Company: Parker Brothers
Model #:
David Johnson
Year: 1983
Port of the 1982 Ninteno Coin-Op


Popeye the Sailor Man... I guess what was cool back in the 1930's seems pretty lame now, but Popeye was one of the toughest cartoon characters of his day.  Popeye would usually spend his time beating the crap out of local trouble maker Bluto (or Brutus depending on the time period) who was constantly kidnapping his main girl Olive Oyl (get it?).  Somewhere down the line they added a baby named Sweetpea to the cartoon who was usually used as a plot device to lure Popeye into some dangerous situation or another.  Ok so it wasn't the greatest cartoon on earth, but it makes for a nice video game


n 1980 someone in Hollywood thought that Popeye would make a good musical/movie and that Robin Williams was perfect for the role.  While the movie was a flop (a bit too dark, and a bit too long), Nintendo decided to make an arcade game to ride on the buzz the movie generated because Popeye was extremely popular in Japan at the time.  In fact Donkey Kong was originally envisioned as being based on Popeye (but that's another story).  The arcade game was a minor hit so Parker Brothers to port Popeye to just about every system they could think of including the Atari 8-bits.


The goal of Popeye is run around each screen collecting love tokens (hearts, notes, and letters) being thrown by Olive Oyl at the top of the screen.  These tokens will float around the screen until they eventually reach water at the bottom.  Once they reach the water they will begin to sink unless picked up in a short amount of time, if a token does sink Popeye will lose a life.  Once you collect all the tokens on a level, you'll move on to the next.  Of course you can't just run around each stage unmolested, your arch nemesis Bluto will chase you around trying to catch you.  Bluto can also jump down from level to level, throw beer bottles at you (which you can punch), jump up and hit you on the level above, and generally makes it impossible to stand still for more than a few moments. 


Normally you're powerless against Bluto, but if you pick up a can of spinach which randomly appears on the sides of the screen you can knock him off the level temporarily.  However Bluto will always come back after a short time, so make the best use of this time.  Another benefit of the spinach is that the tokens will freeze wherever they are and can be collected much easier.  Teaming up with Bluto is the Sea Hag, who will throw bottles at you randomly from the sides of the screen.  Unlike Bluto she can instantly appear on any platform so you truly have no safe space.  There are three screens, and they all play very similarly.


The first level takes place in the town of Sweethaven.  Here Popeye must traverse the various stairs which make up the towns four levels in order to collect the hearts that Olive Oyl is so carelessly throwing away.  The main attraction on this level is the barrel which hangs in the middle of the screen which can be punched (via the bag hanging on the right side) and dropped on Bluto.  This will earn Popeye a few points and freeze Bluto in place for a few seconds, but it can only be used once.  While it's a cute gimmick it's somewhat pointless and due to poor programming Popeye is just as likely to jump off the edge of the platform as he is to successfully punch the pan.  There is also a ladder in the center of the screen which you can go down, but not up.  Once you collect 24 hearts you'll move onto the next level.

The second level takes place on the docks of Sweethaven where Popeye must catch musical notes from Olive Oyl.  This level is similar to the first but features a gap in the third platform which Popeye can't jump (although Bluto can) and a seesaw operated by everyone's favorite hamburger mooch Wimpy.  If Popeye jumps on the seesaw from the second platform he'll be shoot up to the top platform (Bluto will only bounce to the second platform).  Also note that at the top of the screen Sweetpea sits on a set of rings which constantly appear and disappear.  If the rings are present when Popeye uses the seesaw he'll stay on the top level, otherwise he'll fall down to the third level.  Other than the seasaw this level plays similarly to the first, but Popeye can freely go up and down all the ladders.  After catching 16 notes Popeye will move to the third level.

The third level takes place on a ship on the high seas and Popeye must now catch letters spelling HELP in order to build a ladder and rescue Olive (honestly, is she really worth all this hassle?).  This level has a similar layout to the first level, but each platform has a gap in it that makes it impossible to cross.  The main feature of this level is a platform that moves across the top gap which Popeye can use to quickly get to the other side.  This level also features a new enemy, the vulture.  Vultures only appear on the top platform but will continually move from right to left until Popeye takes on out with a well timed punch (worth 1,000 points), after which they will disappear for a short time.  While this level looks fairly easy, it's actually the toughest level of them all due to the cramped nature of the ship.  Once Popeye collects all 16 letters he'll rescue Olive and start over again on a tougher version of level one.

The Atari 8-bit port of Popeye is generally considered one of the best.  The graphics are good, and the gameplay is very similar to the arcade version although it is missing the skull throwing Hag that appears after the first loop (most ports didn't feature this).  The only place where the Atari 8-bit version falls down is in the punching mechanics.  Due to the way the programmer chose to represent Popeye punching (by doubling the width of the sprite), it makes the collision detection somewhat wonky.  Many times the player will appear to punch a bottle (or can in this version) only to be killed by it due to the collision detection not registering the hit.  Aside from this flaw, the Atari 8-bit version is one of the best version available and well worth playing.

Version Cart Text Description
8/29/83 Popeye Atari 400/800 8/29/83
Late WIP
?????? Atari 400 Popeye WIP.8
Almost Final
?????? Atari 400 Popeye 8K RLS.1 Final Version


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