The Vic 20 doesn't get a great deal of new games, but Beamrider's conversion of the 1982 arcade machine Popeye is, for this format, a real blockbuster.
You play Popeye the Sailorman, and your mission is to win the heart of Ms. Olive Oyl who is at the top of the screen throwing out hearts for you to collect.
There are three stages of the game, set in turn on a dock, a street and a ship. All three are one-screen based platform ladders-and-levels type and feature you, Olive and Bluto. Bluto is your rival for the affections of Ms. Oyl and is out to thwart you collecting your quota of hearts by bumping into you, throwing beer cans at you, grabbing your tootsies from the level below you or bonking you on the head from the level above you. So you want to give him as wide a berth as possible by making judicious use of the ladders.
You're not just pursued by Bluto either. There are Sea Hags, who appear on the extreme left or right of the screen; and a vulture which sweeps down over the boat. You can deal with the Hags by avoiding them (and punching the beer cans they also throw) and the vulture by punching it.
Each stage has its common and its special features. Easily the best common feature is the spinach which, when you eat it, renders you invulnerable to Bluto for about 20 seconds. It is very satisfying to find him and send him flying, even if he does recover quite quickly. Other things you can do include dropping a barrel on Bluto's head (scene one), touching the bottom of Sweetpea (scene two) and riding the moving platforms (scene three).
Clearly writing something as accomplished as Popeye for the humble Vic 20 is no mean feat and Beamrider has taken the approach of trying to drop almost nothing of the original. In that, it has succeeded, in that this conversion requires all of the original's dexterity, and retains all of its manic, and very addictive, qualities.
It also retains all of the original's wonderful little quirks, score bonuses and cartoony features. That's not to say, however, that this format doesn't have some rather obvious problems.
The biggest one is the resolution of the graphics. Look at the screenshots and you'll see it's pretty difficult to pick out who is who. Admittedly that's only a problem the first few times you play, but more vexing is that you need to seriously squint sometimes to see the flying beer cans against the backgrounds.
There's another problem too which is that Beamrider clearly thinks Popeye for the Vic 20 is only going to be of interest to players familiar with the arcade original, and so doesn't provide any instructions for it! As I've explained, the game has fairly complicated features and the three scenes include both friendly and unfriendly characters. Some people are doubtless going to download Popeye and simply not have a clue what to do!
Those minor points aside, Popeye is great and this new Vic 20 conversion of it couldn't be better. It even includes the theme music and a host of fun sound effects. It can be downloaded here.