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|Rating:||4 out of 5|
I grew up watching Popeye cartoons and loved the dynamic between Popeye and Brutus fighting for Olive Oyle's affection, interspersed with Wimpy chowing down burgers. And who could resist the dreadful taste of spinach after seeing it's effect on Popeye? I even had a Popeye wristwatch featuring Popeye's arms as the clock-hands - at noon he'd be raising a can of spinach to his mouth.
Popeye was featured on numerous home gaming and computer systems, but the NES version really stands out with vivid imagery and great sound - including Popeye's theme song when he eats spinach! Even though the characters are a bit blocky, each one bears recognizable features. On the Atari 2600 version you know that the Popeye is the orang-ish blob and Brutus is the Green mass. The NES does a great job adding visual characteristics to each character.
Released in 1982, the Popeye arcade game was made by Nintendo, so it's no surprise that one of the best ports was to it's NES console. Popeye's arcade controls are quite simple - a joystick and Punch button. This makes for an easy Atari 2600 port, but that version pales in comparison to the NES - which had more horsepower to recreate arcade classics when released for home consoles.
Just like the beloved cartoon, Popeye the sailor is vying for Olive's love with Brutus, who outsizes Popeye 2-to-1. Olive is still as indecisive as ever and spinach gives Popeye amazing strength. Popeye gains points and clears levels by collecting offerings from Olive as they fall downward. A Sea Hag and Buzzard will come after you as you try to dodge Brutus.
Olive drops hearts, music notes and letters (spelling out HELP) which Popeye has to snatch before they sink in the water at the bottom of the screen. He must also avoid Brutus who will wallop him if he's not avoided. And then there's a Sea Hag and Bernard, the flying buzzard. Spinach-power gives Popeye a certain invincibility against these foes when he can find some.
You'll find 2 modes (beginner & expert) for both single and 2-player games. The B button is not used and the A button throws punches. Standard with most platformers, the Up and Down let Popeye climb/descend while Left and Right move him along horizontally. In a Pac-Man sort of tactic, Popeye can run off the side of the screen and reappear on the opposite side at 2 points marked, THRU. Each level has a unique trick or trap that can help Popeye or hinder his foes. The third level takes place on a pirate ship which adds some nice diversity to the levels.
Popeye can punch bottles, skulls and Bernard. Punching Brutus is futile (aka: deadly) unless Popeye has Spinach Power - at which time his points double. As he scoots around catching Olive's discards, he gets points depending on which floor he's on. There are several things that will rob Popeye of a life... Skulls thrown by the Sea Hag, bottles thrown by Brutus, getting bumped by Brutus or Bernard, Olive's castaways sink in the water below.
Levels end when Popeye has collected everything Olive tosses. Brutus may look like a rotund sort of guy, but he's quicker than you might think and can pounce unexpectedly. You'll have a tough time avoiding him while collecting points. Always be on the lookout for Spinach.
Between the popularity of Popeye across many genres and the great job Nintendo did in porting their arcade classic to their home console, it's hard not to like the NES port of this arcade game. The levels are diverse, each with it's own characteristics and the Spinach consumption song with fill you with delight and arm you for savage revenge on Bluto.
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