Popeye is a 1982 arcade game developed and released by Nintendo based on the Popeye cartoon characters licensed from King Features Syndicate. Some sources claim that Ikegami Tsushinki also did design work on Popeye.
The Family Computer (Famicom) saw an educational sequel on November 22, 1983: Popeye no Eigo Asobi, an English teaching game akin to the later Donkey Kong Jr. Math.
In Popeye, two players can alternate playing or one player can play alone. The top five highest scores are kept along with the player’s three initials. Popeye was available in standard and cocktail configurations.
Ben Falls holds the world record score of 3,023,060 earned on December 20, 2011 according to Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard.
The Popeye characters were originally going to be used in the game that later became Donkey Kong. However at that time on the development of the game, Nintendo could not get the licenses to use the characters.
The object of the game is for Popeye to collect a certain number of items dropped by Olive Oyl, depending on the level — 24 hearts, 16 musical notes, or 24 letters in the word HELP — while avoiding the Sea Hag, Brutus and other dangers. The player can make Popeye walk back and forth and up and down stairs and ladders with a 4-way joystick. There is an attack button, but unlike similar games of the period, no jump button. Conversely, Brutus can jump down a level and also jump up to hit Popeye if he is directly above.
Despite the feature of an attack button, Popeye cannot attack Brutus directly. Instead, the button is used for the following:
The attack button destroys items that could hurt Popeye such as bottles, vultures and skulls.
Each level has a can of spinach; attacking these cans will give Popeye invincibility and he can knock out Brutus just by running into him, although after a few seconds Brutus will swim back out and be ready for action again.
In Round 1 (the dock scene) of each three-round cycle is a punching bag, which Popeye can use to knock loose a nearby barrel from its position near the top of the playing field. If the barrel falls onto Brutus’ head, the player earns bonus points (based on where Brutus was attacked) and renders Brutus harmless for several seconds.
Other licensed Popeye characters in the game are Olive Oyl, Swee’Pea, and Wimpy, though they are mostly decorative and do not add heavily to the gameplay. Wimpy appears in Round 2 (the street scene) on one end of the seesaw in the lower left corner of the field, to act as a counterweight. Swee’Pea floats high above, with bonus points to be earned if Popeye can spring off the see-saw and touch him.
Popeye loses a life if he is hit by Brutus or any thrown/flying object, or if he fails to catch a dropped item before it reaches the bottom of the screen.