The Many Faces of . . . Pengo
By Alan Hewston

"Cold as Ice" and "Ice, Ice Baby". Not quite songs about Pengo, but ice is what Pengo is all about.

It's still cold up North, and for the first time since November, we've finally gone more than a week without seeing ice. Pengo is one of those cute games from the early 80's that deserved more recognition for being so innovative. Not only is it a maze game, but one where you can actually change the maze, need to rely upon your memory a lot, use quick thinking and hand-eye coordination to eliminate your enemies, logic & strategy to figure out the puzzle of earning lots of bonus points, and then when all else fails you can still run away from the enemies. A great non-violent (minimal violence) game - you can tell your children that the Snow Bees don't actually die, they are sent into hibernation and will return the next level.

As Pengo, the penguin, you are trapped inside a maze of ice blocks where several Snow Bees are trying to sting you. If you can eliminate all the active Snow Bees, or survive long enough, the Snow Bees will eventually exit into hibernation, ending the level. Push the ice blocks to squash the Snow Bees and score points - even more when multiple bees are squashed. Each level begins with all the Snow Bees inside different ice blocks which momentarily flash red. Remember where they are hidden so that you can eliminate them ASAP. A handful of them come right out (sometimes right next to you) to chase you. As long as Snow Bees are on the screen, the remaining ones can hatch any time - but not without the blocks with the un-hatched bees inside flashing red to warn you.

Movement is limited to U/D/L/R (no diagonals) and likewise for pushing blocks (use fire button when next to a block). A block slides across the play field until it hits another block or a wall, stopping there, in tact. If there is no room to slide, then the block is destroyed, scoring points as well, and even more points if there is an un-hatched Snow Bee inside. There are also three indestructible diamond blocks, which if aligned - three in a row nets you a huge 10K bonus (if away from the wall) or 5K (if along the wall). You can only get this bonus once per level, but it also causes all the Snow Bees to become frozen for a short time so that you can eliminate them by squashing or walking on them. Each level the bees get faster and smarter, and there are larger numbers of Snow Bees that can hatch. The quicker you complete a level the more bonus points you score. Bonus lives are earned with scores such as 40K and 100K. The final Snow Bee can be the most dangerous as it becomes faster while trying to escape to a corner (goes into hibernation). When along the walls, you can hit your fire button and bounce all the walls, thus freezing any Snow Bee also along any wall.

The 5200 manual states that the score rolls over after 99,999,999 points - Yeah - like anyone can (or wants to) play for that long. All home versions allow 2 player alternating games. This classic Arcade game made it home in cartridge format for the Atari 2600 & 5200 (both fairly rare), and on the Atari 8 bit (uncommon). I've yet to find the Atari 8 bit or C64 version on original disk. Thus Pengo is a bit harder to find/play on the home systems than most of the games that I review. But there is always MAME and other emulators.

Classic Platforms: Atari 2600, 5200, Atari 8 bit, Commodore 64.

Atari 5200 and 8 bit programmed by: Sean W. Hennessy.

Commodore 64 version released by Colosoft.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Have Nots: Commodore 64 (34)
The C64 version is fun to play but pales in comparison to the others. At first, the Gameplay appears to be the same as on the other games, but then there was something that I could not figure out. The Snow Bees (now called Snow Bows) seem to keep hatching endlessly. Even if that ice block was destroyed, they continue to appear. Guess that I should have tracked down those C64 instructions first, or perhaps this is a more challenging feature of the arcade game not present in the others. There is no pause that I could find. There is a break between levels where you are entertained by several differently colored Pengo's dancing. But this break is not long enough to do anything, and cannot be shortened either. I could not find a way to restart the game other than to wait and die, or reload from disk. There does not appear to be a way to select a difficulty, but you can continue the game - at the last level reached. Finally, any time you die, the maze starts all over again, and not where you left off. All this frustration downgrades the Gameplay to fair (5). The C64 does have the best, superb Graphics (9), and the color and details are all clear. No jagged edges and no death unless you are completely covered by the Snow Bow. The Snow Bows that can destroy ice blocks are clearly discernable (having beaks) from those who can only chase. The other home versions offer no clue and you must assume that all Snow Bees can destroy ice blocks. The Sound effects and music are completely different (bland) from the other versions and are just OK (5). The Controls are very nice (8), but could be better if the response time were not so slow and sluggish. The Addictiveness score suffers, but still is pretty good (7). Too bad Atarisoft didn't make this instead of Colosoft.

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (41)
Simple, yet effective - as is often the case for the 2600 - and just a notch (barely) below the Gold medal.

The Gameplay is nice (8), but there is no pause, and it lacks in level selection. The lack of pause is more than compensated for between levels - where the game does not continue until you press the fire button.

Excellent programming! The joystick Controls are flawless (10). The Sound is cool (7), but the effects are limited compared with the computer versions & their nice musical score. The Graphics (7) are very good - simple, but highly effective. The Addictiveness score is outstanding (9) - I prefer playing this one over either of the gold medal winners.

Gold Medal: Shared between the Atari 5200 (42) and Atari 8 bit (42)
No reason to break this tie, as both games are

Come back next month when those of us sick of Winter just want to go Berzerk on our Atari 2600, 5200, 8 bit, Vectrex, and Apple II - and take on the most happy of all indestructible enemies - Evil Otto.

Eratta: I continue to discover more official classic versions of the games that I review. Imagic produced a handful of rarer disk versions of C64 games and I missed a supposedly good version of C64 Demon Attack. I recently added the CoCo cart for Demon Attack to my collection but still have no CoCo to play it on. Tapper was officially released on the Apple II, in case I missed that one as well.

(Alan Hewston is still looking for the Colecovision version of Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns - if you have one for sale or trade, Alan can be reached at Also planning to put the "Joystick Era" Classic Video Games 2000 list up next month - since the DP guide finally arrived - Wohoo!)

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