When you think back to the early days of the NES, one title that can't be forgotten is Paperboy. It was one of the first NES games to come from an American company, Atari, who first introduced it as an arcade in 1985 and then it was ported onto more consoles and home computers to count: Commodore 64, Apple II, Amiga, Sega Master System, Game Boy, Game Gear, Genesis, everything you could possibly think of. There was even a Tiger handheld version, also a sequel and an N64 version in 3D style: It really caught on. It's considered first-rank, definitive in its' field of enduring interest, the highest nostalgic value, it connected with the public, it's universally renowned one of the all-time classic video games...and it's all about delivering newspapers (The Nerd does his trademark scowl.)
It's as basic as it gets. You're a paperboy riding a bike with one goal: Deliver newspapers to the subscribers. For those who remember it, there's nothing more to explain. For the younger gamers today, you're probably scratching your heads, maybe not, but if so I'll clear it up, okay? (Sarcastically) A newspaper is a publication issued at regular intervals usually daily or weekly containing news, politics, sports, business, finance, advertisements, comics, etc. and they're printed on paper. It was fucking crazy! Yes, newspapers still exist and even Nintendo still makes games but that's debatable. Anyways, if you know newspapers and old video games, let's continue. There's seven stages or should I say seven days. At the start of each day, you're shown a street map indicating which houses are subscribers and which ones aren't, then you're on your way to start delivering papers.
Thankfully, you do NOT have to remember the street map. The subscriber's homes are very easy to recognize not by the mailbox, that would make too much sense. The entire houses are labeled by color: The white houses are subscribers, the red houses are non-subscribers. Wow, can you imagine painting your house based on your newspaper subscription? Next time you and your spouse are going over the bills and they're on your case about canceling your subscription to that darn paper, you'll first have to consider if you really want to go through the effort of painting your house again.
The idea is to throw the newspapers hoping they land on the doormat or into the mailbox for more points. Yeah, points, it was an arcade game, what do you expect? For every house you miss, the next day, they become non-subscribers but you can also lose subscribers by smashing their windows (The paperboy throws the paper and it breaks a window) Apparently there's a brick inside these newspapers. Yeah, all full of bricks, now I feel really bad for this paperboy for carrying such a heavy load but seriously, can you break a window with a newspaper? Can't say I ever tried it. (The scene cuts to The Nerd repeatedly throwing newspapers against a window outside until he finally manages to break it, covering his mouth in shock.) Okay, so it's possible. Even if you get one in the mailbox but you break a window, they unsubscribe. Assholes. They got their paper, I still delivered it, didn't I? Dude, if I was a kid and Nintendo Power came crashing through my window, I'd say "FUCK YEAH!"
I've been playing this game for almost 30 years and aiming the newspapers has always been a problem. The game is tilted in an awkward, isometric angle which was ambitious for its' time but annoying as hell. When you throw a paper, you have to time it perfectly and even after the paper is airborne, it changes its' trajectory based on the movement of your bike. You just have to throw it and hope by some miracle it hits the mark. It's sorta like a game kids used to play in the '60s where they would shit in two separate toilets and flush them simultaneously, hoping their turds would meet.. Actually, I just made that up. It wouldn't be as hard if you weren't so busy moving around avoiding hazards. I'm never able to split my attention to the mailbox and the road at the same time. I'm either going to break a window or fall on my ass and kill myself. Not to mention, only three hits and the game's over. (The paperboy attempts to throw a newspaper at a subscriber's mailbox and breaks their window.) Damn, I was so close. (The paperboy breaks another window and the Nerd groans) Again? Jesus, god! (The paperboy pedals into a construction worker and falls off the bike.)
(Exclaims) And you know what pisses me off the most is that nobody else seems to think this is that hard but for me, aiming the newspaper into the mailbox is like trying to slingshot a dingleberry from a playground's roundabout that's situated on a moving parade float aiming into a bottle cap that's tied by a string to a Himalyan snowcock... while drunk. It would take somebody from NASA who knows how to calculate exactly when a certain asteroid is going to pass by a certain planet when it's lined up with a certain constellation during a certain moon phase. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to calculate my cat's shit comets that spreads across the carpet after wiping its' ass on it before its' anal glands have been evacuated but hang on, what are we talking about here? What's at stake? Getting a newspaper to land on a doormat or God forbid into a mailbox? When would that ever happen? All the times I've witnessed newspapers being delivered, it's more like this: (The Nerd drops the NES controller to simulate a newspaper being dropped off.) There.
Have you ever seen somebody launch one into a mailbox? No! Nobody tries that! If you did, you'd be a town hero! You'd get your dick sucked! Cats would bow at your feet (The Nerd meows and imitates a cat bowing) Even the neighborhood pit bull would spread onto the ground to bask in your glory. (The Nerd lays back on the couch and pants.) They just drop 'em near the curb, maybe in the driveway where you'll run over them in the car on your way to work and it'll get soaked by rain before you even realize it's there until the water and paper consistency turns it into a soppy, inky mush and then it dries in the sun looking like some kind of kindergarten papier-mâché mess. Nowadays, newspapers are usually delivered by cars.. I mean by people in cars but I guess "Newspaper Adult Car Driving Deliverer" wouldn't have made such a great game but neither did this. You wanna deliver something? DELIVER US FROM THE TORMENT OF THIS HORRIBLE GAME!
How hard would it actually be to throw a newspaper into a mailbox? Only one way to find out. (A cutaway scene shows the Nerd pedaling a bike and trying repeatedly to throw newspapers into a mailbox, missing each time.) Yep, what I thought. It's more fun to break the windows anyway so fuck it. (The paperboy begins to break windows all over the street.) Extra! Extra! Paperboy goes mad! Here's some buttifies! Here you go daily douchebag! 10% off your next purchase of "FUCK YOU"! Cloudy with a chance of ass kicking! Dear Abby, make 'em eat shit! Crosswords, can you spell cunt? Horoscopes, you will achieve greatness in Hell! (Sighs) But here's the real kicker, you know how to turn a non-subscriber into a subscriber? You know what you do? Break their windows. Is that in your job duty? Is that the protocol? Your boss tells you "Look, if they don't subscribe, send them a paper anyway through their window." I'd like to know more about this boss. Who is this person who has such extreme solutions to things? This is the type of person who takes out a housefly with a grenade. Every time their car runs out of gas, buys a new car. You're breaking people's windows, they have to get new glass fast. It's cold at night, there's bugs getting in, please we'll subscribe to your paper just stop breaking our windows.
Another weird thing about this game is trying to pause it. I don't even know how to explain it but if you press the start button too quickly, it doesn't stay paused. It only lasts for a fraction of a second, like if you blinked you missed it. You have to be very deliberate with how you press it. I've never seen this phenomenon in any other NES game. Now, let's talk about the in-game oddities that you'll witness. Take this home for example: Impeccable, spacious with 4 beds, 2 baths, 2,500 square feet, new kitchen, stainless steel appliances, granite counters, hardwood floors, central air heat, professionally landscaped front yard and two gravestones and plenty open lots for the rest of your family. Why are there gravestones in the front yard and how do you knock them over with your newspapers? These are some powerful papers. Maybe the gravestones are just styrofoam Halloween decorations and they're the only home that celebrates. We're only getting started, who's this crazy woman, this enraged beast that comes flying at you? She's a subscriber too! You don't even have to break a window to trigger her. In fact, I landed a paper right on her door mat and she still wants me dead. What's her deal? Maybe she read too much Marmaduke and Family Circus. How do you make the same comic strip everyday? There's no way it can all be good and this guy here, can you take that inside? Really, do you have to do that on the sidewalk? Fucking pervert.
Then there's a tire that randomly comes rolling out from behind the house. Who's back there rolling tires? Get a life. How about the lawnmower? The remote-controlled cars? The breakdancer? Yeah, he's breakdancing all by himself on the sidewalk. Is it a challenge? Did I get served? What's this? A tornado or the Tasmanian darn Devil? If there's a tornado coming through town, I think the residents have bigger issues than not getting their papers. Can't I take the day off if there's a fucking tornado warning? Maybe it's Simon Belmont, you didn't know that after he used the tornado he had to pass through Paperboy before he reached the other side. How about the lawn ornament? It's the famous lawn jockey statue, an old tradition seen in Home Alone for example. This may be common but it's not common to see them come alive, this should be making headlines. I should be delivering "Extra! Extra! Lawn ornament attacks Paperboy!" instead of "Paperboy calls it quits!" That's not newsworthy!
Then there's the dog, that's the only thing that makes sense, the only hazard a paperboy might actually encounter but man, does this dog run far, somebody needs to get a fence (The Grim Reaper shows up and the Paperboy runs into him and falls over and the Nerd stares in shock.) and uh, umm.. The Grim Reaper is in town, that's a problem. Here, read the obituaries you piece of shit! You would think maybe the instruction manual has some back stories to these characters, maybe there's a reason all this is happening but no, it lists the obstacles and that's it. Even Jekyll and Hyde had a detailed character list with illustrations and stories. This manual tells you the absolute minimum, only what you need to know to play the game. No illustrations except for the controller, it's one of the most boring NES manuals I've ever seen and if I can say anything at all about Jekyll and Hyde being better, then you know you have problems.
Speaking of Jekyll and Hyde, there's something about this that reminds me of it. It's an ordinary town full of things that wouldn't normally be dangerous, it's made to look innocent but it's all a trick. Listen to the music, it's peaceful and mellow (The Nerd happily sways back and forth to the music but is scared by a sudden loud noise.) It makes you feel like there's nothing too urgent going on, like you're the one who's messing up. It annoys me to the very core of my soul. Ever since I played this game as a kid, I've had a personal vendetta against it. Did I just hit a bright green Model T that's parked? Could I be humiliated anymore and I respawn right behind it? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! What would happen if an actual paperboy fell off his bike? Nobody gets their papers? You can't ride over the curb, if you're in the street, you're stuck there until there's a driveway. That's your only window of opportunity to get back onto the sidewalk but there's always something in your way that forces you back down so you're always trapped in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.
Come to think of it, the game hardly uses much of the screen at all. Half the space is taken up by the houses, you will never go to the left very much so that area of the screen is completely wasted. It's like Back to the Future, you're moving through a town, you can't do anything to stop yourself from moving and every common thing is out to kill you but imagine if you were playing Back to the Future crammed into the corner of the screen and if you make it onto the sidewalk, now you're playing Silver Surfer. Ask any newspaper delivery person "Hey, what's your job like?" I doubt they'd say "It's like Silver Surfer stretched over a sidewalk." As for the houses, that's any NES game before its' been cleaned. It's nothing. (The paperboy is hit by a tire and a pedestrian) (Grunts) FUCK! DIDDLY DICK! This is impossible with only three lives, maybe there's a secret method. I wish there was a strategy guide (A Nintendo Power strategy guide to Paperboy flies through the Nerd's basement window and his him in the head.) Wow, the official Paperboy strategy guide! (The Nerd opens it up to a page that reads "How to win: Just don't get hit!" as a fail sound effect is heard in the background and flips through the pages, shaking his head.) Whenever you make it to the end of the street, you're treated to an obstacle course finale. Why would you pass through an obstacle course after delivering papers? Does it just happen to be on the way or was this the ultimate goal all along? I'd say this kid deserves a little fun. I mean, he has a pretty dangerous job and remember, he still has to go to school afterwards. He even gets some fanfare, that's right, there's been people sitting there the whole time waiting for him. What's up with the guy on the right? Looks like his head is missing.
The obstacles have no rhyme or reason. Cones, hoops and ramps are scattered like random as if the programmer stamped them all over the place while blindfolded. It's like designing a course in Excitebike for your first time and whenever a path splits, it's all a matter of chance if there's gonna be a wall blocking the way. With the ramps, you have to be lined up perfectly (Paperboy hits the wall.) Fuck this isometric angle! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! (A montage of the Paperboy repeatedly smashing into things and falling off the bike is shown. The Nerd throws down the NES controller as he grunts angrily.) You know what? I hate this game if you can't already tell. Some people are good at it and say it takes time to get used to. Yeah, I'd say. Almost 30 years and I still suck just as bad. For everybody whose taken a beating down the friendly neighborhood of Fucksfield, U.S.A. but still remembers it as this great nostalgic pasttime, I'm here to remind you Paperboy was not all sparkles and sunshine, so I suggest you unsubscribe to your sentimentality. Now I have a delivery to make.
(The Nerd takes the Paperboy cartridge out of the NES and pedals down the street on his bike throwing it through a window.) Yeah! (The Grim Reaper appears in front of the Nerd, laughing and he runs into him, causing an explosion as the episode ends.)