Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes
Company: Coleco
Model #:
Year: 1984
A Colecovision and Atari 2600 port also exist


Tarzan (real name John Clayton II) is a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912.  Tarzan was the Viscount of Greystoke (a type of noble) who was orphaned in Africa when his parents died on an expedition.  The infant Tarzan was then adopted and raised by a tribe of friendly great apes resulting in him becoming a feral man living in the jungle.  Eventually Tarzan meets an American named Jane whom he saves and marries.  After briefly returning to England he decides that his place is in the jungle among his ape friends so he and Jane return to Africa.  Tarzan has been the subject of numerous novels (24 and counting), movies, and even a few video games.  In fact the original version of Jungle Hunt (then known as Jungle King) featured Tarzan, just not by name.  The estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs sued Taito and they were forced to change the character to an explorer.  Coleco managed to secure the rights to Tarzan (as a tie in for the 1984 movie Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes) and created games for the Atari 2600, Atari 8-Bit computers, and Colecovision.  Of these only the Colecovision version was actually released.


Tarzan is an action game in which you control the the titular Tarzan who must free his captured ape family from the evil hunters and Beastmen who are holding them captive in cages scattered throughout the jungle.  Being a wild ape-man, Tarzan's only weapons are his spectacular climbing/leaping/swimming skills and punching.  Tarzan must traverse several different types of screens in order to rescue all the apes, destroy the idol at the top of the Temple of Opar, and win the game. 


As Tarzan moves through the jungle, he will face numerous enemies.  Some enemies can be stunned either by punching them (The Hunter, Bolgani the Gorilla King, and Beastmen on the cage screens) while others can be eliminated by jumping on them (Histah the Snake and Gimla the Crocodile).  Each time Tarzan is hit by an enemy, falls into the water, or falls to the ground he will be stunned for a few seconds and lose some vitality.  If Tarzan loses all his vitality it's game over.  Thankfully Tarzan recovers some vitality for every 1,000 points he scores so make sure to take the time to smack around a few enemies.

Tarzan is divided into several different areas/screens.  Each screen has different gameplay elements and enemies.

The Jungle

Tarzan starts out the game in the jungle.  Not only is the jungle alive, but everything in this jungle is trying its best to kill Tarzan!  Your goal is to make your way to the right side of each screen either by running/swimming across the ground, or by climbing trees and swinging through the air by vines.  The treetops are safer, but require more skill to get through as Tarzan must jump from vine to vine.  Missing a vine or otherwise dropping to the group will stun Tarzan and cost precious time.  There is a bug in this version that causes Tarzan to fall to the ground if the vine he's swinging on moves off the side of the screen (this usually happens when swinging on a vine from one screen to the next).  To avoid this try and jump off the vines as quickly as possible.

On the ground Tarzan will face enemies in the form of Bolgani the ape, Histah the snake (who appears as a pair of eyes in the background until he jumps out as you pass), and Gimla the crocodile (who only appears in the water).  Remember that Tarzan must punch Bolgani to stun him (stop moving and press the fire button) and jump/fall on Histah and Gimla (press the fire button while moving).  Be careful as Bolgani and Histah can climb trees to peruse Tarzan, but they cannot enter the water.  In fact if Tarzan punches Bolgani into the water he will be eliminated.  Another danger that Tarzan faces on the ground are hidden pit traps.  These pit traps are invisible until Tarzan runs over one and will cost him precious energy if he falls into one (Bolgani can also fall into pit traps which will eliminate him).  The only way to detect a pit trap is if Nikma is accompanying Tarzan (see below).   If Tarzan doesn't have Nikma he should try to keep to the trees when possible.  Pit traps can also appear in the hunters camp so be careful.  Eventually after passing through a few screens Tarzan will come upon the first hunters camp.

The Hunters Camp

In the Hunters Camp Tarzan will see a pole with a cage containing Tarzan's monkey friend Nikma on the top.  Here Tarzan must avoid the crazed hunter attempting to shoot him, climb the center pole, and punch the cage free Nikma.  Once Nikma is freed Tarzan will gain some vitality and be able able to move onto the next area of jungle.  Nikma will now accompany Tarzan and warn him of any pit traps in his path (he will also warn Tarzan if Histah is nearby).  Nikma will stay with Tarzan until the end of the round or Tarzan gets too close to any of the banana bunches that occasionally appear in the trees.  If this happens Nikma will leave Tarzan to chow down on some bananas for the rest of the round.

The Hanging Cages

After a few more jungle screens Tarzan will arrive at a screen with two cages hanging above a lake.  These cages are guarded by vicious Beastmen who move up and down the chains holding the cages.  Tarzan must climb up the trees on either side of the screen, swing over to a cage via the vine, and punch it open.  If a Beastman hits Tarzan he will drop into the lake below and be stunned for a time.  Tarzan can punch the Beastmen into the lake by spamming the fire button when they're near (although eliminating the Beastmen isn't required).  Once both apes are freed Tarzan can move onto the next area.  Tarzan will have to go through more jungle and another set of hunters camp and hanging cages screens before reaching the next area.

The Temple of Opar

Tarzan has finally made it to the lost Temple of Opar where the Beastmen are holding the remaining apes.  Here Tarzan must open the cages on each floor of the temple while punching out Beastmen and avoiding the fireballs being shot by the Idol of the Flaming God.  Tarzan can climb up to the next level of the temple using conveniently placed vine patches but be careful as there are holes in the floor that must be jumped over.  After freeing all the apes Tarzan must make his way to the very top of the temple while dodging the idol's fire breath and destroy the idol with his 'ape roar'.  Once the idol is destroyed the next round will start.

The Atari 8-Bit version of Tarzan has been available on various internet sites for years, but its origins are unclear.  The disk image automatically loads all the various code files from OSS DOS which either is due to it still being a prototype or was something put in when the game was pirated.  While the game itself seems fairly complete (and practically identical to the Colecovision release), there are still some bugs that need to be ironed out and it needs some fine tuning.  Other than the above mentioned edge of the screen vine bug, it's way too easy to keep being hit by Histah over and over again unless you mash the fire button to jump away.  There are also some control issues where Tarzan seems to jump instead of punch even though the joystick isn't being pressed which can lead to all sorts of frustrating hits.  Tarzan also doesn't move up and down in straight lines, rather he moves upwards and downwards at an angle which can make avoiding some obstacles rather difficult on cramped screens.  The game is also brutally hard, even on the lowest difficulty, but this is somewhat offset by the fact that Tarzan can simply punch an enemy over and over again until he's back to full health.


So why wasn't Tarzan released?  Most likely it was the victim of the crumbling video game market.  1984 wasn't the best year to be releasing video games, and although it fared a bit better than the 2600/5200, the Atari 8-bits saw the sames steep decline in sales.  Because they got into the Atari 8-Bit market late, Coleco only released one Atari 8-Bit title (Wargames) before throwing in the towel.  Other than Tarzan, their only other known Atari 8-Bit title was Dr. Suess Fix-Up the Mix-Up Puzzler which was eventually released by CBS although Coleco is still credited on the title screen.


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