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Amidar/Spiderdroid (Parker Brothers/Froggo)

DoctorSpuds

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I don’t like Amidar, I don’t like how it looks, or how it plays, it was a game that was best left in the arcades and forgotten about. If you like the game then good for you, you can find enjoyment in something that infuriates me, to be honest. Amidar was an arcade game that was developed and published by Konami back in 1981, and by all accounts it was a decent game, but when Parker Brothers brought the game over to the 2600, well, they screwed it up something fierce. Now Amidar was pretty much the first of its genre of line painting games, it was originally ported as Amidar to the Atari 2600, the Casio PV-1000, and the PC-6001, that’s a strange selection, but it’s spin-off’s under various different names, like Crazy Painter, and Pesky Painter, were released on just about every early micro and home computer on the market, though mostly in Europe and Japan where the home computer craze was kicking off, though sadly the Oric-1 didn’t get a version which saddens me. But it was on the 2600 where the Amidar formula struck again, in the form of Demolition Herby from Telesys, don’t get your hopes up I’m not reviewing it anytime soon, and Spiderdroid from Froggo which is actually just the Amidar code with some new sprites in a new box.

 

Amidar is an incredibly simple looking game, there is very little going on here, all it really is is a rectangle made up from other smaller rectangles. There is the player controlled sprite, in Amidar it’s a strange yellow space invader lookin’ creature, while in Spiderdroid it’s just a spider. The enemies in Amidar are supposedly gorillas, but they look more like the assassins in Fast Eddie, or the spies in Infiltrate, the enemies in Spiderdroid are chickens, for some reason, at least they look vaguely like some sort of avian creature. The only other thing of note in the graphics department is how the stage gets colored; you’ll notice how the stage is made up of orange or blue-ish green bars, depending on the game, and as you move around the black bars that are intermixed with the colored ones will change color to either purple or orange, again depending on the game. This is actually a somewhat nice effect since the stage is colored in segments and not the whole line at once, I don’t know how they did that on a technical level but it’s still a nice touch.

 

Both Amidar and Spiderdroid share the same amount of sounds, but they are changed up in Spiderdroid. Amidar’s sounds are quite and subdued staying on lower octaves so as not to hurt your ears, while Spiderdroid does the opposite and makes things as loud and high pitched as possible. Whenever you fill in a segment in Amidar it plays a slightly muffled beeping noise, which is good since you’ll be hearing it often if you’re proficient at the game, Spiderdroid on the other hand uses a very loud and high pitched beep that will get on your nerves in no time flat. When you get caught in Amidar you’ll hear a low pitched slightly muffled explosion noise, whereas in Spiderdroid it’s a full on explosion that seems far louder that the one in Amidar. Spiderdroid just sounds abrasive, and frightfully obnoxious.

 

The gameplay is as simple as it gets, just color in the whole stage by walking over it. The enemies have a predictable moveset, they will always turn the first corner they come across, which is great since the game would be impossible otherwise, there is an enemy that patrols the perimeter of the screen as well and will never venture inside the level. My main problem with the games is that they move so slowly, which unfortunately is how they were programmed, the player controlled characters move slower than the enemies by default, and since the enemies move rather slowly it makes the game move at a crawl, there are no difficulty options either, there’s one game variation and that’s all you’re getting. If you want to see scoring information or useful strategies then the manual has you covered so I won’t put all of that into the review since it would simply be filler. Unfortunately Spiderdroid has chosen this moment to set itself apart from Amidar, and in doing so has rendered itself virtually unplayable, instead of having four enemies on the inside of the stage with one patrolling the perimeter like in Amidar, there are now five in the center and still one on the perimeter in Spiderdroid, you wouldn’t think that would make much of a difference but it really does. I can usually finish the first screen of Amidar after losing one or two lives, in Spiderdroid I can fill in about seven rectangles before all my live are gone, the enemies act exactly the same, except there are more of them and that makes all the difference.

 

Needless to say I dislike both of these game, one because it’s too slow and the premise is boring, and the other because it’s too hard and it’s too slow and the premise is boring. If you buy Atari lots then you already have several copies of Amidar, it’s just that common, so it’s a rather unavoidable game when it comes to collecting, Spiderdroid on the other had is far less common and far more expensive. If you must own Amidar then you can find loose copies on Ebay for five dollars or less while boxed copies go for ten to twenty dollars, Spiderdroid however has gotten stupidly expensive for what it is, loose copies range anywhere from eight to forty dollars while boxed copies are anywhere from forty to eighty dollars, and take it from me it ain’t worth it. I managed to snag a factory sealed NOS Spiderdroid on Ebay for $30 which is pretty cheap for Spiderdroid, but when I opened it up there was no manual inside. I can confirm that it was the original plastic and that it wasn’t opened and resealed, I just got unlucky, as if I needed another reason to dislike Froggo. If it isn’t apparent already both of these games go to the Collectors Zone, Amidar on the edge since it’s so common, and Spiderdroid goes far deeper for being a more expensive product that is somehow worse than it’s near exact copy.

 

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I like the arcade version, this home version is so-so. Thomas made a double-speed hack back in 2003 that helps.

 

A game kinda like this that I really like is Pepper II. I have some ideas on how to implement it on the 2600, so it might come to be someday.

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I got Amidar for Christmas BITD and as you said it was a Giant disappointment! I wanted to like it so much. I actually still feel if the game moved a little faster and if it actually controlled worth a damn there might be something there.

 

I don't know how to program Atari games, but it was always frustrating to me that in any other game the character onscreen moves when I move the joystick (see also Pitfall! or Yar's Revenge or Any other game), but in Amidar sometimes the character moves properly, sometimes he doesn't...Why is he stuck on corners? I assume the overall sluggishness of the game may be partially to blame...And TBH I haven't played it, or wanted to play it in years, so I could be misremembering something...I'm also thinking I may have gotten my Supercharger and Phaser Patrol, Suicide Mission, Communist Mutants, etc., that same year so surely that took center stage.

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I did a quick Google search to see what the elusive screen two is for Spiderdroid. Like with Amidar it's the same maze with different sprites, on screen two the enemies turn into pretty decent approximations of skulls, and you turn into whatever the heck the player controlled thing from Amidar screen one is except the head is slightly modified.

 

Here's a brief update to my recent status concerning my copy of Spiderdroid: you'll have seen that I had some trouble with my copy of Spiderdroid, I managed to snag a copy factory sealed for cheap, but when I opened it there was no instruction manual. I, and everybody who replied suspected foul play but the seller has opened another copy of Spiderdroid (I don't understand why he even has another copy) and is sending it through the mail free of charge. Bullet dodged, I would really hate to have to track down a manual since no matter what it's going to be overpriced like the game. If you ever buy from Ebay Seller 'oddnix' they'll treat you right.

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