Review: Teddy Boy (Master System)

Teddy Boy was released for the Sega Master System in 1986. The title was originally released in Japanese arcades in 1985 as Teddy Boy Blues. The game was one of the few Master System games released on the Sega Card, a small credit card sized game card. It was later released on a standard cartridge. The Sega Master System is the only way to go if you want to play Teddy Boy stateside.

The game is very simple. You control Teddy Boy who is armed with a gun. The goal is to kill every monster on the game map before time runs out. It seems simple enough, but there is some depth to it. First off are the maps. They are essential one screen wide and tall, and scroll up and down endlessly. If you start moving left, you find yourself where you just were. If you can't jump up to reach an enemy, just fall down. It has a Portal like feeling to it.

The enemies themselves come out of dice boxes. The number on the box indicates how many monsters are still inside. Once the last enemy comes out, the box disappears. After you shoot an enemy, it shrinks down into a miniature version of itself and bounces around the screen. You must then collect it. If you don't collect the miniature bouncing enemy in time, it jumps to the bottom of the screen and eats 2 seconds off of your timer. Only 8 enemies are on the screen at any one time. After you collect one of the miniature monsters a new monster will then spawn out of the dice boxes.

There are also breakable walls in Teddy Boy. After a few shots, certain walls will break allowing you to progress, or letting you reach new enemies. Additionally, if you stand in the same spot for a few seconds, the floor below you will crumble and you will fall down. The breakable walls and collapsible floors allow you alternate ways to get to enemies and navigate the screen.

Most of the enemies will die with one shot. They are all unique in both appearance and movement. There are green jelly like blobs that trot along and try to land on your head. Other head like enemies randomly bounce around the screen at a high rate of speed. There are 7 different enemies in all. Each level may contain 1, some, or all of the different creatures.

The seemingly simple game actually requires a lot of strategy to be successful. There are multiple ways to complete each of the levels. It can take some experimenting with breaking different walls and floors to find the best tactile location to defeat your foes. You die after one hit, and you only have three lives. To beat the level you have to balance being creative and careful, while the timer slowly dissipates at the bottom of the screen. Many rounds come down to the wire, creating a great sense of tension and urgency.

There are 50 unique levels total, but you cannot actually beat the game. After completing all 50 levels, the game simply loops on forever. The real point of Teddy Boy is to try and obtain a high score. You gain points by collecting the miniature monsters after shooting them. If you grab a bunch of these miniature monsters in a row, the points earned increases exponentially. If you somehow manage to grab 8 all at once, you can get a cool 40,000 points.

Starting after round 2, and every 4th round after that is a bonus game. You shoot at dice to reveal items like dinosaurs and shoes which are worth points. Each item is worth a different amount of points and get added to your score, and you can't die as there are no enemies.

I had the most fun playing the two player mode in Teddy Boy. You and a  friend alternate turns, each playing through the game. After you die, the second player goes, starting at round 1, until they die. The person with the most points wins. It's fun watching another person running around frantically shooting everything and constantly almost dieing. This is a fun and simple party game.

Graphically, Teddy Boy isn't technically strong, but it's simplicity is charming and attractive. The background is a solid color, ranging from blue, to neon green, to peach, and brown. The enemies are also brightly colored. Unfortunately, the floors and walls all look the same from level to level. When a few enemies are bunched up together, there is some flicker. While not a land mark achievement in graphical wizardry, it has a certain charm to it. Other than the backgrounds, the game is pretty faithful to the arcade version.

Arcade version

Arcade version

The sound in Teddy Boy is quite weak. There is one musical track that loops over and over. I don't quite understand how it all went down, but the song a rendition of Teddy Boy Blues by Japanese artist Yohko Ishino. The gun sound is just a normal 8-bit bloop noise.

The option menu is hidden, you must press up, down, left, and right at the title screen to reach it. From here you can continue off where you last died, turn off the collapsible floors, and choose between 1 and 2 players mode. If you want to see all 50 levels and cannot do it in 3 lives, the hidden continue is a nice feature. Your points do start over however. Sadly, there is no way to save your high scores.

Master System version

Master System version

Overall, Teddy Boy is a fun game. It's so simple anyone can play it, but requires a lot of skill to be successful (easy to learn, tough to master). However, the graphics are dated and the sound is repetative, which may turn off some gamers. Technical shortcomings aside, those looking for a unique experience should look into this quirky little Japanese title.

Graphics 3/10 - Colorful but lacking
Sound 3/10 - Repetative
Game play 7/10 - Unique game play concept
Overall 6/10 - Fun but limited