We never had Popeye when I was a kid, although I knew about the game and had played it in the arcades a bit. I don’t know if I would have selected it over other arcade ports. The gameplay is a bit strange to my way of thinking. I keep wanting to jump for some reason. It was one of those “also rans” in terms of arcade games for me.
The Intellivision port doesn’t help my discomfort with this game. The controls are definitely sluggish. Getting Popeye to move up and down the stairs is difficult. And as is true with a lot of these older games, there is definitely a delay between when you press the punch button and the punch actually happens. This makes dealing with the hag less than ideal. It’s possible, but frustrating. And if you get two hags throwing at you, you really need to have a lot of time between when the bottles come at you if you want to be able punch them both.
It really feels like you’re fighting with the game to get anything done. You have to be pretty close to anything if you want to punch it. That includes the bottles as well as the punching bag thing at the top of the first board that triggers the barrel to fall on Bluto. I actually trapped Bluto with the barrel once, but it was as much by accident as a plan I had. I triggered the barrel several times without trapping him as well. You have to get so close to the edge of that platform to trigger the punch that it is quite difficult to accomplish the barrel trap.
I have to give this game an arcadeability of 3. The controls are sluggish and the graphics really aren’t that good – especially on the boat level. I thought I was looking at an Odyssey 2 screen!
The controls mapping for this game is very simple. Movement controls and one action button are all you need for gameplay. There’s also the number of players and starting level – both of which require a “1” and “ENTER” from the keypad. On my cab, arcade.kbd configuration is fine for this game.
How does it compare to the original arcade game?
Eh, I guess it isn’t a bad comparison for a home version. It does include all the screens that the arcade game has (even if the boat level looks terrible). But it really falls short due to the control issues. Due to that factor, I have to call this a middle-of-the-road arcade port. Not as bad as Coleco’s Donkey Kong, but nothing near the level of other, better arcade ports (e.g. Lock -n- Chase or even the homebrews of DK Arcade and Space Patrol).