Original version: Nibbler, released in 1982 for arcade
In my Ms. Pac-Man feature I remarked that the 1981 game Lady Bug demonstrated that the “maze chase” genre allows for many different interpretations, and now I’m here to show you that it can be taken in an entirely different direction with Nibbler, a game that makes traveling through the maze steadily more and more restrictive by filling it with a snake. Intrigued? I thought so.
The premise of Nibbler came about because one of its creators, Jon Ulowetz, was a pacifist and didn’t like the idea of his game’s protagonist mowing down enemies. He thus designed the game so that the only way you can die is by hurting yourself. Even the name sounds non-violent–Nibbler sounds a lot more subdued than The Mighty Devourer of Defenseless Food Pellets. Nibbler takes the snake action of Worm and confines it to a maze. Whereas a game like Snake Byte had a few obstacles inside a wide-open space, the cramped corridors of Nibbler were seemingly taken out of Pac-Man. This adds a whole new level of strategic planning to the game, since you have to think about what corners to turn in order to prevent being forced to run into yourself. It is possible to stall on corners, but it drains your time so you have to use it sparingly if at all.
The game controls well with its intended joystick, but beware if all you have available is a controller with a D-pad. That is the primary reason for the brief nature of the following video.
For some reason there was no background music in the video…
If my performance had been about 35,000 times better, you would have seen that Nibbler‘s score counter goes up to 9-digits. It was the first game to do so and Rock-Ola held a Billion-point contest. Unfortunately no one was able to do so until 1984, when Tim McVey scored 1,001,073,840 points at the Twin Galaxies Arcade. For his accomplishment he was the first gamer to receive a civic day in his honor; he was honored by his town of Ottumwa, which had just been declared the video game capital of the world.
If you have a Nibbler arcade cabinet, you can download a backup of your rom here and run it with MAME.