Pepper 2


Review by Bruce Consolazio



Graphics: 9

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9


The early 1980’s was undeniably the "Era of the Maze Games." Started by Pac-Man, this was the time when arcades were flooded by maze games of every sort, many just rip-offs of Pac-Man, but others that were inspired by the craze, but different enough to actually stand on their own. Ladybug and Mousetrap were two such examples, as was Marvin’s Maze and a rather peculiar game I played in a local arcade in The Netherlands (Goes) back in 1982, with Rubik’s Cube intermissions.

Parallel to these maze-and-dot games were the “surround-and-fill” games, with Amidar (also in that arcade in Goes!) being the best example. Well, actually, there weren’t that many such games in the arcades…

But there were more than one. And another was Exidy’s Pepper 2.

At first, Pepper 2 seems to be a sort of Ms. Pac-Man game: you must complete four different mazes, while trying to avoid baddies trying to do you in. There are exits, and, of course, power-ups that allow you to turn the tables on the nasty foes. Your character, a cute, round, smiling “Pepper Angel,” complete with halo, is even yellow-colored. The maze tracks are blue, a-la Pac-Man. Pepper 2 however was actually different. Very different.

For one thing, you do not go around eating dots, but are trying to “zip up” tracks to surround the many areas in each maze, the four making up a level. Once you manage to do this, you score points (quickly shown) and the area fills up with an incredibly colorful pattern. Running over any such track that did NOT completely surround such an area would UNZIP it, however. Once you manage to fill in the entire maze by surrounding all of the areas you complete that maze, which earns you with 7,000 points while a tune plays and the entire maze flashes colorfully. Upon completing all four mazes, you score an extra 15,000 points and hear another tune, too. After that, you go on to the next, more difficult level.

Obviously, no such game would be complete without opponents trying to nab you, and Pepper 2 is no exception. Entering the maze from the four different entrances/exits are Roaming Eyes. With partially determined, partially random movements, they (as their name implies) roam the maze, costing you a life if you touch one. The longer you take in a particular maze, the faster- and faster- they become.

Also after you is a second kind of enemy (not unlike the Hawk in Exidy’s Mousetrap), the green Zipper Ripper. A lone creature, it swiftly roams the maze, much like the Eyes, but also able to “unzip” any zipped-up track not yet surrounding a completed area. It does not get any faster, but it doesn’t need to. Touching it is fatal, too. Of course...

Naturally, you have the ability to turn the tables on the baddies, by surrounding one of the pitchfork areas in the four corners of the maze. Once you do this, you become (for a short time) a white-colored Devil, the maze tracks turn green, a jolly tune plays, the colorful patterns in the surrounded areas change, and you can now go after the Eyes (which are now a different color) while the Zipper Ripper is held helpless and still. In the center of the maze is another pitchfork-area, but the pitchfork changes to a green “magic box,” which acts as a pitchfork (changing the colors and making you a Devil) but, from level two on, makes the Eyes and, once it wears off, the Zipper Ripper, disappear. In this case the Eyes will reenter the maze, but they will be vulnerable. Pitchfork and magic box change steadily from one into the other.

When you complete a level a small vector-like box appears in the lower right corner, to indicate (to a point) how many you have completed.

So far, this sounds pretty much like Ms. Pac-Man, with some Amidar and an extra enemy thrown in. But this is where the game comes into its own…

For one thing, there are four mazes…but you can travel from one to another through the four exits, which are labeled to tell you where they lead, at any time you wish- you do NOT have to complete the maze you are in. If you are a Devil, you retain that power, if Devil-time remains normally.

Secondly, there is the way you score points when you nab Eyes after becoming a Devil. As with the Pac-Man games each Eye you nab scores more points than the one before (100 for the first one, then 150 more for each one you nab after that), but unlike the Pac-man games, the value is not reset if you surround another pitchfork area while still a Devil! As long as you are a Devil, each Eye yields up more and more points. Only by becoming a Pepper Angel again will the score be reset. What’s more, any nabbed Eyes reentering the maze will still be vulnerable until you become an Angel again!

Thirdly, there are the Bonus Areas. These can contain sunglasses, watches, scissors, or phony pitchforks (these do NOT change you into a Devil!), among other colorful things. When you surround one of these areas, you score 910 points the first time, after which the bonus multiplies by one more each time you surround another, so the first time it’s 910, then 1820, then 2730, then 3640, then…and since this bonus multiplier is NOT reset each time you complete all four mazes to finish a level, the higher you get, the more it’s worth, until its worth a fantastic amount of points!

Throughout the maze are junction points. Crossing one of these scores 10 points, so it does add nicely to your score. You gain an extra Pepper Angel each time you finish a level.

One of the things that made this game so striking was the incredibly colorful graphics. Each maze had its own pair of track colors and filled-in-area patterns, which one depending on whether you were an Angel or Devil. The sounds, including the “heartbeat” indicating the speed of things, were also a plus. It was the sort of game you expected from that era.

By making a home version of this game, Coleco once again made the ColecoVision the "King of the Obscure Arcade" games. Only once in my entire life have I ever encountered a Pepper 2 arcade machine, and that only a few years AFTER getting the home version. So, how did the home version stack up? Very, very nicely: this was a 1983 game Coleco did NOT foul up.

First of all, the sound and game play are about as close to the arcade version as you could want. It’s all there: the enemies, the mazes, the scoring, everything. The tunes are all present and accounted for, and the effect of you scrolling from one maze to another is here, too! Control is excellent, better even than Ladybug and Mousetrap; you just zip along, swiftly and cleanly.

Graphics, while excellent, are somewhat different. For one thing, all four mazes have blue tracks when you are an Angel, green tracks when you are a Devil. Each maze does have its own pair of filled-in patterns, however, and while they are not quite the same, they are incredibly colorful and detailed. The mazes are shaped the same, and while the look is somewhat different, that is strictly cosmetic- the game plays the same!

As in the arcade version, both your Pepper Angel/Devil are single colored, as is the green Zipper Ripper, but in the home version they are actually rounder and more endearing than their arcade counterparts. The Eyes are shaped exactly as they are in the arcade, although they are missing their square “pupils.”

The ColecoVision version also has something the arcade game doesn’t: skill levels. Skill Level One is easy, with fewer Eyes and NO Zipper Ripper, while even Skill Level Two is a challenge. Three is like the arcade, and as for Four…whoever said ColecoVision games were too easy never played this one!

The curious thing about this game is how nicely it captures the very feel and essence of the arcade scene from those days. You can almost hear Duran Duran, Journey, and Rush when playing this game, and, well…it just does.

Overall, if you enjoy maze games like Amidar and the Pac-Man games, then Pepper 2 is for you. It is a really fine arcade-to-home translation, and by itself a really unique, bright, and just plain terrific game.


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Last updated: Saturday, September 01, 2007 11:34 PM