For the sake of expediency, I’m going to assume that anyone reading this is already familiar with the Atari 2600 game Adventure and not spend a lot of time explaining it. I’m not even going to do the thing where I say I’m not going to explain it but then do explain it for comic effect. Frankly, if you’ve managed to make it this far without discovering invisible dots and duck dragons, it’s probably because you have no interest in them. If your interest has been piqued, there are plenty of other places you can go to learn about them. The rest of us are going to skip ahead.
In Knabber Rob, a new game designed by Jason Santuci available from Cote Gamers, you return to the world of Adventure but this time you control the bat. This isn’t just a graphic hack though. It’s an entirely new game build from the ground up to lovingly mimic Adventure while providing a new gaming experience.
Your mission is to recover the eight magic items that the Adventurer from the previous game carelessly left at the front steps of various castles and return them to treasure chests scattered throughout the kingdom. The items are the familiar objects from Adventure (and a couple from its spiritual sequel, Duck Attack). The three dragons, Yorgle, Grundle and Rhindle return as well. They don’t eat the bat, however. Instead they whisk him away to a random location. This can be a fate worse than death, as regaining your bearings in Knabber Rob’s large world can be an arduous task. The bat has two useful abilities to help with this though. First, the power to soar over obstacles, including walls, by pressing the fire button. Second, sonar that appears in the form of on-screen arrows guiding him to the treasure chest after finding an item (but if you prefer to fly blind, the sonar can be turned off using the difficulty switches).
As if a pack of dragons wasn’t enough to deal with, the Evil Magician has also given the bat a time limit to complete his task. All eight items must be returned to their treasure chests in less than five “magic” minutes. A magic minute is very similar to a regular minute, the difference being that while regular minutes are always sixty seconds long, magic minutes are sometimes more, sometimes less. The on-screen timer counts down in regular minutes, meaning there is often an incongruity between the time displayed and the actual time remaining. Sometimes the game ends before the timer reaches zero, other times it continues long after. If magic minutes sound like an elaborate attempt to turn a bug into a feature, it’s because that’s exactly what they are.
If I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time nitpicking one flaw, it’s because it’s the one flaw to nitpick. Everything else about the game, while not mind-blowing like some recent 2600 homebrews, is solid. The graphics and sound effects are nothing fancy, but they evoke the look and feel of Adventure. The map is large, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. And, as in Adventure, there are three game variations which add to the replay value. Knabber Rob is a fun game that feels instantly familiar without being a stale retread. It probably won’t completely replace Adventure in your game rotation, but it complements it nicely.
You can pre-order Knabber Rob from the Cote Gamers website with cartridges expected to start shipping in late June.