SPOT / Virgin / NES
In the groundbreaking PC adventure game The 7th Guest, there's this one notorious puzzle involving a microscope. While most of the puzzles in that game are turn-based affairs that you hash out solo, the microscope puzzle was an odd abberation that had you playing against computer AI. And that AI was absolutely brutal, which is why the puzzle is notorious - a lot of people probably ragequit the game at it and never went back.

Well, the root of that microscope puzzle is this inoffensive, family-oriented NES game designed to promote 7-Up soda. It was developed by Graeme Devine, who would go on to form Trilobyte and start the 7th Guest / 11th Hour series a couple of years later.

It's basically Reversi/Othello, except with some slight rule tweaks and you start in the corners rather than in the middle of the board. Up to four people can also play simultaneously. Each turn allows players to either spawn a new disc one space adjacent to one of their current positions, or "jump" a piece two spaces in any direction. Any opponent pieces adjacent to where you move are flipped to your color and come under your control.

The big selling point of this otherwise stripped-down experience was the large sprites and detailed animations of the Spots as they move about the game board. You'll randomly get one of a few context-sensitive animations each time they move, and it's really pretty impressive for the NES. I know a handful of neat animations wouldn't impress anyone enough to sell a game now, but in 1990 it was enough to get at least some kids clamoring for their parents to drop $50 on it.

Fortunately, the base game is actually pretty solid and fun, though it leans heavily on having at least one other human player around to play against. There are something like 500 board variants and the computer has five levels of selectable difficulty, but that's all there is to it for replay value. Unfortunately, the computer seems to be too easily baited into overextending itself on all but the highest setting (which is Crazy Old Man Stauf level of perfect play), and you'll quickly find beating it to be a trivial matter. Also, while the Spot animations are fun, the accompanying sound effects quickly get very grating.

It's a simple and fun formula though, and with the mania for digging up old game concepts for a quick buck on mobile devices these days I'm surprised this hasn't yet been "rediscovered" in a big way by some opportunist, though Trilobyte themselves did release a stand-alone version a few years back called The 7th Guest: Infection (two player only however).
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