Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
24 February 2002
First Impressions: Mr. Do! for GameBoy
I happened by Electronics Boutique in the mall last night and almost bought Doom 64. At $9.99, how bad could it be, right? I had hoped to get Quake 64, having dreamed of comparison between the Saturn version and the Nintendo 64 version. Sadly, the used Quake 64 I saw last trip to the mall was gone. This is a good thing really. I realized that I'm now down to about one mall visit per month, which is practically sane. When I'd just about given up on cheap-ass gaming for the evening, I found a Mr. Do! for GameBoy at the bottom of the Used Crap We Wish Would Just Disappear basket up by the cash register. Not a horrible deal at $11.99, I figured and debited my way into poor graces with the wife all over again.

As the parents were visiting yet again, I didn't really get a chance to be my usual game-aholic self until after midnight. I almost cranked up Devil May Cry again, but remembered the Mr. Do! cartridge. Fortunately, the GameBoy Color was actually visible under the piles of clutter around the den and shortly thereafter I was Do!ing away.

Vanilla GameBoy games don't necessarily have pleasing default color schemes on the GameBoy Color. If you happen to get Mr. Do!, try the color scheme accessible by powering the system up with the D-pad held to the left. This is the most pleasing set of colors, to my eyes.

Mr. Do!, the classic arcade game, is a GESPALO (game everyone should play at least once). As the game's clown-like namesake, the player runs around underground Dig Dug-style, carving out tunnels and mining hordes of cherries arranged in 2x4 blocks of 8. Nameless baddies attempt to stop Do!'s subterranean fruit gathering, but can be offed with the dropping of Do!-sized apples that just happen to live alongside the cherries. Various delicious treats like fried eggs and pieces of cheesecake can be collected along with letters to spell out EXTRA for an extra man. This is early videogame nonsense at its best, really. That's what makes it a GESPALO.

But how's the game? The GameBoy Mr. Do! is not a pixel-perfect port, but the gameplay is there. Music and graphics are faithful, if not exact. Controls are somewhat problematic, for a fat thumb on a petite D-pad, but that gripe is quite minor and fair trade-off. There is a welcome option to turn music or sound effects off, something that every game should include.

As in olden days, I still play poorly, but enjoy the beating. Ever hopeful, I attempt combinations with falling apples and end up crushed by said apples, captured by the enemies, or both at once if I'm really at the top of my game.

One perpetual downer with older games: no saved high scores. From what I can tell, high scores are notretained between sessions. This is a silly restriction. One really needs a maximum of 50 bytes of some sort of flash RAM to keep a 10-entry high score table. That's 10 entries at 5 bytes each. Only 5 bits are needed to describe a set of 32 characters, meaning one needs only 15 bits of RAM to store three initials. An additional 24 bits of RAM permits score entires up to 16 million, which isn't really a realistic score for this game. If scores above 130,000 were realistic, then one could cram three initials in 15 bits and the score into 17 bits, getting everything down into 4 bytes per high score entry, or 40 bytes total. (Note: Scores in Mr. Do! actually can go higher than 130,000, as evidenced by the default high score table. However, the last digit of the score is always zero, so the question really becomes if 1.3 million points is a reasonable maximum. I'm wiling to be that it is.) Since RAM most likely comes in packets that are powers of 2, it is no doubt easier to go with a 64 byte chunk. How expensive can this really be? Is it worth annoying millions of gamers with game after game that is missing this feature?

This is one area where emulators really can provide an enhanced experience that goes beyond the original. With an emulator, you could theoretically save the state of the game on exit and then high scores would be retained. I haven't checked with the emulator scene in a long time, but I'd be surprised if this wasn't already a common feature. I know that several 8-bit computer emulators, like the Commodore 64 emulator VICE, do allow state saving.

Long rant. Annoying missing feature. Feh.

On the high score entry screen, the programmers put some nifty scrolling effects in the background and a whirlwind of sprites in the foreground. These are reminiscent of the scrolling and sprite effects that coders put in Commodore 64 demos. These effects on the Commodore were achieved by getting right down to the hardware and using clever tricks to do what some thought impossible. Not that the effect in Mr. Do! for GameBoy is that impressive, but it does make one wonder about the backgrounds of the coders that worked on it.

I still fantasize about buying a Super Nintendo someday, but thus far haven't found a cheap one that fit my limits as an part-time cheap-ass game collector. When I do find one, however, I'm going to see if I can't get Mr. Do! for that platform as well. I have heard good things about it, and I'd like to own and try it for myself. For now, however, this GameBoy version is giving me my Do! fix right nicely.

Price I paid: $12, bare cartridge
Recommended price: $10 or less

NOTE: Images used here are stored locally and were grabbed from VG Museum. Go visit them, so I don't go to hell.


--Matt Matthews at 01:01
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