Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Coin-Op Classics Special - Mr. Do (Arcade)

Get down with the clown!

Forget Digger, put aside your love of Dig Dug and wipe away those memories of The Pit, for Mr Do is where it's at for all your retro subterranean arcade maze adventures. Mr Do on Super Nintendo is a port of the classic coin-op by Universal that was released way back in 1982 - the time of early character based arcade games like Donkey Kong, Pac Man, and Dig Dug. 

Push the apples onto the critters to kill them, and gain lots of points

Putting you in the over-sized shoes of a clown called, surprise surprise, Mr Do, you are tasked with clearing each single screen stage by either collecting all of the cherries or killing all of the enemies that appear. Like Digger and Dig Dug, Mr Do lets you move around the screen as you please, digging through the mud as you go. The enemies spawn from the centre and immediately begin wandering around the open passages, trying to home in on you. Luckily you have two means of defending yourself; a ball projectile that, once fired, ricochets around the passages until it collides with a critter, and the use of the large apples that are dotted around the screen - the equivalent of Dig Dug's boulders. These weighty fruits can be used to squish enemies by either pushing them over an edge or digging under them and waiting for a meanie to approach before deftly moving aside and letting it tumble onto their head.

The action soon heats up, with multiple foes after your blood

Like all good early arcade titles, it is incredibly simple stuff, but with a few small mechanics that give it some depth and make it a much more rewarding and challenging game to master. The cherries are always located in groups of 8, and if collected in quick succession - complete with a chiming sound effect that ascends the musical scale with each one - you get a score bonus. Nabbing the food item that appears in the centre of the screen will freeze the enemies for short while, but also unleashes a conga line of new monsters that can eat your apple boulders and also munch through the mud to create their own paths. Behind them is a special enemy that grants you a letter upon being vanquished - make up the word EXTRA and you are granted an extra life. There is also a super rare diamond that appears once in a blue moon that awards an extra game and a tonne of points! There are many other little tricks you can employ to rack up bigger scores or avoid death, but part of the fun is discovering these for yourself, so get stuck in and learn the game!

Collecting the food item in the centre of the screen freezes the enemies 
but introduces the blue ghost-like monsters

With clear, cartoony graphics that contain bags of charm, and circus style musical ditties that will remain in your head long after play has ended, Mr Do is as easy on the eyes and ears as it is enjoyable to play. It gets incredibly difficult fairly quickly, but it never feels unfair, and always inspires you to try again in order to progress that little bit further and increase your high score. Mr. Do is incredibly playable and addictive and is easily one of my favourite arcade games of all time. It encapsulates the simple, addictive nature of 1980's arcade games perfectly and will bring a joy to any retro gamer's face. If you haven't played Mr. Do, I insist you go do so immediately - you can thank me later.

Be sure to collect all 8 cherries in quick succession to obtain a score bonus

The Ports:

There are a heap of home conversions of Mr Do on computers and consoles ranging from the ancient Atari 2600 to the obscure Sharp X68000. The 8-bit home computer versions are best left alone (with the possible exception of the reasonably impressive C64 version) as they are slow and miserable looking imitations (though I am sure they were acceptable in their time). The Gameboy version is definitely worth seeking out as it features some neat remixed graphics and music and scrolling stages to make use of the Gameboy's tiny screen. The arcade style, quick fire, gameplay is also perfectly suited to portable gaming on the go!  The X68000 version is great, and is a faithful reproduction of the coin-op original. Neo Mr. Do on the Neo Geo featured drastically different visuals and sound and feels like an entirely different game. While fun to play, the new visuals are a bit garish and can be distracting.

Mr. Do on the Gameboy

The real star of the show, however, is the fantastic SNES versionReleased over a decade after the original, this Super Nintendo port is an excellent conversion and my port of choice when not playing the original via MAME. It's extremely faithful to the coin-op, with the same colourful graphics and sound, but the thing that makes this version really special is the co-op 2-player mode - yep, that's right, now two of you can rush around the screen at the same time, gobbling cherries and avoiding the nasties. You can also stun each other with your ball weapon so you either have to be careful to avoid each other or, should the urge take you, scupper your buddies chances by whacking them deliberately. It's great fun being able to play a game like this co-op rather than taking turns, and it elevates it from a good game to a great one!

Mr. Do on Super Nintendo - by far the best home version available

Send in the clones!

As if all these home ports weren't enough, there were also a slew of Mr. Do clones released - clearly in a time before lawyers had set the rules for blatant plagiarism in videogames. There's Tutti Fruitti on the Commodore 16/Plus 4, Mr. EE on the BBC Micro and Mr Whizz on the Acorn Electron, all of which are perfectly acceptable games in their own right, but they (obviously) pale in comparison to the original game. More impressive, however, is the excellent Bob's Garden on the Amiga. A freeware coverdisc game given away on the August 1994 issue of The One Amiga magazine, Bob's Garden is a great interpretation of the coin-op original. The sprites have been altered but this is essentially the same game, and is great fun to play - with no official Amiga port available, this is a great alternative for fans of the commodore 16-bit machine.

Bob's Garden on the Amiga


Mr. Do was followed by several arcade sequels, but they all drastically changed the style of gameplay, resulting in titles that bare little resemblance to the original other than the use of the character and style of graphics. Mr. Do's Castle (also known as Mr. Do vs The Unicorns) was released a year later in 1983 and is a single screen platform game with elements of Lode Runner. You can bash blocks either side of you in order to trap the monsters, which can then be whacked on the head, or you can hit the blocks onto them from above.
The second sequel, Mr. Do's Wild Wild, is a another platform game, which sees you having to navigate a rollercoaster, avoiding the speeding carriages and other hazards as you try to reach the exit. Lastly, Do! Run Run, also released in 1984, is a quirky blend of Qix and Pacman that has you collecting dots while drawing lines to fill in squares. All of these follow ups are fun in their own right, and well worth checking out on MAME, but none can beat the purity and addictiveness of the original. 

Mr. Do's Castle (1983)

Mr. Do's Wild Ride (1984)

Do! Run Run (1984)

There is also a strange sequel-of-sorts called Quest Fantasy Challenge on the Nintendo Gameboy Colour which was developed by Imagineer (and published by Sunsoft). Released as late as 1999, it did away with Mr. Do entirely and used the Quest brand instead - quite why they did this is beyond me, as the Quest series was never that popular in the first place. Regardless, it's a pretty average game that plays very similarly to Mr. Do, but at a more sluggish pace and with a lot less charm. It also only has 20 levels, which is a pretty stingy amount by anyone's count. It's worth trying out for curiosity value, but I wouldn't rush to Ebay to purchase a copy.

Quest Fantasy Challenge on the Gameboy Colour

Mr. Do's original arcade and SNES outings get a massive thumbs up from me, and it sits up there with Pac Man, Bomb Jack, Mappy, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Dig Dug as one of the best coin-op games of the early 1980s. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a high score to beat.

Title : Mr. Do
Developer : Universal
Year : 1982
System : Arcade
Also on : Arcade, Apple, Atari 2600, C64, Collecovision, Gameboy, MSX, SNES, X68000