Review: Tape Worm (Atari 2600)

In this review, we gobble up the food in the survival game Tape Worm. We find out how this Atari 2600 game plays.

this game was released in 1984. It is essentially a clone of the more famous game, Snake.

If you’ve never played this game before, chances are, you have encountered this game somewhere along the line. So, the game may be more familiar than you might think.

The game involves a tape worm that automatically moves at a certain speed. The only control you have over it is the ability to turn.

The objective is to gobble up the faded boxes that represent food. All you have to do is steer the worm into the food. When you do this, the worm grows by one box in length. The idea is that you eat up the bits of food. The number of bits of food is denoted by the number on the bottom right corner. If you see a 5, then you have 5 pieces of food left.

Once you eat up all of the food, a piece of fruit will appear either on the top or bottom along the border. If you eat the fruit, you move on to the next round.

Where this game gets tricky is the fact that you have a limited amount of time to eat the food. The time limit is shown as the spider along the bottom of the screen. The fruit you are ultimately after is on the right hand side of the screen. If the spider makes it to the fruit, then two more pieces of food will appear on the screen and you’ll have to eat that much more food before you can take a crack at winning the level.

To make things more tricky, if you run into the border or you run into yourself, you lose one of the three lives you get from the beginning (denoted by the worms on the bottom left hand side of the screen).

To make matters even more interesting, occasional spiders will dash across the screen from top to bottom. If they touch the head of the worm, you die. There are also what appear to be dragonflies that fly from right to left on the screen. If you run into the dragonfly, you also lose (though I noticed that if you are going in a different direction, the dragonfly won’t kill you).

For each piece of food you eat, you gain points (how much depends on the level). If you eat the fruit, then you get a level completion bonus of a few hundred points.

While the first level contains no real unique characteristics, other levels do. In the second level, for instance, there is a small black line that denotes a wall. On the third level, you have a limited amount of time between when the food is placed and when the whole level goes dark. After that, all you can see is the worms yellow head and your memory of both the location of the food, the placement of the worms body, and the borders of the level. Hope you have a good memory (though a workable strategy is to just stare at the location of the food and use peripheral vision to guide the worm to the food after). The fourth and fifth level have the same barrier, but it gradually grows into a sideways “I” shape which means you have to work around it along with the same time limit you saw in level 1. If you beat all 5 levels, then the game will bring you to level 1 again. The game will continue indefinitely until you finally run out of lives.

Like just about every other Atari 2600 game I’ve played already, this game has a fairly simple to understand concept (though it wasn’t necessarily obvious that you had to eat the fruit that sits outside of the playing field by one square at first for me). What I like was the fact that the game had a general level structure. The difficulty was about right where you had a chance to get into the game and it still challenged you anyway. With each subsequent play, you found yourself getting further and further along which does entice players to try harder instead of just giving up after dying a couple times.

Graphically, had this game been released towards the beginning of the life cycle of the Atari 2600, I probably would have given it a great rating here. However, this was just 1 year before the NES entered the scene and dominated the market. To make matters worse, this game was also competing against other home console games like Dig Dug, Frogger II – ThreeeDeep!, and Ballblazer. As a result, the graphics in this game for the time is basically just mediocre at best.

There was no music, but the sound effects were quite basic. There wasn’t a whole lot to get excited over in this one for a game of its time.

Overall, this game may have just been a case of being a little bit late to the party. If it was released a few years earlier, I would have said it was a great game overall, but it was, by this time, facing stiff competition from other home console systems already. The basics were there, but that was about it. The graphics were a bit dated for a game released at the time and so was the sound. While the game did provide entertainment value, there were certainly better games to be had by this time.

Furthest point in game: High score: 2680. Beat all levels and wrapped around to level 3 again with three pieces of food left.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 62%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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