Genre: Action Developer: 3Studio Publisher: Tengen Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
Normally, I’m quite apprehensive about sequels to arcade classics, especially when someone other than the other original developer is at the helm. They almost never turn out well, and end up dragging the series’ good name through the mud. Sometimes, the sequel is so bad that it kills the brand entirely. So imagine how reluctant I was to fire up Paperboy 2. I figured I’d give it a go, since Tengen was practically synonymous with Atari at the time, and I’ve always been a Paperboy fan. My secret to not being disappointed? Simple! Go in with the lowest of expectations! Works every time!
Probably the most important thing to remember when creating a sequel to a bona fide arcade classic is to not screw too much with what made it so memorable in the first place. Paperboy was never big on gameplay per se, as all you really did was move up the screen and fling papers to the left. What made it so cool — aside from the awesome handlebar controls — was the incredible presentation. It had a ton of voice (for the time), detailed graphics, and some hysterical animations for the characters onscreen. Anyone who didn’t laugh when that lady in hair rollers and a bathrobe chased you with her rolling pin after you smashed her window simply has no soul.
Even though the developers of the sequel kept the sacred mantra of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, they actually managed to create a game that isn’t as much fun as the original and only slightly more frustrating. That’s a pretty mean feat, I tell you, considering how paper-thin this premise really is to begin with. Kudos to Tengen for staying awake through its development cycle!
I mentioned it was more frustrating, and I mean it. You still have the one-hit-and-you’re-dead dynamic of the first game, only it tends to be much more present this time around. There’s a ton of new obstacles out to get you, and they are seemingly everywhere. Stick to the curb, and a wild shopping cart will nail you. Stay in the middle of the road and you’ll run straight into a monster truck…a freakin’ monster truck! Who the hell would want a paper route on a street where everyone drives these things?
Some new features have been added that attempt to enhance the gameplay, but they don’t really change things all that much. For example, you can now toss papers to the right side of the street as well as the left. I can understand what the developers were shooting for here, but it doesn’t really seem to work. Switching to houses one the right is simple from a control perspective, but still comes off as awkward for some reason. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that the whole 3/4 perspective was never truly intuitive to begin with, and now it’s almost like playing a mirror image of the game. It takes some getting used to, though I’m not sure how many people will be willing to indulge Paperboy 2 long enough to become accustomed.
Another cool but ultimately meaningless addition is the ability to now play as a girl. Hmm, a subtle reference, perhaps, to how most gamer’s feeble attempts to reach the end of the delivery week will leave them? Regardless, she looks cool but plays the same. How’s that for innovation! I’m all for women’s rights, but what’s the point when nothing changes? Is this what they mean by “equal?” Both characters are exactly alike, and I can’t help but think that a great opportunity was wasted here. Why not make one character faster but weaker, or have the ability to withstand more than a single hit? Giving each of the two characters unique abilities would have made their inclusion meaningful, but we’re instead left with a hollow, cosmetic add-on.
But hey, both characters can jump! Now those rolling obstacles are no longer a problem! That would mean more, I’m sure, if it were easy to control and actually useful. Most of what you face comes from the sides, not the front, so what’s the point? Even when the stages become momentarily vertical in between streets, there’s really nothing to jump. Again, another good idea completely wasted.
Oh, how I really wanted to love Paperboy 2. It was something I was truly looking forward to. Instead, I got an average sequel that once again proves that sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. It’s now obvious that the original Paperboy was above and beyond anything that Tengen could come up with — almost a decade after it was released. The saddest part is that the first game made a triumphant return recently on volume one of Midway Arcade Treasures, and it’s still as fun as ever. Sadly, the same cannot be said about part two. Consider my subscription cancelled.