Chase the Chuck Wagon (Spectravision)
When one has worked in a grocery store, as I have, they sometimes will just pick items off the shelf and read the back, sometimes to see the nutritional information, or just to see which mega-corporation made it. Monopolies and Duopolies are nothing new, they’re everywhere: Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, Disney, and Unilever own much of the business in the U.S. and abroad, sometimes a brand that you thought was independent is actually owned by one of those big mega-corporations. The brand that surprised me the most though was Purina, mainly since they basically own the pet food isle at almost any grocery store, but it turns out they’re owned by Nestle. I’ve been sitting here for several minutes trying to find a decent segue into the game I’m reviewing today but am unable to think of anything good… so… Chase the Chuck Wagon! This legendary game was available by mail-order only by Ralston-Purina back in 1983, and while not being as rare as its counterpart Tooth Protectors it is better known. Of all the companies to get to program this game Purina chose Spectravision, not my first choice but still better than most. This game is most often ridiculed as just being a waste of time and money and a flagrant cash grab on Purina’s side. The story of the game tends to overshadow the game itself though, so let’s take an honest look at Chase the Chuck Wagon.
This is a modest looking game (at best). The only thing that really stands out is the good looking chuck wagon at the top of the screen, though oddly enough the canopy appears to be flickering. This game has a grand total of five moving parts; in the maze screen there is the dog, the dog catcher, and the strange flying object that changes after every round. There is also a bonus screen that has a rainbow bowl of Chuck Wagon® brand dog food descending from the heavens towards the same dog that you see in the maze portion of the game. This game is a maze navigation game and thankfully unlike some Chase the Chuck Wagon actually has multiple mazes, it has three, which is appreciated. The only other thing really worth mentioning is a little touch that I find to be rather cute, the little dog’s tail wags, it’s cute and I like it. Otherwise the graphics are clean looking, there’s quite a bit of flicker on the dog catcher and floating object but on the wagon it's more noticeable, nothing is glitching out at least, let it pass.
This game is incredibly sparse on the sound effects; you have the sound of the timer ticking down, the sound the flying object makes when it makes contact with a wall, the sound of you running out of time (which is an ill-placed explosion noise), another random explosion noise when the dog catcher gets you, a cacophony of random noises whenever the UFO hits you, and a dreadful constant beeping whenever you win the bonus screen. These sounds are just absolutely dreadful; did Purina not have a jingle? Or just any scrap of music to put into this game. It seems Spectravision was rather averse to having anything regarding music in any of their games; of their eleven only two games of theirs that actually have music and those are Master Builder and Mangia, so it seems they waited until the very end to put music in their games.
When it comes to gameplay Chase the Chuck Wagon is as simple as it gets, you get the dog to the end of the maze whilst avoiding the weird floating object and the dog catcher. The dog catcher will pose little threat to you but the floating object will. If you are hit by the floating object you will be stuck in place for a short period of time, the more times you’re hit the longer you have to wait, the problem is that if you’re hit once that means you’re in the flight path of the object and will it will keep hitting you until you lose the round, and the object gets faster and faster as you get hit more and more so it’ll get back to you faster and faster as you have you wait longer and longer, do you see the issue? The first few times you’re hit it’s not a big problem since the object is moving slowly and in a slightly irregular pattern, but soon it’ll be game over. The floating object also seems to zero in on your position, so unless you’re very good at predictive positioning you’re trip will be a short one. If you manage to exit one of the mazes you’ll be awarded with a bonus screen where a bowl of Chuck Wagon® brand dog food falls from the sky and you have to wait until it’s lined up with your dog then press the button, the dog will meander over to the bowl and begin chowing down and you’ll be awarded 100 points, the bowl gets faster as you progress.
This is a shallow game, it won’t hold your attention for too long, nor is it very entertaining even when it does have your attention. This seems like it was programmed on short notice by an intern with very limited knowledge of videogames, what’s popular? Maze games; well let’s make it a maze game. There is nothing to hold your attention, and the sounds make me want to mute the TV. Perhaps this game should remain more of a story than an actual game, and for that reason I award it to the Collector’s Zone. Also… don’t bother trying to get a copy they’re at least 65$ on Ebay and poor fools have paid upwards of 500$ for a boxed copy, even the manual, it seems, is more expensive than the game.