Greetings Readers! Saddle up! Take a ride down to ‘The Fair Shake”. Carl is writing loans at the local bank. Do you have two forms of ID? This week we’ll be taking a path never taken before by covering an arcade game. With the current Euro crisis and economic woes all across the peripheral Euro countries, What better game to cover than “Bank Panic?”
The very name inspires images of people running into banks, pulling all their cash out before the bank vault is emptied out. That is, until you finish reading this article. Once you’ve done that, you’ll realize that Bank Panic has a different meaning, such as a bank set in the Old West with a seemingly endless supply of customers looking to deposit their money before a timer runs out.
Released in 1984 by Sega, Bank Panic was developed by Sanriiti Ktit and distributed by Sega. This combination of companies later brought Out Run out to the masses. The game has you playing as a sheriff in an old west town who curiously stands in the center of a circular bank with 12 doors. Three doors are visible at any one time. As the doors open, you may face a customer, who deposits a bag of money, a robber, who will try to steal money and/or shoot you, or a little boy, who carries many hats which can be shot for bonus money. A status bar at the top of the screen shows how far a person is from the actual door opening, as well as what doors already have deposited money. Action is real time, meaning just because you cannot see a door, does not mean a robber won’t come and take money already deposited. A timer also counts down, so you must act fast to get a deposit at each window. Points are awarded at the end of each round based on time remaining, deposits, robbers killed, etc.
As the sheriff, you do get a gun and more importantly, the ability to use it. Like Hogan’s Alley, however, you must not shoot innocent customers, and you get more points depending on your timing when shooting a robber. Shoot a robber when he first appears and you get far fewer points than if you want until he draws his gun. You can also, curiously, shoot all the hats off a little boy that appears. (What kind of game is this?) The hats award bonus points. During later rounds, a robber can actually take deposited money back, forcing you to collect money at that door again. Time depletes faster as the rounds progress, and at later rounds, it can become a test of reflexes and your peripheral vision as all three doors open simultaneously. Did I mention that the robbers also drop bombs that can cause you to lose a life? This must be the only bank out west. The game ends when you run out of lives, or at round 99.
Game control is great in Bank Panic. The arcade cabinet has a joystick that moves left and right, and three buttons, each shooting a bullet at each door. An aggravation is that sometimes people can be cued up on doors that you are facing and you cannot move until they are dealt with. It has caused many a life to be lost when in the final seconds of a level, needing to be at door 7, and door number 2 has robber after robber appearing.
Sound effects and graphics are pretty good, and comparable to an early NES release. There is a constant tune of Dixie playing in the background. As the timer gets close to zero, the song speeds up. I tend to have would-be background songs listed when I discuss a game but Bank Panic has its own! Doors and bullets sound have passable sound effects, and the ‘cash register’ sound is excellent. Graphics have that mid 80’s feel. These characters would be at home in that Seether video.
I originally was going to stay away from arcade game releases but two things caused me to discuss one this week. First, I was rereading my old articles (not in an egotistical way, honest) and I detected a noticable aroma of wistful nostalgia. Each game I’ve reviewed has either been a game I truly enjoy or something that made an impact on my life in some way (the hours spent at Rad Racer in my youth come to mind). Bank Panic is no different. My first sojourn to Funspot (yes, that one), had my girlfriend gaming for hours, literally, on this game. This game is fun to simply watch a skilled player play. (She usually tops out at 550K points). Want white knuckles? Watch a few rounds of this game after round 13 or so.
Bank Panic tends to be largely forgotten these days. Several ports and clones have been released, the most common one for our US readers is the Sega Master System release. Other not-exact ports were released under the name West Bank (not that West Bank), for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC. A more recent clone was released for the iPhone under the name WestBang. If you’re going for a 100% authentic experience, track down an arcade machine. Funspot, that wonderful gaming heaven located on Weirs Beach in New Hampshire, has one. Short of that, MAME is acceptable. If you like a game like Hogan’s Alley, but want something different than a light gun, I invite you to transfer your accounts to the bank of Bank Panic, and give it The Fair Shake.