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Publisher: Skunk Studios    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 500 MHz    RAM: 128 MB

Varmintz Deluxe
October 6, 2004 | Sean Daly

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Why did the chicken cross the road? Or, why did millions of frogs cross countless roads and rivers? If you played coin-ops in the 80s you know the answer. To get home of course. Luckily for us, Skunk Studios, the company behind Varmintz, has done an excellent job paying homage to the near forgotten genre first started by the classic game Frogger.

The object of the game is very simple, cross the playing field from bottom to top without dying to reach your home. The field of play can best be described as a 30x13 grid. You use your arrow keys to move your racoon from one square to the next avoiding obstacles. You can also use your mouse but it is problematic and the keyboard is a better option. Impeding your journey home are several odd characters and hazards. There are cars and logs going down rivers familiar to fans of 80s games but there are many more and they change on each level. Crazed farmers and their wives move around the screen and in one level I even noticed a pig with a shotgun riding a horse. Each level has its own caracture characters. You never know what will come at you next. The characters all move in a predictable and repeating pattern across the screen. Another nice feature is the ability to save your game. Most 80s style games never had that option originally so it is a nice modern feature that they have added.

Varmintz adds several new gameplay elements by borrowing from other genres. While trying to reach your home you can also collect golden eggs. Get 50 eggs and you get a extra life. Also, there are stop watches that give you extra time in the bonus rounds at the end of each environment, extra life tokens, stealth potions that make you immune to you enemies, and ice cubes that freeze your enemies, and of course, the golden eggs, which are almost everywhere. One trick of the game I quickly realized is that wherever there is a item it is also a safespot for your varmint to stand since none of the hazards ever move to a location where there is a pickup.

To complete a level you need to move all 5 of your varmintz across the screen to their dens. Each journey gets harder and harder with more enemies and more complex paths. Skunk Studios has actually based their varmintz on the 5 core people that make up Skunk Studios. Margaret Wallace, co-founder and ceo of Skunk Studios described their inspiration as follows:

"The five Varmintz raccoon characters are loosely based on the five core members of Skunk Studios -- at least that was our starting point. Instead of just having a single character in the game, we also liked the idea of having a Varmintz "posse" who all need to get "home" safely (i.e., back to their Dens) in order to progress from level-to-level.   

We envisioned the Varmintz as a scrappy crew -- the kind of critters that only a mother could love. Their scavenger nature is partly why they have so many "Enemies" in the game,  who want to stop the Varmintz from pillaging their Worlds for those Golden Eggs. Similar to the Environments, the Enemies in Varmintz are also created with an ironic twist and include: crazy joggers, rabid dogs, people with shopping carts, desperado cowboys, road workers, and mad ducks.


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