Frantic Freddy


Review by Bruce Consolazio



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8


For me, this game has an unusual history.

franticfreddy1_coleco.gif (15642 bytes)I first saw it, boxed, for $5.00 at Kay-Bee Toys in 1988. This was essentially the year, in my old area in downstate New York, when the ColecoVision finally went down and the Japanese consoles (NES, SMS) were solidly in place. Believe it or not, I did not scoop up this and the other games (including Destructor... what was I thinking?) because at this point I was more into the Atari 7800. There, I said it.

It wouldn't be until five years later that I would see this game again; this time, it was the only cartridge included with a ColecoVision being sold at a local garage sale. I hadn't had a working ColecoVision in nearly four years, and this was also when I moved up here.

Now, nearly thirteen years later comes the review.

Frantic Freddy was a game made by Spectravision for the ColecoVision in 1983. This unusual game had you doing something truly unique in video games: you play a strange-looking fire extinguisher trying to put out fires in an apartment building.

Each round in this game has two screens: in the first, you are trying to put out six red fires above you at the windows of the apartment building. You move left and right, and shoot squirts of water up at the flames; it takes six such squirts to extinguish a fire. While you are trying to do this, tiny fire bits are raining down from somewhere above, and, as you've already guessed, contact with one is fatal. This phase is essentially a Space Invaders-style game. If you finish this screen, the playfield scrolls up to the next part of the building, where you play the second screen.

The second screen is played like a Donkey Kong-style game. Here, you can climb up and down drainpipes to any of the four levels here. Patrolling these levels are six fires (not unlike the fireballs from Donkey Kong), four of which are red and two of which are purple. When you reach a ledge, any fire on that ledge immediately moves towards you. The red ones can only patrol the ledges they are on and are extinguished just as they were in the first screen...but the purple ones are different. Very different.

These two fires are capable of moving up and down to reach the two ledges they each patrol; the top one patrols the upper two ledges, while the lower one patrols the lower two ledges. Worse still, these purple fires are evidently evil magical flames, because until all four of the red ones have been extinguished, no amount of water can put them out! If you do manage to put out all six fires here, then you go back to screen one to start again, but this time everything moves faster.

In both screens a timer counts down. If you fail to finish a screen before it reaches zero (the tune goes down in volume when this is about to happen), then you lose a life. You gain an extra life at 10,000 points. Note that you do not earn any bonus for finishing before the timer runs out.

There are four "skill levels" to this game, but that is not quite true; actually, these are options. Skill Level One is the basic game I have just described. Skill Level Two allows the fires to re-ignite (when one does, they all do- except, for the most part, the one you just put out in screen two). Skill Level Three has a cat that randomly appears at one of the windows and, after a few seconds, jumps down- you must either catch it before it touches the bottom of the playfield, or, in the second screen, you can also move in front of the window the cat is in before it jumps. Skill Level Four is a combination of the second and third skill levels, and insanely difficult. In any option with the cat, you use the four gray doors in screen two- when the cat appears, two of the doors, one on the same level as the cat and another one level removed (first and third or second and fourth) flash; moving in front of one and pushing up on the controller will teleport you in front of the other.

Frantic Freddy was never an arcade game. Had it been, it would've been one of those obscure games from 1980 or 1981 you'd see in the back of a deli or pizza place, one of those games that some people like but which never remain long. Although most reviews I've seen for this game are not favorable, I do like it, and feel that it's underrated.

Graphics are good. Frantic Freddy the fire extinguisher is a character made of not one but three colors. He moves with a frantic (pun intended) motion, and when he climbs a pipe the animation is surprisingly detailed; his hands actually grip the ledge when he reaches it. The green apartment building is arcade-quality (from the years I mentioned), with graffiti and patches of paint missing, exposing detailed yellow bricks. The ledges are yellow and black. The windows are also amazingly detailed, colorful, with shiny spots, and overall they are drawn as well as in an NES game. The gray doors even have black outlines, and even the pipes have a bit of extra detail. Only the solid-colored flames, although animated, and the yellow single-colored cat, lack the same detail.

Audio is nicely composed. A simple (VERY simple) tune plays, the cat makes a squeaky sound when it appears, your footsteps are frantic-sounding, and even the opening tune fits the overall mood of the game. Overall, typical of what such an “arcade game” would have had.

Game play is an interesting blend of the two arcade classics I mentioned. This is actually two games in one, and while just one would be tedious here, together it works nicely. There are actually certain strategies you can employ, more so than you'd think, which are capable of doubling or even tripling your score. The game is quite different based on which options you choose to play (Skill Level 3 is my favorite, the most arcade-like), and it is very challenging.

It should be noted that this favorable review is unusual.


In the first screen, you are perfectly safe when you move to the far right. Fire bits fall from definite places on top, and if you move under the rightmost one, you can shoot these fire bits for extra points. Therefore, extinguish all fires except for the second or third from the right. Hit this one with four or five squirts of water, and then move to that spot where you can just fire and hit those fire bits. If you are playing Skill Level Three, then you can move as far to the left as you can and still squirt those fire bits; the cat will mostly appear in the window above you, and will fall right onto you without you having to move. If the cat appears elsewhere, then immediately move under him, and save your water for any fire bits about to hit you. Finish the screen when the timer reaches 100 or so.

In the second screen (on Skill Level 3 only), extinguish all fires except for the upper purple one. Squirt this one four or five times, and then go down to the lowest level. Since that fire cannot get down to the lower two levels, you are perfectly safe here. If you think it is too risky to go and grab the cat when it appears in the upper levels, you only have to move under it, and then wait for it to fall…right to you. As with the first screen, consider finishing this one when the timer reaches 100 or so.

I do NOT recommend this technique with Skill Levels 2 and 4, because it is likely that the fires will re-ignite when you try to finish the screen; the timer will run out before you can. Just try to finish the screens here as quickly as possible.


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Last updated: Sunday, September 17, 2006 02:12 PM