Game 15: Amidar (Stern/Konami, 1981)

Playing rules: Difficulty: Factory Default. Start: 3 lives. Bonus: 1 life at 30,000 and 70,000 points.
Dip-Switch Location 8-P: 1-4=OFF.
Dip-Switch Location 6-P: 1-2=OFF; 3=ON/OFF;
[Cocktail/Upright] 4-5=ON.

Current Record holders
Konami ROM set (Easier):
1st: 19,225,030 - Todd Lamb - 1983
2nd: 18,201,100 - Joe Barrett - 1982

Stern ROM set (Harder):
1st: 3,208,870 - Scott Karasek - 1982
3rd: 408,750 - Maurizio Miccoli - 1984

Ahah, back in familiar territory – I remember this game.

Specifically, I remember disliking the game immensely; mind you that can be simply attributed to the fact that I was complete gash at it (definitely a theme developing here). I’ve always been rubbish at this sort of game, i.e “maze pattern” games, the most famous of which being Pac-Man of course. It’s a well known fact that the best Pac-Man players in the world get their records from knowing a series of “patterns”. Essentially this means that there are sequences of moves that if you follow will win you the game each and every time. In the example of Pac-man, take a look at this page for an idea of what I mean: Pac-Man patterns

Now, I obviously don’t see that as a problem records wise, but I certainly can’t be arsed to remember all of these things – and even despite that, it is somewhat outside of the spirit of playing a game. Ok, you definitely need to not only remember the patterns but also perfectly execute them for all of the 200 plus levels, which takes a lot of skill – but it just doesn’t feel the same for me. Not my bag baby.

So what does that leave us, the casual or uneducated player? Well it doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but it does make the world of records a while different ball game – A ball game that most of us don’t care for much.

Hang on you mentalist, this is AMIDAR we are supposed to be reading about not Pac-Man, what about Amidar? Well take a look at the records – in the millions. See how the bonuses are given for 30,000 and 70,000 points? That suggests that millions of points is pretty bloody special – so much so as to suggest that there may be some sort of pattern usage going on.

On investigation, although officially Amidar doesn’t have such clearly defined patterns it does have this:

The Amidars all have a set movement pattern, which is detailed by the 'Amidar movement' on the title screen. They only move in 4 ways :
a) up/right,
b) up/left,
c) down/right
d) down/left.
They will follow their current pattern of movement (a, b, c or d) until they reach the edge of the maze when they move round the edge of the last box they contact and continue with their new pattern. e.g. Up/right to the top right of the maze, round the last box and then down/left to the bottom left corner. Mastering their pattern of movement is the key to success!

All makes sense (if you read it several times rather slowly), but I’ll be buggered if I can actually use that information in any useful way while playing the game.

I think I know why I’m no good at this sort of game. As the alcoholics say, “giss another can of Special Brew”, I mean “Admitting that you have a problem is your first step to recovery” – I think I simply don’t like being chased around a maze in a video game. Regardless of tactic or pattern as soon as an enemy gets close to me I tend to run away like a pediatrician who has accidentally walked in on an angry tabloid reader’s convention. As you may well be able to guess – this tactic tends not to be the best when aiming for big scores or indeed sustained play for your 10p, so as as result I tended to avoid this style of game.

No avoiding it now, let’s at least have a look at what it’s all about. Before we start, I think it’s fair to say that the designers of this baby didn’t design this game mentally “un-aided” – you’ll see what I mean quite quickly. You control a Gorilla on a web style grid and your mission is to collect all of the dots that happen to be sitting around, thus completing the squares as you go – Qwix style. To make matters harder you are being chased by a load of chaps with what look like spears or something. If you manage to get past that level you are now for some reason controlling a paintbrush being chased by pigs – as you do.

It’s a little known fact that the the pigs natural enemy is the paintbrush – it obviously doesn’t come up much in nature and David Attenborough despite his best efforts has yet to manage capturing it on camera, but here in this game their insticts have the rare opportunity to run wild. Have you ever seen Tony Hart in the same room as a pig? No? exactly. Tear the man to shreds they would in search of a brush or two. They love a banana though, LOVE them. You see, in between levels you have a little bonus stage where you have to choose the correct path for the pig to be able to get the banana at the bottom.

How do the designers come up with these things? I mean, you control a gorilla for the first level, so bananas make sense, but no the pig gets the banana – and then the change to the paintbrush? Chased by pigs? The same pigs that wanted a banana a minute ago? I don’t know about you, but when I eat a banana I don’t find myself sprinting down to the local B&Q to bother the pain supplies. Mental.

All of that aside there are a few other bits of the game that need a mention. If you manage to complete all 4 corner squares on any level, then you temporarily become the hunter and you can eat the baddies for a few seconds. Harder in practice than it sounds but handy nevertheless. Also, you have a jump button at your disposal, which when pressed makes everyone apart from you on the screen jump allowing you to move under them. You only have 3 of these per level mind so use sparingly. Hang on, what was that? Why on earth does the jump button make everyone else jump? I mean, surely it would be easier and perform the same avoidance related purpose if YOU jumped? How do you make everyone else jump on demand anyway?

Crazy. Ok then, enough with the avoiding – time for my first go. Wait – there are two different versions of this game, one harder than the other. Great. I come across one of my most hated category of game and I have to play it twice over. Ok, what I’ll do is this. I’ll have 3 goes on each version, but alternate between the two versions as I go to cover the off chance that I get better at the game as I go (fat chance).

So first go and I’m already a mess. As soon as the game begins I stand agape as half a dozen spear guys begin their decent down the screen towards me. I feel like a school kid in an exam, remember their movements! Even the intro screen showed you how the “Amidar moves” – they always take turns when they are available I think. Was that what it was? Quick, they’re coming closer! Where is safe to move? ARGHHHHH!

I genuinely lose my first life barely moving an inch. Too much knowledge left me paralysed, unable to risk moving until I could work out where each of the enemies would go. Ok, calm down man – it’s the first level, just try and forget about them and concentrate on collecting the dots and filling in the squares. Ah! they’re coming again, phew dodged them, lets go for these corners – he’s coming! JUMP JUMP! Oh, he turned away, wasted a jump there, arse. I’m still an absolute mess. Game over couldn’t come quick enough.

Shit, and that was the EASY version? fuck my old boots. Time for the harder version. To be honest, I couldn’t tell the difference – I was equally garbage at both versions.

Score: 2,800 (Konami – easy)
Score: 4,640 (Stern – hard)

Wow. Just wow. Not even 5 thousand points. If there was an award for getting the furthest away from a record score this game would take the biscuit. The lowest score on the HARD version is over 400 thousand. Talk about a morale sapper.

However, I won’t take this laying down. Time for some hard research before the next round of goes.

Apparently you have two types on enemy. The majority of the chaps have that rule where they move from the top to the bottom and back again taking every turn they come across, I know that and to be honest I wish I didn’t as it just makes me freeze every time I try and think about it. Interestingly the other type is a chap that sticks to the outside lane for a certain amount of laps and then chases after you directly. Great just what I need. Luckily (in a odd sort of way) I don’t ever survive long enough for him to tire of his laps and panic me even more.

Bugger, didn’t learn much of any use there. I *should* take some heart in the fact that the enemies always move at the same speed as you (unlike Pac-Man for example) but frankly I don’t.

Hey ho – back to the game, and it’s a very familiar story. Whenever I try and second guess their movements I either hesitate too much or run straight into them. As for the jumps, I either waste them entirely by misjudging when I need them or try too hard to save them and don’t use them when I need to. Somehow I manage to get to the bonus level however which at least gives me a rest!

Hillariously it’s quite easy to trace the route that the pig needs to go, but on both goes I manage to miss-time the button press to select the line and the pig misses his beloved banana. All of sudden it makes sense now that the next level has the pigs as your enemy – as soon as you see how pissed off the pig looks when he realises that you sent him down the wrong track you’ll understand too. Quick! Hide the brushes.

The second level is even worse than the first as I soon discover that you can only capture squares that are next to the completed ones, due to the paint running out if you stray any further. That’s not to say you can’t move freely about the board, but if you go more than a square away your paint trail runs out and you’re running dry as it were. The extra level of pressure almost makes me fall of my chair and frankly I couldn’t have played any worse had I done just that.

Score: 7,800 (Konami – easy)
Score: 9,610 (Stern – hard)

Amusingly I score slightly higher on the harder version, but both scores are so pathetic it doesn’t matter.

I’m feeling quite embarrassed by this stage, as anyone would do when faced with displays of such ineptitude – but I don’t give up. One more go on each, but this time fuck the knowledge of their movements, fuck the rules about corners, fuck the lot of it in the ear. This time I’m going in raw, no lube. I certainly can’t do any worse so why not just play the bloody thing and see how I get on.

You guessed it, all the difference. I’m up past the bonus stage, this time getting the timing right for the banana pig (he looks happy bless ‘im) I even get past the paintbrush madness and onto the next bonus, where I get the banana again! This is nosebleed territory for sure. I die soon after but i’m happy with that.

A whole different story for the hard version. I do a lot better, but nowhere near as successfully as the last go. I think I’ve noticed the difference as well. In the easy version the enemies tend to move up and down taking all the turns as they go, where in the harder one, some go up and down and some go from left to right. This makes the whole thing a lot trickier as you have no bloody idea which turn they are taking as it isn’t immediately evident which axis they are following.

Convincing wasn’t it? I think that’s why I didn’t do so well on the harder one, but chances are I just panicked again and ballsed it up.

Score: 46,400 (Konami – easy)
Score: 16,290 (Stern – hard)

Finally it’s over. I was thoroughly beaten up by that game as you can see. The record books will forever be safe from my name on this one, I sit here celebrating a score of 46 thousand when the record is 70 MILLION. Well done record holders, well done indeed.

I don’t know how many more maze games there are in the book, but let me tell you – I have never been happier that “P” for “Pac-Man” is so far from “A”.

7 thoughts on “Game 15: Amidar (Stern/Konami, 1981)

  1. The weird thing about Amidar is that enemy movement is entirely deterministic. It’s WORSE than Pac-Man patterns. The enemies move the same way whether you’re there or not! (I think they do start chasing if you take a long time to clear a board, though.)

  2. From what I read it’s only the light blue fella that loops around the edges that chases you after a pre-determined amount of “laps”. The amount of laps gets shorter the further you get into the game until eventually he starts chasing you immediately.

    Of course I didn’t get anywhere near far enough for him to break his laps..:)

  3. Fascinating read. I can honestly say I’ve never heard of this game before. I’m intrigued enough to give it a go, even though I have a similar aversion to pattern-based maze games.

  4. “I don’t know how many more maze games there are in the book, but let me tell you – I have never been happier that “P” for “Pac-Man” is so far from “A”.

    – Crush Roller is painful…

    I quite like Amidar (66,840 Konami, 38540 Stern), but that may just be nostalgia for a ‘Recorder Orchestra camp’ in Ogmore-by-Sea in 1982. The cafe at the bottom of the hill had this and I blew my week’s pocket money in there and was left with no sweets for the pyjama party on the last night.

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