Nibbler was an old arcade game released by Rock-Ola way back in 1983.

The story

Rock-Ola was a jukebox manufacturer, they had been for years, but they entered the arcade game market in 1981 and licensed a series of subpar games from SNK, they didn't manage to come up with a single decent game until the crash of 1983 was already underway, at which point the released Nibbler.

Nibbler is very simply the sweetest thing ever put onto ROM chips. If Nibbler was a panda bear, then Nibbler would be a 900 foot tall panda bear that ate SUVs and shat out brand new iPods. Nibbler is simply the Cadillac of obscure games, try it, you will love it.

SNK had been putting out pure garbage since 1979, but with this title they finally struck gold, and Rock-Ola was smart enough to license it.

The game

This game is cool, and by cool I mean "totally sweet". The concept is really simple, you eat dots in a maze. It sounds easy, Pac-Man ate dots, Ms. Pac-Man ate dots, as did the characters in about 100 assorted rip off versions of those games. Nibbler doesn't even have any enemies to get in the way, you just eat dots in a maze.

There is of course one major difference, Nibbler is a snake, and his tail gets longer with each dot he eats. If he encounters his own tail he dies. You can't even stop moving forward unless you stop at the back wall of a "T" intersection, at which point the timer starts moving very quickly.

The snake will get seriously long by the end of a screen, and clearing most screens requires real thought. It is very possible to take a wrong turn and box yourself in even when it appears that you have plenty of manuevering room.

Now to add insult to injury you will find that the snake moves faster with each passing level, and the 8th level introduces some new background music designed to invoke a sense of falling, or a lack of control. Needless to say, I can't get much past the 8th level.

It is hard to describe in words just how addictive and challenging this game can get. I have actually sat there and played it 30 and 40 times in a row, and not many classic games can hold my attention nearly that long.

The Machine

This particular title was released in the fairly attractive, and fairly generic Rock-Ola cabinet.

The marquee for this title shows an orange "Nibbler" logo and a picture of the Nibbler himself.

The control panel features nothing but a 4-way joystick.

The monitor bezel, sideart and control panel overlay just had some generic green graphics, the same ones used for nearly all the Rock-Ola titles.

The PCB and wiring were exactly the same as Fantasy.

Where to play

You will probably have to play this title with the MAME emulator, as original machines are rather hard to find. You are going to want to play this with the keyboard, unless you have access to an actual 4-way joystick, as it is nearly impossible with a standard 8-way or analog joystick.

If you want to add this game to your arcade game collection then your best bet is to put a kit together to convert another game, rather than trying to find an actual machine (as you won't have much luck finding one). Remember that you can cheaply convert the terribly cruddy Fantasy boardset if you are unable to find a Nibbler PCB.

Luckily the game just came in the generic Rock-Ola cabinet, so it is fairly easy to convert over their worse titles to this one (and pretty much all their other titles qualify as worst).

Nib"bler (?), n.

One who, or that which, nibbles.


© Webster 1913.

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