There are some questions in life that are just crazy hard to answer. “Can a game be called a maze game if there’s no actual maze?” Universal seemed to think so when they made Mr. Do. Other questions are easier to answer, such as, “Are clowns absolutely terrifying?” That answer is obviously no.
And now that Pennywise has filled you with good cheer, let’s look at Mr. Do!
OK, so Mr. Do wasn’t originally a clown. In the original Japanese version he’s a snowman. Looking at the flyer above, you’ll see that he lacks any of the normal accoutrements of a clown, like a flamboyant wig, or a squeezable nose.
But what does this have to do with the rest of the game? Well, it should be obvious. Mr. Do is a clown/snowman who burrows through tunnels underground to collect cherries and pushes golden apples off of ledges to crush his enemies. Doesn’t that make perfect sense? Well, maybe it would help to put this game in context. Mr. Do follows in the footsteps of Dig Dug, a game from the same year by Namco. Rather than being confined to narrow corridors composing a maze, Dig Dug can forge his own pathways through the dirt, which begs the question, “Does this even count as a maze?” It would if the enemies were trapped in the tunnels but alas, they can fly through the ground like cheating phantasms, laying waste to whatever strategy you had been carefully brewing up.
The ghosts in Pac-Man can’t fly through walls, but
the solid enemies in Dig Dug can. Seems legit.
When Universal drew “inspiration” from this concept they kept the flying down to a minimum and made sure to have the enemy telegraph his move beforehand so you could adjust your strategy. There is also a second way to progress. You can choose to kill all the enemies (by crushing and/or baseball throwing) or collect all the cherries. They are in groups of eight pairs and collecting eight pairs in a row will grant bonus points. When enemies turn hollow and fly through the ground they will grab any cherries they come across. This makes your work easier because fewer cherries are left to be collected, but it also means fewer points to be had. Playing just right would make a diamond appear. What was really cool about Mr. Do is that collecting the diamond would grant you a free credit–not just a free life. As far as I know, Mr. Do is the first arcade game to do this, excluding certain pinball games. All of these options allow you to play in whatever way fits your style and allows for deep, satisfying gameplay.
Sadly, Universal couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to make sequels to Mr. Do that–let’s just say–don’t live up to the original. What is it with clowns and franchising?
In 1983 Universal released a sequel called Mr. Do’s Castle which bore a striking resemblance to the 1980 game Space Panic. The third game, Mr. Do’s Wild Ride, was originally supposed to be titled Go! Go! Coaster and didn’t even include Mr. Do at first. The fourth and final game, Do! Run Run, has Mr. Do running on the ground collecting dots. As he moves he leaves a line behind him. If you draw a shape, whatever dots are left inside will instantly be collected.
Despite Do! Run Run being a pretty decent game, I shall forever feel betrayed for Universal missing a golden opportunity to advertise their game using the music of The Crystals.
The licensing potential was staring them in the face!
This is just a theory, but hear me out. What if Mr. Do was devastated by the lack of success in his next three games and it turned him bitter? It would make sense that he would go underground throughout the 80s only to reemerge as a malevolent stunt driver in David Jaffe’s 1995 hit Twisted Metal.
But hey, that’s just a theory. A game theor–wait, wrong guy.