The character of Popeye truly fascinates me. I have never seen a movie or cartoon starring the vegetable-loving sailor, nor have I ever read the comics, yet I am still very familiar with him. Somehow the association between spinach and Popeye still made its way into my life, despite the character being invented generations before I was even born. While I am not planning to catch up with the sailor’s long-running multimedia career, I was curious what an arcade game about him would entail.
Popeye certainly got around. It started as an arcade cabinet designed by Nintendo before being ported to most home computers and a variety of different consoles, until eventually striking down on Nintendo’s very own Famicom.
Fittingly, the game shares many similarities with Nintendo’s Donkey Kong classic. You play as Popeye who navigates a multi-floor level in the hopes of saving a captive maiden, Olive Oyl in this case. Brutus is your rival in this regard, as he patrols the stage and has a variety of creative ways in which he can attack you. Simply bumping into you is one, but he will also try to grab you if you’re below or above him, he can suddenly jump down a floor, he’ll throw bottles at you from afar, or receive help from various stage hazards. It’s amazing how much work went into him and his AI to make this feel like a real battle.
You can’t attack Brutus directly, but there are ways to harass him. You can simply go down stairs and ladders to avoid a confrontation, or you can drop a bucket on his head for a comedic stun effect. There is also a bottle of spinach that will reverse the roles temporarily and send Brutus running while you hunt him down, which will remove him from the game for a while.
Beating Brutus is not the point though. Olive will continuously shower the stage in items that vary per level. You have to catch these while dealing with Brutus, until you got enough and move up to the next level. There are 3 in total, after which the game loops and introduces new hazards to deal with.
It’s a fun little arcade romp, but not something I would have recommended as a home console purchase unless it was heavily discounted. It’s a short game and it does have its peculiarities, like how punching has inconsistent usage throughout the game. I found myself getting bored of it surprisingly quickly and could beat the whole thing on my first attempt.