Genre: Maze Developer: Compile Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1984
The early ‘80s is kind of an underrated period in Sega’s history. There were plenty of great arcade games on the market, and people tend to remember those as the crux of Sega’s pre-Master System library. The fact that the SG-1000 never saw a U.S. release really hurt the company’s efforts to establish an identity on the home front, and all that was really out there was what Sega had released on machines like the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision.
That’s a shame, really. The SG-1000 had some good games for it, and now that I have the chance, I’ve been going back and exploring its library. I have something of a soft spot for the simple arcade games of this period, and Compile’s Hustle Chumy turned out to be a surprising bit of fun. The name may sound like some ‘70s Blaxploitation film, but the game is pure arcade gold. Players control a mouse that lives in the sewers, for some reason. Food is kind of scarce there, so our furry little friend must scrounge around for whatever is available. Of course, foraging in the dank recesses of the public waste system isn’t difficult enough on its own, so there also has to be a group of monsters that want to make sure poor Chumy starves to death. The items he hungers for are scattered over multiple tiers which he must reach by climbing ladders. Chumy can jump and throw tin cans at his foes, and he can even hide on ladders to avoid some foes.
The concept is simple, quite so. What makes the game interesting is the different gameplay mechanics that Compile implemented. For example, the bottom ladders have covers that move periodically. When they’re over the ladder, they block access. Also, some enemies take several hits to kill, and others are impervious to Chumy’s attacks. Bats patrol the air above some tiers, and they’re out of Chumy’s range. They don’t attack him directly, but they do block his ability to jump over monsters. Cats, alligators, and some weird ninja-like character patrol the tiers. They don’t shoot, but their movement can be erratic, and some actively pursue Chumy. A particularly nasty enemy, the Mecha-Dino, likes to move between tiers, and he will double back if Chumy gets too close.
The most interesting dynamic is how the food itself is used. Most maze games encourage players to collect items for points. Collecting is the whole premise of Hustle Chumy, but the game isn’t about simply chasing points. Picking up food slows Chumy down, and each item makes him slower. He can still toss cans, but he is vulnerable to fast-moving monsters. Luckily, he’s not too weighed down to jump, and this can help when making some quick getaways. Eating all the pieces of food is the only way to access the pipe on the top tier, which scoots Chumy back down to the bottom. At any time, he can go back to his hole in the lower left corner and unload (digest?) the food he’s collected thus far, making him agile again.
There really isn’t much else to Hustle Chumy. The levels get harder as one progresses, and the difficulty spikes quickly. It’s much in the same vein as games like Namco’s Mappy, and it might not reach the heights of that classic, but Hustle Chumy is very solid. Simple as it is, I found the game to be quite playable in short spurts, and It’s a worthy addition to the SG-1000 library.
SCORE: 8 out of 10