Friday, August 19, 2022

Black Widow (1982)

Name:Black Widow
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:1 hour 10 minutes
Won:Not possible

One of the fun things about doing this is that sometimes while researching one game you discover another. Fun isn't always the operative word. In this case, the word is mild annoyance. Gravitar, having not done well, presumably for reasons I explained, was soon designated the target for a conversion kit. Feels fitting that the title to do so is Black Widow, a game about killing insects, as such things often take host in unpleasant places.
Now, I had some trouble with MAME since Gravitar, as it wasn't registering any keyboard presses. This has happened before, but usually just for one day. So I eventually decided to play Atari Anniversary on PSX, since I couldn't play it otherwise. Today MAME started working again, so I could finally play it properly. In the future, I'm not going to wait to play the arcade titles until the end of the year.

So...the money signs are sliced up beetle larva?

The plot of the game is that you're a spider who can spit poison/shoot things, and now most of the insect kingdom has decided they're going to kill you. Protect your web from their endless onslaught. Typical twin stick shooter stuff. To me, this really needs something special to differentiate itself from what Robotron 2084 did.

Your character moves and shoots in 8 directions, and can have 4 shots on-screen at once. You can move within the confines of the web, but not through any parts that are currently red, which also reflects shots. Throughout the waves walls variously turn red and green. I couldn't tell you what green walls did and even red walls didn't seem to work consistently. You only get one hit per life.
Enemies come in two ways. First, they spawn in a limited quantity each way and come in off-screen. They're mostly simple minded, either wandering around or chasing straight after you, with little complex thought behind it. When shot, most enemies drop a $, which gives you points, the sooner you get it, more points. It is advisable to do so, because sometimes enemies walk over them, creating an egg. Some enemies spawned are normal, but others are are invulnerable to your attacks. Eggs can be pushed off the web. Gradually, enemies start doing things like exploding if you shoot them, or chasing after other enemies to turn them into rockets that shoot after you.
Despite the effect being similar, these do not seem to be explosions
Every 4 waves a series of flying cursors, presumably intended to be a giant centipede, comes spinning around, chasing after you. Should you die, kill all the cursors or they simply make enough twists for them to decide to leave, the stage advances.
The bug slayer being the thing on the right
This is where the unique aspect of the game comes in, which is called the bug slayer. He kills every enemy, eats everything from $ to eggs, and is also invulnerable. Unlike your foes, he does not hurt you at all. If I'm not mistaken, this is chronologically the first time an actual ally has shown up. He's not the best, since he's only here if you've screwed up and he steals points from you, but it is something.
Not too far from an egg, note the color, which means this one is invulnerable
There were two things about this game that prevented me from enjoying it, which I think is more based in how I played it rather than how it actually played. Eggs have to be pushed off the web, which I just assumed meant I had to push them off the edge. You can also push them off the interior hole. For a while I was having to frantically push them out of the center into the edge. This is because the yellow enemies sometimes create the unkillable bugs, so I had to shoot in such a way that dropped $ didn't easily fall into their path. Even so, moving the eggs isn't fun because pushing them diagonally is seemingly impossible and they have a smaller hitbox than you'd think they should.
This is not a very smooth game. Now, part of this must be attributed to the strange choice of emulation, but having eight directions feels wrong for this game. It needs smoother directions than that. Thing is, its not a very smooth eight directions. In practice I had closer to 4 about half the time. This is solely due to the PSX emulation, which is hot garbage.
The green-winged red enemies here do explode, and are quite deadly
At this point, MAME was working again. I wasn't really expecting much...but as it turns out, I should have been. Which is funny, since its supposed to be a perfect arcade port. The game is noticeably slower and I can actually aim diagonally. Its not amazing, but I can actually see how someone might enjoy playing this now. And the funny thing is, the changes are strange. Speed is one, as if the game was done with the wrong framerate. I also died in different ways, primarily to the more generic enemies and never lasting longer than 11 or so waves.
The weird rocket enemies
But in MAME, I didn't do that as much, thanks to the speed. Instead, I was dying to the later enemies, the exploding ones and the rocket creating things. The latter, simply because I wasn't reaching it before, but the former was having larger explosions. I suspect these changes are tied together, but its amazing how much you can screw up a game without meaning to. And yes, this is with the same settings across both versions.

Generic weapon. 1/10

I like the variation in theory, but in practice it lacks something. 2/10

Hey, someone who's actually helping me. I'm shocked! 2/10

The web design is interesting, but each wave having some weird selection of blocked sections is not. 1/10

Player Agency:
The 8 direction moving/shooting isn't as smooth as I'd like, but it works for the most part. 4/10


This game really makes me feel small and blind. I don't care for that. 0/10

Simple wireframes, nothing exciting. 1/10


Pretty generic, but I guess its high quality for the era. I barely remember what it is after finishing playing it. 1/10

That's 12, which is indeed an improvement over Gravitar. Just stay away from any versions in a compilation, its practically guaranteed to be garbage.

That's it for 1982, for real this time.

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