Review by Flashman85

Reviewed: 06/27/08

Exactly the same as Paperboy... except not.

Paperboy and Paperboy 2 have been ported to all manner of different systems ranging from the Super Nintendo to the Commodore 64, most notably from the mid-80s through the early 90s. This practice is not uncommon; games such as Tetris and Prince of Persia have enjoyed fame across multiple platforms, their portability made possible by, among other things, their relative simplicity. Paperboy and Paperboy 2 are no exceptions, for the premise for both is simple: you are a kid with a bike, and your job is to deliver newspapers while avoiding obstacles. Though identical in concept to the original Paperboy and similar in execution, Paperboy 2 is just barely different enough to be considered a sequel, for better or for worse.

If you’ve played the original Paperboy [insert witty comment about how anybody who’s anybody has played Paperboy], then you’ll start noticing the differences as soon as you turn the game on. Sure, the mechanics of throwing newspapers have been tweaked ever so slightly, but there’s more to it than that. As before, Paperboy 2 allows you to choose how many players there will be, but it also allows you to choose the gender of each player as well as which route to use, which makes minor variations to the game (such as changing the locations of certain houses) that can make your job easier or harder in certain spots--additionally, specific route numbers are cheat codes to start on harder routes.

Once everything is decided, you are shown a map of your paper route, with the houses of subscribers and non-subscribers clearly marked. Following that is the front page of a newspaper (which, I might add, doesn’t look as professional as the ones in Paperboy) with a headline concerning the neighborhood you’re about to enter, such as “PROPERTY TAX TO INCREASE” or “DOG LEASH LAW CONSIDERED.” As the game progresses, you’ll receive messages that relate to some of the specific actions you took during your run, such as knocking out a burglar with a thrown newspaper. Most commonly, though, you see the headline “PAPERBOY FIRED!” That’s because the game is hard.

There are a few factors that contribute to the game’s difficulty. First is the nature of the game: whether you’re riding your bike on the road, on the sidewalk, or through somebody’s yard, there are always dangers to avoid, some harder than others. You only need to graze an obstacle to crash, and you only get five chances to start. Somehow, you need to survive your route for a week while still delivering to your subscribers and not accidentally damaging their homes, and then you move on to a tougher neighborhood. Though you can adjust your speed, your bike is always in motion, so you can never sit still until obstacles leave your path. Aside from being careful not to crash into houses and trash cans, you’ll also need to avoid runaway dogs, speeding baby carriages, oblivious motorists, clowns, and even hazards as strange as ghosts, sewer monsters, and gargoyles that fire lightning bolts at you. Sure, it’s a weird neighborhood (one of the houses is a castle with a moat and drawbridge and cannons that fire at you--I’d hate to live across the street from that guy), but the strangeness isn’t so bad if you don’t think about it too hard.

The second factor is the play control. Paperboy 2 grants you more freedom in choosing the direction of your movement, which is both a blessing and a curse. This time, instead of having three directions to choose from (straight, veer left, veer right), you have something of an arc. So, when you go from making a hard right to a hard left, you can see your paperboy or papergirl actually turning from one direction to the other instead of instantly changing his or her orientation. On the one hand, this is good because it gives you more freedom in avoiding obstacles so that you can gently steer away from the kid barreling down the sidewalk on a skateboard rather than suddenly swerve into a picket fence. On the other hand, this is bad because you often can’t change directions or aim yourself in a certain direction as quickly or as well as you need, which generally leads to crashing into something. If nothing else, the collision detection in Paperboy 2 is better than that of its predecessor, but the lives you save as a result are the lives you lose because of the adjusted play control.

This increased freedom of movement seems to come into play most prominently in the training course at the end of your route, which consists of ramps and targets and areas of water. The training course is supposed to be, at least in my mind, a fun and crazy bonus where you hone your skills and don’t care so much if you crash. However, the training course you are given isn’t very crazy, and it isn’t too much fun, either. There are multiple paths to take, but the easy paths are dull and offer little more than a dirt path avoiding the real obstacles, which are mostly cones and random metal barriers. The fact that you can face in multiple directions makes it difficult to properly hit two of the jumps in particular, so it’s a common occurrence to come in at the wrong angle and land in the drink. Unlike in the first Paperboy, there are no moving objects, and the design of the course isn’t all that creative, so the training course feels like it only serves to prove that you now have a wide range of movement.

On the plus side, there are two good things that come with having a broader range of movement. For one thing, your route is no longer a straight line; routes shift directions, so you’ll spend some of your time tossing papers at houses on your left and some of your time tossing papers at houses on your right. That’s the other thing: you can now literally throw newspapers left and right. This keeps you from ever getting into a situation where you’re up against the side of a building with something chasing you on your other side that you can’t stop. Of course, with the ability to move around more and throw newspapers in both directions comes the challenge of obstacles approaching you from all directions, which happens a bit more often than in the original Paperboy.

I’ve played the game with and without sound, and the difficulty tends to be a little more manageable with sound because the sound effects, though simple, actually serve to inform more than entertain. You hear a little blip when you successfully land a paper in the right place, the screech of a car notifies you that you’re about to become a hood ornament, and an amazingly realistic dog bark alerts you to the fact that you’re about to have a Dalmatian disaster. As for the music, you’re probably better off without it; it’s not bad, but the training course’s music isn’t terrific, and the music for your route is too slow and laid-back at first and doesn’t fit that well with the strange atmosphere.

If you take a moment to look around as you toss newspapers and avoid dangers, you’ll notice that the graphics have improved since the previous installment. They are by no means groundbreaking or awe-inspiring, but they do accurately communicate that, yes, that man is indeed rolling tires down his driveway for no apparent reason. The graphics are more detailed than in Paperboy, and there are more colors. The only problem I have is that the variety of colors and house designs and obstacle types is so great that the streets, yards, and sidewalks are frequently too cluttered, too distracting, and shift the focus of the game away from delivering papers and vandalizing the houses of non-subscribers.

And what a vandal you can be! Your newspapers can cause all sorts of havoc: you can break windows, propel a person into a swimming pool, knock over an elderly couple on a porch swing, let loose a pig roasting on a spit, burst a bottle of what is either water or suntan lotion on an unsuspecting sunbather, and cause a car to come crashing down on the person underneath who’s fixing it…. and you get points for doing so! Sometimes it’s just more fun to go on a newspaper-tossing rampage than to try to do your job right, though you can still do both and get away with it.

Paperboy 2 is a fun game, but its strengths are usually its weaknesses as well. It’s great to have such an assortment of sights and obstacles, but they tend to be distracting and clutter the playing field a little more than necessary, and some obstacles might come off as too weird or random for your taste. The play control allows for more freedom of movement but requires more skill than in the original. The extra options are nice but ultimately don’t have too much of an impact on the game. The sound effects are basic but helpful. The music is so-so, but not terribly intrusive, though it may drive you insane if you play for long enough.

If you loved Paperboy, you probably won’t like this one quite as much. If you weren’t as fond of Paperboy, you might like this one more. Or, maybe you’ll just plain hate it. Paperboy and Paperboy 2 are really the same game, it's just the execution that's different, and that makes all the difference. It’s worth playing for a few minutes to see whether or not you enjoy it, but I wouldn’t buy it, even for cheap, unless you are sure that knocking over elderly couples and hurling newspapers at mummies will keep you entertained for longer than, say, rolling tires down your driveway will.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: Paperboy 2 (US, 04/30/92)

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