Building a Genre
Tokyo-based arcade video game producer Universal Co, Ltd. gives birth to one of the most venerable categories in gaming history with Space Panic, the first platform game, released in NA by Universal U.S.A. of Santa Clara, CA in 1980. Platform games generally deal with the player climbing ladders and running across platform levels, avoiding bad guys and other life-ending objects. In Space Panic, the enemies are little evil space-apples intent on taking a bite out of the hero’s backside. Luckily, the protagonist is armed with a shovel that seems to be able to dig through solid brick, allowing him to trap the aliens in holes that can then be filled in, dispatching them. He must, however, keep an eye on the oxygen level, which will asphyxiate him if it runs out.
Even with the player under constant duress from all the aliens, after game testing and digging through the data, Universal USA finds that distributors, arcade operators and even gamers are finding that Space Panic is too easy. The gamemaker listens to the complaints and adjusts gameplay accordingly, and further extensive game testing at locations in 1981 finds that the amount of quarters shovelled into the platform game has doubled.
The game fabricates a framework for Brøderbund’s 1983 computer game Apple Panic, and paves the way for hundreds of other platform titles, including powerhouse arcade game Donkey Kong by Nintendo, as well as about a million console games. Being a 2nd tier arcade game, Space Panic is naturally pursued for addition to Coleco’s large stable of arcade adaptations for its ColecoVision home console, resulting in a very faithful translation to the system. Universal themselves are prolific game producers until disbanding in 1985, and probably their biggest games involve the Mr. Do franchise, starting in 1982 with the original Mr. Do!. Stretching across five games, including Mr. Do’s Castle (Asian title: Mr. Do Vs. the Unicorns) and Mr. Do’s Wild Ride, the series improves considerably on the pioneering Space Panic, and is generally considered to contain some of the most diabolical gameplay ever constructed.
Sources (Click to view; inert links kept for historical purposes)
“’Space Panic’ Modified.” Cash Box, 14 Mar. 1981, p. 41. Internet Archive, archive.org/details/cashbox42unse_41/page/n65. …Universal USA reports that the company has modified its current “Space Panic” video game, in accordance with customer recommendations.
Electronic Games, “The Video and Computer Games Scale the Heights!”, pg. 49 – 50, Jan. 1983
Image of the box art from Apple Panic from Gamespot, “Apple Panic” – www.gamespot.com/apple-panic/