The Many Faces of  . . .  Megamania & Mr. Do!

by Alan Hewston

 Sticking with our 20th anniv. celebration, both titles were released in 1982.  “Mr. Do!” was a huge arcade hit which has been emulated, copied, cloned and ported to more than half of the know gaming/computer systems - through today.  Not to mention its 3+ sequels.  “Megamania” was the second of five Atari 2600 Activision titles by Steve Cartwright  & probably the most well known. 

Megamania
This game caught plenty of TV air time with a couple different “Megamania” commercials loaded with rock and roll music and the game’s graphics  – pretty much like an MTV version of a 30 second long VG infomercial.  The game did not fail to meet that hype either.  Although it was a “death from above” shooter type game, it was unique in how the bonus lives were awarded to keep bringing you back for more.  After several dozen games you’d still be finding ways to boost that score to make just one more attack wave than the last time.  Not to mention that a very achievable goal of 45,000 points would earn you an Activision patch. 

“Megamania” is insane!!!!  With colorful but deadly enemies; 8 distinctive attack waves; they repeat infinitum; enemies from the left; enemies from above; dropping more bombs each wave; faster & faster they come; to & fro; off the screen & back; changing tactics to confuse you; and hurry to score more bonus points!!!  Order by midnight tonight!!! 

From the bottom of the screen, you must send one missile at a time to defend the Earth from a horde of weird invaders.  Your options were to use a straight or guided missiles (the default).  You could not move U/D and had no other attacks or defenses other than to dodge them L/R.  Your short-term goal was to survive long enough to earn yet another life (every 10K), but ultimately to make it to 1,000,000 points and roll the score/freeze the game.  My PB is 300K, so I’m one awesome game away from getting there.  I suggest playing a version with a pause if you tackle this ~ 3 hour tour. 

Arcade:  None – first created for the Atari 2600

Home Versions:  Atari 2600 (’82 Steve Cartwright, Activision), Atari 8 bit & 5200  (’83 Glynn Anderson, Activision), Commodore 64 (’84 Tony Taylor pack-in with Activision’s Game Maker)

Categories:  Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Click here to see a  cool Megamania ad!

The 8 attack waves of enemies are:  Hamburgers, Ice Cream Sandwiches (or in one manual Cookies – but really look like glowing green goo), Refrigerator Magnets (but listed as and look exactly like Bugs), Radial Tires, Diamond Rings, Steaming Irons, Bow Ties, and Space Dice. 

Have Nots: Commodore 64 (32)
A pitiful official port for the C64, but this was due to Activision releasing this game to demonstrate how quickly one could assemble a cool game like Megamania.  Our UK C64 aficionado Mat Allen gave me the complete rundown from the Gamemaker manual.  It included on disk: “Chopper” by John van Ryzin (of “H.E.R.O.” fame), “Archery”, “Doggie”, “Draw Poker”, “Megamania” and “Pitfall”.  OK, now I know why I do not like C64 “Pitfall” – its done by Gamemaker.  OK, so the C64 Gameplay is mediocre (5) but at least it plays like “Megamania”.  Here’s a quick rundown of the problems: it lacks enemies (only 6 or 7 instead of 10-15), the sprites & bullets are jittery; poor sprite collision detection; enemies go off screen and do not reappear; or stay off screen for an entire pass; sometimes appear below you on the scoreboard; the speed is too slow; their shots drop slower than they can move downward (ha ha - even gravity sucks); killer moves – ie they can move all the way L/R across the bottom of the screen and waste you – giving you NO chance; too much bonus time allotted; very cheap one color sprites and hard to tell what they are; and worst of all NO BONUS LIVES.  Yecch.  The Addictiveness (6) was good enough, but no pause, no bonus lives means no chance to play for a million – as if you’d even want to.  The Graphics (5) are acceptable and the Sound (6) good, but awkward & missing effects.  Controls (10) were excellent. This poor man’s version of the original Atari 2600 game is available only on the Gamemaker disk. 

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (39)
The original is great, but improved in later releases.  The Gameplay (7) is pretty good, but options and more game elements could have easily improved upon it.  The Addictiveness (8) is enjoyable as you can keep getting a little better each time.  A pause would have really help in this intense marathon game. The Graphics (7) are effective but boring compared to later releases.  The Sound (7) is very good, but no music or enemy sound effects. The Controls (10) are perfect. 

Silver Medal Atari 8 bit (41)
The Gameplay (7) matches the original.  The Addictiveness (9) is superb – thanks to a pause button.  The Graphics (8) are crisp and even more colorful.  The Sound (7) is very good – but still no music or sounds by the enemies.  The Controls (10) are perfect and this version is available on both cart and disk – but no Gamemaker SNAFU. 

Gold Medal:  Atari 5200 bit (42)
This is NOT an April Fool’s joke.  Those identical cousins can be different.  On other games, I’ve documented minor differences at best, but this time it is quite clear that the 5200 was upgraded from its 8-bit cousin.  The most obvious are more and better sounding audio effects – like when you die, or the alarm when your timer nears zero and then there’s the bonus life chime.  The chime is sweet – it contributes to the Gameplay, Addictiveness and Sound, so I increased the Sound score to (8) impressive.  Otherwise all the other scores match the 8 bit.  Wait a minute – the Controls Alan.  You forgot the Controls!  OK, I hope that I do not lose my credibility, but they were perfect.  Activision programmed them well so that you move where you want when you want, or not at all.  I cleared more than 8 waves before I lost my first life.  So now you know that I don’t just cut & paste those 5200 scores without trying it first. 

Mr. Do!
Take 1 part ‘shooter’, and 2 parts ‘dig your own maze’, and throw in an EXTRA bonus and you’ve got “Mr. Do!”  How many times back in the early 80’s did you play ”Pac-Man” or a similar maze game and wish that you could be on the offensive?  “Mr. Do!” and “Dig Dug” both came out in ’82 & are remarkably similar, but probably didn’t have time to copy off ach other. The most important similarity that was new to the VG world was that the hero inside a dig your own maze was not defenseless, but could now fight back  & score points for doing so.  “Dig Dug” earned points for digging, whereas Mr. Do only did for digging (collecting/harvesting) the cherries.  Maybe we can call this hybrid a collect-the-objects-in-a-create-your-own-maze-shooter.  Hmmn.  Maybe not.  But it fits the bill.

I’ll assume that you know the mega hit “Dig Dug”, so let me tell you mostly what is unique in “Mr. Do!”  The maze is cherry orchard owned by a clown, Mr. Do!.  Neither game allows diagonals, only L/R/U/D movement and weapons.  The enemies are not deployed on the screen in isolated air pockets, but a fixed number of monsters emerge one at a time from a centrally located house (monster generator).  The monsters cannot regenerate, so once all monsters are out, the house becomes a bonus prize that remains until claimed.  Upon claiming the prize, Mr. Do is rewarded with a brief freeze for all of the monsters and usually causes the emergence of the Alpha Monster (see below) and his entourage.   All monsters travel around the orchard trying to catch Mr. Do, but only along the pathways.  Anywhere that Mr. Do travels will become a pathway for the monsters to follow. 

Each orchard has several 2x4 clusters of 8 cherries and a handful of Apples.  As in “Dig Dug”, the Apples could be dropped like rocks to crush any monsters below.  To complete a round, your task is to either harvest all the cherries in the orchard, or eliminate all the bad guys.  You earn bonus points for collecting (non-stop) all 8 cherries in a clump.   The monsters can be eliminated if you hit them with your ONE and only Power Ball.  But you must wait for it to reload and return to you – done via both an audio and visual effect whereby its pieces dramatically implode from the edges of the screen to the point where Mr. Do is. The Power Ball can then be fired again in the direction Mr. Do! faces.  Be careful not to get it stuck in an infinite loop as it will bounce forever along a  path until it hits an apple, enemy, or returns to Mr. Do!.  Crushing multiple monsters with the same Apple earns huge bonus points.  An EXTRA life can be earned (and the level ends) by spelling out “EXTRA” by getting each of the 5 lettered Alpha Monsters.  An Alpha Monster enters the playfield when the score hits multiples of 10K, but only if you need that letter.  When you collect the prize all starting monsters will freeze but then 4 (3 on home versions) fast moving Blue Chompers will emerge from the Alpha Monster, wherever he is.  If he’s outside the maze, then he’ll follow his entourage inside it to chase you.  Any monster can now be shot and once the 3 Chompers are eliminated the other monsters become un-frozen.  Unfortunately, the Chompers can dig through anything, the grass, cherries and apples in hot pursuit of you and can even catch and eat falling apples - yikes.  Alas, once the Alpha Monster is killed, he and the remaining Chompers turn into Apples or disappear.  If you wait too long to clear a level, the bad guys or the Alpha Monster if still around can turn into Diggers and come right through everything. 

A fourth and final way to complete a level is to collect the very rarely seen diamond.  A 10,000 point (free game at the arcade) diamond can appear (N/A on the 2600 & unsure if on C64/Atari) when an Apple is dropped at just the right time/place/height.  This is a mystery, but some game player or hacker may have figured it out.  There are many different patterns and levels in all the home versions (the Apple 2 boasts 99 levels). 

Arcade game by Universal (not the movie company) 1982

Classic Home releases:  Colecovison (?, Coleco), Commodore 64 (Troy Linden, with music by John Fitzpatrick ’85 Datasoft),

2600 (Ed English ‘83 Coleco), Atari 8-bit (Tim Ferris ’84 Datasoft), Apple II (Rick Mirsky, Datasoft), Intellivision (rumor mill only – never made production by Coleco)

Categories:  Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Arcade Sequels:  ’83 “Mr. Do!'s Castle”, ‘84 “Mr. Do!'s Wild Ride”; and ‘84 “Do! Run Run”.  There was also a laser disk game – like Dragon’s Lair, for the Adventures of Mr. Do! that was planned to come out in ’85 before Universal folded. 

Wouldn’t you just love to have the arcade version in your home?

Kudos to all the programmers for making sure that no double-deaths can occur.  If you dislodge 1 or more Apples and get killed, yet an Apple is about to fall or still falling, there is a pause for your death, then another pause for the apple to fall and then a pause before your next life begins.  Yes, I just had to try this. 

Coleco and Datasoft versions differ in the gameplay as follows:  Coleco allows you to get stuck under an Apple, (move down first then L/R to escape), the Chompers always eat through anything, but can be crushed by Apples.  Datasoft Chompers cannot eat through anything but the Apples (both falling and still); and I have yet to see any monsters become Diggers.  Every three levels there’s a short intermission, and a similar intermission when you earn an EXTRA life. 

Have Nots: Apple II (N/A)
As usual, my apologies – I have no Apple II or CoCo system – so no review.  But if I ever get them I’ll go back and generate scores for them. 

Have Nots: CoCo (N/A)
Coco owners found it to be one of the best games on that system up to that point in time.

Have Nots: Atari 2600 (30)
This version is extremely limited in Gameplay primarily due to the smaller sized 16x8 orchard, compared with 19x9 (other versions) and 12x13 for the arcade.  There are also shortfalls with:  limited number of enemies; no house for the monsters or prize for you; the final (I think?) enemy emerges as the Alpha Monster, not by some other means; which obviously means no Alpha Monster queue outside the maze; you cannot hold an Apple, it starts to fall immediately; no entourage of Chompers, and no Diggers other than the Alpha Monster; Mr. Do! always faces the same direction so you do not know where you are throwing the power ball; the Apples do not break, just lie there after impact; and probably a few more problems.  This all makes for a simplified yet bizarre Gameplay (4) weak, to say the least, but all 4 Coleco difficulty options are available.  The Addictiveness (6) is decent with a sufficient (hardest of all versions) challenge and still a lot of variety.  But there is no pause button and you’ll need to be patient while you learn this game.   One thing to get used to that I may not describe so well is that digging causes the entire block to disappear, not just the middle.  So instead of allowing the monsters to move in either L/R or U/D depending upon which direction you went, it allows monsters to enter that square from any direction.  So the monsters get right on top of you right away – no hiding.  The Graphics (5) are barely acceptable, but you can tell what everything is.  The Sound (5) is fair but limited effects and music only for the beginning and end of each game.  The Controls (10) are perfect.
 

Bronze Medal: Colecovsision (41)
This version is good and I’ve played it the most, but not quite as much as the world record holder Robert Mruczek who tells how a glitch occurs every game - near 655K.  Around that score the game resets to zero points, but keeps on playing.  So if you do play a marathon game, you’d better videotape it to prove your score.  The Gameplay (8) is impressive and complete, including the 4 difficulty options.  The Addictiveness (8) is enjoyable, but loses a point for not being able to (or easily) use the pause and at the same time have a perfect (use Atari) stick for Controls (10).  I recommend starting the game with the CV controller then switching out or using a Y cable to use the Atari stick to play, but it will still be hard to quickly use the pause.  The Graphics (7) are effective, but a huge disappointment with monochromatic & bland enemies, plus the Power Ball reload implosion is missing.  The Sound (8) is crisp and no effects are missing. 

Silver Medal Atari 8 bit (44)
The Gameplay (8) is impressive and complete but could be improved (yes all versions have the boring 1 and 2 player modes).  The Addictiveness (9) is wonderful and thanks to a pause button, you’ll enjoy playing this a lot. The Graphics (8) are nice, more colorful than the CV, but still a little fuzzy compared to the C64.  The Sound (9) is fantastic with a couple nice pieces of music and all the effects, plus a music toggle on/off in case you do not like music.  The Controls (10) are flawless, plus Datasoft added in a toggle for either player (both joystick ports) to use a left-handed joystick – ie rotate Atari stick 90 degrees clockwise – how politically correct for that era.
 

Gold Medal:  Commodore 64 (45)
No Gamemaker here!  The C64 is programmed to use all of its graphics & sound here.  The Graphics (9) are superb and the Controls (10) are excellent (and include the L/R handed stick control).  The Sound (9) is fantastic – with the same music toggle on/off.  The Gameplay (8) is impressive, matching everything from the Atari 8 bit.  The Addictiveness (9) is outstanding with a pause and all three medal winners have a lot of variety to keep you coming back to try a new strategy or hone your skills.

There are plenty of lessons learned in what can go wrong which should also improve your scores.   This version is only on disk. 

Come back next month:  Just in time for the Indianapolis 500, for the long awaited review of the Many Faces of “Pole Position” on the Atari 2600, 5200, 8-bit, Commodore 64 (1 to 4? versions I’m still counting), Vic 20, Intellivision, TI-99, Apple II and Vectrex oh my.  I better start my engines right now.  I may also sneak in another driving game, Bump and Jump (2600, CV and Inty) if I get lucky. 

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