Spare Change

Apple ][ - Rating: 9/10

Although I am very nostalgic for many a game on the system, the Apple ][ was never the ideal platform for action games. Spare Change is one of the very few that has actually held up after all these years. Yes, the graphics are crude and the sound is mostly restricted to clicks, beeps and a single square wave tone at a time, but it makes very good use of these limited resources.

You play as the manager of a video arcade where a pair of characters from one of the popular games have come to life. The Zerks’ goal is to steal tokens from your arcade. Enough so that they can retire. How dare they! Your job is to grab the tokens before they do and thwart their retirement plans.

You will mainly grab tokens from the change machines scattered about the level, but occasionally you’ll find one in a public telephone’s change slot or after a lucky spin of a slot machine. Fill the collection boxes with ten or more tokens the Zerk Show door will slide open and you can live to battle Zerks on the next level. The game plays a bit like Pac-man: run around the maze, collect coins, and avoid the random movements of the Zerks. There are even between level intermission animations.

Much of the fun of the game is triggering the various Zerk distractions which include a jukebox, a pair of phones, and a popcorn machine. Each distraction costs a coin and then provides about ten seconds in which the Zerks are dancing around rather than stealing away your progress.

The whole game is an appealing, lighthearted affair that retains its charm even after all these years and still provides a pretty intense arcade game challenge.

P.S. If you want to change the game’s difficulty, you can hit CTRL-Z to open the settings screen. There you have precise control over the Zerk’s behavior settings. I discovered this only today, some forty years after having first played the game.

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