The Null Device

Elevator Action

Null Device Retro Videogame Feature #1: Elevator Action

Publisher: Taito, Japan
Year: 1983
Format: Arcade

The objective: descend from the top of a skyscraper to your getaway car in the basement, picking up secret documents and avoiding and/or shooting the bad guys before they shoot you.

Not sure what the backstory is; I'd say it's a "spy story" of some sort, with the proviso that tradecraft in the Elevator Action universe involves going through a building, stealing documents and shooting everyone you see. Actually, it might make more sense to think of yourself as a disgruntled postal worker than a secret agent. Another way the Elevator Action universe differs from our own is in the world of lift control algorithms. If, in the real world, the occupant of a lift could control its movement, there'd be a lot of pissed-off people waiting in lift lobbies, not to mention fights for the controls. (If everybody carried a gun, things would really start to get interesting.)

Elevator Action came about in the days of 8-bit CPUs (it runs on 3 Z80s; the same chips that powered Sinclair ZX81s and the like) and 16-colour pixel graphics (the basic 8 plus lighter versions thereof; think Commodore 64 graphics with a less miserly hardware budget), after everybody got sick of plain black backgrounds but before game designers started trying to wow audiences with the depth of their palettes. As such, there is no shading, outlines or any other such sophistication; objects are pixelated blobs of solid colour. Which, in this days of Generation X Atari nostalgia and 1980s revivalism, is the height of modern-primitivist retro cool, a latter-day equal of Polynesian tiki kitsch and 1960s pop art.

Anyway, back to the graphics. The action is set in a building with pastel-coloured walls and bright blue doors (which turn red if the room contains documents), which suggests that Smersh or whoever cared enough to hire a decent interior decorator. You, the player, are a little guy in a brown top, tan trousers and, for some reason, red shoes, with a sandy blond crewcut. The bad guys all look identical, dressed in black suits and fedoras, the usual cartoon "spy" uniform. They follow you around and shoot at you, and you have to dodge their bullets; which isn't hard, as they move slowly enough for you to easily jump over them. All that makes one wonder whether or not Elevator Action was a formative influence on the Wachowski brothers.

There are 13 comments on "Elevator Action":

Posted by: richard Tue Jul 15 23:16:08 2003

Nice review. Cool game. Takes me back...

Posted by: Ben Tue Jul 15 23:48:09 2003

Can we expect more of these?

Elevator Action is good, and easy to begin with. But, like most arcade games, it gets pretty hard pretty quickly.

Posted by: Burgatron Wed Jul 16 02:02:26 2003

arr the first arcade game I ever played, down at the local hamburger joint.

A side note - elevator action is still going strong. It is available for download (well its gets sent to your phone for a price once u dial a 1900 number) for some of those new Nokia Phones.

Posted by: acb Wed Jul 16 04:30:44 2003

I intend to post more such reviews when inspiration strikes. Any suggestions for interesting games to look at (and possible angles)?

Posted by: gjw Wed Jul 16 06:09:57 2003

You just going to look at arcade, or home computer games as well?

I'd give StarQuake a try - available for C64, CPC, Spectrum and PC.

Posted by: acb Wed Jul 16 06:23:31 2003

Home computer as well, if I can get the games and an emulator that runs on my Linux box.

Tell me about this StarQuake thing.

Posted by: Graham Wed Jul 16 09:10:09 2003

Gauntlet is the obvious one.

Posted by: Alex http:// Wed Jul 16 13:01:41 2003

Quick, someone post a link to a .mid version of the title tune!

Posted by: gjw Wed Jul 16 13:08:20 2003

Starquake: highly addictive platformer. You play an alien who has to collect bits of his crashed spaceship. Massive playing field. I dedicated 1991 to it.

Posted by: Alex http:// Wed Jul 16 13:11:49 2003

A reasonable rendition of the EA theme can be found within ...

Posted by: ed Wed Jul 16 14:05:40 2003

i love that game! i only played the zx spectrum version though, in a time where you could walk up to 'computer game copying stores' in shopping malls, look at their catalog, ask for two games (one for each side of the tape) then wait 30 minutes while they made the copies in a twin-deck stereo. and you could even ask for a free new copy if the game didn't load.

of course, that was about the time portugal joined the european union and was still seen internationally more like a rogue, backwards socialist state. still, how things have changed since the days of analog piracy...

Posted by: dj http:// Thu Jul 17 01:26:23 2003

EA used to remind me of the SpyVSpy cartoon with all the black dudes running around.

Posted by: Luke Thu Jul 17 14:04:01 2003

Ghosts 'n' Goblins, of course. It's absolutely rock.

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