Oil’s Well that ends well in this Sierra classic

Throughout gaming history, the art of “cloning” has been pretty rife. Someone comes out with an interesting game idea, then other people come along and either do the exact same thing — or just tweak the formula slightly. Such is the case with Oil’s Well, a clone of Stern’s arcade game Anteater — and a pretty shameless one at that.

Of course, sometimes circumstances dictate that at least one of the clones ends up more popular than the original source material, and this is also the case with Oil’s Well, which was ported to a wide variety of platforms and was, by all accounts, a pretty great success for its developer Thomas J. Mitchell and publisher Sierra. Yes, that Sierra.

Still, a good game is a good game, so let’s go play it — specifically, the Atari 8-bit version from 1983.

In Oil’s Well, you control a drilling implement that bears an uncanny resemblance to Pac-Man in bondage. You’ll need to gobble your way down a series of tunnels to acquire all the pellets of oil — does oil come in pellets? — while attempting to fend off the unwanted attentions of the various subterranean nasties released by your rival oil baron.

Thankfully, you’re far from defenceless; your drilling equipment is more than capable of noshing off enemies just as easily as it can choke down gallons of oil — so chomp away to your heart’s content. All you need to do is make sure that all-important pipeline stays safe… which can be easier said than done!

Oil’s Well was a popular game from Sierra, and versions can be found on a variety of classic platforms. We’ve seen the Atari 8-bit version here, but you can also play it on Apple II, Commodore 64, ColecoVision, IBM compatible PC (as a booter disk), MSX and Sharp X1. There was also an MS-DOS remake in 1990 with considerably enhanced graphics — though original creator Thomas Mitchell wasn’t involved with this.

Oil's Well for Atari 8-bit
Atari 8-bit version

Have you played Oil’s Well? Can you do better than me?

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