Nostalgia Tripping is a column in which Dan Tallarico explores his collection of retro games to see how well they hold up. You can expect heartbreak, childhood flashbacks and a ton of Capcom games. Want to yell at him about old games? Find him on Twitter.
What I remember
Paperboy was one of the few games my father and I could bond over. The other was Tetris, though playing Tetris with my dad was me begging him for my Game Boy back as he slipped into a deeper Tetris coma with every line he destroyed.
My father and I would play Paperboy for the sole purpose of crashing into boxes. Whenever the Paperboy hits a box he topples over and hides the shame by putting a box on his head. The character “Box Head” was born and the objective shifted from delivery papers (i.e. throwing papers through as many windows as possible) to hitting boxes whenever we could. We crashed into boxes relentlessly. Each accident elicited another howl of laughter. Never once did we think about the safety of the boxes or the paperboy. Soon, another family member would need attention and the moment would be ruined like the many windows we flung papers through.
I was inspired to apply for a paper delivery job after hours playing Paperboy. I’d ride my bike through my neighborhood throwing imaginary papers directly into mail boxes. I’d swerve around roadkill as if they were deadly pits and I’d change the speed of my pedaling to practice going by the fire-spitting gargoyles every paperboy encounters.I applied to be a paper boy, but I was too young and wasn’t accepted. Never mind the fact that humans stopped delivering papers via bicycle decades ago.
Playing it Now
Paperboy takes the important role of a paperboy and turns it into a delivery simulation that may take place in the same neighborhood as the Adam’s Family. Obstacles include dogs, sunbathers, ghosts, potholes, cannons, rifleman, and runaway babies.
I couldn’t get ahold of the original Paperboy, so I resigned to exploring Paperboy 2. Between you and me, I think the only thing that changed between iterations is that there’s the option of playing as a Papergirl. Papergirl has a similar sprite to Paperboy except for an extra pixel to denote a ponytail. I’m not sure what the intention was behind adding papergirl. Perhaps it’s to provide the illusion of choice? Maybe it’s an allegory to the progressive women workforce? Or is this hints at a plot that involves a failing family business? I guess this is a way to entice all sexes to enjoy the fun of virtually throwing papers.
Before heading out on a route you’re told which houses subscribe to The Daily Sun and which houses don’t. For some reason, all the news seems geared towards the paperboy/papergirl. I assume that these poor people accidentally signed up for this self-indulgent zine. Headlines on this paper vary from “Dog Leash Law Considered” to “Paperboy Fired!” I don’t know if it’s more embarrassing that the town’s paperboy was fired or that the firing made front page news. That begs the question that if the paperboy was fired who delivered the paper? It seems that paperboy has some gaping plot holes that can only be solved with a reboot.
Riding through the world of Paperboy as an adult made me realize how much depth and strategy is bundled in the delivery concept. The supply of papers is limited, giving a weight and importance to each toss. Do I dare throw a newspaper through the window or save it for my favorite customer’s mailbox? A dwindling stash of papers means that biking through rough territory is a necessity to find more periodicals. Destroying property would be a no-brainer without this limitation, but there’s a separate point system for causing havoc. Breaking windows, throwing papers at dogs and basketball players, and knocking a car jack over while a pedestrian is under their car results in hundreds of points. Evil points. Those points are added to your overall score only if you can somehow finish the route. It’s a basic good versus evil system that adds a layer of depth and excitement to a particularly rote formula. I’d even be willing to petition MLG to add Paperboy to professional play.
Finishing a paper route culminates in a trip through a motocross track. After running away from animals, throwing papers at would-be thieves, and being hit by vehicles, does the paperboy really need to prove their worth by traversing a series of jumps? Dirt lines the road and there are ramps that must be used to cross wild rivers. Along the path are targets to throw papers at and cones to weave through. After a series of attempts I wheeled my way to the finish where I was greeted by a stadium full of people applauding the paperboy for getting through the gauntlet. It looked like a scene straight out of the finale of the Hunger Games.
Paperboy has no problem sticking to the basic delivery formula. While you can choose from 9,999 different routes, the changes are minor. Differences between routes can be an extra tire to dodge or one less house to deliver a newspaper. I suppose it’s comforting to know that I can ride relive route 869 and find it hasn’t changed, no matter how much time has passed outside the cartridge.
I’m shocked that there has yet to be a newspaper delivery game that has surpassed Paperboy. Give me a 3D, high-octane reboot. Let me play a Paperboy MMO where me and my pals save the world by delivering news. The Paperboy franchise is limitless and it’s a shame it’s been dormant for so long.