll always be progressing either quickly or very slowly or some mid-point between those two extremes and you'll only be able to carry 10 papers, if you run out before the next refill pickup, then you'll have to miss those houses on the way. But if you have excess papers, feel free to smash hell out of everyone else's houses that haven't got a subscription and get extra points.

Yep, you were shit there.

The problem within the game however, is that the bike can only travel forwards and in an evenly spread angle of 90 degrees, so you can only turn 45 degrees from the "normal" route direction, making it VERY easy to miss items or end up in unavoidable situations, especially where walls, fences and hedges make an appearance. The view is isometric and navigating the crash course at the very end can be more a system of working out which route works and just sticking to that, rather than accurately navigating past the moving walls.

Audibly the game happily marks positive scores and achievements like delivering to the right house, broken glass sounds roughly like broken glass should sound like in the 80s and the music, while it isn't going to win awards, does sound fairly run-of-the-mill and takes a safe generic tone throughout the levels, kicking into a slightly higher gear during the crash course at the end of the level. It's ok but it shows that it's never really been the focus of the game here.

I would be thankful but there's 6 more days to go!

There's not much here in the way of replay factor either, but it is one of "those" games that most people will have played at some point or at very least, have heard of during their younger days. It's got a nostalgia factor but it should be left alone, remember it rather than relive it because you'll end up being sorely disappointed if you revisit the past with this one.