In the annals of gaming history, there are certain games that have an almost universal recognition, even amongst non-gamers. Space Invaders is one such game, as is Asteroids. But of all the classic titles, there is one game whose name is practically synonymous with video games--Pac-Man. "Pac-Man Fever" was not merely a buzzword, or the title of an 80s novelty song, it was a reality. I doubt anyone could have guessed the impact Pac-Man would come to have on the gaming industry, or popular culture in general, but one thing is certain: it didn't take rival game companies long to realize that there was money to be had from a public enamored of that hungry little guy. Soon the imitators appeared: Ladybug, Munchman, Super Gobbler, Clean Sweep, Alien, and many more. KC Munchkin was so similar it actually inspired a lawsuit; Atari won and Magnavox was forced to cease production of the game.
In the early 80s, Nintendo took a gamble with its introduction of the Family Computer System, or Famicom as it is commonly known. Fortified by excellent graphics and an impressive library of original games and arcade ports, the Famicom won over consumers still gunshy after "the great video game crash." Of course, Nintendo would have their own take on the dot-munching genre, and in 1984 they released Devil World. Devil World is interesting to collectors because it was the only first-party title not released in the United States when the Famicom finally arrived on our shores, now retitled the Nintendo Entertainment System. Popular lore suggests that the game's overtly religious theme was deemed too controversial for America. It's unfortunate, because Devil World is easily on par with other early NES classics such as Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, and Super Mario Bros.
It is a simple (though bizarre) story: as Tamagon the dragon you must navigate the mazes of Devil World, destroying the Boa Boa dots that give the Devil his power. Grab a cross or a bible and you can shoot fire at enemies such as Medaan the Fried Egg Man. Ah, you gotta love Japanese pop culture. One cool aspect of gameplay is that the maze scrolls up, down, left, and right. Because of this you have to avoid getting squashed in between the walls of the maze as it's shifting. This not only allows the mazes to be larger than would normally fit on screen, but also adds a very definite element of challenge to an already tricky game. Another interesting twist on Pac-Man is the need to be holding a cross in order to eat (destroy) the dots. Crosses are distributed thoughout the maze but their power only lasts a short time. You'll want to have a cross at all times, since they are your only defense against enemies and any dots passed over without one will stay where they are. When all the dots have been destroyed you'll enter the second stage where you need to push bibles into the four slots of the devil's "machine" in the center of the maze. After this there is a bonus stage. The rest of this game follows the same structure for each level: dot maze, bibles, and bonus round.
Graphics are very nice, with a pronounced old-school arcade flavor. Backgrounds are crisp and clean, featuring bevel-walled mazes in pleasant color schemes. The entire screen is framed by the "rollers" upon which the play area scrolls--two Egg Men turn the wheels while the Devil at the top of the screen points the direction. The characters are very imaginative; Tamagon and the Egg Men are cool, but the Devil definitely gets the "Best Dressed" award, with his matching red boots and trunks, and stylish white gloves contrasting nicely with his blue skin.
While the music won't floor you, what there is of it is quite good. The short, poppy opening jingle is extremely reminiscent of Nintendo's other early releases. For most of the game there is no background music; as in many games of this style, the "music" consists primarily of the sound effects produced by constantly munching dots. There are also a wealth of other incidental sound effects, such as when you eat an egg, breath fire, or capture a bible. The ice cream cones have their own goofy theme music whenever they appear on screen. A change in screen direction is heralded by a melodramatic/intentionally cheesy "dum dum dum DUM," similar to what you'd expect to hear when a character recieves some startling revelation in a parody soap opera. There is also music throughout the entirety of the bonus levels.Good stuff overall, but like a lot of games from this time period, the music is admittedly pretty skimpy.
I found Devil World to offer the perfect degree of difficulty. While the enemies do not chase you (as in Pac-Man), the possibilty of being crushed by the walls of the maze more than make up for soft AI. As the levels go on the game speeds up accordingly, so it should provide you with an increasing challenge as you gain in experience. Apart from trying to beat your high score, there is also the option to play a simultaneous two player game, further enhancing the game's replay value. Yes, it is formulaic and repetitive, but it is also easy to learn and addictive. Fans of uncomplicated, but challenging, gameplay will have a lot of fun with this one.
Proper names for characters courtesy of Classic Gaming's