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Gushing about Pengo

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My university had an arcade cabinet with a bunch of classic arcade titles on it. One of them was Sega's 1982 game Pengo, playable here:

A bit of an explanation to those that aren't familiar with this title:

  • Maps are procedurally generated, and consist of the player character, three diamond blocks, and a number of Sno Bees which will chase you, causing you to die upon contact.
  • You clear a stage by defeating all of the Sno Bees on the map.
  • Blocks can be pushed, and will slide until they make contact with another block or wall. Sno Bees can be crushed by pushed blocks. Blocks pushed while already against a wall are destroyed.
  • You gain a 10,000 point bonus if you're able to line up all three diamond blocks (touching, and all in one row or column) without them touching the wall.

With all this out of the way… This game is absolutely fantastic. Probably the single best feature of this game is that your only mode of interacting with the game is so versatile; pushing blocks can be done to kill Sno Bees, but it can also be done to clear an escape route while you're being chased. You also need to pay attention to which blocks will add as the barricades for the diamond blocks, forcing you to clear a path for the blocks, as well as formulate a plan as to where you want the diamonds to line up.


The easiest way to score a bonus is to figure out which row or column you want all of the diamond blocks to be in. Once you have that lined up, you can simply remove all ice blocks between the diamond blocks and push them together. What makes this more difficult (in addition to Sno Bees chasing you) is that they will occasionally destroy the ice blocks you're meticulously lining up. When this happens, the player must quickly think of an alternate plan for scoring a bonus, either by finding a way to get the blocks into the same line as originally planned, or completely pivot by lining the blocks up along a different row or column. Alternatively, if scoring the bonus is simply too difficult, the player may also forego the bonus entirely and instead clear the map of all Sno Bees to finish the round. Because the risk and reward of all of these possibilities must be weighed quickly, there's a lot of spatial thinking and planning involved on the side of the player.

The only other game of this era that I've completely lost my mind over is Lode Runner, and for a very similar reason; the digging mechanic of this game is not directly an offensive or defensive move, but rather one that manipulates the environment and ends up being offensive or defensive based on the context of how the player chooses to use it. What other games are you guys aware of that are based around mechanics that are agnostic between offense and defense? Also, have any of you guys actually HEARD of Pengo? I love this game but I've looked all over and I never see anyone talk about it.

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