Universal’s Space Panic, a rather obscure cult-classic released in 1980, revolutionized game design by introducing novel game mechanics that birthed a new genre. Space Panic is often recognized as the first platform game, as it was the premiere title to include ladders for ascending and descending within a playfield. Space Panic paved the road for other arcade climbing hits such as Nintendo’s Donkey Kong (1981), Atari’s Kangaroo (1982), Data East’s BurgerTime (1982), as well as popular home platformers such as Miner 2049er (1982), Jumpman (1983), and the ever- popular Lode Runner (1983). While the introduction of ladders allows a new way to maneuver, be careful, because the alien antagonists can also scale the ladders in pursuit!
In Space Panic, a very vulnerable astronaut must outlive perilous creatures that inhabit underground caverns beneath an alien planet. The protagonist’s space helmet can only protect the space man for so long, as the oxygen supply dissipates quickly. With time ticking, the astronaut must use his trusty shovel to vanquish his foes before running out of air and turning blue! If being able to breathe is not motivation enough, know that any remaining oxygen at level com- pletion converts to player points.
Taking inspiration from the original “digging” game, Heiankyo Alien (1979), Space Panic remixes its predecessor’s overhead
view and turns it on its side. To vanquish the space aliens, the astronaut must dig traps which an advancing alien can plunge into and get stuck. The space man must then swiftly bury the immobilized enemy with freshly shoveled dirt before it can free itself by climbing back out. Aliens that escape such a trap come back twice as deadly!
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