Some games are unfortunate enough to gain a reputation for being absolutely terrible, perhaps deservedly or undeservedly. It seems my game today has garnered quite the reputation and I feel that it is undeserved. Sewer Sam is a game from Interphase Technologies Inc. a small company that had a library of four games published across multiple consoles and computers. They only published two games on the Intellivision, Sewer Sam and Blockade Runner, but are most known for their smash hit B.C.’s Quest For Tires. It seems that Interphase is still around too, they make hi-tech sonar equipment now which is a far cry from their gaming roots, but it is nice to see an old name like that still floating around today. Okay so let’s really take a good look at Sewer Sam.
The graphics are starting to show their age a bit. Sewer Sam it seems was banking on the same ‘wow’ factor that Mattel’s Start Strike was with the alternating colored tiles to impart the sensation of moving through a three dimensional space. Just like with Star Strike this effect has not aged particularly well as nowadays it just looks like the walls are flashing alternate colors, and since a lot of the screen is taken up by the walls the effect can get rather annoying when clashing colors are introduced later on. Sam himself doesn’t look all that bad, he’s very cartoony with an oversized head and a big ‘ol beak of a nose. The enemies or ‘Nasties’ as the manual calls them are all very basic in design and are verging on being a little bit abstract. Some of the enemies are self explanatory, the big green things are alligators… wait no, they’re crocodiles, so this must be a sewer in southern Florida then. The black birdlike things are bats… Nope, I’m wrong again they’re sewer birds, and by this twisted logic the white birds are actually bats? Yep, that they are. At least the hot pink snakes, spiders, and giant white sewer beavers are distinguishable as being such. There are also the elusive submarines, they look pretty good, they’re large and are very obviously submarines, which is more than can be said for most of the enemies.
The sounds are a standard fair, though the music is overly childish with the main music motif being ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ which you’ll hear on the title screen and when you die. Otherwise you’re hoofin’ it around the sewers with a constant, bass-y, dun-dun kinda like that part from the Jaws theme everybody knows. You have your standard Intellivision staticky shooting and explosion sounds, which I don’t hate but I think they could put a bit more crunch into them. The only other thing on not is that when you’re walking through a flooded tunnel you’ll hear the standard white noise water effect that you’ve heard in all other Intellivision games that feature water.
Sewer Sam is a marginally complex game, at least for what it is. You as Sam must run about the sewers to find and destroy three trouble making submarines that have set up shop and are, yes, causing trouble. Most of what you’ll be doing is running aimlessly through the maze of tunnels avoiding enemies until you stumble upon a submarine, which appear in random flooded tunnels. The only things that keep the game from being unbearably boring are the different enemies and their behaviors. The Sewer Birds are just obstacles to be avoided, they’re hard to shoot and don’t give out many points, they will kill you on contact. Bats won’t kill you but they fly erratically, are hard to shoot, and if they touch you you get taken back a ways. Spiders are probably the most difficult of the standard enemies as they aren’t bound by the constraints of gravity and can go wherever they want, they will spin a web around you stopping you in your tracks if they get too close. Giant white sewer beavers will slow you down if they touch you and they will follow you relentlessly, even up walls. Snakes will follow you as well but aren’t very fast and can be outrun, don’t try to hide from them up a wall, they’ll wait for you to come down and are very patient. The Crocodiles only show up in the flooded tunnels, they are harmless until you can see their teeth allowing you to get out of the way. That’s really it, you run down sewers, shoot enemies, pass through doorways to other sewers, until you find a submarine and then you have a boss fight. I’ve never actually beaten a submarine, no matter how many times I shoot it, no matter where I shoot it, nothing happens and I wind up dead. I’ve heard that you have to find a rocket launcher in the sewers to kill the sub but the manual doesn’t say anything about that, and only refers to shooting the missile launcher before it shoots you.
This isn’t a bad game, it’s just a bit generic, the concept is sound enough and the gameplay is polished enough to be fun. I’ve also heard that the shooting and waiting to reload is annoying, but I think it helps to make you conserve every shot because you really don’t want to miss when it counts the most. The game also has four speed settings so you can’t really complain about the game playing too slowly when speed setting four is basically hyperspeed, and by far the most fun to play. Yeah, I think I actually like this game, it’s not bad. I got my copy loose with the manual for ten bucks, though if you want to get a copy off of Ebay things are going to be a bit more expensive. There are two versions of this game, the picture label variant and the text label variant, the picture label is usually more expensive. The cheapest loose copy is $13.50, though there is one currently listed for $14.96 with the game and manual. And boxed copies have sold historically for around 20-25 dollars on average, not taking into account shipping, there are none currently listed on Ebay. The game is cheap enough and fun enough, I think I’ll spare it the Collector’s Zone.