Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Ladybug

Retro Game of the Day! Ladybug

Ladybug by Universal, originally released in the arcades in 1981.

As most know, the early 1980s was a flashpoint for video games. Pac-Man was the king, and the industry was abuzz with notions of "how can we replicate the success of this game?" Naturally, a fair amount of dot-eating, maze chasing games followed in the wake of its massive success - and so Ladybug was developed.

Boot this game up and its inspiration is immediately apparent, there's a lot here that would never have existed had it not been built off the original Pac-Man blue print. However, play for a moment and it will be quite evident that this game is very different.

Pac-Man is a maze game where you must eat dots for points, collect bonus items, avoid monsters, and briefly powerup to turn the tables on your pursuers. In Ladybug, you are also navigating a maze and consuming dots, and being chased by enemies, but your abilities are quite different. You can open or close doors to affect the layout of the maze (and cut off monsters), and you can collect multipliers to quickly blast off to huge scores. You have no powerups, instead there are poison traps which can kill either you or the enemy.

There's several little things going on which makes this game play quite differently than Pac-Man, and that may be the reason it never became as popular. Pac-Man was more colorful, simpler, less technical in some ways. Ladybug had more rules, but perhaps more opportunity as well. Overall, Pac-Man had a bit of a mythos with the characters present in the game, and the ability to briefly power-up was the clincher. Ladybug opted to be more of a straight action-strategy presentation in a similar mold, and it never took.

Still, the game had some fans at the time, and though it's never been as accessible as Pac-Man, it does have some interesting gameplay ideas and fits in well with what was going through the arcades at the time. Not groundbreaking, but Ladybug is worth investigating.

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