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Sammy Lightfoot (Apple II) artwork

Sammy Lightfoot (Apple II) review

"Sammy Lightfoot(SL) is a step down from the better-remembered Hard Hat Mack in fun, playability and fairness, but it's still the sort of interesting old-school title worth a brief spin. Sammy's this tubby orange-haired fellow who makes squip noises when he walks and boingy noises when he jumps. His hair even spins around when he dies! The game's object is just to reach the platform at the top, navigating obstacles in three scenarios. Then you start all over again with a different, ..."

Sammy Lightfoot(SL) is a step down from the better-remembered Hard Hat Mack in fun, playability and fairness, but it's still the sort of interesting old-school title worth a brief spin. Sammy's this tubby orange-haired fellow who makes squip noises when he walks and boingy noises when he jumps. His hair even spins around when he dies! The game's object is just to reach the platform at the top, navigating obstacles in three scenarios. Then you start all over again with a different, more obscure pattern for the moving obstacles. Your score is based solely on how quickly you win each level.

Controlling Sammy is pretty simple, though it is exasperating to hold down a button when he swings on a rope five times back and forth until the coast is clear, or even to bounce him higher on a trampoline. The real challenge is figuring out what to do: platforms vanish in a different order in each sub-level, and pool balls come down from different sides and bounce several ways. This is upsetting, as players new to a level will have to sit and watch for a while, and in order to get anywhere, they need to watch their bonus count down to nothing. You can still win a level without a bonus. But there is a steep diminishing return to scale of points scored versus effort.

The three sub-levels to navigate are sufficiently bizarre that you will definitely want to go through them once. The first level has a sequence of trampolines. You start in the lower right, bounce on one to get to a new platform, running jump to another, then bounce on one under the upper left. Jump over a gap, touch the pad on the right to start a rope swinging, then fall off the rope to land on a platform with the evil orange smiley you may remember from Russki Duck. Along the way, pool balls roll from the upper left, over the last trampoline, and from the upper right. Each one can bounce at you a different way, and you need to account for either random move they may make. Unfortunately, there's little to stop the same ball appearing four times in a row, which gets exasperating even when you know what to do. In later levels, balls bounce differently, and depending on their color, it may be better to duck them than jump over.

The next level has you jump across four platforms that disappear in a fixed order. Boxes bounce up and down to distract you, and once you get to the left, you need to jump back on these boxes, which have different speeds going up and down. Make it across and you go to the upper right, where you get on a platform that bucks and swerves almost randomly. By level six it is impossible to predict which way it'll go. I had a murderous time with save states many years later, and a colossal amount of memorization is involved. Most people would rather save that memorization for a good RPG or text adventure.

The final level has Sammy run through a box of bouncing balls, jumping over them as needed, then going up and running past pipes that bash up and down while a ball rolls along the floor. The pipes are asynchronous enough that Sammy can eventually run through, but as in the first level it's a case of battling your impatience more than anything else. You'll get to the top where you jump from one swinging rope to the next and land away from that orange smiley.

The only real payoff here, besides a top ten list the game saves to disk(VERY snazzy in the eighties) were Sammy's amusing little penguin-style victory dances. Unfortunately, they do not change with the levels, so if you get through the first wave, there's no excuse to go on. The game just gets pickier, the only real wrinkle being the bouncier pool balls in the first scenario.

When put up against games like Hard Hat Mack, SL fails because it is either way too random, or the sequences to win are much too complex to remember. This game really needed to quit around level seven, with a funny winning scene, or at least loop back to level zero as a sop to someone who was able to fight through the entire game. It's a pity as the canopies and platforms you jump over are rather colorful, the disappearing platform ideas are rather clever, the overall scenes are well thought out, and both the death and victory scenes are funny. It's just that the game really only shuffles what happens, and once you know what to do, you have to sit and wait a long time to go ahead and do it.


aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (May 20, 2009)

Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.

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zippdementia posted May 20, 2009:

Huh. That was a good review. It was surprisingly informative for a game that obviously gave you so much pain and easily could've devolved into a bash. You could've been a little bit clearer during some of the obstacle sections, I had trouble following what exactly you were trying to describe. And despite my earlier comment, it could have used a little dash of bash during some of the more frustrating segments you were describing. Some witticisms or outright rage could've gone a long ways.
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aschultz posted May 20, 2009:

Thanks! I'm glad you pointed out some stuff that would help me re-re-vamp things. This was something where I gutted an old GameFAQs review and I'd written a guide in the meantime, a lot like Taxman.

I'm reticent to bash an old Apple game knowing the limitations, but then there were a lot of others that did succeed and deserve credit. And the problem with describing the game is that you have to take into account that people struggled to get what they had. Outrage is hard for me, because the game was legitimately fun when I was a kid, and I do miss Sammy's rotating orange bouffant and his ridiculous mustache and huge nose.

The layout of the first level is complicated and I didn't want that to bog down the rest of the review, but I think I see a way to fix things a bit, and add in another important point or two. Games like this are probably best off without extensive detail, unless I really know the game. So I'd need to do some cutting.
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bloomer posted May 20, 2009:

Outrage would be unfair, as this is not an outrageous game :)

As a matter of fact this is an old fave Chez Bloomer. My sister and I played it all the time. I even had a friend who came over and played it, and declared it to be his favourite game. He later could not remember saying this and was amused when told he had, but he did say it.

Hard Hat Mack is obviously way more lively and arcadey, but Sammy had bigger sprites and is very attractive and finely programmed, and it did hold your attention with all that weirdly tense waiting for things to line up. Also I really like all the music and sound effects.

When you say 'pool balls', do you mean like an inflatable ball thrown around a swimming pool? I never heard the term before.

If you didn't know for sure what the game was supposed to be about, I can tell you as I bought it. Sammy is like a movie/stunt star (from a time when such people were allowed to have bellies). That's why he's doing all this daring stuff. He is precious about his hair, which is why it spins around when he dies.
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aschultz posted May 20, 2009:

Wow! Cool! I never knew the underlying story. It is kind of funny, in light of his big schnoz and extra large mustache on Apple. Sort of like Mommy's 4 1/2 inch heels running from the monsters in Robotron 2084, if you calculate the pixels eg Daddy is 6 feet and 16 pixels, Mommy's heels are 1 pixel.

"Pool balls" is probably an Americanism for billiards. I think the one ball probably looks more like an 8-ball.

I did like the game, and I have some good memories, but looking back, I realized there were much better games. But they were probably copy protected a lot better, too. Apple copy protection still mystifies me!
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zippdementia posted May 21, 2009:

Yeah, we call billiards "pool" on this side of the fence. Don't know why, actually.
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bloomer posted May 21, 2009:

We do call it 'pool' down here, I just never thought of the balls in this game as being solid balls. I thought of them as big beach ball type things.

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