Late at night, I often lay in bed pondering the deep, unanswerable questions of life: Why are we here? What does it all mean? And why would someone decide to make a video game based off Purina’s Chuck Wagon line of dog food?
First, a little background is necessary. In the 1970s, Purina introduced a line of dog food called Chuck Wagon. The line was known for a commercial which ran on television. It featured a dog chasing a chuck wagon sporting the red and white Purina logo through a house. The wagon would eventually end up in a kitchen cupboard before the dog could capture it, and when the cupboard door opened again it would be replaced by a bag of dog food.
In a move as mysterious as any episode of the X-Files, it seems that the good folks at Purina decided that they would create a game based off the commercials. You could only acquire the game by mail after sending in a set number of proofs of purchase.
Chase the Chuck Wagon featured you as Chuckie, the dog from the commercial. Your mission was to navigate through a maze to the chuck wagon, while avoiding a dog catcher and a bouncing bone. If the dog catcher caught you, Chuckie lost a life. If the bone (which could bounce through maze walls) touched you, Chuckie became momentarily frozen, making precious seconds tick off the clock.
There were two different difficulty settings, one which provided you thirty seconds to complete the maze and another which gave you sixty seconds. You had to finish four mazes to complete the game. Between each level, there was a bonus round that involved a bowl of dog food dropping from the chuck wagon. You had to position Chuckie properly and then hit the fire button at the correct moment so that he could retrieve the food and gain extra points.
The game was designed in a whopping three days by Mike Schwartz, who struck a decidedly apologetic tone when discussing the game in later years.
“I was approached by a good friend who ran TMQ/ICOM and he badly needed this game programmed over a weekend,” Schwartz said. “Yes, it took me all of 3 days to cobble this game together. I had existing code from my first game, Artillery Duel, to look at. The sound effects were basically the same. I apologize for the weak gameplay, but I was rushed!”
And that, dear reader, is today’s entry in the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Until next time, I remain…
Just Another Geek in the Geek Kingdom