Rock-Ola's 1983 Nibbler
Nibbler is nothing more than an arcade-amped version of a VERY early (read 1970s) computer game that was played on some Unix-based systems of the day. That doesn't mean it's bad necessarily, mind you - just that it's rather simplistic compared to other contemporary fare.

Here's the deal - you're a snake, and you get bigger by eating flies... well, actually I'm not sure *what* those things are, but they look like flies, so I'm going with it. With each fly you eat, you grow longer and longer. The idea is to navigate the maze in such a way that you eat every fly while avoiding running into yourself; this snake is evidently rock-stupid and will eat whatever it runs into that isn't a wall, including itself.

And that's it, really. There are no enemies, and no obstacles to avoid except your snake's own ever-growing body. The only ways your snake can be harmed is by running into itself, or when the timer reaches zero.

Nibbler is the kind of game that a minor developer, Rock-Ola, just threw out onto the streets to compete with the likes of Pac-Man (the basic premise) and Centipede (the overall theme)... exactly the sort of knock-off that, by itself, wouldn't have been so bad, but when taken en masse (as it was in the home market) could bring about the Great Crash and the end of the early-'80s video game "fad." I saw this game exactly one time (at a bowling alley in East Hartford, Connecticut), then never heard of it again until MAME.

Missing Ingredient

Some sort of villian character. As it is, your Nibbler's only enemy is itself, and maybe the timer. That's not exactly a recipe for an addictive arcade thriller. Just imagine the different strategies that would have to be employed if entire rows and/or columns of the playfield were being patrolled by, say, a DDT-wielding exterminator...

Despite the use of actual graphics, Nibbler's Unix-terminal roots are painfully apparent. There just isn't enough to do, and the mazes have a very high repeat level. This is an acceptable game that could have been great if just a little bit more attention was lavished on it.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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