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Maze Craze: A Game of Cops and Robbers (Atari VCS, 1980)



Maze Craze: A Game of Cops and Robbers (Atari VCS, 1980)


Someone in the 70s realized that there was fun to be found by using a computer to generate random mazes with a simple algorithm and allowing people to race through it. The first maze game that I can remember appearing on a home console was for the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES) and was cart #10 Maze, Cat and Mouse (1977). I don't know if this is the last "maze game" or not because I can't see into the future. (If I could, I'd have warned people about 80s hair.)


This maze game decides to have a theme, and that theme is not merely "racing your buddy through a maze". Instead, it's a complex, textured and many-layered game which can be fraught with societal implications even to this day. It's not a game of cat and mouse! It's a game of Cops and Robbers! Which is totally different because if a mouse fights back, the cat is still gonna win. If a robber fights back, the outcome can be less certain. So, I could totally wax on that, but let's talk about the game instead.


The cart contains 16 game variations with each variation further able to be varied by setting increasing parts or the entire maze "invisible". More on the invisibility aspect later. Players each have their little "cops" on screen, starting at the same point on the left side of the maze. The goal is to get through the maze to the exit all the way over on the right side of the maze. Yes, this sounds just like the other "maze" games so far, but wait...there's more!*


*the phrase "but wait...there's more!" is over-used and a bit hokey and the creator of this blog would like to apologize profusely for its use.


The game variations let you put "Robbers" in the maze. Two, three or five, depending on your selection. The Robbers start at the other end of the maze and randomly run through it. If you're playing the A difficulty game, your Cop moves just as fast as the Robbers. If you're on the B difficulty game, they move faster than the robbers. Players must maneuver through the maze, racing towards the exit, while avoiding the Robbers. This involves a lot of backtracking while trying to dodge the Robbers. How do you dodge the Robbers in what is essentially a single lane maze? You have to hope they take a turn down a blind alley giving you a chance to sneak by. I'm not going to lie, this is fun and depending on your emotional investment in the game, it can be intense (in a fun way).


I will say that it's much more fun to play all of these with a partner but it's not necessary. You can easily play all of the games with just you leaving your Cop partner sitting alone at the starting spot. The 16 games the following variants with the number of Robbers or, in some instances, the visibility of the maze.


Robbers - This is a race to the end of the maze, but Robbers come after you from the right side and will "take you out of the game" if you know what I'm sayin'. It's interesting because your little Cop doesn't disappear, it just becomes inert and doesn't move. We like to play that the dead Cop isn't really dead (yet) but yelling out to his buddy, "You gotta make it out, Louie! You gotta tell my family I died heroic and stuff...". (To keep things simple we pretended both Cops were named Louie.)


Blockade - There's a variant that does let you play a cool trick on your opponent. By pressing the button you can drop an illusory wall to make it look like the bit of the maze you just passed through is actually a dead end. Yes, your opponent can just pass through this pretend wall, but it's a cool trick and if they weren't paying attention to you, they can fall for it.


Capture - Another variant has the Cops doing what cops do in a game of cops and robbers, they can catch the robbers. Your goal is to get to each of the robbers and touch them before your opponent does. First to get all of them wins.


There's no reason to not enjoy this game for a little while if you've ever felt some degree of satisfaction after getting through a maze. I fully intend to make an actual game play video of some of the more dramatic moments and linking y'all to it. I just didn't want to put off writing a new entry while I was still feeling the urge to write an entry.


I wanted to talk about the "invisible" maze options. In most of the variants, if you choose to activate the invisibility option, the "invisible" parts of the maze will not be invisible. You will see your partner and the Robbers making their way along the invisible parts, and if you have a good head for mazes you can use their mistakes to your advantage. It's also possible to have an "auto peek" game or a player peek game. This allows you to see the invisible part of the maze for a brief moment. The problem is that your opponent will also see it.


(( Martin Brundle-Fly would have been good at this. ))*




(( Yes, by including that gif I AM admitting that I know things about the distant year of 1989, but I couldn't resist. ))


(( From now on, if I decide to type something "out of character" for whatever year I'm currently deluding myself into believing I'm in, I'll put those anachronistic comments in double parenthesis. ))


Scouts - Also in "invisible maze" you can sometimes have "Scouts". Scouts are your friends who run ahead of you briefly and show you how the maze runs. It's still invisible, but it probably keeps you from breaking your joystick slamming your Cop into an invisible wall because the Scouts give you some idea of where you can go.


There, a quick and dirty entry. I'm likely going to add to it with a gameplay video as well as a discussion of a maze generating algorithm.




Still no gameplay video my attention span might not last long enough to do one. I went ahead and did a cringe-worthy pair of videos talking about the maze generating algorithm that I can only hypothesize is used in Maze Craze. I'm a little annoyed at both Quicktime (which seems to want to crop any clip you add to the end of another, instead of just fitting it into the frame... if anyone knows a setting I'm missing, please let me know.) and YouTube, which also seems to decide to crop things. Well, I shouldn't be surprised that there is a learning curve and that freestuff has its limitations.


The links to these videos are:


Part 1: http://youtu.be/WJBIxAHV28k (EDIT: I'm pretty sure neither of these work anymore.)

Part 2: http://youtu.be/XdoPmLaxf8A

As always, constructive and sincere criticism is welcome, particularly with regard to any facts that I just blatantly seem to make up on the fly.


My next entry should be Activision's Boxing.

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Welcome back!


I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of the games by this new upstart company - Activision. Pretty cool to see someone else making games for the VCS.


I wonder if it will catch on?

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Welcome back!


I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of the games by this new upstart company - Activision. Pretty cool to see someone else making games for the VCS.


I wonder if it will catch on?


(( Out of Character: Hahah! I didn't get an Atari until Christmas of 1980 and our starter carts were Combat (of course), BlackJack, (also, of course) and Space Invaders (which was, of course, the whole point) but I remember at some point during 1980 seeing commercials for "Skiing" by Activision and had no understanding that this was a "third party" making games for the Atari. I don't think it was until around the time I started seeing "M Network" games from Matel (and I knew Intellivision as, pretty much, "the enemy") that I realized that it was awfully odd. /ooc ))


Yeah, you're right, I thought the box looked different on the next title, Boxing. I guess that's really weird isn't it? I guess they'd have permission from Atari to do that, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they have to? (( which is what my attitude would be if I were a little older when it was happening. ))


(( Oooh, I guess I should be linking to old commercials on YouTube shouldn't I? That would be a nice addition to each article. ))


Oh, and thanks, Nathan! It's great to see you, btw! ^ ^

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LOL - wow, that actually looks like a possibly fun, sort of Lord of the Flies / Hunger Games / House of Stairs - esque movie. There was a time in life that i used to be aware of the movies that were "coming soon" and now everything that hits the screen seems to be a surprise to me. Yay for surprise! (Or boo for extremely bad short-term memory)

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Well hello there! I'm finally getting up to date with your new blog entries. Unfortunately, it seems that your return didn't last long...


I played the game and did enjoy it, though I always think that the invisible modes in games like these are kinda cheap, and hard.


Hey, what happened to your videos? Was saving them to watch later and now they're not working? :-\

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On 11/23/2015 at 8:19 PM, Nelio said:

Hey, what happened to your videos? Was saving them to watch later and now they're not working? ?

I had created a YouTube account and then during efforts to consolidate the mass off accounts I'd been creating I deleted one of my gmail accounts which deleted the YouTube account. Which was careless of me. Not sure what I'm going to do. I feel like talking about video games should have a video component to it and now we've got streaming. We've also got a lot of YouTubers who do fancy editing and are SO much better at being engaging than I am that I'm not sure what I'll do. I saw someone do a "low effort" play through of something and I'm grasping at that. If I can set up some sort of capture to my computer from any game system, I may do that. At this point, getting the video isn't hard, it's using the small space I have for all my crap.

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