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Shorts!

"Buzz Bombers" for the Intellivision!
by: -RoG-
 

It's time to take a look at another game from one of the greatest and most overlooked systems of all time: The Intellivision. Last time, I showed you one of the oddest games ever released for the system, "White Water!"... this time I wanna take a look at another fairly strange one:

Those flowers sure do look... happy

Buzz Bombers! The game itself was another one of Intellivision's answers to the many arcade hits at the time; in this case, Centipede. The idea is fairly simple, bees are attacking and it's up to you to stop them. While the game didn't require the use of any of the numbers on the pad, it still came with an overlay.

bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The first thing you notice upon booting up the game is the impressive digitized version of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's classic "Flight of the Bumblebee" tune. Also of note is the nice way that the bees buzz around and eventually form the "Buzz Bombers" title text. Not too shabby for a game all the way back in 1983, eh?

die bastard bees DIE!

So there you are, in your garden and a bunch of bees are buzzing their way down towards you. So what's your defense against these buzz bombers?

pshhhhhhhhhhhht!

A spray can. Yes, you ARE a spray can... not some guy holding a spray can. I think this marks the first time in history that the hero character of a game is in fact, a can of bug spray. Well, spray can or not, you've got some mighty foes headed your way.

weeeeeeeeeee heeeeeeeeee! I've got a "killer" instinct! LOL GET IT!? EH EH???

The yellow bees are "worker bees" and they're fast, but not too fast. The white ones, however, are "killer bees" and they blaze down the screen and it's not too easy to hit them without wasting a bunch of the spray in your can.

Honeycomb Cereal, you missed out!

When you spray a bee, it will "magically" turn into a tasty golden honeycomb. I say "magically" because that's exactly how the back of the game box explains this transformation. In real life, spraying a bee would probably kill it - and possibly make it sting you in a final act of buzzing rage. In Buzz Bombers, however, spraying a bee makes it swirl around and turn into a honey comb. If you you manage to spray one of the speedy white killer bees, it will "magically" turn into a red honeycomb. Why it doesn't turn into a white one is beyond me, I guess the designers figured the color red suits the "killer bees" better. But if that's true, then why didn't they make the actual killer bees red too? My friends, we may never know the truth behind this great mystery.

Either way, I think Honeycomb cereal missed out on a major advertising tie-in opportunity with this game. I have read that the makers of "Raid" bug spray were approached about it, but I suppose nothing ever came of that either. Fools...

So what are these honeycombs for? Well, that's where this little fella comes in...

HO-HUM...

Meet Ms. Hummingbird. She flies randomly around the screen during your game, and if she stops on top of a honeycomb, she'll eat it and you'll get some extra points. If she stops on top of a red one you'll get even more points. Sounds good right? Well if you ask me, it's not. All too often, I'll be just about to shoot a bee, when the hummingbird will fly directly into my line of fire. It's not too bad on the early levels, but the game gets faster as you go on, and that's when she becomes more of a nuisance than an ally. So what can you do about it?

I THINK I'M GONNA HURL!

Spray her until she becomes sick! Something about making the hummingbird so ill that she turned green and had to leave the screen (presumably to puke) always made me laugh when I was a kid. While it doesn't kill her, it does get rid of her for a while. But keep in mind, each can you have has a limited amount of spray in it, and making her sick uses up a lot of it. So if you want your game to last longer, try to save your spray and let her do her hummingbird thing.

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR!

A nice touch in Buzz Bombers was that, in a repetitive game like this, they understood that people liked to be rewarded for doing well. So, just like in all of the Pac-Man games, they added in some cut-scenes in between some of the levels. In fact, this is the only game on the Intellivision system that I remember having cut scenes at all. In the first cut-scene (after level 5) we see a little bear cub being chased across the screen by some angry bees. In the second cut-scene (after level 10) we see the cub being chased across the screen again, but this time, the momma bear steps in and chases the bees away. Again, really solid animation considering how long ago the game was made. It also serves as some extra rest for your fingers which will be sore from pressing the same button over and over and over and over again.

YOU LOSE!

Now there's only one way you can really lose the game: you run out of spray cans. You can get extra cans at 20,000, 40,000 and 80,000 points. But after that, you only get extra cans every 80,000 points. While each can holds 56 shots before it's completely used up, believe me, you'll need every one of those shots in the later levels as the game becomes impossibly difficult. One of the best ways to score a lot of points for extra cans is to get a worker bee "stuck" between one of the sides of the screen and a honeycomb. When this happens, a worker bee will form a bee hive... and as long as you don't spray the bee hive with your can, you'll rack up some nice points once you complete the level.

Another thing that can screw you up big time is the bees pollinating the flowers at the bottom of the screen. The more flowers they pollinate, the less range of motion your spray can has. Eventually, they can fill up the entire bottom of the screen. While this doesn't kill you, it makes you lose a can AND you have to start the level over from scratch.

Scratching out "1 or 2 can play" on thousands of game boxes? Worst. Job. Ever.

One of the more amusing things from the history of this game is that there was a mix-up in the art/packaging department. You see, the game is only meant for one player, but on the back of thousands of the original boxes, it said "1 or 2 can play". So what did Mattel do to fix this problem? They literally took a black marker to the tens of thousands of boxes and crossed out the "1 or 2 can play" text by hand. That's why you'll see those markings on many of the copies of Buzz Bomber that are up for sale on eBay. Imagine the excitement of being hired by a video game company, only to find out that they want you to use a marker (or as Mattel would say, a "magic" marker) to scratch out a typo on thousands of their game boxes.

Keep on buzzin with yo' bad self

In the end, Buzz Bombers is one of the more memorable games from the old Intellivision system if for no other reason than constantly hearing a synthesized version of "Flight of the Bumblebee" throughout the game. Oh and if you think it's one of those games that goes on forever and you can't win it, well... you're wrong. According to the manual: "Once you get 1,000,000 points, the scoring begins at zero again. At the end of each game you will see a number over the flower bed. This tells you how many times you have reached 1,000,000. You may reach 1,000,000 a total of 255 times...for a possible score of 255,999,900."

So yeah... lemme know how that works out for you.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email -RoG-


Want a look at another bizarre Intellivision classic?
Then check out my review of:

White Water!
WHITE WATER!


If you want to learn more about the classic Intellivision system and all the other fun games that were made for it, check out the Intellivision Lives web site! There's even a few free games up for download on their site. If you want to play "Buzz Bombers" though, you'll have to pickup the "Intellivision Lives" CD which I highly recommend. Still if you're cheap, there's also an Intellivision emulator out there called "Bliss" which you can find pretty easily on Google along with a variety of games for it, including Buzz Bombers!
 


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