Monday, March 23, 2009

Things that shouldn't exist: Porky's--The Atari 2600 Game

The Atari 2600 was one helluva video game system--I still love hooking mine up, grabbing the barely-working joystick and playing my way through some River Raid, Pitfall, Ghostbusters and The Empire Strikes Back. But there's a handful of games that the mere existence of is head-scratching--I could talk about the M*A*S*H* cartridge, or Kool-Aid Man. But let's concentrate on the bizarre adventure Porky's, a game as ill-advised at Nicolas Cage's hair plugs, and one deserving to buried with those millions of E.T. cartridges in the Arizona desert. 

Based on the popular 1981 raunchy sexcapade comedy from Bob Clark (yes, the same Bob Clark who brought us A Christmas Story), a film this chock full of T&A seems an odd choice for the Atari platform. And what on earth would you DO in the game? Well, I was lucky to find the original instructions online to the game, posted below (with snarky comments, in brackets and italics, care of yours truly):


Game Instructions
Fox Video Games


Revenge is sweet - and the objective of this game is to "get it." Your task is to help Pee Wee blow up Porky's bar and obtain as many points as possible. ("Get it?" Get what? Pray tell! Don't be coy with us, Atari instruction booklet! I must assume, since this is a video game made for you know, kids, "it" must be a cold lemonade, a paddle ball, or a Scholastic biography on Frederick Douglas.)


Turn the power ON. Use the Difficulty Switch and Color/Black & White Switch to select a level of play.

Left Difficulty Switch A: Shower Scene most difficult (I'd hate to tackle the shower scene at it's highest difficulty--it's so hard to find the peep hole and locate Kim Cattrall's 40 pixel boobs)
Left Difficulty Switch B: Shower Scene less difficult
Right Difficulty Switch A: Swamp Scene most difficult
Right Difficulty Switch B: Swamp Scene less difficult
Black & White Switch: Balbricker most aggressive
Color Switch: Balbricker less aggressive
A, A, Black & White Setting: Expert play level
B, B, Color Setting: Normal play level
Press the Game Reset lever and go for it! It's a blast. (Sure. Throw caution to the proverbial wind.)

THE ADVENTURE (I don't really think you can call it that.)

As the play begins, you find yourself at the county line ready to enter Porky's territory. But, before the action begins, some introductions are in order. (Thank God! I need as much back story as possible before I can guide a low-res faceless man-blob through an incoherent side scrolling mess.)

Meet Edward "Pee Wee" Morris. He has a few problems. But personal problems aside, Pee Wee (with a little help from you) has a formidable task ahead of him. (Sure does--he has to draw you into the game enough so sales with warrant the green lighting of a Porky's II: The Next Day cartridge.)

It seems this real nasty guy named Porky, owner of a shady little night club with the same name, has messed with Pee Wee and his friends. So, you and Pee Wee are out to even the score. (Don't drag me into this. Seriously.)

Another person to look out for is Ms. Balbricker. She's out to grab onto anything she can, so don't let her latch on to you. If she does, it's the pits. (The pits? Oh no! You have to restart the game and you can't quit til you've passed it?)

Objective: Run the highway gauntlet and blow up Porky's bar. Sound easy? Try it... you'll see. (Um...doesn't really sound that easy. Blowing up a bar takes lots of planning--you have to get a real solid crew together. Like, you need an explosives expert, and a getaway driver, a security guy on the inside, the list goes on and on. I think this whole thing could go really wrong, Pee Wee--maybe you should reconsider?)

Controls: Pee Wee moves to the right or left only as long as you hold the joystick in that direction. In the up and down directions, Pee Wee will attempt to move all the way into the next band unless you reverse the direction to stop it. ( that's how a joystick works!)

Scoring: Points are accumulated by successfully dodging the obstacles and distractions in the highway bands.
Motor Boat, 1 point; The Police, 100 points; (Bonus for lulling Sting to sleep with own adult contemporary solo music) Porky's Girls, 200 points; Attack Pigs, 400 points; Porky's Bouncers, 800 points, Pig Mobil, 1600 points; Last Band, 3200 points. (The Last Band? I hope it's not Creed or Smashmouth.)

Warning: The action's hot and heavy. If Pee Wee gets hit... it's in the drink. (Thanks for the disclaimer. I always need to be prepared for any hot and heavy Atari action.)

Objective: Get out of the swamp! And that's easier said than done. To escape you must pole vault over the swamp, collect and place four bricks to form an escape ladder. (A four brick escape ladder? That's pretty standard. I mean, it would be nice to have the luxury of a 6-8 brick escape ladder, but I get that timing and graphics capabilities make that an impossibility.)

Controls: Vaulting is accomplished by running toward the vaulting pole and pressing the joystick button while Pee Wee is within the allowable range. Watch your thumb pressure if you want to make it to the other side. (Nurse, how's my thumb pressure?) To place bricks, move against the ladder and press the button on the joystick.

Brick placed +100 points
Exiting Scene +100 points (Bonus 500 for destroying game cartridge.)
Each pole vault jump -25 points
Falling into swamp -100 points
Caught by Porky -random number of points (That seems lazy. Couldn't agree on a number, programmers?)

Warning: If you find yourself back in the swamp, you won't have to rebuild the ladder. But... you will have to look out for Porky, and is he ever mad. (That's a chance I'm willing to take if I can forgo the whole "4 brick escape ladder" monstrosity.)

Objective: To keep your mind off of Wendy (a.k.a Operation Disappearing Boner) and on the task at hand - pushing the brightly colored object at the top of the screen (again, you couldn't even decide WHAT the object is, programmers? I mean, I would have hated to be assigned the Porky's job, too, but at least give it the ol' college try) into the pit without falling in or being caught by Ms. Balbricker. Each object pushed into the pit stops and/or slows a band on the highway screen. (Anything to slow down Dogstar is a good thing, I guess...)

Controls: To maneuver around the gymnasium, move Pee Wee right/left and up/down the ladders with the joystick. When you need to jump, press the button. (Might as well jump. Go ahead, jump.)

Pushing object into pit +100 points
Loitering in locker room -10 each 10 seconds (Aww...but that's the fun part. Hangin' out with the guys, snappin' towels at each other...*wistful sigh* Is that at least in the Atari adaptation of Top Gun?)
Falling into the pit -200 points
Caught by Balbricker -200 points

Warning: Once you climb out of the Shower Scene, you will re-enter the county line scene and one of the bands will be stopped. (Level 1 = Chumbawumba, Level 2 = Deep Blue Something, Level 3 = Sugar Ray...) Each trip through the shower stops an additional band, slowing the action until you are successful in reaching Porky's bar. Don't dawdle too long. It's costing you points. (And did you take the garbage out yet? And what about your home work? Algebra won't do itself, son.)

Objective: Blow the blasted bar away! (Amazing alliteration, Atari!) To do so you must follow the correct path to the top of the scaffolding, planting dynamite charges as you go. If you reach the top, a detonator will appear, and it's bye-bye Porky's. (But not the game, sadly.)

Controls: To climb the scaffolding, position Pee Wee next to the post and push the joystick up. Only one path will work and it must be approached from the bottom. ( mean I can't start from the end and go backwards? Guess I'll have to play the ColecoVision's Memento game for that.) If you're on the right path, the arrow on the left of the screen will turn green. If you're wrong, the arrow will turn red and you must return to the bottom level and start again.

Exiting scaffolding variable score based on difficulty
+100-3200 points
Caught by Porky -200 points (Guess that's better than "Caught porking.")

Warning: The only thing left between you and destruction of Porky's bar is Porky himself. He smells trouble and he's on to you. (Studies have shown that trouble smells like a mixture of cedar and microwave popcorn.) He's tracking your progress and if he catches you - it's curtains. (Does that mean there's a stage production of Porky's? Where are you on that one, Broadway?)

How sweet it is. But, before you start bragging to your friends (you know, about how you, um, bought the game for "kitsch value," yeaaah...that's the ticket), check your score. You can blow up the bar and end up with a high or low score. An expert can have a score as high as 8000. (8000? A number so ridiculous it's unfathomable.) So try again. (No thank you.) The action never stops at Porky's! (Could it? Please?)

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