Game 18: Arabian (Atari, 1983)


Playing rules: Difficulty: Factory Default. Start: 3 lives. Bonus: 1 life at 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and every 100,000 points. Continues: Not allowed

8-Toggle Swich On Arabian Game PCB at Location SW1 near RA12: 1=OFF; 2=OFF/ON [Cocktail/Upright]; 3=ON; 4-8 = OFF
4-Toggle Switch On Arabian Game PCB at Location SW2 near RA14:1-4=ON

Current Record holders
1st: 219,750 - Chuck Futtrell - 1984
...
9th: 19,900 - Steve P.Thornock - 2000

Blimey. I don’t usually pay a great deal of attention to the Dipswitch settings (aside from making sure they are set correctly of course) but just look at those beauties! They look like directions on a treasure map – “8-Toggle Swich On Arabian Game PCB at Location SW1 near RA12“. Get yourself to the nearest 1983 arcade, whip the back off the Arabian cab and try and find those suckers. Just beware as thar be beasties just off Location SW1 that will have your giblets for tea.

Which seems quite an apt theme considering. Arabian eh? The screenshot looks faintly familiar, but I can’t say I can remember this one. Looks like a barrel of laughs though, I mean who doesn’t love scrabbling about on the sails of a ship? I know I do. So what’s the game about? Well, apparently the idea of the game is to clamber about the various levels (which are pages in a book of course) collecting the brass jugs as you go. They’re not just any old jugs though, these jugs have letters on them that spell the word “ARABIAN” and collecting them in that very same order gives you a nice little brucie bonus. Out there to stop you on your merry jug collecting mission are various baddies including a Genie (makes sense), a big bird’s head (ooooookay) and a pink worm thing with teeth (erm…).

That’s just rubbish – even for the early 80’s arcade character design. I mean, “Arabian” – just think of all of the possibilities for imaginative monsters on that theme, surely they could do better than a pink worm called “OSCAR” (absolutely true, that is the name they have given them). I mean, THIS is a proper monster:

Ok, i’m being a little unfair maybe considering the crude graphics technology of the early 80’s – but the Trog from “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger” was from 1977 after all. They could have made a better effort that’s all i’m saying.

Anyway, it gets worse – a quote from klov.com:

Evil Genies in brass jugs that throw deadly smokeballs, swooping Rocs and purple ghostly creatures (called Oscars) will try to stop the hero along the way. Sometimes Rocs and Oscars will come together to form Super Rocs or Super Oscars who will be more dangerous

Super Rocs or Super Oscars? Oh come on now.

Anyway, I’m over all that and I suggest you look past it as well – let’s focus on your character for a bit. Looking at the screenshot I imagined the game as a typical “avoid everything” affair, but no such thing here. Your little Arabian has a tasty kick on him, which will boot any vicious enemy to death with curly shoed ease. This makes the whole game a different prospect, and twinned with the fact that you can jump, crawl and climb ladders it would suggest that a decent game is on the cards. Hoorah!

Records wise; initially I didn’t see anything too special about the scores until I read on Wikipedia that the record holder Chuck has a score which is labelled as “a maximum possible 219,750 points”, which is likely to mean that the current record is what they call a “perfect game”. In most cases that translates as a guy playing a game perfectly (natch), getting every bonus possible along the way and ultimately finishing the game – either by the game crashing (see pac-man after 200 so levels) or the game simply running out of levels and stopping (i.e not “clocking” and looping over).

In real money what that means is that the top score can go fuck itself. No problem though, life isn’t all about winning – and besides, I’m not convinced that I would be happy being the record holder of a game where I kick Super Oscars to death.

Within seconds of my first go it’s very obvious that this game is from the early 80’s. The graphics are actually pretty smart – certainly colourful and bright, but the sound – Oh the sound. Easily the worst music that I have heard so far in my quest and we’ve had some rubbish already. It’s not so much the choice of “tune”, more the half arsed execution of it that grates the most. Imagine an annoying parlour tune and take away every 2nd and 3rd note. Ok, now slow it down to a crawl. Right nearly there – now smash a pint glass into each ear; that’s EACH ear. There – that’s the music right there. Needless to say, I don’t advise you play with headphones on.

But, hey! Let’s stop moaning eh? If it comes to playing the real thing there will always be the truly comforting arcade ambience to drown it out so it’s a non issue, come on now, just play the game.

Well, the game is rather decent. You have quite a bit of control over your little mister, he can jump, crawl, climb and kick (even when climbing, which makes a bloody change) – such freedom manages to avoid the claustrophobic feel that sometimes this sort of platformer game suffers from.

It’s not all good though, chip another notch into the “rubbish deaths in games” bedpost as this one is full of ’em. Probably the most annoying is the unforgiving way the chap dies if he falls any sort of distance – I would understand it if I died after falling a few inches but, completely betraying his displays of agility elsewhere, falling off of a rope you just leapt onto and dying is a complete pain in the arse.

Despite this, I manage to leap about the ship and collect the jugs in the correct order without too much trouble from the baddies and am awarded a nice 4,000 bonus for my trouble – which was nice. Straight onto the second level then and this time we find ourselves in some sort of a cave and this is where it goes wrong. The design of the second level pretty much revels in the game’s tendency for silly deaths and before I know it an “oscar” leaps over a rock in a completely odd way and kills me even though I was wafting my big curly shoe in his direction.

I wouldn’t have been *that* offended had it not have been my final life, but even then it was more the fact that to anyone passing by it looked like I was just killed by a flying cock and balls that was the killer. Now I usually try to refrain from playing games that involve what look like small fully formed sets of genitals in polite company, as indeed I urge you all to do, but to be GAME OVER’ed at their mercy is just unacceptable. Scandalous even.

Score: 16,600

Enough of that business, back on the saddle. Again the first level is pretty easy, but I do notice a few subtleties. Firstly, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious time limit, so in theory I could just hang around kicking the crap out of stupid enemies indefinitely. As it turns out, there *is* a time limit of sorts although I don’t quite understand how it works. After quite a while a skull starts to appear on each of the letters that you have collected already and I assume that if that reaches the final letter you die. It’s all fairly irrelevant though as the TRUE time limit is the god-awful music. Really, I challenge you to hang around on a single level listening to that music. Very cunning sound designers, very cunning.

Also, there seems to be some sort of bonus if you kick one enemy onto another. Each booting gives you 100 points, but if their flying body happens to collect another enemy on its journey to the edge of the screen you get a further 500 points. I would imagine that this is higher still if you can involve some more in the chain, but I couldn’t manage to line them up so I’m not sure.

Mainly though I notice that I HATE The way that jump is mapped to “UP” on the joystick. I mean, the machine only has a single button for kick, surely they could have stretched to a second “jump” button? It may not seem a big deal, but I find it so annoying it isn’t funny – and besides it is so often the cause of the annoying “fall off a rope” deaths.

Level three is the killer.

Now your little chap has reached some sort of castle thing and to get up to the top half of the screen, where all the jug action is at, means leaping between about 4 rows of flying carpets. Problem is, they are moving at different, sporadic speeds and there is no room to stand on one and let the level above pass without knocking you off. Sounds complicated and essentially it’s a major fucking arseache. The final nail in the coffin is the fact that if a carpet hits you as you try and jump on it, it sorts of folds up slightly and cannot be jumped on until you back away, which of course you have little time to do before you fall the stupidly short distance to your death or instead are pushed off the screen where instant death also awaits. Having to judge all of this leaping about while using “UP” on the joystick to jump is agony, In fact I’d go as far to say that I would rather be killed by a jumping cock and balls.

What I’m trying to say is that I died on this level rather swiftly.

Score: 17,650

And again. Shit it.

Score: 19,650

Annnnnnd that’ll do it. It’s a good game, make no mistake – but there are a few elements that tip the balance in the favour of frustration for me. Maybe with a bit of extra practice it will be better, but until then the music isn’t the only thing that is hard to get through, the 3rd level is just as much a killer. Record wise, I’m right up there threatening the bottom end of the list and I guess I *will* keep playing despite all of the problems as it’s quite a fun challenge.

Almost as much of a challenge as refraining from any “jugs” jokes throughout this whole post, despite saying “jugs” about a dozen times. It was a close run thing, and at “where all the jug action is at” I thought I was going to lose it – but proudly I held firm.

Nope, not biting at that one either.

Or that one

3 thoughts on “Game 18: Arabian (Atari, 1983)

  1. Another great read that’s inspired me to check out the game. I hadn’t heard of it at all before (this is the only blog I know that makes me feel young!) It’s not bad at all, but you’re right about its major fault – absolutely hideous sound that leaves your ears feeling violated.

    Anyway, it seems I’m not very good at Arabian – struggling to pass 10,000 points. I’m enjoying it though, and it’s deffo something I’ll play again.

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