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Xbox Live Arcade Review: Paperboy

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You could have been a rogue agent infiltrating an enemy fortress. You could have been a super hero saving a major metropolitan city. You even could have become a valiant knight looking to rescue the fair princess from almost certain doom.

No, you chose to be the kid on a bike delivering newspapers.

In the case of this Xbox Live Arcade release, you paid $5 for that privilege too. Maybe that’s what makes Paperboy special. It’s a totally unique title that squeezed out before the entire industry collapsed and managed to become one of the few remnants of that dark era. We’ve all been the generic knight, the super hero, and the government agent. It takes an incredible risk to release a game like Paperboy to an action-oriented market.

It must be the game’s endearing quirkiness that has kept people’s attention for nearly 25 years. Your enemies are stray cats, bad drivers, break dancers, feuding neighbors, and that idiot kid who never looks where he’s going on his big wheel. Your only weapon on this isometric dysfunctional street of death is the daily news.

The concept continues its impossibly addictive nature by ensuring you’re not only staying uninjured, but that you’re doing the job right. Subscribers to your publication are awfully finicky, willing to ditch their entire subscription if you toss a paper just left of their door. Non-subscribers have their houses decked out in black with gargoyles guarding their porch. Apparently, it’s some bizarre ritual in this neighborhood to rapidly dress up your house when the paperboy fails miserably.

After establishing that nothing here actually makes sense, you can begin to enjoy Paperboy. While ridiculously frustrating thanks to stiff controls, the game quickly wins you over with bright graphics (sadly not updated in this Xbox Live Arcade port), barely intelligible voice clips, and a the sense that you need to make one more run to see what lies behind the seventh house on Easy Street.

In addition to leaderboards, Xbox Live play is an option. Like other Midway Live Arcade releases, you never see your opponent/friends screen. In co-op, their ID appears in the lower right with the score underneath. In versus play (which is strictly based on score), the only addition is a star next to the player in the lead. While it would be hard to follow, there’s a sick satisfaction in seeing your friend get sucked under the rampaging lawnmower. This is the type of title to garner an “E” rating from the ESRB too.

Paperboy is one of those games you’re likely to either “get” or be completely lost as to what the appeal is. It has the potential to stand out even to newer gamers, and the $5 entry fee is fair for this one. Paperboy has stood the test of time and tossing one more paper through a recent cancellations window is still satisfying.

Paperboy is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Animated Violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.