Oil’s Well (Sierra, 1983)

Oil's Well

In 1983’s Oil’s Well by Sierra (before they were Sierra Online), players control a drill bit and must “devour” pellets of oil. Your drill bit can be broken by hitting land mines and various critters roaming the tunnels beneath the earth. The game is almost identical to another popular game released for home computers in 1983, Datamost’s Ardy the Aardvark, which apparently was based on the 1982 arcade game Anteater.

The dinosaur seen above is Slater the Petrosaur, as seen in the 1990 PC version of the manual. Slater has essentially nothing to do with the game. I guess they just needed a cute mascot to put in the manual for marketing purposes.

Oil’s Well was released for the Apple II, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, and the IBM PC. I spent some time playing the Apple II version this week and it’s really addictive. Your drill bit is controlled by the joystick, while the button retracts it quickly. If a critter touches any part of your drill bit it breaks, so getting all the oil located on the bottom levels is quite challenging.

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My current “retrocomputing desk” consists of two Raspberry Pi computers, a Commodore 64, an Apple IIe, and a MiST (Amiga and Atari ST) machine. I had hoped to try out a few more games last night but all I did was play Oil’s Well for a couple of hours.

Here’s some footage of the Commodore 64 version of Oil’s Well…

…and here’s some footage from the 1990 MS-DOS version. Keep an eye out for Slater!

Retro vs Remake: Elevator Action … Gooooing Up!

Today's Retro vs Remake Games: Elevator Action vs Elevator Action Deluxe

Hotel floors filled with doors and elevators; a common movie setting for comedic chase scenes. But a video game based on doors and elevators? It works better than you might think.

Elevator Action is a 1983 arcade game developed by Taito. You play as a spy named Agent 17, or Otto (no, not Evil Otto;), tasked with infiltrating an enemy complex and stealing confidential information. The complex though, happens to be full of doors, elevators and guards. Being a spy that prefers traveling light, you’re armed only with a small pistol and your wits. Using a traditional four-way joystick and two buttons (jump and shoot) you must navigate the vertical buildings collecting documents from red doors while avoiding the guards that come out of blue doors. Fortunately you can take out the guards using a variety of methods such as shooting, jump-kicking or elevator-crushing. Unfortunately, as you progress through each level, the guards become more agile and their returning shots faster and more frequent. Elevator Action may be a fun game, but it is not an easy one. As with many games of its time, your character is a one-hit wonder and will drop dead with so much as a scratch (or short fall) on his adorably covert sprite.

While there have been several sequels and ports of Elevator Action over the years, Elevator Action Deluxe is the first “true” remake of the arcade classic.

Once again, Otto (or his female counterpart) is tasked with retrieving secret documents from the red doors while avoiding guards. Only this time the buildings aren’t always vertical and they aren’t always hotels. You’ll be slinking through factories, mines and military bases avoiding everything from enemy agents (some of whom summon more agents if they spot you) to soldiers, robots and bombs. Along with the wider variety of stages, hazards and enemies you also get an expanded arsenal of attacks. You still start off with a basic spy pistol, but you can collect weapon upgrades like machine guns, rocket launchers and lasers. You also have a new melee attack so you can bop enemies on the head should they get too close. Or if you’re the stealthy type, you can hide behind a blue door and wait for an enemy to pass by before flinging the door right into his back. Otto also must be wearing Kevlar armor this time around as he can take three shots to the chest instead of one and can even recover lost hits via “heart” doors.

There’s also an expanded multiplayer mode where up to four players (local only) can take on the fifty campaign missions together or duke it out in competitive mode.

Finally, the music in Deluxe is mostly cliched & often silly sounding “Mission Impossible” or “Bond” style tracks that fit the game’s corny atmosphere quite well. The game also mixes in many of the arcade original’s sound effects with the “realistic” sounds making it a treat for nostalgic ears.

So, final verdict? While Elevator Action is fun in its own right, Deluxe just adds so much more gameplay while keeping (most) of the core elements in tact that I’d have to say I enjoyed playing Deluxe far more than I ever did the original.

What do you think? Are Deluxe’s gameplay additions too convoluted or unbalanced? Or is the arcade original too limited and unforgiving to be much fun after ten minutes?