Game 23: Armored Car (Stern 1981)

Playing rules:

Difficulty: Factory Default. Start: 3 lives. Bonus: 1 life at end of stages 4 and 8.
Dipswitch Bank: 1=OFF; 2-3=ON; 4=OFF; 5=ON/OFF[Upright/Cocktail]; 6-8=OFF/UNUSED. Dipswitch:2=ON

Current Record holders

1st: 101,010 - Roger Isettsn - 1983
...
4th: 50,760 - Brian McLafferty - 1983

Get ready kids for another trip down surreal street – this game is another one of “those”, only this time with added pink!

Interestingly a lot of the games so far through our journey of the letter “A” are from the same crazy infant 80’s era, this particular beauty from 1981. As we all know (Well I say *all* if you don’t, take a peek at the yearly filters in MAME32) 1981 was a cracking year for video games with classics such as Donkey Kong, Frogger, Scramble and Galaxians all coming out in the same year. However, it was also a year for crazytown games – two of which we have already covered: 005 and Amidar. The scars from those two alone are yet to heal, yet as is the rich tapestry of life we have to take the rough with the smooth, the fucked up with the classics. Which brings us to this baby, Armored Car.

Now, what I didn’t realise was that a very similar game, New Rally X was actually released in the same year – which sort of makes sense when you see the two games running side by side. Obviously the developers of this game had a problem on their hands, the new improved Rally X was a very similar idea, a car driving about a maze picking up stuff and avoiding other cars, how could they make their game stand out? Well believe me, they managed it alright.

Without further ado I present to you Exhibit A:

Look at that little fella go! Through some sort of computer magic I have managed to get him animated for you as well, which I think is important as it allows you to see him in his full beauty. Now – what do you reckon that is? Pop quiz:

a) A crazy egg whisk sort of thing on its side
b) The latest gadget from fuckingmachines.com (it does exist, if you go there, make sure you wash your hands before coming back here!)
c) A car of course, stupid
d) A tank or something?
e) A road sweeper jobby
f) I give up tell us already!

Well I’m sorry, but I don’t have an answer for you. What I *do* know however that it moves only in a straight line and loves nothing more than to gobble up ever changing arrows and sawhorses. What? You heard me.

Perhaps we are a little ahead of ourselves here, let’s have a look at the game itself. You control the armoured (i’m going with the UK spelling now so keep up) car in the title and your job is to drive about a grid collecting all of the money and take it to the bank. Makes sense, sounds exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from such a role. But of course this being a game, it’s not that easy. For one, all of the money is lying about IN THE ROAD. That’s right just lying there as little dollar signs in the middle of the road. Of course the game makes no attempt to explain how it came to be that all of the money is scattered about, but whatever the reason happens to be, it’s your job to pick it up – so get on with it and stop bloody complaining already.

If it wasn’t hard enough already you also have baddies roaming about looking to smash you up good. Now apparently these chaps are robbers, but if that were the case then surely they would just wander about picking up the money from the street, not chasing around trying to catch a big armoured car that has probably only picked up a couple of quid itself anyway. Besides, the “robbers” are also driving faster cars than you so they could probably scoot about and clean up before you even had a sniff. Pffft, all I ask for is a bit of realism and what do I get?

Anyway, as well as avoiding the robbers you also have those crazy pink things, which I’m still convinced are sexual in some way, who move in a simple destructive line as I mentioned. Which brings us to to the arrows and the sawhorses. Dotted about the grid you have a handful of arrows on the road, pointing either horizontally or vertically that basically stop you dead in your tracks unless you are moving in the same direction as them. To make matters funky these arrows also change direction every few seconds or so, as arrows of course tend to do. All rather interesting, especially as in a rare fit of fairness the robbers have to obey the same rules! Hail Jebus some fairness. In all seriousness, it’s actually a nice little touch and it does add a little extra tactical skill into the mix, which is helpful because generally I’m absolutely pump at maze games.

Finally on our lengthier than usual synopsis, we come to the sawhorses. I have to admit I didn’t even know what a sawhorse was, I had to look it up – I was about to call them wooden barrier thingies or something. Whatever they are called they are your only line of defence against those pesky robbers, who “don’t like it up ’em” and crash in a ball of flame if they hit one that you happen to drop in their path. That’ll learn ’em.

So, onto the records. As is sometimes the way, the scores don’t seem all that threatening if I’m honest. 100,000 being the record with a mere 50,000 being the price of getting on the board – all sounds rather achievable, but then I’ve said that many a time already and have been completely wrong more often than not. What doesn’t bode well is that the records are all from the early 80’s, so again either no bugger can find the machine to play or they’re actually decent scores. We’ll see!

Within the first few seconds this theory again starts to dissipate – despite earning 10 points a second for simply moving, picking up the $ signs only yields 100 measly points. Never mind, at least there are plenty of $s dotted about, I’m sure they’ll be a nice juicy bonus once I get to the bank. So off I toddle, sometimes getting a bit mixed up on the arrows but aside from that it’s rather good fun. It’s unavoidably a maze game though as those pesky robbers really do come after you with some vigour and before too long my lack of skill leads me to run straight into one of the buggers. Who is clearly made of some sort of super metal as he just carries on regardless, not even slowing down – just drives straight through my explosion and on his merry way. I know it doesn’t matter as I’m dead anyway but that sort of thing really does get on my tits.

Maybe it is this sense of injustice that makes me remember my one and only weapon option, the ever trusty sawhorses! My next life is completely different as I basically try and goad the robbers to follow me so that I can block their path and laugh as I shoot off into the sunset, probably with a martini in my hand or something. Soon enough I have my victim all lined up, that’s it, a little closer….NOW!

*BOOM*

That’s not right – that BOOM was me dying as I try to drop the bugger as he closes in only for nothing to happen….COCKS!

Puzzled and annoyed my last life begins with me putting down one of these pesky sawhorses straight away. Ah! I realise the error of my ways immediately – the sawhorse can only be placed on a junction, not in the middle of block – even if you press the button before then it simply waits for the next junction and puts it there. Which is exactly what it did on my last life just that I was caught before I got there. RIGHT.

Here comes another one, little closer, NOW!

*BOOM*

The written word “boom” isn’t particularly helpful, but this was a different boom. Almost as suprised as I was when I died, this time I watched as the robber drove straight into the sawhorse and exploded. That’s right – the *wooden* sawhorse. Smashing into an armoured car? no problem. A wooden version of a clotheshorse? fuck-me-nuclear-explosion. Of course. Still, realism’s loss is my gain and now my confidence is up – I may be wrong, but I also sensed that the other robbers sat ever so slightly uneasy in their seats; that’s right shitbags I’ve got your number.

Just a shame then that you are only given 4 deadly sawhorses and I’d spunked 3 of them away trying to work out how to put them down.

Score: 7,420

Not great. Still, it was the virgin voyage after all – now I’m ready! Playing the game properly now and things are racking up quite nicely. Although it’s quite tricky avoiding the robbers and the pink things, grabbing the dollars and heading towards the bank is easy enough. This time round however, without the red mist appearing whenever a robber comes near I notice a few extra things. First of all, this game LOVES a bit of pink. Pretty much everything is either pink or has some pink in it. What’s with that? If I mentioned to you that there was a game called “Armored car” and then asked you to name a colour that would be most dominant in said game, you wouldn’t come up with pink would you? Military green, deep blue, grey even – not pink. Not these boys, Armoured car itself? PINK. Colours the arrows flash when they change? PINK. Colour the bank flashes? PINK. It’s all very gay pride I have to say and all in all rather odd.

Listed right up there with pink in “things this game fucking LOVES” is the direction “right”. Where’s the bank? RIGHT. When do I go next? RIGHT. Almost everywhere you look there are signs with big arrows on urging you to go right. So much so does this game love the direction right that if you want to back-track a little, maybe you missed a few $ signs that you want to go back for, forget it. As soon as the screen scrolls right, any sort of attempt to move left and a screen FULL of arrows meets you as it scrolls back. Oh, it *lets* you go left, no problem at all sir – but if you do get ready for a world of arrows. Not only do you enter arrow hell, but everything in it’s path has been removed, so no $ signs either. Blimey.

Anyway, back to the game. I’ve actually neglected to mention another little subtlety and that is the fuel gauge. You see, you have limited fuel in this game and the PINK bar at the bottom of the screen slowly depleats, eventually running out entirely unless you can get to one of the frequently found GAS stations dotted about. Again some sort of crazyworld logic applies here as rather than grounding to a standstill once the fuel is gone you actually carry on, just a lot slower. What exactly is the car running on now then? Another cross in the realism box (are you keeping count?). As before though I have to again concede that it’s a nice little touch as it really makes the persuit of $ signs and the lock and key a more tactical affair. Hold on, Lock and key? Ah yes – I didn’t mention those as it just doesn’t make any sense. As well as the dollars laying about you also come across a rather large key (flashes PINK of course) and then further down the road a much smaller lock. What are they for? Fuck knows. What I do know though is that you get a paltry 10 points for the key, but then a massive 1000 points for then getting to the lock. Miss the key and get to the lock? nowt. Want to go back to get the key? forget it, that means going left into arrow hell and besides it’s gone anyway.

Right enough explanation, this is starting to read like a school lesson – I tootle along having a gay old time and eventually get to the bank unscathed. Short break for a bonus screen (with the nicely translated “1 Sawhorse for 4 moneys”) and then straght back in to do the same again, just this time the robbers are considerably faster. Doesn’t take long for that advantage to really tell and I’m knackered before too long

Score: 15,140

Not bad, but still pump compared to the records mind. Interestingly before my 3rd go I happen to let the game start to go through it’s attract sequence – and by jove what an enlightening minute that was. So much to learn, so much I had missed! The first screen alone epitomises everything I have said about this game – check this beauty out:

Told you this game liked the direction RIGHT and PINK didn’t I?

The following screens however, juicy info all the way:

– There is another button! A boost button no less. What a revelation that could prove to be!
– You can place sawhorses on top of the arrows and it will allow you to go through
– Each of the dollar signs you are desperately fighting to pick up is worth ONE dollar. A single bloody dollar! In it’s current sorry state that’s less than 50 pence in real money. You don’t need an armoured car for that, you need a wino with his pissed-in, dirty trouser pockets.
– There are a couple of other types of enemy: Ambulance, TNT truck – doubt I’ll be seeing either of those soon.

Motivation issues aside (50p each ffs), armed with the new info the 3rd play is a completely different story. With the added boost ability the game completely opens up and becomes loads better in the bargain. Sure it uses the fuel up a bit quicker when you boost, but it’s exactly what you need to avoid some of the more persistant robbers (robbing me of 50ps! They’d do better checking the bottom of water fountains). This is especially true on the second wave as the faster robbers were really rather tricky before, but now with the boost you at least have a chance!

Score: 19,300

You and I both know that isn’t a great score, but it’s about more than the score this time. This game is actually really really good fun, with loads and loads of subtleties and tactics to ensure that trying to grab a good score is neither a chore nor a slog. The boost especially takes the game to a whole new level and I think this baby will be one that I’m going to add to my list of “keepers”.

Also, and most surprisingly of all, there were another few ticks in the reality box that I noticed – for example despite me having a go at the robbers for being stupid, they DO actually pick up any money that they pass over! Who would have thunk it? As for the pink thing that we have puzzled about – there is an attract sequence screen that tells you what that is as well! The mystery is solved, and now I come to think of it – it *does* look like one them after all! What was the answer? well it was e) of course and it makes complete sense as the main thing it does is sweep up things in its path. Nobody need know that I actually went back and added that option *after* seeing the screen telling me what it was as originally it wasn’t even one of my guesses. See the way I’ve covered my tracks though by not making it the last one on the list? Genius that is, no-one will ever suspect a thing. Hoorah!

 What? You’re still here – next post will be

THAT WAY —>

7 thoughts on “Game 23: Armored Car (Stern 1981)

  1. This is a really fun little game, even though I’m terrible at it. My scores flatter yours.

    Great to see this blog back on track anyway.

  2. If anyone is interested here are my first 3 scores. Albeit with the added info from the piece.

    1: 7100
    2: 11980
    3: 8400

    Not great. It is an addictive little bleeder though.

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