Peter Packrat - The Atari Times
Average Atari arcade game
by Darryl BrundageJanuary 7, 2008
Even though Atari created (or just marketed) many unique games, and Packrat (what I'm going to call it from now on) was no exception, it has since become unique due to being obscure and not exactly the biggest of hits. Heck, I could be mistaken, but this one wasn't even ported anywhere that I know of, maybe not even to the always popular PC platform.
Granted, rats don't exactly have the best public relations platform out there, due to being looked down on as scum for the most part, usually only starring in video games to be shot at (the sewer level in the 7800 game Crack'ed), being a nuisance (Pitfall 2), and even the currently new on DVD (at the time of this writing) Ratatouille movie, even though it made a little over $200 million here in the States, didn't really do as well as the mighty Pixar movies usually do, probably because rats aren't exactly thought to be clean, especially when you think of them being in a kitchen helping chefs, as the movie does. Aside from the horrible experiments that are done on them in labs to advance medicine, they're pretty much the unsung heroes of the animal kingdom.
But then, in this game, I wouldn't exactly say you're a "hero" when it's your job to stockpile a bunch of crap.
Yep, in this game, you're literally a packrat, which it's your job to gather up all the "bright and shiny objects" (as the onscreen instructions say during the attract mode) in a level and bring them back to your nest (which the latter probably doesn't exactly help with a mental image of a not-so-lovely rat's nest either). This platformer enables you to move and jump around a level in order to bring back bottles and all to your nest. Springboards can catapult you into the air and connecting pipes will also allow you to access other parts of scrolling levels in your quest as you dodge evil creatures that attempt to do you in during your Quest of Much Junk. You can also throw things at the creatures to temporarily stun them, and even ride on them for a few seconds to access parts of a level. Such video game "logic" is this: yes, whenever I'm knocked in the head and I feel something land on my back, I'm going to walk around for several seconds before trying to find out what it is! Whee!
The controls respond pretty well, although the screens containing pipes are kind of confusing to figure out how to move around in, but then, that's not the controller's fault. Sounds are sparse but don't really get your attention at all - no big explosions or anything - but the decent music makes up for the lack of sounds though, like with the whistling in the first screen and the mysterious-sounding piece in the dark underground of the second level. The graphics are cartoony and ok looking, although I liked the way some of the characters were drawn (particularly the bulldog in the first and third level).
Even though I have kind things to say about this game for the most part, it's overall score isn't that high though. The reason? There's nothing earth-shattering about the gameplay or anything, the minor things are that you don't get much ammo to defend yourself with, and if you throw a rock or whatever and miss a creature, the weapon won't come back to you, so you'll have to go and pick it back up again (your weapon is returned to you, boomerang-style, immediately after hitting a target). Certain levels have spots that will send you sliding down to another part of the screen (sometimes into an even worse predicament than you were in before), which can be annoying, and there's only three basic screens (although once they start repeating, they do change around a bit).
However, the worst aspect of this game is that it's not addicting or even very engaging: it doesn't have the intensity of Missile Command (not counting people who could score hundreds of thousands of points by doing the "spread" method in the later stages, which I couldn't get the hang of), the lightning speed of Tempest, what makes up the simple, yet mega classic gameplay of Asteroids, Gauntlet, Tetris or Centipede, several unique stages of Major Havoc, the required patient strategy of Gravitar, etc., etc. Sure, it's unfair to compare these [mostly smash] hits to Packrat, as not every single Atari game was an incredible money-making and/or gaming experience, but lets face it, if you're as old as I am and/or have pretty good knowledge of the Atari arcade lineup in general, these are the games that you're going to think of (give or take a few I should probably have included in the list). And Packrat doesn't stack up to them. It's not a bad game in the least, and even though this was released several years after the video game crash, and arcades' business were in the toilet, lets face it, I still didn't exactly stand in line to play this one ever...nor pump in quarter after quarter into it either. And as I said earlier, I don't think it was ported anywhere either.
Still not a bad game though, and as a homage to it's unique self, I'll end the review with this: I never even knew this game was called Peter Packrat until a few years ago! I just thought it was called "Packrat", as, looking at the photos of it's marquee online, the "Peter" in the title doesn't really stand out that much. Weird.