Amidar for the Atari 2600
Amidar in the arcade has always been a real, although for some reason rare, treat for me. The arcade is an interesting twist on the maze game concept with a little Qix (one of my favorite games) thrown in for good measure. Only one arcade in my area had it when I was a kid and I pumped quarter after quarter into it, while my friends stood by puzzled and amused. Let’s face it, you either love Amidar or don’t understand Amidar. I love Amidar. I even love saying it and because I sort of talk to myself while I write, I also love typing it.
Get it out of your system…. Amidar! Amidar! Amidar!
Oh and something I been thinking about, why is Amidar not a common children’s name at this point? It works for both boys and girls. Ami for short or Dar for short. Perfect! Get on this expecting parents.
Okay, I feel better now. Because I enjoyed the game so much and also prized Parker Bros. games for my VCS, it was a natural pick up for me back in 1983. I do not have a phone line straight to the 1983, but if memory serves me right, I played a whole lot of Amidar and loved it. So when I reached my hand into the magical Box O’ Carts this week and pulled out Amidar, I was thrilled. Time to recapture some magic.
If you have not played Amidar, the game goes a little something like this:
First you’re a gorilla in a maze pursued by wild warriors! The gorilla wants to color in the maze and the warriors want to do in the gorilla. It’s up to you to keep the gorilla ahead of the patrolling pack while you guide him on his coloring spree every which way throughout the maze. If you’re successful, suddenly you’re a paint roller pursued by patrolling pigs. And it’s another fast and furious chase all over again!
That is a remarkably apt description straight from the manual, which pretty much matches up with the arcade version of the game, although scaled-down. The controls work really well, the game, which requires you to move around a maze and surround boxes until they get colored in, is a natural fit for the Atari joystick and the movements are crisp and smooth.
The graphics are alright. It looks enough like something to get you playing and the sound is decent. Nothing phenomenal, but decent. That’s the good news, now the bad news. Okay, 1983 me, prepare to be hurt.
This game feels slow. Really slow. Slow enough that I found myself pushing harder on the joystick trying to get my gorilla to go faster. I pushed so hard that I left an imprint in my hand after the first fifteen minutes of playing. Obviously, over time and thanks to my extensive “Speed Ninja” training, anything that is not merely a blur on the screen is something I would describe as snail-like. This is a real shame, because, besides that, the game plays pretty well and even at its slow pace, the enemy can be challenging. Now the gameplay does pick up pace as you move along from level to level, but not enough for my liking.
But that slowness + aggressive enemies is a recipe for heart failure as I slowly try and escape their clutches and I am helpless to do anything as they close in on me, I find myself screaming at the TV screen. Why pigs!? Why?! Oh, cruel fate!
So in a nutshell, Amidar does not stand the test of time in some way. It is a well-made game, crafted with some care to be a faithful port of a good arcade game. But in retrospect, that kid from 1983 was probably so excited about saving a few quarters that he was more than willing to overlook a little slowness. 2011 me on the other hand is driving with the gas pedal to the floor in the fast lane. I really wish the game would go faster. It would certainly go a long way towards holding my attention. The end result is a middling 3 stars. Not bad, but not great.
If you have never played Amidar outside of your living room, I implore you to not let this be your definitive version of a classic. If you have the ability, please play Amidar in the arcade or on MAME, where it really shines. You will not regret it.
Positives: Controls, Positive Memories, Concept is solid
Negatives: Game is slow
I might not love the Atari 2600 version of Amidar, but I love Amidar itself enough to have recorded a video review of the game.