PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
DEVELOPER: Taito (port by Sega)
RELEASE DATE: 1985 (JP)
Elevator ACTION! ACTION!… action? I don’t know about that. Three “actions!” in a row is perfect for monster truck rallies and NASCAR mishaps, but there’s only so much one can hype riding a series of elevators down thirty stories.
Elevator Action casts you as Agent 17, an unknown secret agent on the prowl for sensitive documents in dimly lit office buildings. You start at the thirtieth floor of each building and ride elevators to the ground floor, searching for red doors and protecting yourself from enemy agents. While the building is predominantly filled with blue doors on each floor, red doors hold the documents you need to collect. Enter a red door and leave it to collect the document you need – simple as that.
Enemy agents will appear frequently, sometimes in clusters of two or three. Shoot them or kick them in the face to make them disappear (or squash them with the elevator, the most hilarious and therefore best option). Mind the agents’ bullets, though, particularly as you ride down the elevator. Sometimes they will see you coming up or down on the elevator and shoot in advance. Bullets are red, narrow, and hard to see, so if you even think they might be shooting, jump to prevent death. Light bulbs can be shot down, as well – both to disable enemies (assuming the bulb lands on them) and to darken the area.
The building’s layout becomes more difficult to traverse the further down you travel. From floors 30 to 20, hit down and ride the elevator like a boss, unless a red door on the side hastens you to pull over. Levels 20-1 switch up the layout with multiple elevators, already darkened hallways, walled-off portions and, of course, extra agents emerging from every which way. Once you gather up all the documents, make it to the ground floor, get in your Agency approved sports car, and fly, baby, fly to the next building. Each building’s layout remains more or less the same, but the red doors are always in different areas and the enemy agents are craftier.
Elevator Action was a surprisingly successful arcade game in 1983. I say “surprisingly,” because while I personally find the game addictive, I’m not sure I understand why. The game isn’t suspenseful or moody, despite the secret agent window dressing. Going into a few red rooms while dodging enemy agents isn’t the most thrilling objective, either. Yet there’s something about scaling down thirty floors of a building using slow-moving elevators that feels so right. Elevator Action is, in my opinion, the type of arcade oddity that could have only been made in 1983, yet it remains highly playable today.
I played the NES port of Elevator Action and found it solid, but this SG-1000 version is slightly higher quality all-around. Agent 17 moves faster, jumps higher, and shoots quicker than his counterpart on the NES. Alas, the price for these features is poor graphics. Both Agent 17 and the enemy agents look like poorly constructed Crash Test Dummies wearing full-blown pajama suits. Still, I’d gladly take inferior graphics over choppiness and slowdown any day. Besides, the SG-1000 port faithfully renders the elevator hopping and document stealing of the original arcade game. That’s really all you can ask for.