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I seem to be having a bit of a run recently when it comes to not knowing anything about these games. We can add Bank Panic to that list, having snuck up on me like one of the bank robbers who are absolutely determined to give me a bad time in this Old Western... twitch shooter, I guess?
I ought to find out, really.
There are twelve doors, only three of which you can see at once. You can see which doors people are approaching via the indicators on the top of the screen, and those folks come in all shapes and sizes. Honest civilians looking to deposit their cash, children carrying hats, murderous masked robbers with itchy trigger fingers... everyone makes an appearance, and it is your job to shoot only the people that need shooting.
It's more difficult than it looks. There's no real time for hesitation, so make sure you get you know where your buttons are. You get three shoot buttons for the left, middle and right doors, and a left/right control for rotating through the twelve doors. I was playing the Sega Master System port which uses the up/down inputs as the third shoot button. Dead simple controls, but incredibly easy to completely forget if you've not got your emulator controls set up in a way that makes sense (no names mentioned).
Most of the irks I had with Bank Panic lay firmly with me and my incompetence, but controls aside it doesn't mess with the notion of an armed robber intent to kill you. Once a door bursts open, you've got to decide whether to fire a few rounds into it. You obviously don't want to shoot any innocents, so you wait until you know you're looking at a bad guy. But you're the Sheriff, so you also want a bit of proof that the bad guy is doing bag things, and so you'll get a better score if you let them raise their gun and wave it in your general direction than if you just shoot on sight based on looks (because that doesn't ever happen these days, am I right?)
You've got three lives and you're trying to get a cash deposit from each of the twelve doors. You can keep track of your progress along the top of the screen, allowing you to get an idea of whether to take on three doors at once, or go through them one by one.
While it is true that the doors won't open until someone is behind them and you're facing them, you sure don't have a lot of time to sit and wait. The clock always dwindles down to the point where I completely forgot I was timed on a few occasions, so before long you'll need to develop a trigger finger (or three) that is both responsive and accurate - assuming your judgement and reading of the situation in front of you is equally good.
After reading all of that you'd be forgiven for thinking that I don't quite like Bank Panic, but that's not true at all. I just don't like the fact that I'm no good at it. The gameplay is interesting enough, and you learn bit by bit what to do when faced with each of the peculiar characters. Sometimes you'll be surprised by something new or unexpected, but you'll be ready for it the next time round, should you keep playing.
It's a simple little game but there is a lot going on behind all those doors. I bet being a security guard wasn't anywhere near as bad as this back in the olden days. If Bank Panic is a snapshot of daily life, then I'm out. But it's not, it's an arcade game on a list of games that must be played, so I'm in. Struggling to get too far into the game, but I'm on board.
Is it a case of 'too much, too soon' with regards to learning how to play, dropping you into the deep end for you to figure out for yourself? I don't know. I wouldn't say so, it's an arcade game, it just wants your money, so have a blast with Bank Panic.
The coding might allow for some 255 levels in the Sega Master System version, but the most anyone would be able to physically manage is around 14, beyond which the robbers are just too damn trigger happy.
Bank Panic, developed by Sanritsu, first released in 1984.
Version played: Sega Master System, 1987, via emulation.