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P.T. Barnum's Acrobats! Box
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Overall Score:
(Out of 5)
Gameplay: 4.5
Graphics: 4.6
Sound: 3.9
Voice: 4.4

Once Philips started making the games for the Odyssey², there were no longer that many titles produced that were direct copies of arcade titles. P.T. Barnum's Acrobats! is an exception; it's a redone version of the 1978 Bally arcade game Clowns (which in turn was a copy of the 1977 Exidy title, Circus). Regardless of what it's called, the game revolves around two acrobats, a seesaw, and balloons. You control the seesaw at the bottom of the screen. An acrobat jumps on one end, propelling another acrobat into the balloons at the top. The airborne acrobat pops as many balloons as possible before falling back to the floor, at which time you must catch him by quickly maneuvering the seesaw into position. Points, naturally, are racked up by popping balloons. If you manage to pop every balloon on a screen, it will be restocked with new balloons immediately.

That's pretty much all there is to P.T. Barnum's Acrobats!. The original game was a child of the late 1970s and shows it. But simplicity doesn't mean that a game can't be fun. Although P.T. Barnum's Acrobats! can become repetitive after a while, there's also a sort of hypnotic effect to it -- move left, catch acrobat, move right, catch acrobat -- this is a great one to get "in the zone" while playing. There are also a number of game variations to add some spice to the action. Most notably, you can choose from stationary or moving balloons. Other variations feature barriers between the seesaw and the balloons, which ratchets up the challenge. The game could have benefited from the coin-op's paddle controller, but the joysticks are responsive enough that you can't really blame the controls when your acrobat ends up squashed on the floor.

The Voice is part of this game as well. It's not used particularly well here, but it does add a sort of bizarre charm by shouting out warnings ("Look out!"), encouragements ("Amazing!"), or insults if you screw up ("Turkey!"). Strangely, The Voice will sometimes shout something positive when your acrobat misses the seesaw and ends up flattened against the hard ground. There's nothing quite the same as seeing your acrobat lying in a mangled heap while some happy disembodied voice yells "GREAT!"

P.T. Barnum's Acrobats!'s scoring system is probably its weakest element. The counter only goes up to 99. After that, a red bar appears above the score to indicate that you've broken 100. However, breaking 200 or 300 is not marked, and it's not particularly hard to do once you've practiced. That means you have to manually keep track of the number of times you "roll" the score -- an unnecessary distraction from your balloon-popping mission. Apparently the programmer couldn't manage to squeeze one more digit into this cartridge, despite its much-vaunted "Expanded Memory."

Scoring issues aside, P.T. Barnum's Acrobats! is definitely an enjoyable Odyssey² title. True, it's not one of the most original games -- it's derivative, but it's derivative of a classic from the era of simple, classic action games. You'll like it -- especially if you have a grudge against balloons.

All Reviewer Ratings:

Mike Cronis4.
Rafael Cardoso5.05.05.0-5.0
Tim Whalen5.
William Cassidy4.

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