Escape for the Arcadia-2001, is clearly Emerson’s take on the popular Berzerk title available in both arcades and on the Atari 2600 at the time. Fans of Berzerk will easily recognize the formula. A man is trapped in an electrified maze filled with electrified aliens and must reach the exit on the opposite side of the maze without dying. Death can be prevented by avoiding touching both the aliens & their bullets, avoiding touching the electrified walls and avoid getting hit by the spinner, which acts as Escape’s version of Evil Otto. You can defend yourself against the aliens by shooting them with your gun, but the spinner is indestructible. The game repeats this premise until you lose all of your lives or you decide to simply turn off the game, which may happen just as likely.
The spinner will harmlessly rotate around in the middle of the maze, speeding up as the you maneuver the maze, shooting at aliens. The game’s primary sound effect is the noise that the spinner makes as it speeds up until it reaches maximum speed, which implies that it will soon be darting off in your direction. The most effective method to avoiding the spinner is to get as far away as possible once it shoots off in your general direction and move out of the way if you need to. Early on in the level, avoiding the spinner is easy as it rarely goes directly towards you as long as you stay still. However, with each failed attempt at killing you, the spinner takes less time to reach maximum speed and it begins to go after you as if it was a heat-seeking missile. I’ve been able to avoid it up to 5 times before it inevitably gets me. The point of the spinner is to prevent you from loitering in the mazes too long but I’m not sure why you’d need to. The game is much too easy in my opinion. It’s always a good idea to shoot all of the aliens in each maze in order to maximize your score, but it is not necessary to do so in order to make your exit.
One of Escape’s gameplay variables are the number of bullets that the aliens can shoot at you at once, ranging from 0 (meaning that the aliens do not shoot at all) to 3 bullets at a time. The other gameplay variable is the number of aliens per maze/screen, ranging from 8 up to 20. You can only shoot 1 bullet at a time so if your shot misses the mark, you have to wait for it to disappear before you can shoot again. All shots in the game move slowly so avoiding an alien’s shot is easy to do as long as you leave enough space between you and them. Of course, that works both ways but the aliens do not generally make much of an effort to dodge any bullets you send their way. In order to aim, you must press the controller in the direction you want to shoot while hitting the fire button. This also allows for diagonal shot firing, which is a nice touch. The aliens vary slightly in color, size and shape and their point totals reflect this variability as well. The bizarre artwork used for the game, manual and box would lead you to believe that you are battling a combination of Pac-Man & Centipede related characters as your “man” stands in the lower left corner of the box blasting a round yellow “alien” that looks a lot like Pac-Man himself. There is a green ghost to the left of Pac-Man looking character as well which adds to the misleading illusion. A red spider and orange bug-like creature are also featured on the box, harkening back to Centipede’s success. Escape has one of the more confusing & pathetic box art drawings available for the console, which is saying a lot.
In all, Escape doesn’t have nearly enough variety or excitement to make it a worthy Berserk clone. Your character and the game in general move painfully slow and the gameplay offers very little challenge. I tend to play the game using maximum alien and bullet options/modes and it still is too easy in my opinion. Unfortunately, Escape is not going to change anyone’s opinions about the Arcadia-2001.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, box, 2 overlays