Game of the Week (9/17/17) – Night Stalker

My Intellivision game of the week is Mattel’s classic maze shooter, Night Stalker. Night Stalker took elements from the popular arcade hit, Berzerk (claustrophobic maze filled with deadly robots) and added a dash of haunted house dread to create an uneasy and relentless game. The sound of your racing heart beat is all you are treated to as far as in game music goes. This definitely adds the creepy ambiance necessary for a fully immersive early 80s title.

You’re a man trapped in a maze being chased by deadly robots. You have no name, you have no backstory as to why you are trapped and how you got there. All you know is that you’re likely dead unless you can find a weapon to defend yourself with. Luckily some careless gun owner dropped loaded guns all over the maze which are only are revealed to you one at a time. The maze you’re trapped in is either outdoors (ala The Shining) or it’s an indoor maze in a bit of disrepair since bats and spiders run amok throughout. As mentioned, this maze is crawling with robots who have one single purpose, to seek and destroy. Once you equip your man with the gun, you’re allowed up to 6 shots before it empties and leaves you defenseless again until you find another. Thankfully, there is a bunker in the center of the maze that protects you from robot fire when things get hairy. The spiders and bats will temporarily stun you if you touch them, which leaves you also leaves you defenseless. The spider web in the corner of the maze will slow you and anything that enters down. The goal of the game? Stay alive as long as possible. Shoot robots when you can, run from them when you cannot.

Night Stalker used a different approach for it’s gameplay than Berzerk. Instead of using the disc pad to run and aim your gun and the side buttons to shoot, you ONLY use the disc to run and the keypad with overlay attached indicates which buttons are used to shoot your gun up, down, left and right. Your man is limited in the way he can only shoot when he’s not moving and can only fire one bullet at a time. While the bullet is traveling towards its target, you cannot shoot another bullet in a different direction until the first bullet makes a hit or leaves the screen. Thankfully, this same limitation applies to the robots so keep that in mind if you have to enter a corridor with a robot in it and there’s still a bullet traveling down a long hallway from a different robot. In an effort to add challenge as the game progresses, there are several colored robots that appear which have additional powers. The game starts with grey robots that are slow and not very smart. If you shoot bats, grey robots will replace them in the maze. Blue robots show up after you score 5,000 points and are more relentless in their chase. White robots arrive after scoring 15,000 points and are even more aggressive and take 3 bullets to defeat. Black robots show up on the scene at 30,000 points and can absorb your bullets if it fires energy bolts towards them at the same time. These energy bolts can also break down your bunker’s defenses so your safe space will become compromised! Finally, the invisible robot makes its appearance at 80,000 points and like its namesake, you cannot see it, only the bullets it shoots at you. Good luck!

Some may consider Night Stalker a slow, plodding game but I prefer this style of maze shooter over Berzerk. Night Stalker requires a bit of strategy (e.g. don’t shoot bats if you can avoid it, kill the last robot with your gun’s final bullet allowing you time to grab the next gun before the robots respawn, use the spider web to your advantage to lure robots into it and watch them get stuck) and depth that many games of the era don’t have. For that reason, Night Stalker has always been one of my favorite Intellivision games.

Rating: A-

Currently in my collection: 2 games, 1 manual, 2 boxes, 3 overlays

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