|For me, this game has an unusual history.
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
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.
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
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.