Park Patrol / Activision 1984
Screenshots: play/stop

Park Patrol puts you in the shoes of Poconose Park's Ranger, and you have to make sure the park is litter-free. You also have to look after the park's resident turtles, as well as tourists who come along to swim in the lake.

The game is set as as a sideways-scroller, with one third taken up by land and the other two-thirds with the lake. Your ranger can either be on foot or in his (or her) rubber dinghy – most of the time you'll be in the dinghy.

The main object of the game is to patrol the wrap-around park, looking for trash. Their are 12 items of rubbish to find in each level – either empty bottles, balls, cans and the like. Once you have all 12 items, you can move onto the next level.

As you've probably already anticipated, the game would be way too simple if that's all that happened! First off, you have Energy in the guise of Calories, which go down by ten points every half a second. You also have a supply of calories (in the form of food) in your little hut, where you start the game. When you're running out of calories, walk into the hut to eat some food, and transfer 1000 calories from your supply to your own energy. Running out of calories loses one of your three initial lives.

The park has a number of turtles (that increases through the levels) that wander around, and sometimes fall into the water. You can grab a few bonus points if you collect them with your dinghy. However, if you're walking on the ground, then treading on a turtle will lose one of your lives. Also, if you fail to save a turtle after a given time, the turtle will leap out and be angry, chasing after your feet.

The major hazard are the swimmers, who seem to be swimming along fine but suddenly get themselves into a spot of bother. "Help!" will appear at the bottom-right of your scoreboard, and it's time to get your dinghy to full-speed to find the swimmer that's drowning. Touching him will save his life. If you're too slow then you lose a life.

In the later levels (level 2 by default), there'll be snakes in the water, too. These must be avoided – but it's also about time I mentioned your weapon. When in your dinghy, you can press the Fire button to release snake repellent, which makes the snakes go underwater for a while – useful if you have no way out. There's bad news, though – each of the repellents will take 200 calories away from your energy – presumably in the effect to throw them out of the dinghy!

Also in the later levels (level 4 by default), ants come along and steal your food from your hut. Kick them from the side or behind, and grab your food back!

And if you want to show off, you can bang your dinghy into one of the logs floating in the lake, and leap out of your dinghy. If you manage to keep your balance while log-rolling (a timer bar shows at the bottom-right), you get an extra 5000 bonus points!

Controls (in Joystick Port 1) are very simple – whether you're on foot or in your dinghy, you can move in four directions. If you're on foot, pressing Fire will make you jump – either to avoid a turtle, or to jump into your dinghy from the edge of the lake. Pressing fire in the dinghy will fire one of the aformentioned snake-repellents or, if you're at the bank, will make you leap out onto the ground.

The game has five levels, after which the game starts again, but with more than one swimmer getting into trouble at a time, and more aggressive turtles who insist on getting under your feet.

Park Patrol is highly configurable, too. From the main menu, you can press F5 to bring up an options screen, and change the number of critters and swimmers that appear on each level; and choose the sex of the Park Ranger. You can also save the options, in order to load them back up on your next visit to the game.

What an excellent idea for a game! A unique game that was only ever released on the Commodore 64, by Activision. The graphics themselves are lovely – very sharp, defined characters, and perspective has been added to the gameplay, so objects that are "nearer" you in the lake move faster than objects on the ground, at the top of the screen. Game play is easy to get into and, although it's not the smoothest scrolling around (because of the perspective) – it's not so jagged that it annoys you.

Sound-wise, each level has its own little ditty that plays once with all three channels, and then a quiet version on one channel. A nice touch, and the music is plain but catchy. Sound effects are also serviceable – special sounds for when important game aspects happen – and each is different enough so you get to know which sound is for which aspect.

An excellent idea for a game that has been beautifully executed by Tony Ngo. People who like fast 'n furious games might find it a tad slow paced, but the game needs good joystick precision and speed, which should keep the challenge going.

Reviewed by Boz.

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