The retro-gaming re-trend continues! While some of these updates of classic arcade games suffer from the assorted pitfalls (pun intended) of being made over in 3D, once in a while I'll play a few that still have some of that old magic, even with all the changes. Paperboy 64 happens to be one of those games, despite my initial feelings about the graphics and controls. I'm from the "if it ain't broke, don't re-do it in 3-D" school, and the original Paperboy was one of my favorite arcade games. So, seeing the bizarre polygon-paper cutout look of this game was a big shock. I hated it, to get to the point. In fact, I was totally prepared to dislike this game, based only on the graphics, but I remembered how much fun Body Harvest was, and i slapped the cart in...
The original arcade game was simple- You're a paperboy (or girl), you deliver newspapers to subscribers, any try to increase the papers' readership, depending on your skills at throwing while avoiding the hazards of suburban life. P64 adds odd-shaped courses, more hazards, tricks, and bosses (?!) to the mix, and purists will no doubt be slapping their foreheads at all this, but it's all good, in it's own little way. You'll want to start off on the practice course, in order to get the hang of the new control scheme: the analog stick steers, "A" accelerates, "B" brakes, pushing both together will do a sort of sliding spin, the Z trigger, and right shoulder button throw papers left or right. You can also move the game camera and hop with the "C" buttons- the controls are somewhat re-mappable, but you'll want to try all the options and pick what suits you best. Anyway, the training course has two houses, followed by a huge pit with ramps all around, and as I struggled with keeping P-boy afloat, I wondered why the darn thing was there, until i hit the bottom "C" button, and bunny hopped into a spin flip combo as i sped off a ramp- TRICKS!!!
That's right, kids- rather than wait until you complete a level to access the stunt course, you can start doing bunny hops, 360's and other crazy stuff while you're tossing newspapers at anything that moves! It's really odd at first, but on Easy and Normal, the game moves at a comfortable enough pace (really slow!), so that you can get your moves down pat. Hard Mode is the real bear, with its tight 25 second time limit- you HAVE to do lots of tricks to get more time, and targeting the paperbox while doing this takes mad skill! The weird thing here is you can hit and break stuff, and not lose points, like in the arcade game- I'm guessing this is a concession to the annoyances of navigating in 3D, as the bike controls fairly realistically. The cool thing is the new targeting system, and if you get good, there's nothing like nailing the box from 44 feet while in the middle of a stunt! You do have to get used to working both sides of the street (which is tough at first, get ready to do some screaming-), and the developers have given you lots of freedom here. In the old game- miss too many houses, and it's Game Over, man! This time out, you can get 2 out of six houses, as long as you make it to the end of the route before time expires. At first I didn't see the challenge in this at all, but it's just to get the player to learn the courses, and hit all the boxes on the block- this, in turn opens up more courses, which get increasingly difficult. The boss sections are cool, as well, but I really don't think the game needed them- it's loads of fun as it is!
As I said before, the graphics in Paperboy 64 are odd, and take a bit of getting used to- the artists and designers have, fortunately, carried this look to the setup and menu screens, so you get used to all the angular weirdness going on. Looking at the box art makes you wonder why they didn't do the same thing there- it looks way too generic and bland! The music and sounds are excellent, and while there's nothing laugh out loud funny here, the ska-pop ditty in one level stands out. I also liked the sounds of the assorted animals getting beaned with papers, as well as the background noises on each street. The controls are frustrating at first, and the option to use the stick for speed and brakes would have been much better, i think- but spend enough time on the practice course, and you'll get used to it! Another odd thing is that the game is for one player only- A two-player mode (alternating, or competitive) would have made this a much better game, in my opinion. Imagine a splitscreen race to see who could hit the most boxes in a set time, or a drag race doing stunts, and you get the idea. They should have put the arcade game in as well, so those kids (and adults) who haven't played it could check it out. Oh well, perhaps in the sequel- as it is, Paperboy 64 is a super update that deserves a place in your collection, and another good N64 game. Now if only Nintendo had a time machine...
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