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Arabian - The Atari Times


One of Atari's answers to Donkey Kong?
by Darryl Brundage

April 23, 2007
Ahhhhh, good ol' competition -- aka "stealing", at times -- as Entertainment Company A will produce something successful, then Entertainment Company B will come out with something somewhat similar, but with just enough changes made so they won't get sued, yet they hope they'll rake in the money, like Company A did for their similar product.

You'll see similar-themed movies come out one after the other after a while -- right now, there's been plenty of fantasy-themed movies taking place a hundred or two years before (or set even further back than that) for the last several years, thanks to The Mummy and The Lord of the Rings trilogies (I think The Scorpion King counts as a "trilogy" with the two Mummy movies), along with Troy, the movie Eragon, etc. -- hear Cool Alternative Rock Band A on the radio, then within a few years, Copycat Alternative Rock Band A will also arrive, sounding just like the first band, as Pathetic Unoriginal Record Label A hopes that fans of the first band will dig their clone band (or buy their CDs by accident, thinking it was Cool Alternative Rock Band A), etc.

And, likewise, with Donkey Kong helping lead the way with the explosion of platformer games in the early 80s, Atari was onhand with similar ones of Kangaroo and Arabian. Granted, Sun Electronics made both games, and Atari just distributed them, but they still had their name on them though.

Of course, the gameplay had to be made a bit different than having a plumber running around jumping over barrels. So here, we get a fantasy setting (not that a giant ape with an unending supply of barrels isn't fantasy enough), and our hero of an arabian (rather than an Italian) doesn't get attacked quite as often as with a constant barrage of barrels, it's more like the second level of Donkey Kong, with the fireballs slowly stalking our hero.

Here, though, we get more mythical creatures, like the Roc bird, some kind of green blobs with mouths (looking like Munch Man for the TI computers gone bad), and the also non-existent in real life genies (thank God they're not real either, as I'm not too sure I would want a big, muscular guy with as much gold jewelry as Mr. T get all happy for freeing him by rubbing his lamp, if you know what I mean [although that might explain why having wishes granted ALWAYS comes with a price]).

The creatures are fairly easy to avoid for the most part, as they don't move real fast, you can run from them, or kick them, which is an especially good feeling when they go flying across the screen and knock out other creatures along the way. Granted, they'll pop back up after several seconds, but meanwhile you're working your way around the screen to collect a bunch of jugs with letters in them; make sure to grab them in the correct order to spell out "ARABIAN", as you'll get a bonus that way.

The game will cycle through several unique screens, having a ship, a cave, a level of flying carpets to navigate through, a palace, etc. on your way to collecting jugs. Your Arabian hero is controlled via eight way joystick, who easily scuttles up ship masts and all, ignoring any product hazard signs of "WARNING: DO NOT CLIMB AND JUMP AROUND ON MASTS AND BOWS, SHOULD YE FALL AND BREAK YOUR HEAD OPEN, YE MORON."

Unfortunately with as cool as this game sounds so far (for those reading this that never played it), that's what lowers the score a bit on it: the control. As it states on it's entry at the klov site, the game would be better off with a separate jump button; pressing up on the joystick tends to be awkward, and at times, confusing, since with the cave level, there's growths of some sort overhead that you'll grab a hold of and climb across. This is slow going, and making matters worse, is when, at times, you mean to climb down a ship's mast or whatever, and you'll fall if you don't do it right, losing a life then. The controls don't kill the game, and they're not terrible, but you have to be careful with what you're doing (especially with the flying carpet level, it's hard to jump on carpets, then duck down so an above carpet doesn't push you off the one that you're on, and you fall to your death; whee! No parachutes from Sky Diver here!).

Making matters not any easier is that certain monsters will combine into an enhanced, New and Improved version of themselves, then make a quick beeline straight for your arabian. So you have to remember to keep an eye on various parts of the screen at most times. Some jugs also have genies in them, which touching pretty much anything in this game that moves means death, and genies are no exception. However, pulling down on the joystick will allow you to crawl underneath them, so you can still grab the jug and then head off for the next one.

This isn't a bad game, but it can be a bit tedious and slow. The graphics also weren't very good (one wonders what Atari could have done with them, should they were granted some creative control over the game), but I can't rate the sound, since I used to play this in college, and never saw it since until it appeared at a gaming expo in 2006, and the loud music drowned out the game sounds. So I don't recall what they sounded like.

This probably wouldn't have been too difficult to port to the various home Atari consoles and computers -- due to the simplicity of the controls and probably not enough enemies to cause the dreaded Atari 2600 flicker (but not being a programmer, I'm just guessing on the latter) -- but the game wasn't a huge smash hit or anything: I only saw it at a couple of places myself, and I don't think any ports were planned, unless someday news of another lost Atari prototype pops up for this game, but I doubt it. (Kangaroo fared better, making it to the 2600 and 5200 though.)

An interesting Donkey Kong clone attempt, but not one of the better rip-offs. However, it could have been far worse, this could have been King Kong for the 2600 instead.

And that would have proven to be a wish that should not have been granted.


(c) Atari

Don't worry, it does have a title screen.
Collect the baskets and kick the baddies!
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Platformer
Graphics Score: 65%
Sound & Music Score: %
Gameplay Score: 78%
Control Score: 75%

Final Score: 75%

Reader Comments for Arabian

Good on NES by Atarifever on 2007-04-26 17:59:37
Much as I hate to say it, I loved this one on the NES (well on my famicom pirate cart anyway). The extra jump button was a big help.

By the way, maybe I missed it, but why no mention of the invincibility? If a monster you kick collides with 2 more on the way off screen (on the NES anyway), you got a temporary invincibility.
Probably cause... by Darryl (author) on 2007-04-26 20:46:41
I never mentioned the invincibility because I was totally unaware of it :P Might be on the NES version, there's no mention of it on it's klov entry (but that doesn't prove anything though). Interesting...
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