The Laser Guide to Video Games - Review - Lady Bug & Mouse Trap (Colecovision)









In Memory
Sean Pettibone


The Laser Guide to Video Games

Lady Bug - Universal/Coleco - Colecovision - 1982

Using Namco's seminal Pac Man as its basic foundation and nascent inspiration, this superb translation of Universal's arcade title Lady Bug diverges from the standard formula in a number of key elements that make for a unique and engaging experience. Players will find immediately familiar elements. Your character is placed in a maze and needs to eat every small fruit in the paths in order to clear the level, During each level, you're have to watch out for four different enemies who will dispatch the main character if they come into contact with her. However, numerous key differences arise once you begin playing. Firstly, the enemies aren't all released at the same time. They only leave their fortress in the center of the screen when the timer is filled. This is indicated by the large colored indicator surrounding the main playfield. It's a constant presence=that adds significant urgency to the gameplay by it constant presence.

While traversing the maze, your reflexes will probably immediately search for power-pellets or some other manner to reverse the dynamic. You won't find them despite your efforts. The game requires you to survive based-on skill and instinct. There are no immediate short-cuts either, with a lack of tunnels where you can hide. This might seem to make the game excessively difficult by comparison, but its not quite that difficult. When all four monsters escape from the center a special vegetable appears in the center square they occupied. Rolling over this not only gives you bonus points but stops them in their tracks for a few seconds, It doesn't sound like much, but this move can make a huge difference if you time it correctly, though it tales some practice.

The most effective and immediate counter occurs with the mazes themselves. Scattered throughout each level, you'll come across skulls which will defeat your bug if you collide with them. However, they'll also destroy any rival creatures who come into contact with the. Theses can be used to your advantage, if you wisely set them up to follow you without getting trapped between them. This tactic isn't the easiest task, but highly effective. You can further elaborate on this strategy by using the maze to you advantage, creating traps where a skull is placed at one edge of a path enemies can't escape from. However, you can accidentally implement the reverse, so you need to be careful.

This is accomplished using a simple technique. Unlike the static field seen in titles like Pac Man, the walls in Lady Bug can be turned when you contact them, like turnstiles in different directions. These create numerous possibilities within each maze that can be used for to change path, opening a variety of functions if you anticipate the reactions of opponents, and use it to you advantage. On the surface, this appears to resemble a simple change, but it adds a layer of strategy and cunning to the play mechanics. You can set them in certain directions that create enclosed spaces that can be used for a variety of tactics. They can provide temporary shelter for the main character if you so desire, or can be used to trap enemies within them occasionally. This technique adds a layer of strategy to the game that makes it unexpectedly resemble a puzzle-game in some aspects, where you're allowed to arrange the paths in advantageous positions.

However all this aside, the most important and enjoyable aspect of the game lies not in its changeable mazes but in its unique power-up system. Scattered throughout each level, you'll find a number of hearts. Collecting these multiplies the number of points you receive for eating standard dots. More interestingly, you'll also encounter a number of letters in each stage. They spell out the words 'Extra' and 'Special' collected. However, these are only credited when they flash the same color as the words indicated=d at the side of the screen. This is a much trickier proposition than it might seem, because they only flash the correct color for a few seconds. Failing to match the colors means you don't get credit for that character and need to wait until it appears at a later stage.

Completing 'Extra' gives players an extra turn, as you might assume, but also progresses you to the next stage automatically, regardless of whether you've eaten all the dots on the screen. While only three letters appear at a time during each level, they roll over, allowing you to build each word consecutively. However, you'll need patience and a consistent skill level since the bonus letters don't occur in precise order and frequently duplicate, at random intervals. Finishing the 'Special' power-up is much harder, but gives you the opportunity to collect an entire screen filled with bonus fruits for a massive bonus score. This unique system adds a layer of complexity and motivation to the gameplay that brings an immediately appealing approach to the genre. Initial stages provide immediate challenge, but later areas increase the difficulty with added speed,. The shorter length bonuses are available combines with the faster, more aggressive enemies make for a challenging title that draws you in slowly without losing its immediacy. You'll find Lady Bugs becomes increasingly difficult, but relentlessly engaging throughout, giving it essential long-term appeal.

From a visual standpoint, the game's straightforward appearance makes it immediately appealing, you can gain complete oversight of the entire field at a glance, allowing you to quickly determine strategies and counters to the onscreen action at a glance. The screen layout is simple with brightly-colored icons easily distinguishable for the most part, with opponents standing out immediately from fixed objects, thanks largely to the primacy colors used. Animations are effective but not excessively elaborate, with opponents flowing rapidly on screen in somewhat menacing fashion that never feels overwhelming. An excellent soundtrack plays appealing tunes that accompany the action perfectly, while crisp sound effects and audio indicators are channeled perfectly to accent the action without overwhelming the player needlessly.

The presentation is further enhanced by a series of excellent sound effects that connote when you lose a chance with a slightly sad but mercifully short song that plays when your Lay Bug character collides with an opponent. Presentation is outstanding=given its contemporaries and utilizes the then-sophisticated hardware brilliantly. It displays the capabilities and excellence of the design almost flawlessly. It works most effectively played alongside other arcade translations to become one of the Colecovision's signature launch titles. It remains and exceptional companion to the superlative translation of Mouse Trap, released during the same window. Lady Bug delivers a unique approach that's immediately accessible while diverging from its inspiration to that's simultaneously engaging and enduringly appealing.

Mouse Trap -
Exidy/Coleco - Colecovision - 1982

On initial play, this expertly-implemented translation of Exidy's cult-favorite arcade game appears to draw another similar field against Namco's seminal Pac-Man, but takes a significantly different yet complimentary approach to the maze-chase genre. Upon closer play. Additional layers of strategy emerge that forge a key element that unlocks Mouse Trap's enduring appeal. A key element that breaks the mold are the gates throughout the stage. Players can hit one of three colored buttons on the controller, which makes the gates change position. This makes for an entirely different layer of strategy, allowing you to change the shape and function of the maze in real-time. These switch between two positions, which doesn't sound that important until you multiply this times three and experiment, discovering a vast number of combinations available.

Lady Bug's player-adjustable gates immediately open alternate paths previously blocked, allowing you to move ahead or the opposite, allowing you to close the gate behind you if you're being chased by an cat, offering immediate protection. However, you need to be careful, since this can also trap the mouse inside a limited section with a cat with no chance of escape. Memorizing the locations of each gate and mastering their timing takes some practice and patience, but leads to an effective and engaging system that offers surprising flexibility alongside engaging structure that creates a kind-of puzzle game overlaid over the traditional maze-chase mechanics.

This approach succeeds because its implemented seamlessly, giving the gameplay an immediate appeal that's simultaneously intuitive, challenging and engaging. .The surprisingly elaborate and engaging gameplay mechanics are straightforward. The game's controls are easy to use and responsive. This is an impressive accomplishment even by today's expectations, but even moreso considering the limitations of the era. These seamlessly integrated elements allow the title move beyond the surface similarities. Mouse Trap might seem initially derivative where the objective is to eat all the cheese pieces arranged on a static maze while avoiding enemies, that consist of six alley cats who chase your mouse relentlessly. They roam though the paths quickly, making themselves difficult to avoid.

Players can fight back by eating one of four dog-bones placed at each corner of the maze. Once enabled, a loud bark is heard as the mouse transforms instantly into a dog for a short time. At this point, its your turn to take the lead and chase after the cats for extra points while clearing them from the maze briefly. Unlike many other titles, you have control over exactly when the dog form is enabled. Knowing when to use it at the most opportune moment can be challenging, allowing you to conserve the and strike at just the right moment. You can save these power-ups if you find yourself in a vulnerable position, or use them when the mouse is on offence. An effective strategy is to hold onto them and use them wisely. Preferably, and for maximum effectiveness, its most productive to hit the dog power-up button when a number of unsuspecting cats are lingering nearby.

This unique mechanic adds another layer of strategy to the gameplay, working with the shifting gates to give the player flexibility with strategic elements than many of its contemporaries offered. However, the cats aren't the only foes you face. A mighty bird flies overhead at random intervals and must be avoided. The trick to his approach, is that unlike the cats whose movement are confined to the mazes' walls, the birds flies overhead over the screen, breezing over the walls without impediment. Contacting the nefarious bird causes you to lose a life in any circumstance, regardless if you are in vulnerable mouse form or dog mode. The bird moves in a fairly regular pattern that's somewhat easy to anticipate at the earlier stages, but becomes increasingly difficult to avoid as you reach subsequent levels. These opposing forces combine to make the levels deceptively difficult to traverse, but there are ample rewards to uncover along the way.

You'll find a number of treasures scattered through the maze, hitting one of them gives you a decent score bonus which you can stack up by finding additional prizes. Each of these is accompanied by a short melodic accompaniment that gives you an audible reward that's pleasing without disrupting the action. Subsequent prizes appear immediately in other sections of the maze and grow in value with each one you hit. You can chain several of these together for a higher score. In addition, Mouse Trap offers a substantial 10,000-poimt reward at the conclusion of each level, with high-scores giving you bonus lives for your efforts. The learning curve is fairly consistent and fair, earlier stages are entertaining and fun but the game becomes harder once you reach the later stages.
The background music shifts from a somewhat relaxed approach to a faster-paced entity that adds urgency to the proceedings after you've cleared the first few levels. Uniformly composed, the elaborate themes add another layer to the superlative action, helping drive Mouse Trap's momentum ahead until you reach the extremely challenging latter stages where the pace picks up even further to reach a frenzied intensity. At this point, knowing the game's layout and enemy patters intuitively helps you survive long enough to reach the next section, holding off their relentless attack through a combination of fast reflexes and intuition. Invigorating your motivation comes in achieving a high-score and managing to forge deeper into the game, attempting to reach higher levels, attempting to surpass previous high scores and levels.

Handing the mouse isn't nearly as complex as it might appear given its elaborate play mechanics. Basic movement with the standard Colecovision controller can be a tad frustrating with a slight pause that occurs before some of the tight corners. It might take some practice for players to become accustomed to this quirky mechanic, but you can learn to use it effectively, especially when timiing moves against the cats. The multiple gates can be switched by pressing one of the three color-coded numbers on the control pad while a fourth button can be used to switch to dog mode. Its slightly more complicated than other maze games of its type.

After you acclimate to its minor control quirks, Mouse Trap's unique play mechanics become second-nature with a little practice, making the innovative gameplay surprisingly accessible once you're able to command the basic functions without staring at the controller. It remains one of the Colecovision's most enduring and memorable titles. It delivers an intense rush of action without feeling overly complex or needlessly difficult. The game's detailed visuals are straightforward yet entertaining with impressively animated characters running across the screen=, which can seem humorous or menacing depending on the situation. These elements are consistently excellent and work in near-seamless complimentary fashion. Mouse Trap is an unforgettable arcade-to-home translation that successfully implements strong visuals, an effective soundtrack and vivid sound effects with intense yet intuitive play mechanics that converge to create one of the Colecovision's most memorable and exciting titles.

- Michael Palisano
- Michael Palisano