Anteater was an old arcade game released by Tago way back in 1982.


The story

Tago was one of the first companies to start selling conversion kits for arcade games. You see a conversion kit is what you use to turn one game into another. Video game cabinets are expensive, and the monitors, power supplies, and such were usually high enough quality to last for many many years, but unfortunately most games themselves lose popularity rather quickly.

Tago produced four different game kits, Zoar, Anteater, Calipso, and Video Hustler. Anteater and Calipso appear to have been first party games, while Video Hustler was licensed from Konami and Zoar came from Nihon Bussan. These games came out back in the days when most games had differing wiring schemes. So many times conversion kits would be aimed at a certain wiring scheme as a selling point. Tago's games were amost all aimed at going into a Scramble cabinet. So many different games later used this wiring that it was retroactively given the title of the Konami Standard.

Tago's game's proved to be largely forgettable, they had no hits, but there was an Atari 2600 version of Anteater that appears to have been completed, but was never actually released.


The game

Anteater is a complex variation on the basic themes of both Pac-Man and Nibbler. You control an Anteater who sticks his tongue down into a complex maze on an anthill trying to eat ants and bugs; Not to mention the everpresent dots that seemed to populate every video game maze back in 1982.

You use a 4-way joystick to take direct control over the tip of the anteater's tongue, and the rest of it follows behind you. You try to eat various items on the screen without getting injured yourself. The game is a lot more complex than other munching games because you have to account for your tongue, which leads all the way through the maze back to the snout of the anteater himself. You have to back track all the time to keep from getting stuck, or to keep from being bitten by ants, and spiders.

The game has four different bugs that the anteater can eat to score points; each one of them having different point values. Ant larvaes (dots) are worth 10 points, ants are worth 100 points, worms are worth 200 points and a Queen Ant is worth 1,000 points.

You cannot touch the worm's head, but you can munch it from behind. The worm is only dangerous if his head touches the tip of your tongue, his body can pass right through the rest of your tongue without harm. The spider comes out at night and travels down the tongue until it reaches the tip. It can only be removed by eating a Queen Ant which clears all the bugs from the screen. The days get shorter as the game progresses, consequently the spider comes out earlier. I have a lot of trouble with the spider, it usually ends up killing me.


The Machine

This game was only available as a conversion kit. But it was a full kit, which means it came with a new PCB, wiring harness, marquee, control panel, and sideart. Tago was rather unique amongst kit manufacturers in that they would do the most difficult part of the conversion for you. If you sent Tago the control panel off your old cabinet (along with your order), they would send it back, recovered, recontrolled, and rewired for the new game. Few operators took advantage of that service, but it was interesting that they offered it.


Where to play

This game is perfectly supported by the MAME emulator. A 4-way joystick does make for a more enjoyable playing experience, but it is not strictly needed. There was also an Atari 2600 version, but that one never actually made it out of Mattel's development labs.

If you are thinking about adding this to your arcade game collection, then you would be best served by looking for a PCB for the title to be played in another cabinet. As an actual Anteater machine would be almost impossible to find today. Most early conversion games were reconverted again a few years later, and thus almost none of them survived. Oddly enough many much older games that were more popular survived intact, because they missed the conversion axe long enough to get warehoused after the crash of 1983. But games like Anteater were first choices for conversions.

An anteater is, naturally, an animal which eats ants. It is not to be confused with the much more dangerous aunteater, though the latter large and scaly creature is only a danger to certain women -- those who have a sibling with at least one child, or are married to somebody situated with a similar relation. The anteater, by contrast, is a mammal best known by its lengthy proboscis and its all-insect diet. Some of those insects may be aunts as well -- ant society after all typically revolves around a single egg-laying queen, who may have sisters who were sent off to form their own colonies -- but since only one in ten-thousand ants is likely to be a female, the anteater could not possibly survive on aunt ants alone.

You might think that the most famous ever anteater was the blue fellow featured in certain Pink Panther cartoons; but in fact that fellow was an aardvark. Completely unrelated. This is a prime example of convergent evolution. The aardvark, it might be noted, is so named because in Dutch-descended Afrikaans, 'aard' means Earth and 'vark' means pig; the anteater is much more sensibly named using plain English words. Other insectivores such as the pangolin and echidna seem to be named by pulling syllables out of a hat. But the anteater is more closely related to the equally-Englishly named sloth -- and probably wonders why this cousin is so listless and unmotivated, what with all those tasty anthills abounding.

While some eaters of ants who are not anteaters are indeed scaly, the true anteater is not so, for it is furry. It wears a thick fur coat even in the hottest summers. One especially fashionable species is even called the silky anteater. Another species, the giant anteater, is disappointingly only about six feet long; although this is about twice as long as average anteaters of other species, sadly it does not tower over the trees, nor does it devour giant ants.

Some people keep anteaters as pets, which is a wonderful idea if you have an ant infestation and don't mind the fact that they can't really be house trained and make the most potent smelling pee ever. But if you do have an anteater as a pet, you can dress it in a shirt or in a jacket, take it for a lovely walk, and later relax with a nice glass of wine.

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