Space Panic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Space Panic
CBS Electronics (CV)
Coleco (CV)
Platform(s)Arcade, ColecoVision, PV-1000
ReleaseNovember 1980: Arcade
1981: PV-1000
Winter 1982: ColecoVision
Mode(s)1-2 players alternating

Space Panic (スぺース・パ二ック, Supesu Panikku) is a 1980 arcade video game developed by Universal. Predating Nintendo's Donkey Kong, and lacking a jump mechanic, Space Panic was the first game involving climbing ladders between walkable platforms. The genre was initially labeled "climbing games", but later became known as platform games.[1][2] A ColecoVision port by CBS Electronics was released in the winter holiday season of 1982.[3]

The original arcade game was commercially successful in Japan. It was an obscure release in North America, but a clone, Apple Panic, became a top-seller for home computers. Lode Runner (1983) later put its own spin on climbing and digging, a lineage which eventually took on the name puzzle-platform games.


The player hits a trapped alien with a shovel. Two aliens roam free.

The main character can move along platforms and climb the ladders between them. The goal is to dig holes in the platforms and lure aliens into them. Hitting a trapped alien with the shovel knocks them out of the hole and off the screen. In later levels, two or more holes must be lined up vertically in order to dispose of stronger aliens.

There is a limited supply of oxygen, which acts as a timer.


The game's development team included Kazutoshi Ueda, who later went on to design Lady Bug (1981) and Mr. Do! (1982) at Universal and then Bomb Jack (1984) and Tehkan World Cup (1985) at Tehkan (later known as Tecmo).[4]

The game's concept was inspired by Heiankyo Alien (1979), also known as Digger, a top-down maze game with digging and trapping mechanics. Space Panic changed it to a side-view gameplay format, while adding platforms and ladders.[3][5]


In Japan, Space Panic was commercially successful. It was tied with Scramble and Jump Bug as the 14th highest-grossing arcade video game of 1981.[6] In North America, Space Panic was commercially unsuccessful, which Electronic Games in 1983 attributed to its concepts' novelty to the audience: "not only the first of the climbing games, it was also the first of the digging games. That's quite a load for a player on a new game. No punning intended when I say that the rungs were too high for the average gamer to scale." The magazine reported that the average play time was 30 seconds.[7]

In a retrospective review of the ColecoVision version for Digital Press Online, Kevin Oleniacz concluded, "Coleco had resurrected several short-lived arcade games and transformed them into home favorites, but they should have let Space Panic rest in peace."[8]



While the original arcade game was unsuccessful in North America, the concept found popularity in the unauthorized home computer version, Apple Panic (1981), which was more successful than the original game in North America.[7] It also inspired Lode Runner (1983),[11] which has a similar look and also uses the basic premise of digging holes to trap enemies.

Universal revisited the genre with Mr. Do's Castle (1983), which expanded upon the play styles explored in Space Panic.

Video game historian Michael Thomasson, writing for Old School Gamer Magazine, considers Space Panic to be the "foundation of all platformers" despite being "a rather obscure" cult classic, stating that it "revolutionized game design by introducing novel game mechanics and birthed a new genre."[3] It was also one of the earliest "digging" type games (after Heiankyo Alien), which are variously called "trap 'em up" or "digging games".[5][7]

Horace and the Spiders (1983) includes a Space Panic inspired level.[12]


First Published Name Company System(s)
1981 Apple Panic Broderbund Apple II, Atari 8-bit, IBM PC, TRS-80, VIC-20
1982 Vic Panic Bug Byte VIC-20
1982 Panic Visions Software Factory ZX Spectrum
1982 Monsters Acornsoft Acorn Electron, BBC Micro
1983 Monsters in Hell Softek Software ZX Spectrum
1983 Bonka J. Morrison (Micros) Ltd. Dragon 32/64, C64
1983 Color Panic [13] Spectral Associates TRS-80 Color Computer
1983 Cuthbert Goes Digging Microdeal TRS-80 Color Computer, Dragon 32
1983 Panic 64 Interceptor Micros C64
1983 Sam Spade Silversoft Ltd ZX Spectrum
1984 Panic Planet Alligata C64
1984 Monsters 64 C64
1984 Hektik Mastertronic C64, VIC-20, Commodore 16/Plus/4
1984 Roland Goes Digging Amsoft/Gem Software Amstrad CPC
1984 Psychiatric Sprites Software Oric 1, Oric Atmos
1986 Panik! Atlantis Commodore 16, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, Atari 8-bit


  1. ^ Bloom, Steve (1982). Video Invaders. Arco Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 978-0668055208.
  2. ^ Crawford, Chris (2003). Chris Crawford on Game Design. New Riders. ISBN 0-88134-117-7.
  3. ^ a b c Thomasson, Michael (July 2019). "Space Panic: The Foundation of All Platformers". Old School Gamer Magazine. No. 11. pp. 12–3.
  4. ^ "Talking Game Design with Fukio "MTJ" Mitsuji". Gamest (in Japanese). 1989.
  5. ^ a b Kalata, Kurt (July 17, 2014). "Heiankyo Alien". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  6. ^ ""Donkey Kong" No.1 Of '81 — Game Machine's Survey Of "The Year's Best Three AM Machines" —" (PDF). Game Machine. No. 182. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 February 1982. p. 30.
  7. ^ a b c Pearl, Rick (June 1983). "Closet Classics". Electronic Games. Vol. 1, no. 16. pp. 82–6.
  8. ^ Oleniacz, Kevin (December 2003). "Space Panic". Digital Press Online.
  9. ^ "GAMES Magazine #41". July 1983.
  10. ^ "GAMES Magazine #44". October 1983.
  11. ^ Grannell, Craig (January 2013). "Lode Runner". Retro Gamer. No. 111. pp. 20–7.
  12. ^ Fox, Matt (3 January 2013). The Video Games Guide: 1,000+ Arcade, Console and Computer Games, 1962-2012, 2d ed. McFarland & Company. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-7864-7257-4.
  13. ^ Boyle, L. Curtis. "Color Panic". Tandy (TRS-80) Color Computer Games.

External links[edit]