That’s Entertainment? Mark Reviews Nintendo’s Paperboy

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Welcome to That’s Entertainment?, where I plan on revisiting and analyzing the pop culture that shaped my youth and determining if it’s been worth three decades of my love.  Today I will be discussing Paperboy, one of the finest video games of the newspaper delivery genre.  

Originally developed in 1984, Paperboy is a delightfully clever game that bucks the trend of lofty premises that had come into fashion during the era.  The games we cherish most tend to have outlandish stories and ideas fueling them; help a plumber save a princess, help a hedgehog score more crank, etc.

Oh shit it's the cops!

Oh shit it’s the cops!

But not Paperboy.  Your hero wasn’t a knight, or a wizard, or even a little naked baby with a bow & arrow. 

Yo Kid Icarus, you got parents or what?!

Yo Kid Icarus, you got parents or what?!

Nope, just some poor 14-year-old asshole who had gotten a summer job.  What a bummer. Sadder yet is the idea that I spent an entire summer spending large parts of my allowance renting Paperboy for my Nintendo.  I should’ve just gotten a paper route.  Instead I accrued late fees.  Oh Paperboy, you cruel temptress of fate.  

Sadly, I was too busy being born to get my hands on the incredible arcade cabinet this game was housed in (the machine had handlebars!!!), so I came to it and its sequel when they became available on home consoles. 

It's like riding a bike without all the exercise!

“It’s like riding a bike without all the exercise!”

I don’t know what it is about this game. Why it’s the first thing I’ve decided to write about when I could have chosen anything. It’s always had a place in my heart. I love that it exists in this weird world between our reality and the traditional video game reality. Newspapers need to be delivered, like in the real world at the time, but once in a while a ghost will chase you, or you’ll foil a robbery. This game is weird you guys. 

This poor guy is too shy to go inside.

Poor guy is too shy to go inside and rob the joint.

 

The game starts on a Monday morning. Your goal is to keep your job and deliver papers through the week. Pretty simple right? Oh, and at the end of each day’s route, there will be an obstacle course with targets you can throw your extra papers at. Do well, because there’s people in the bleachers watching. This game is weird you guys.

"Uh... thanks for coming out guys... i'm gonna go to school now."

“Uh… thanks for coming out guys… I’m gonna go to school now.”

Before you get to the crowd at the end of the street, that’s been seemingly waiting in fucking bleachers all morning hoping some pubescent boy has enough extra papers left to chuck at some circles, you’ve got to get through your work day. This involves delivering papers to the houses that want them, and fucking up the days of the folks who don’t by triggering events with a thrown newspaper. As you go about your routine sometimes you will encounter people (husbands, children, armed robbers) going about their daily business.  The one that always stuck with me was a guy in his front yard, working on his car.  Now here’s a man who is literally working on his car EVERY morning. Seems like he could use a break.  Maybe he could use a newspaper to look at the classified ads or something.  He seems to be skilled with his hands, and he’s certainly got the time.  If you time your throw just right, you can knock the jack out from under the car.  The car falls, his legs get all squirmy, and you. Keep. Riding.

Black & white & red all over.

Black & white & red all over.

You don’t even look back.  I wish there had at least been a “remorse” button that would make your paperboy pause and reflect on his actions.  But I know why there’s not.  To look back and take your eyes off the road ahead in this world means there might be a stray baby carriage rolling at you faster than the cars in the street, or a zombie hand grabbing at you from the sewer.  This game is weird you guys.  

"Fuck this, i'm making a lemonade stand."

“Fuck this, I’m making a lemonade stand.”

So you drop a car on a guy, and it’s not GAME OVER immediately.  Nope, all that happens is they don’t want the newspaper anymore.  That’s it. Your job technically gets easier.  If only real life were so consequence-free.  I wonder what the aftermath of the car thing was? Did he drag his bloody self into the house, to the horror of his wife?

“Baby, what happened?”

“Goddamn paperboy knocked another car on my face!”

“Oh my! I’ll call the police! Or an ambulance!”

“No, fuck that! Call the Times, tell ‘em we’re switching!”

Ultimately, this game is inventive, and amusing, and absolutely no fun at all for me.  Some twenty years later, I’m as tickled by the concept and execution as ever, but I just don’t feel like it adds up to an enjoyable game.  It worked when I was younger, and matters of quality or playability didn’t really get factored into the “should I play this?” equation. I think Paperboy is best left behind me, its legs squirming underneath the car of nostalgia. 

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Mark Roebuck

Mark Roebuck is a stand up comedian. He lives in Lansing, Michigan, where he cohosts Mac's Monday Comedy Night every week at Mac's Bar. In 2011 he self-released his debut country album, Hope They Got Hamm's In Heaven. Sales continue to disappoint. Follow him on Twitter @mark_roebuck

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