Sunday, March 17, 2013

Squish 'em Sam For ColecoVision

The year I was born, George Willig, one of history's great "Human Flies," scaled all 110 stories of the World Trade Center's south tower in under four hours. The stunt earned him worldwide fame, but it cost him a cool $1.10 in fines from the city of New York. The titular Sam would not abide this. He's a human fly who's only in it for the money, and he wants you to know it.

Squish 'em Sam is one of ColecoVision's rare 3rd party titles, released by Interphase in 1983. It features the titular Sam climbing the girders of an unfinished brick high rise in an attempt to reach a stash of cash left on the top floor. He can slide side to side along the girders, but he can only progress up to the next floor when he reaches a vertical girder, and he can't back down at all. Blocking his path are... bugs? octopuses? who knows, 8-bit beasties of some kind. They slide around erratically, blocking Sam's ascent and generally making life difficult for him. Fortunately, Sam can lift his legs off the girder and smash the monsters into submission. A stomped monster is briefly immobilized, but after a few seconds, it turns white and become invincible, forcing you to keep moving up to avoid it. As you progress up the skyscraper, objects fall from above, preventing you from moving vertically for too long. Occasionally, a bonus... thing pops up on a floor, which can be collected for additional points. As you climb the building, the enemies move faster and more erratically, they stay "dead" for less time, and objects fall out of the sky more frequently, making the overall challenge of the game increase as Sam progresses.

The game play is pretty straightforward, and the graphics are certainly nothing special. However, it does sport one feature that's pretty rare for a game from this era: digitized voices. Curb-stomping monsters generates either a satisfying crunch or a digitized "Squish 'em!" from Sam. When he reaches the booty at the top of the building, he exclaims "Money! Money! Money!" Our man Sam takes adversity in stride too, as getting knocked off the building elicits a flippant "Whoops!" as he plummets to his doom. Digitized sound effects may be commonplace these day (Damn kids, get off my lawn!) but in 1983, it was hot snot. Games with digitized voices on competing consoles typically needed special adapters to to be heard at all, and they were usually a garbled, unintelligible mess. The voices in Squish 'em Sam are reproduced clearly, intelligibly and without the aid of goofy add-ons.

Squish 'em Sam may not have an arcade pedigree like most in the ColecoVision's library, but it's every bit a classic risk-vs-reward arcade game. It's dead simple to pick up & play, but the difficulty scales up as smoothly as Sam scales each building, eventually offering a serious challenge for advanced players. Ultimately  though, it has no goal to meet beyond the almighty high score, and its repetitive gameplay may leave you reaching for a different cartridge once Sam has uttered his last whoops.