Thursday, September 16, 2021

Matter of Import 61: Port Man [Taito 1982]


Port Man is a 1982 Taito arcade game, distributed by Nova in Canada but never made its way South into the US. It's the rare game in which the player takes on the role of a stevedore, grabbing luggage that falls off of the dock and tossing it up onto a passing ship. 

 Parcels fall singly, in pairs, or three at a time, and to catch them you have to intercept their fall and press the button at the right time. Pressing it again will have your stevedore hurl them up and onto the ship, which slowly drifts left-to-right above you, aiming to build stacks of four. Of course the heavier the stack you catch, the more slowly you'll move, and the more slowly you'll hurl them back onto the ship. If you miss the ship's hold, or try to fill it past capacity the luggage will bounce off into the water.

There's no penalty for this - or for missing a set of luggage completely - but as it takes you longer to load the ship your bonus for doing so drops. And if you run out of luggage on the dock before you fill the hold, the game ends.

The game also ends if you run out of lives, endangered both by roaming loading machines and a guy standing on the ship hurling boulders at you. Why he's there and why he's throwing giant rocks at you I couldn't say, but if you manage to fill the hold despite him, a woman will come onto the screen and kick him into the water, something that's satisfying to watch.

Once loaded the game takes you to a second gameplay screen where you're the one throwing stones, this time to try and knock down boxes of dynamite. Catch them and you're good; miss an they'll blow up sections of the floor.

I feel that Port Man just misses the mark here. There are some good puzzle mechanics in the way that throwing the luggage stacks feels, but the game doesn't commit to them, instead cleaving to the idea of being an action-arcade game in a way that doesn't quite work. Still, it does feel like a very near miss.

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