Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 146 / NOVEMBER 1992 / PAGE G10

Arachnophobia. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Marti Paulin

A deadly spider from South America has migrated north, laying her loathsome eggs in hundreds of homes, schools, buildings, barns, and cemeteries. In a frighteningly short time, her offspring have hatched and have begun to reproduce.

Thus begins the arachnids' reign of terror in communities across America. This Disney arcade game for the 64 closely follows the basic premise of the studio's hit movie Arachnophobia.

Homes are overrun, citizens terrorized, and whole communities abandoned. Residents have tried everything to rid themselves of the unwanted guests, but nothing seems to stop these creepy crawlers. The eight-legged enemy is upon us. It's enough to make your skin crawl.

As a last resort, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sends a frantic plea to Delbert McClintock, owner of the McClintock Infestation Management Company. McClintock is the inventor of a patented insecticide, ToxiMax, which is said to be strong enough to kill the arachnids. Fearless Delbert loads his bugmobile with the lethal Toxi-Max and a supply of bug bombs, and sets out to free his country from the invading horde.

You won't need a lot of practice to get into the swing of playing this game, nor will you need to refer to the instruction manual throughout play. Disney does recommend that you make a backup of the game's double-sided disk before playing and use the backup for play. The game is compatible with most Fast Load cartridges, too. Since there's enough variety in Arachnophobia's sharp, colorful graphics to keep you playing for hours, you'll find using a Fast Load cartridge will save you a lot of time, since you must flip sides during the game.

When you load Arachnophobia, you'll see the bugmobile as it drives past homes, farms, schools, and cemeteries. Pick the building you want to enter; then use your joystick to guide the bugmobile there.

When you stop at a location, the screen changes to an interior scene showing Delbert. Your mission is to help him clear the infested rooms by hunting down and destroying all the spiders and the egg sack that's hidden in every structure. Sound easy? Don't be so sure.

Spiders are everywhere. They'll do all they can to guard their egg sack. Sneaky ones drop from the ceiling to land on you; others slither down web strands and bite you from behind. You'll be attacked at ground level, too. Often, the soldier spiders work in groups, testing both your sense of timing and your joystick skills.

Spider webs are a real nuisance. Blundering into one will slow you down to half speed and make you more vulnerable until you break free.

A single spray of deadly Toxi-Max is enough to kill a soldier spider within spraying distance. It only takes a few spider bites to slay you, however, so keep your eyes open for first-aid kits. These will restore your strength. There's at least one kit in every building.

Don't forget you're wearing heavy work boots, too. You can stomp on some of the creepy crawlers, conserving your limited supply of insecticide.

The quickest way to clear a room is to use a bug bomb. You start the game with only three of these, so use them wisely. Other items you find as the game progresses are almost as useful as bug bombs. Matches and aerosol cans can be fashioned into nifty flame-throwers, which have a better range than your insecticide sprayer. More important, the homemade flame-throwers can clear an entire floor or ceiling of a room with just one pass.

When you've cleared a structure, you can safely return to the bugmobile. But there's no time for you to rest. The battle has only begun! There are more buildings and towns needing your bug-slaying skills. Just guide your bugmobile to another building and start exterminating spiders.

Every building in every town is filled with hordes of vicious spiders, defending an egg sack. Only one structure in each town hides a queen spider. The queen is the same size as the original South American spider. You'll know this mean mama by the distinctive yellow markings on her legs. Watch out! She's tougher than her soldiers and can even bite after she's been stunned. Slaying her will transport you to another city with yet another queen spider to roust.

All in all, this is a challenging game that's designed to give you a real workout. If you succeed in besting the queen spider in every town, you'll have saved the country and proved yourself a hero. As a reward, the United Nations will give you a secret assignment in the Amazon rain forest. The monstrous arachnids there will make you wish you'd been a little less successful.

To aid you during play, the bottom of the screen displays status information. There's an amusing picture of Delbert that monitors the state of your health. It changes from smiling to frowning to screaming in pain, depending on how many times you've been bit. First-aid kits will restore Delbert's smile.

Next to Delbert's picture is an indicator showing how much ToxiMax insecticide remains in your spray tank. It refills automatically whenever you return to the bugmobile. (Beware! You can leave a building at any time for refills, but all the spiders will return while you're out.)

A counter at the bottom of the screen shows how many bug bombs you have. You start with three but earn another every time you clear a structure. Last, but definitely not least, is the Bugometer. This compasslike device indicates the direction in which to travel to find the queen in each city.

I prefer to play Arachnophobia with the sound turned down, but my son likes to hear Delbert's bug-fighting comments and the sizzle of his flamethrower. I like to go through houses systematically rousting arachnids; he zeroes in on the queen. Even though our styles vary, however, we both agree that this is the best arcade game we've played in a long while.