Game 33: Bank Panic (Sega, 1983)

Bank Panic

Playing rules:

Difficulty: Easy.  Start: 3 Lives.  Bonus: 1 life at 70,000, 200,000 and 500,000 points.
Dipswitch: 1-6=ON; 7=OFF/ON; [Demo Sounds OFF/ON]; 8=OFF/ON [Cocktail/Upright]

Current Record holders
1st: 9,999,999 – Gary A.Hatt- 1987
2nd: 9,999,999 – Alessandro Giuriato – 1985

Ah, bank panic. We’ve all been there, checking your bank balance through shielded eyes the morning after a particularly heavy weekend. (Is waking up with a wallet full of money actually scarier than waking up with it empty? I’m still not sure.) Then, of course, you peek through the slits of your fingers only to you find yourself shot against the back wall by a bandit. “WAOO!” you go as you hit the brickwork, your last thoughts filled with confusion as you wonder why on earth that wandering kid is wearing half a dozen hats at once; it’s not even raining.

I knew I shouldn't have bought that kebab
I knew I shouldn’t have bought that kebab

To be fair, that last part is pretty unlikely – unless of course you live in somewhere like Doncaster, which as everyone knows is a particularly rowdy place blessed with an unusually large amount of available headgear for the smaller gentleman (may not be true).

No. What we’re describing there is “Bank Panic” – the absolute classic from SEGA in 1983. You silly. It didn’t even make sense the other way.

Enough of all that – what we have here is yet another one of those games that I have loved for years, it’s bloody ace. This means of course that there is no voyage of discovery here, in fact I’m not even going to put some scores on the board as I usually do. Before you cough up a spleen at such an outrage, just look at the records. Go on, I’ll wait. See? Basically infinite scores. If the extra zeros on scoreboards didn’t cost so much back in those days (it’s true. That’s why you see so many old games with small scores, those extra zeros cost millions back then) then I’m sure it’d be even higher. On top of that, if you’ve ever played bank panic to any sort of level, you will know that every game takes absolutely *ages* to get through. This is great fun when you fancy a game here and there, or indeed am lucky enough to find it in the wild and want some value for your quarter, but I know this game inside out, so no need. I’ve got this.

Bank Panic then. You control a spaceship and the aim of the game is to shoot everything you see, the brains with the arm things are the hardest…hang on. No, that isn’t right, that’s Salamander. Bank Panic? Something to do with power pills? Driving game?

Ok, fuck it, I’ll play it. THAT BETTER?

First thing that you notice is the attract screen. Now I know I get anal about these bad boys, but I love me a good attract screen and Bank Panic does not disappoint. Not only does it look great, getting you moist at the idea of sticking your money in (easy), but it is a rare beast indeed. Some argue that arcade games of old were brutal. Not only due to the actual difficulty of the game, but due to the fact you had little idea what the chuff you were doing until you actually played it – and even then that often wasn’t enough. There are still games out there (like bagman) that are still mysterious beasts what, 30 odd years later for goodness sake. Not Bank Panic. Watch the attract screen and it explains *everything*. To be fair, for a machine with a joystick and three weird buttons either side, you do have to reach out a little bit, but they really have gone all out. Good lads. They’ve even put pictures of doors below the buttons, albeit with misleading instruction to shoot said doors, but hey.

Re-use *that* arcade cab layout ya varmints

While I won’t profess to being as thorough as the attract screen, the basic gist of the game is thus: People stand in doorways – shoot the baddies, don’t shoot the not baddies. You get a bag of money through each door and you win the level. Easy. Thing is, you look at it any closer and you soon realise it’s a town of mentals and nothing makes sense.

You control a trusty sheriff type person; who being young and fresh faced (although with a weird brown nose for some reason) looks like a dependable kind of guy. Granted he is clearly a little agoraphobic, choosing to exclusively stand in a bank rather than go out and seek the many faces of crime, but that doesn’t matter – looks like crime is happy coming to him. Actually there is a fuckload of money moving about this town, so much so, the bank deem it necessary to have TWELVE separate doors to the place. TWELVE. All in a row. Have these people never heard of queuing? Or perhaps not having a shitload of doors?

Doors? .....Aw, it's not for you. It's more of a Shelbyville idea.
Doors? …..Aw, it’s not for you. It’s more of a Shelbyville idea.

With that amount of doors, you’d think that there would be plenty of opportunity to get into this bank, but no. To a fucking man and woman, each and every one of the people in this town stand by the nearest of the TWELVE closed doors and patiently wait for you to open it for them. Shoulder to shoulder these people stand waiting. Men, women, bandits, super wanted bandits, bandits waiting behind men and women ready to pounce and last but not least stupid kids with a stack of hats. All standing next to each other waiting for the door in front of them to open. I mean, it’s just not very realistic is it? Takes you right out of the game if you let it.

But no, there’s a cracking game here, so let’s give it some artistic licence – stop being so negative. Let’s just say that this is normal behaviour in loadsofmoneyfucktown – what happens when you open the doors?

Good question, well timed. Well, first of all, you don’t actually open the doors. No door handles see? No, instead, what you do is move left and right between the doors and wait for the ones in front of you to open when they’re ready. Of course, they can’t open unless you’re looking at them (which, as we know is established door behaviour) and if you remember, the aim of each level is to get a bag of money through each of the TWELVE DOORS, so ultimately you spend your time sliding between each of the doors reacting to whatever is behind each as they open. It’s not all guesswork mind you – to help you in your valiant mission, you have a bit of info at the top of the screen. Above each door there is a box which fills up with a $ sign as you go and above this you have funky gauges showing you where people are, shown as red bars moving towards and ultimately waiting at each door.

What do we find behind these doors? Let’s have a look shall we?

  • Bandit! These come is several flavours, but essentially dressed like cowboys with neckerchiefs around their faces
  • Standard guy. Again dressed like a cowboy (duh), just minding his own business looking to do a bit of banking
  • Standard woman. Lovely dress, again just looking for a bit of financial action
  • Kid holding a box above his head and with way too many hats. Makes no sense whatsoever.

Simple right? Shoot the bandits, don’t shoot the good guys, ignore the kid because he’s a twat. Game done.

No chance. Remember, this is a town of utter idiots. They must stay up late each night thinking of new inane ways to fuck about as they have dozens and dozens of crazy antics in store.

First off though, let’s just look at the normal people. Turning up at the bank, choosing one of the TWELVE DOORS and then standing patiently waiting for the door in front of them to magically open. The door opens! Time to go in and complete our financial business right? Nope. Like vampires dressed ready for a western themed party, they couldn’t possibly pass through the doorway without being invited in, so why not just throw the bag of money at the counter and fuck off? A fine plan and no mistake. Don’t worry about filling in any paperwork of course, we’ll know your account details even though you look *identical* to a good third of the town’s population, no no, that’s fine.

Hang on a minute though. Why not make things a bit more fun? Instead of standing there in the doorway with my money in my hand, making it obvious to the man pointing a loaded gun at my face that I am here for banking and not shenanigans, why not hide it behind my back, give a nice dramatic pause and then whip the moneybag out like, I don’t know, a loaded gun or something? What japes. Now, the women get away with this, as they don’t have female bandits here in loadsofmoneyfucktown (racists) but the guys? These guys remember are standing in a row outside these doors, bandits most likely nearby, maybe even next to them. “Hey” they think. “Would you look at that. These bandits are dressed just like me! Oh look! One just got shot! He’s DEAD. Right here in the street. Shit. Ok, well, I really need to deposit this sack of money, so lets get this done and then get safely home. Ok, sack behind my back, let’s see how alert this sheriff really is. He’ll feel so silly if he accidentally kills me”.

Well maybe if you didn’t pretend to be a bandit you wouldn’t have got shot. dickhead.

To be fair, they get in their fair share of scrapes as well. Often they’ll turn up at the door with empty hands, but instead of playing “please shoot me in the face” they’ll be shoved aside and before you know it, BANDIT! Sometimes they’re even tied up, arms by their sides and before you know it? BANDIT. Sometimes they just look like normal guys, but have red shirts on. What’s that? You got it, fucking BANDIT.

So – shoot them right? Well yeah, do that. BANG! “UNFAIR”. Wait, what? There’s another one, my reactions are like a finely tuned animal – BANG! “UNFAIR”.

Now, I’m all for honour and all that, but I’m not sure how unfair that is. Bandit turns up at one of the TWELVE DOORS and I recognise the loaded gun pointed at me immediately and shoot the dog dead in the street. However, because I haven’t given him a fair chance to shoot me, it isn’t fair. I tell you what wouldn’t be fair – me standing behind their bathroom door of a morning, them waking up bleary eyed and wandering in and BANG! Ok, now, you can flash “UNFAIR” above your head, but robbing my bank? Tough tits cowboy.

When they’re not whining like spoilt kids, they’re planting bloody bombs. Somehow they plant them *inside* the door, but it doesn’t matter. As soon as a bomb is on a door, you are given a few seconds to get to it and shoot it (That’s what you do to bombs right?). If you don’t make it? BOOM, bad news bears. Typically this isn’t much more than a minor distraction but you see, we are a very polite sheriff indeed. Once we stand in front of some doors, we have to wait patiently while they do their business and can only move on once they are all closed. As we know, there are three of the TWELVE DOORS in view at any one time, so it’s not unusual for you to be held up for what seems like ages while a bomb sits there ticking the whole time. “Hurry up for fucksake, there is a bomb about to kill us all” you don’t say. No, no, take your time luv. Oh, ho ho, you had a bag of money behind your back all this time! Oh lady, you kill me. Ok, door closed, let’s go….SHITTING hell, it’s the boy with the hats.

What are you EVEN FOR you little shit?
What are you EVEN FOR you little shit?

The boy with the hats. AT what stage of development did they decide they needed the boy with the hats?

What do I have against the boy with the hats? Well, he *does* offer a potential bonus if you manage to shoot all his hats before he slams the door back in your face, but then again you are just as likely to get a frankly racist jack-in-the-box. You can’t even shoot him in the face as he’s so short, and when he makes you accidentally shoot an innocent man because you went full mental trigger finger trying to shoot all of his fucking hats, you wish you could aim just that little but lower. Lose a life? Absolutely fine. Glad to. No, he’s a twat and has no place in even a ridiculous town like this. Jog on little cowboy man.

You know the biggest killer though? You stand in front of this arcade machine and tell me you don’t just want to constantly track and field those three buttons. It becomes a game within a game, how many triple drum like taps can you do before the doors open (you spend a lot of time looking at closed doors naturally). It’s just so addictive. You start trying to sneak a quick three tap combo in spaces where there really isn’t time and ultimately you shoot a woman in the face. You know what? It doesn’t stop you either – you never ever learn, it’s just something you have to do. I’m almost tapping my keyboard now wishing I was playing it.

Hang on though, didn’t I say I loved this game right there in the beginning? Despite all this nonsense? Well, yeah. It’s bloody ace. It really does get rather hectic as you get further into the game and it’s great fun trying to juggle all the TWELVE DOORS  and working out who to shoot and who to leave alone. I just wish it didn’t take so long to get into. Yeah, I know there is a “level select” style three tier start option to try and jump start it a bit, but I’ve never liked those – besides you can’t get a proper score with those false starts either.

For those that cant be arsed to play this themselves, have a look at this high score video from our friends at You can see all the lunacy I speak of for yourselves (and yes, even the triple tap thing). Not to mention the fact that games take fucking AGES. Oh I mentioned that already? Several times? Oh. Did I mention how many doors there were? Did I? Hello? It was 12. Hello?……

One thought on “Game 33: Bank Panic (Sega, 1983)

  1. So there are 6 buttons because 3 are if you’re left handed and 3 are if you’re right handed? Can’t be many arcade games out there that were that generous in their layouts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *