My favorite cartridge label for this game, since it best sums up the chaos within.SPECS:
Game: Bobby Is Going Home
Publisher: CCE/Taiwan Cooper
Developer: Bit Corporation
Rarity (according to AtariAge): Undetermined
Number of Players: 1 player
Average Cost: approx. $5 - $15+ (depending on label variation)
Also Available On: Only for the Atari 2600 or similar VCS consoles
Tagline/Description: "Bobby feels that the world is so beautiful. He feels his life [is] perfect. But this day as he [is] going home, he meets many strange troubles."
Just over two years ago, I wrote an article
about how my Atari 2600 collecting had branched out of North America and into Brazil. To summarize, there are several Brazilian 2600 titles that were not released in North America, but are playable on NTSC based systems. Of the handful of games that I have acquired, one of my favorites is a little 2-D platformer called Bobby Is Going Home.
Let's take a look!
Just a few of the many variant designs for Bobby is Going Home
. The generic CCE SuperGame and the Taiwan Cooper cartridges.**photos courtesy of atarimania**
When I was a kid, I cut my teeth on my older cousin's Atari 2600. I was fortunate in that she had a decent selection of about 20-25 games and we spent hours playing them whenever I was over. At that time, my favorite titles included Ms. Pac-man
, Grad Prix
(which I really sucked at back then), and Smurfs: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle
. I know what some of you are thinking, "Smurfs...how lame!" Well maybe, but I guarantee that if you poll a group of adults who grew up around that time, you'd soon find out that the Smurfs ranks near the top on the list of a majority's Saturday morning cartoon viewing nostalgia. You may have not admitted on the schoolyard that you watched it, but YOU watched it.
I'm not going to go on and on about Smurfs
the game, since that's not the focus of this review, but I think it's important to have an idea of it's gameplay for the purpose of this review. The game was essentially an early platformer where the object was to rescue the beautiful Smurfette from the evil Gargamel's castle. To do this, you moved from the left side of the screen to the end of the right side, avoiding obstacles and enemies in your path. The screens would change from a forest setting to a meadow, to a cavern, and finally to Gargamel's laboratory/dining room. The game has a kind of bouncing mechanic, which is fun to play with, but can be difficult to master due to the stiff 2600 controls and the rapid pace at which enemies approach in later stages. Still, a game I'd highly recommend for your collection, for the 2600 and Colecovision (similar, but both different in good ways).
So what does Smurfs
have to do with Bobby is Going Home
? Well, at their core, they are very similar games with merely a tweaked objective and slight variance in gameplay. In Bobby is Going Home
your primary objective is to.....well....I'm sure you can guess from the title. Admittedly, the narrative is very limited in this game and we're never really quite sure why Bobby has strayed so far away from home and why Nature has suddenly plotted against and seeks the demise of our young hero. I like to think that maybe he went on some kicka@$ date, maybe to the mall or roller skating, and is returning home. The Dark Lords have suddenly taken over his hood, and he has to get back to his crib to get strapped with the Super Mega Blaster Cannon v.4.6 that he created over the last few years (between bathtime and right before bedtime) fearing that an apocalyptic, predator inducing, natural event was imminent. Like most Atari 2600 games, we didn't ask a lot of questions when it came to storylines, we just allowed the box art, game covers, and manuals to let our imaginations run wild.**
The major elements that Bobby is Going Home
shares with Smurfs
are the detailed settings and the platforming. From the moment you turn them on, you will notice that both games do an exceptional job of using the VCS's available color palate. The scenery is lush and vibrant (remember, this is the 2600...) in each, but in terms of detail, Bobby is Going Home
tends to over-deliver graphically. If you look closely at the background, you can make out the details of a sailboat moving across the horizon or a train coming into the station, but what you often end up with is a hot, pixelated mess (especially when there is a darker background palate). However, there are some nice animations of moving birds, clouds, suns, and boats that while sometimes distracting, should be applauded. Also, the enemies and your sprite look pretty good, are well-defined, and are nicely animated for the time. When comparing Bobby is Going Home
to its contemporaries, Smurfs
(both from 1982), it seems that less is definitely more, as the latter games are better defined graphically and much less visually muddled.
Ah, floaty float float. Is that a train in the background?**photo courtesy of atarimania**
uses an awkward, timed, double upward thrust of the joystick to make your sprite jump, like many other platformers of this era, Bobby's leap is controlled by the mere press of a familiar, orange circle. Bobby's vault can best be described as "floaty," as opposed to quick and direct. This mechanic, combined with the ability to manipulate the right and left direction of your jump in midair, allows for better maneuvering over and away from oncoming enemies. I would compare this maneuverability to Pitfall!
, though Harry's leaps allow for much less time for decision making. Though it takes a little getting use to, changing direction on the fly proves to be essential and really works well within the structure of the game. On coming enemies and pits often require the jump manipulation and the though the goal is to move from left to right, it's often necessary to back up or stay pat until a certain enemy pattern changes. I think that this differentiation in platforming (i.e. making the player break the habit of continually moving "forward") is what makes Bobby is Going Home
special, as well as challenging.
Scoring in Bobby is Going Home
is odd to say the least. While you basically earn points in many platformers by jumping over enemies/obstacles, collecting items, or in the form of bonus time left over for finishing a level quickly, this game defies the norm. You being the game with 3000 points and each tick (which has to be under a half second) reduces your score by 10. Finishing a screen adds 1000 points to your score and getting Bobby home drops a whopping 5000 points into your scoring bank. You begin the game with 5 lives and oddly, for each life lost, you are not punished, but instead rewarded an additional 1000 points.
In terms of scoring high, time is of the essence, but one must also weigh out the danger of being too hasty, as enemy patterns and animated pits, which open and close a al Pitfall!
, require some patience. Other than simply scoring, having an achievable goal (i.e. getting Bobby home) is nice and provides an added feeling of accomplishment without too much difficulty early on. However, the more times you get Bobby to his sanctuary, the difficulty increases as enemies get progressively faster.
Bobby is Going Home
Bobby safe in la casa!**photo courtesy of vgmuseum**
also stands out musically, since unlike most games of its era, it features a soundtrack as opposed to sound effects. The overarching score is a looping, digital version of the gospel hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and when you reach your goal, the chorus of the traditional "Home, Sweet Home" plays (and no, not the Motley Crue rendition...). Though I have to applaud the effort of the developers in providing a soundtrack during a time when few existed, the result is rather annoying and may push you to the verge of insanity if you are really accomplished at the game. The track is very short and repetitive, as hymns often are, and because it is constantly looped, your ears will scream for mercy. Sorry, but that's as kind as I can be. Be sure to play this one at low volume, or hey, pop in some ear buds and listen to Motley Crue.
Overall, I think that Bobby is Going Home
is a worthy platformer for any 2600 collection. It's not the kind of title that you're going to find in that box of black bricks shoved in the corner or behind the counter at your local retro store (you know, the box you have to ask the salesperson to retrieve), but it is definitely worth the price of importing for the VCS lover. The combination of controls and gameplay are spot on, and the game looks really good even when the changing palate swaps don't always mesh so well. For a game restricted to the hardware limitations of the VCS, it's obvious that the designers put a lot of thought and effort into their creation. If you like early platformers, I think it's one you'll appreciate as much as Smurfs
, but probably less than Pitfall!
. So go ahead, give it a try!RATINGS:
(on as scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):
Sound Effects/Music: 2
Replay Value: 3
Overall Score: 2.8
out of 4
**If you have not purchased a copy of the Atari Art Book, do yourself a favor and remedy that stat. Whether you're a fan of the 2600 or not, this book will captivate you with the fantastic histories of the artists and give you a better appreciation of the hard work that went into these games back then.
**gameplay footage by TheCheezWizz**