Game 31: Bagman (Stern, 1982)

Playing rules:

Difficulty: 2 (Medium). Start: 3 lives. Bonus: 1 life at 40,000 points. Freeze Frame: Normal.
Dip-Switch: 1=ON; 2-3=OFF; 4=ON; 5=OFF; 6=OFF/ON; [English/French] 7-8=OFF. 

Current Record holders

1st: 6,840,850 - Jerry McCloskey- 1983
2nd: 3,333,300 - Mark Robichek - 1983
3rd: 262,700 - Mike Miller - 1983
4th: 121,040 - Andrea Prioria - 1984
5th: 67,220 - Gregory S.Erway - 2004 

There’s a rumour I heard as a kid that it was illegal, proper lock you up in jail and bum you illegal, to make a film that finishes with the bad guys winning. It’s alright having a film that has loads of terrible things happening, but there needs to be a good or at least an ambiguous ending or that’s you in the slammer. Sounds mental but it’s exactly the sort of thing you believe when you’re a kid. Actually, thinking about it now, it’s pretty hard to think of a film where the bad guy clearly wins at the end, but I digress from the point (which I haven’t made yet, hold the bus).

Similarly, games these days rarely have you control the bad guy. Ok, maybe a few of the more inventive games allow you to *become* evil as you play, do evil stuff and all that as you go and even a few have revelled in the fact you’re a bad guy, but often it’s in some fantasy world and there’s usually some sort of opportunity for redemption. Very rarely do you get to play a proper villain, an absolute cunt of a man if you will – Welcome to Bagman.

Bagman though? Sounds ace doesn’t he? Sounds like the sort of guy who makes small bags in his spare time to help kiddies everywhere carry their toys or perhaps the harmless old guy that enjoys nothing more than collecting tin cans in supermarket carrier bags. He’s none of those, oh no. Bagman is a low-life thieving bastard who thinks nothing of stealing bags of money, bashing the shit out of old security guards (probably “this” close to retirement) with pickaxes as he goes. That’s right, pickaxes. The massive sharp metal bastards used for digging up rocks and shit. Talk about harsh.

Hang on though, I’ve learnt something today and I shall share it with you. Wikipedia has the following definition for a “bagman”:

bag man (or bagman), is a person designated to collect money in a protection racket, who in this context may also be known as a delivery boy orrunning man. Originally the term applied only to Mafia members collecting for mob bosses, but the term later spread to use in corrupt police precincts for patrolmen who picked up and delivered bribes from the local mob(s) to the precinct captain.
 
The bagman may receive a fraction of the money collected. The term can also be used for a person who performs small tasks for the Mafia, such as chauffeuring or transporting goods.

Nice. So we’re not even playing as a bad guy with balls, we’re just a bloody delivery boy not even getting to keep the money for ourselves. Nobody likes to hear the word “fraction” when it comes to divvying up your share, what a rip – get the slag locked up and let’s move on to a more wholesome game.

Oh, go on then – seeing as we’re here (and we’ve waited so long to get into the Bs after all) – crimewatch can wait, let’s have a little look at the game why don’t we?

First off, the scores and I think it’s fair to say that there is quite a range on display. 6.8 million at the top, halved to 3.333 million for 2nd (nice triple nelson there incidentally). Third place? 260,000 – course it is. Looks like the top boys know something the rest of us don’t. That or it takes days to marathon the bugger or some such nonsense. Hey ho, let’s see if I can get involved with the 5th place 67k – that seems a good place to aim at.

Being nothing if not that bastion of honesty, I must admit, I have a bit of “previous” with this game. That’s not to say it’s one of my favourites, or even one that I’ve played particularly much – just that it has piqued my interest on more than one occasion. Rightly so too as it’s a much more detailed game that it first appears, as you’ll find out. What does that mean in real money? Well it means that this is less an adventure of discovery than usual, but oh we have so much to explore.

First of all though, I always recommend that you have a watch of the attract screen to get a general idea of what the game is all about. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s another thing that modern games are missing on the whole, a good old attract screen. True, the environment is entirely different and arguably there is no need to attract people to play your game when they have it sat in front of them in a console, but still…a good attract screen is a beautiful and informative thing indeed. Colour me angry at no-one in particular.

Anyway, let’s have a look what we have here. Ah look, there’s the chap that must be our “bagman”, happily pulling his wheelbarrow slowly across the screen. Is pulling a wheelbarrow easier or harder than pushing it? I would have thought pushing was the ideal method for such a thing? I’m already finding it hard to relate to this guy I’m supposed to be controlling – if he can’t even use a bloody wheelbarrow properly why should I want him as my avatar? Hang on, what looks like a park keeper has stopped him reaching the edge of the screen and now has given chase back the other way. now *that’s* how you efficiently use a wheelbarrow son, just look how much easier that looks. What is that park keeper guy waving at us as he chases? Looks like one of those spiky sticks you pick up litter with? Bit dangerous that fella, we’re only borrowing your wheelbarrow, I’m sure we’ll bring it back when we’re finished. No matter anyway, the old coot is so slow we’re going to escape long before he reaches us – and there we go, safely off the screen and he isn’t even halfway. Ah bless, we get to watch him waddle all the way, go on fella, you can do it. A bit of the theme to Steptoe and Son wouldn’t go amiss here, go on son!….Here we go, nearly there, good work fella…hang on, what’s this? Here’s the bagman again. What do we have in our hand? WHAT! OH! WHAT THE FUCK?

Just as the old parkie finally get’s to the edge of the screen the bagman re-appears but now he has a bloody great pick axe in his hand, slapping it square in the old guy’s forehead. He’s down and clearly dying a horrible writhing death while our man stands over his twitching body, pickaxe raised and ready presumably in case he dares get up again. Told you the guy was an absolute cunt.

*This* is how the game wants to introduce us to our hero? Wow. Barely able to carry on, I watch regardless as the attract sequence continues to the game itself. There’s the screen we saw earlier and bagman goes straight up the first ladder, only pausing to pick up a moneybag on his way to the top. That’s where the true use of a wheelbarrow comes in as he throws the bag in and pushes the barrow onto the next screen. A weird bit of self doubt there from bagman before he pushes the wheelbarrow, if he’s looking for old men to twat, there are none to be seen – nor are there on the second screen, although there seems to be a lift and all manner of what look like mine carts whizzing about. Ok, he’s left the barrow now and is waiting for the lift – where is he going? Ah, straight to his trusty pick axe I see – still no old guys but fair enough. What’s this? He’s digging through a wall towards a differently coloured from the rest blue money bag. Hang on, he’s stopped one stroke short (that’s what she said) and off he goes again. Now he’s dropped his pick axe as he appears to be doing a chin up on a bar mounted on the ceiling. What is he doing? As a mine cart rolls by down he drops and he’s riding! Looks like fun, but he’s straight off again (what was the point of that, he went about 10 yards) and up the next ladder and on to a third (!) screen. Where he loses the pick axe and walks straight into a mine cart, dead.

Now, I have often wondered how people decide exactly what to include on the attract screens, but this one is even more baffling than usual. As I mentioned before, I know a bit about this game and what that has just shown you was a combination of a surprising amount of gameplay tips along with a load of nonsense. Maybe I’m being harsh, but showing you how to dig the special blue moneybag out is a very rare example of a machine giving up it’s secrets a little too easily. It’s shown you all three of it’s screens as well so there goes the usual sense of discovery. Or has it?

You see, this game is actually massively complex, with so many nuances and techniques I’m amazed it came out as early as 1982. Let’s briefly run through how the game works shall we? The idea of the game is to get all of the moneybags into the wheelbarrow and and escape from the extreme right of the third screen. Easy right? Actually, no. The parkie guys we saw in the intro are a rather persistent bunch and they get increasingly faster and craftier as it goes on. By the time you get near the third screen there are loads of them as well – what’s worse (although not for them) is that they’re a pretty hardy bunch and the pick axe attacks only leave them slightly dazed; a daze from which they awake with renewed vigour in only a couple of seconds. I mentioned crafty because that’s exactly what they are. No mindless wandering for these guys, they track you down like the dog you are, and you know what that means? That’s right, it’s actually a well disguised bloody maze game – the bane of my life.

So let’s jump straight in with my first go.

As ever with with games like this, I am immediately panicked by the pursuing parkie guy even though he is limping away slowly at the top of the screen minding his own business. After that comes the panic of just how I am going to approach this. See, that’s the thing with this game – It’s not massively obvious which bags you should go for first. Should you make sure you load all of the bags into the wheelbarrow before rolling it to the next screen, or should you use a combination of the screens to try and confuse the parkies? Let’s try the “clear each screen at a time” approach – starting with what I shall imaginatively call “screen1″.

 

Looks bloody complicated if you ask me. For those new to the game, let’s go through a few of the bits and bobs.

- The wheelbarrow that all the cool kids are talking about is at the top and there are 5 bags you want to be putting in it for this screen, easily done by simply standing over it and dropping the bags.

- The pickaxes are used donkey kong styley, although in this you can put them down again. They do seem to run out after a while mind you.

- Sacks of (NOT YOURS) money. As big as a man, each of this sacks must contain plenty of money and going by the small amount your mister slows down when carrying one, they’ll be notes as well. Would have to be I guess – It’d be a shit old game if it was filled with coppers and you couldn’t even pick one of the buggers up.

- Mine carts. Loads of these slags rolling about, fatal to touch but as you saw in the attract sequence, you can hang onto the bars and drop into them if you so wish.

- Old security guards (parkies). These buggers may look old, but they are sure footed and wiley with it. They don’t just follow a certain path, these buggers are onto you.

Ain’t learning fun? Anyway – off I go. Although I have no idea of a decent tactic, even considering I have played this before. Blindly picking up bags is all well and good, but by the time I have fetched the second bag, the parkie guy has sped up a little and is on my tail. Bagman is faster than these old codgers, but not when carrying a bag – so it’s really quite tricky. Pick up a pickaxe then maybe? Wisely they run away as soon as you arm yourself and even if you do manage to give them a massive old twat on the head, by the time you have got back to the bag and picked it up, the fuckers are up and on their feet again. I know I said hitting people with pickaxes was bad, but *if* you’re going to do it at all, at least do it properly and keep the guy down surely!

A right old mess and I’m down to my last life with only 2 bags in the wheelbarrow. Shit!

Then a game changer – I remember that you can hurt the guys by dropping the moneybags on them as well, so I do just that – when closely pursued up the main ladder I let the bag drop and it knocks the parkie on his arse and right down to the bottom. Unfortunately the bag goes with him (makes sense, damn you gravity!), but still – I feel better armed for the job. I also remember that you can slide the bags down the slopes at them as well, which is great for a laugh and all that (and very clever) but doesn’t really help much as it takes too much effort to engineer the situation. Well it does for me anyway.

Without any focus, that’s me soon knackered.

14,620

Nadgers. That wasn’t easy at all and just look at that stupid score.

Ok, new plan. I reckon most of the time is spent travelling around carrying the bag you are focusing on while trying to escape the clutches of the still completely innocent security guards (although I’m already beginning to dislike them). How about we instead try and move all the bags together, a little bit at a time like. Everytime you are caught up, drop the bag and move to another, inching all of the bags slowly towards the wheelbarrow, making the final loading of the barrow a lot easier.

Sounds ace, let’s do it.

11,020

FUCK! Hang on though, that wasn’t the fault of the tactic, that was me being a spacker. Even though you get points for walking about (weirdly) the big money so to speak is in the loading of the bags into the barrow and although I got a few of them close, only one actually went in by the time I was dead. Try again properly this time!

20,940

Ok, better. I reckon this tactic is a winner, although I still struggle – especially when other guys start appearing from the other screens.

So, let’s try bringing the other screens into it. You can move between the three screens as much as you like and the guards follow so perhaps using the whole playfield to lead them on a merry chase will be easier? Before we do that, let’s look at screen 2.

What a mess that is! That thing in the middle is a lift and it makes things rather tricky indeed. Also note hilariously that in the screenshot above the parkie guy on the right is currently falling to his death (well daze) after trying to pursue me by falling down a rather large hole. That’s right, falling is also death in this game and now I’m bringing lifts into it, that happens a lot.

Also note the blue bag eluded to in the intro. This baby is not only worth loads of points, but is also much heavier than the rest, so you tend to walk like a guy who’s messed his pants as you try and heave it towards the wheelbarrow. Worth it? Well I couldn’t bloody get it.

34,220

I’m missing something rather fundamental here and unfortunately it would appear that it’s “skill”. This really does play like a maze game and for that reason, I’m out – or more truthfully, for that reason, I’m shit.

Let’s have a glance at screen 3 anyway why don’t we?

Another bloody lift, and full length of the screen too. Nice.

I find myself  just under half my target score with very little chance of much improvement if I’m honest. Looking at some of the videos of people playing this properly it’s clear that playing in a blind panic, as I do, is *not* the way to go and the key seems to be getting the misters almost trapped in areas while you move the bags about. Way beyond me but interesting all the same.

With a game that has such an obvious “end game” you do wonder what actually happens if you *do* manage to lug all three screens worth of bags away into the sunset? In fact I bet you’re sitting there naked from the waist down wondering just like me. Well – the massive top scores suggest that the game simply loops (as so many old games do) but I can’t help but feel that maybe, just maybe there is a nice ending with a chunky old bonus awaiting us instead. Who knows or dares to dream?

Playing it one last time I wonder whether there is actually a way of getting away from it all, repent from the life of crime and escape with just expenses (I’m not greedy). I decide all I need for a good life is a single bag of money – so off I trot for the end of the third screen, bag in hand. Embarrassingly it takes a few lives to even manage this simple task, but finally there I am, ready for the life of a good clean man.

Clearly bagman doesn’t agree. On reaching the edge of the screen he just stops refusing to go any further. One bag not enough for Bagman, oh no. What a cunt.

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