RELEASE DATE: 1984 (JP)
Hustle Chumy! If you’ve seen “American Tail,” you already know the story: in a poverty-stricken sewer system, a sewer mouse named Chumy has to collect food to survive. He doesn’t have a Eastern-European family and he isn’t as cute as Fievel, but dammit, he’s hungry. Each level is strewn with different types of food, like apple cores, half-eaten hamburgers, and, uh, ribbon candy. The more food Chumy eats, the more he bloats, which is surprisingly realistic. While bloated, Chumy moves slower, putting him at a risk for getting caught and killed. Thankfully, he has a high jump that can vault him over the majority of his foes. Eat all the food in the stage and hop/walk slowly back to the entrance of the sewer to do it all over again in the next level. Starvation averted, at least temporarily.
Of course, not every sewer denizen wants Chumy to have his cores and eat them too. Five types of enemies litter the hard-knock sewer streets: bats, gators, snooty cats (expensive looking ones too – did a drunken rich person flush them by accident?), ninjas, and mecha-dinosaurs. Sounds like a lot of crazy for one mouse to tackle, but Chumy can spew fireballs; strangely, this makes him the second fire-flinging mouse after Pop Flamer to appear on the SG-1000.
Each enemy, with the exception of the gator, has specific movement patterns designed to kill Chumy. Mecha-dinos can’t be killed by fire, only slowed, and they constantly block your path. Snooty cats creep along slowly, but they also hyper-jump at random. Ninjas are fast, aggressive and will chase you without stopping – until Chumy hits them with three fireballs. Bats seem harmless at first because they’re unable to touch Chumy’s body when he’s on the ground, but woe be to Chumy if he tries to jump or climb a ladder while they’re flying overhead. Because the majority of the enemies are designed to take advantage of Chumy’s vulnerabilities, the combination of all the enemies in motion together makes for quite the satisfactory challenge.
Despite being in the vein of other mice collect-a-thons like Mappy and Pop Flamer, Hustle Chumy has a tightness that the latter games lack. Chumy begins each level at the bottom of the sewer, but has to climb upwards from there to four horizontal planes in order to collect food. There are always three manhole entrances to the upper four planes, though one of them is usually blocked off (only the Mecha-dino, with his manly mecha arms, can open and close manholes). All of the planes are connected by ladders, and the very top plane has a pipe that transports Chumy back down to the bottom surface.
With the exception of bats who flutter where they will, the enemies typically keep to their own planes: the Mecha-dino at the bottom, the cat and gator in the middle, and the ninja at the top. Later levels find the enemies moving out of their usual regions and working together to stop Chumy, making for quite the enemy clusterfluff. Hustle Chumy‘s one-screen levels initially feel restrictive compared to the open realms found in Pop Flamer, but the lack of on-screen space keeps the action more concentrated, forcing you to pay attention to every enemy movement while Chumy gathers his eats for the day.
Hustle Chumy‘s structure and attention to detail are much better than the SG-1000 typically receives (or deserves – that’s right). The game took some time to sink in, but the more I played, the more I appreciated its simple depths. The graphics could be richer and the music less tinny, but even with these slights, Hustle Chumy is one of the best games on the SG-1000.