I’m Sorry!

One of the most exciting things about having an extensive MAME library ( on my unjailbroken iPhone as well. HA!) is that it allows you to access to all kinds of weird and wonderful titles that would be incredibly difficult to find in the physical world.

For me, one of those games was the obscure Sega-published Coreland title, “I’m Sorry!”

 

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It’s a bit like Pacman, but you can PUNCH with an oversized fist

 

As a single-screen maze title, Sorry! doesn’t really seem to have that much going for it. Predictably, your objective involves running around collecting objects (gold bars, in this case) and avoiding bad guys.

Although It has a couple of nice features (chiefly, jumping puzzles and environmental hazards, plus the ability to punch your adversaries in the face with a MASSIVELY over-sized fist,) by 1985 the Pacman groove was already well-worn. A number of other clones (including Sega’s own Sinbad) had already explored similar ideas to the full. Hmm.

What makes Sorry! interesting however, is the sheer quirkiness of the overall aesthetic. Take the main character for example. Practically all head with a tiny little body, he looks like he may be some sort of riff on Pacman. However, he also has reasonably well-defined facial features. He’s clearly a caricature…but of who?

Meanwhile, things take a turn for the strange the second you’re finally caught by a bad guy. Rather than face a conventional death animation, the suited (male) villains transform into Dominatrix who whip our hero – who’s suddenly wearing a nappy. It’s all a bit bizarre. What on earth is going on here?

 

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I’m not sure about this one…

 

Based on all of this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is just another case of wacky Japanese game design, but it turns out to be a tad bit more complicated than that. You see, “I’m Sorry” is actually a work of satire.

The ‘hero’ of the game is a caricature of disgraced Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who had earlier been convicted of receiving $1.8m dollars in bribes from the Lockheed Corporation (the strange title is actually a pun on the Japanese word for prime minister.) The sunglasses-clad adversary is actually a famous Japanese Comedian called Tamori.

Though you’d think such an esoteric title would never have ventured beyond Japanese shores, there’s clearly a lot of material for US players here too: Anyone who can survive beyond the first couple of screens ends up being chased by Michael Jackson and Carl Lewis, although they clearly don’t fit in with the Tanaka/Japanese theme. It’s all very, very strange.

 

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Michael Jackson and Carl Lewis join the fun as well!

 

If you can get past the strangeness for a second, however,  I think Sorry is a really fascinating game for a couple of reasons. Before Sorry, how many games had been so openly political? Of course you had a number of titles which were obviously influenced by the climate of the times (think of Missile Command or any 2D submarine game,) but how many titles actually named names? You might be a bad enough dude to rescue the president, but which president was it anyway?

The only other similar title I could think of was the widely ported comedy fighter Spitting Image – but even then the political content all stemmed from the original license. Releasing I’m Sorry as a video game was a very clever way of conveying a message which could have been legally problematic in any other format.

 

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There are jump puzzles! The perspective doesn’t help with these, if i’m honest.

 

Building on top of the political message, I also think Sorry! is clever for the way it subverts traditional maze game design. After all, in every other maze game we generally assume that the protagonists in these types of games is the hero and has a clear right to whatever object he’s currently trying to pilfer.

Here, however, Coreland have deliberately used a figure that the target audience would instantly identify as a villain (or, at least, an alleged villain,) so we are affectively aiding Tanaka in his crimes. Not only does this have us question the morality of the ‘heroes’ who feature in similar titles (Why does Pacman have the right to eat all those pellets anyway?) but it’s a switch which pulls all of the comedic and satirical elements into sharper focus. It’s a very clever way of inverting the feel of the game without actually having to change any of the game play elements.

Overall then I don’t think Sorry is going to get on many people’s ‘favourite arcade game’ lists. Though the game tries its best to keep itself fresh by recycling its stages with additional gold  (which can’t all be collected in one trip) and tougher bad guys, from a game play perspective there just isn’t enough here to keep the players interest. Despite this I definitely think its worthy a few minutes of your time though – if just so you can see what even the most basic of arcade titles can be and do.

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