The Rube’s Review: Paperboy (Atari, 1984)

Paperboy Arcade Game

Paperboy - flyerDeath is always a sad thing. It doesn’t matter what religion you practice or how well you take care of yourself, sooner or later YOU WILL DIE. You might be having the best day in the world but just remember… the Grim Reaper is always waiting around the corner. While most of us will live a long and happy life (even longer with modern advances in robot and/or reanimation technology), others will meet our sudden doom delivering newspapers on our Huffy mountain bike. Hey, it happens.

Released in 1984 by Atari Games, Paperboy was met with great success. It’s no surprise, in the electronic world of shooters and chasers, Paperboy was unique. The first thing that gamers will notice is that your standard black ball joystick doesn’t control the game. Instead, you guide your player with bicycle handlebars to steer, push forward to go fast and pull back to break. It was such a novel thing to see in an arcade and everyone had to give it a try.

The main objective should be a piece of cake: the player, as a paperboy, must travel your route and deliver papers by throwing them at doorsteps (button on handlebars), but you can receive extra points for hitting mailboxes, statues, and windows (Fuck’n Brat!). If you finish the week, you win the game. Sounds easy huh? Well in theory, yeah… but I forgot to mention that on your way you must dodge a HELLFIRE OF OBSTACLES including cars, bees, kids on big wheels, fighting skinheads, giant cats, taxi cabs and… ZOMBIES?! WTF?!?!?! Yeah really, THE FREAK’N UNDEAD! Don’t believe The Rube? Rewind the video to 1:07… told you so!

After you deliver your papers and finish/crash the obstacle course for extra points, you start the next day (Monday-Sunday). Depending on how well you did, you will get more houses to deliver (you start with 10) or some families will stop ordering the paper, sell their houses and turn them into… mortuaries(?), complete with headstones and hearses in the driveway. Anyone else find this odd? How many mortuaries does one town need? Either the whole Munster family moved into town or The Tall Man for those Phantasm movies is picking off townsfolk one by one. Perhaps it could be as simple as its Halloween… for a week? I’m not buying it!

Anyway, you continue with your weekly route, you must face more crazy shit like mini tornadoes, giant poodles, break dancing men (just embarrassing), and THE GRIM REAPER. Ok, now I’m going with a Final Destination theory where this kid was supposed to be dead but keeps on avoiding the Reaper’s barrage of life killers. Maybe the kid is an angel, sent to Earth to deliver “The Good News” with God™ watching his back or maybe the Paperboy is just a A-hole that likes to break windows with the morning edition and needs to be put down!

Paperboy arcade screen

Overall, Paperboy is a very fun and challenging game with 3 levels of skill and lots of opportunity to achieve a higher score with each finished game. My only big complaint is that you can’t jump any of the street curbs. WTF, it’s the 80’s and that’s all we saw in movies like BMX Bandits and Rad: The Movie. If you saw it in the movies well then you should be able to perform this simple act in a video game (just say’n).

Check out for your nearest retro arcade (The Rube doesn’t have it… SNIFF!) or check it out in home console form. The home versions really don’t do this game justice. Even though the XBOX 360 version is great, it’s not the same as holding those handlebars and going to a ride.

Written by The Rube

The Rube is co-owner of Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade & Museum in Minneapolis, MN. He is also a Special Effects Artist, Master Chef, and Multiple Threadless Design Winner. Other than writing reviews and doodling, he enjoys watching bad movies, building monster model kits, and collecting games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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