Beyond the Valley of the Revenge Games

Sequel games are nothing new.  Pong, the primordial video game, begat Super Pong, Quadrapong, Breakout, and finally Super Breakout.  Space Invaders game birth to Space Invaders Deluxe.  Sequel fever hit a peak in '82, and there seems no end's in sight.

The way I see it, most sequel games involve some kind of revenge, which can take several forms:  The game manufacturer gets revenge against the "How-to" book publishers; the player gets revenge against an evil bastard like Otto; or the machine gets revenge against you.

Ms. Pac-Man is the most popular sequel of our time.   Not only has it paced its hubby, Ms. P-M will probably outgross the next three E.T. sequels put together.  An artistic improvement over the original, Ms. Pac got her revenge against all those "How to beat Pac-Man" books by eliminating patterns and forcing millions of players to fend for themselves.  Suprisingly, I haven't heard anyone complain about the missing patters-yet.

Donkey Kong Junior could be even bigger than Ms. Pac-Man.   As of this writing, it is number one with a bullet in the arcades.  Again, the main theme of DK Jr. is revenge.  Mario, the hero of Donkey Kong, has suddenly turned bad guy.  He's put Kong behind bars and keeps himself busy throughout the game unleashing deadly birds and evil snapjaws in the direction of papa Kong's innocent little son.

I have a theory that Mario was driven mad trying to rescue the girl over and over and over again in the original game, and that's why he's turned into such an evil monkey-killer.  There are, I must admit, Donkey Kong scholars who believe Mario has been the villain all along.  They maintain that those weird industrial settings are obviously the work of a deranged mind, and that Donkey Kong was saving the girl from Mario, who only wanted her to satisfy his depraved appetites.  No way.  I think Mario is more traditional than that.  He has companionship and se-

MsPacMan.gif (32519 bytes)

Frenzy.gif (30204 bytes)
The most popular sequel of our time, Ma(sic)-Pac-Man (top) paced her hubby and got sweet revenge against "How-to" book publishers.  Berzerk fans took out their frustrations in Frenzy.

Photo copyrighted by Video Games
What's got into Mario these days?  Must be sequel fever.

curity on his mind, not revenge.  What's got into him these days?  Must be sequel fever.

Space Duel was the Asteroids Deluxe that never was.  In AD, the designers came up with a game that prevented lurking and hunting, two techniques that had made Asteroids scores begin to read like credit card I.D. numbers.   This was their revenge for being caught with their pants down.  Space Duel is a beautiful, inventive game that hasn't caught on.  It's Asteroids in color, but several steps beyond in complexity.  Too bad it'll never make it.

Frenzy made it by offering Berzerk fans just what they'd be waiting for-the chance to blow Otto away.  You can also shoot through some walls for an easier escape, bounce shots off other walls and take aim at two different kinds of robots.  All of these fea-

tures are fine, but something was lost in the translation.   Call it simplicity of purpose.  Alas, revenge is not always so sweet.

One thing a sequel should do is create its own audience, which is what Galaga has done.   It's faster than Galaxian, with better graphics and more challenging gameplay.   The revenge happens when one of the Boss Galagas captures your ship in its tractor beam.  But if you're skillful enough to blast the boss and regain your ship, you're rewarded with double the firepower and double the fun.  Revenge can be sweet after all.

Expect to see more sequel games in the year ahead.  Super Pac-Man (see Blips) and Millipede (aka Centipede Deluxe) are definites.  Atari's Revenge of the Jedi-scheduled for a May release to coincide with the movie-should be the ultimate sequel game.  Can't wait.

-John Holmstrom

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