Elevator Action Review

Elevator Action NES box art

Shooting enemies and riding elevators – good for a few laughs!


Agent 17 – codename Otto – is a secret agent. His is on a mission to steal a bunch of secret documents, hidden away in enemy territory. Not everything goes by the plan though. Enemy agents are constantly on his tail, and they won’t let sight of those documents. Thus, Otto is forced to improvise…

The Game

Elevator Action is an intense action game in which you play as a mysterious agent looking for secret documents kept in various high rise buildings. Each stage takes place in a skyscraper, and the documents you are looking for can be found in doors marked with a differing color. Of course the enemy agents trying to stop will try to kill you on sight. The odds are against you, but you have a trusty handgun to protect yourself.

Elevator Action was originally released in the arcades back in 1983. This 8-bit home console conversion mimics the arcade original quite well both visually and in gameplay.

The game is played from a vertically scrolling perspective, much as if you had skyscraper doll-house, which gives you a view of what’s going on in the floors directly above and below you.

The game has a central focus around elevators because that is your main means of travel across the multiple floors of each stage. You start at the very top, and once you reach the bottom of the skyscraper and have secured all documents you’ll travel to the next building. The goal of the game is simply to lay hands on the documents and get away with it.elevatoraction1


The controls are somewhat special. At first the game comes off as being incredibly clunky because of how Otto moves. You must position him precisely when opening doors and walking down stairs. But once you figure it out it’s fully playable. A big part of the game is about controlling the elevator that you are currently using. You can freely direct an elevator between floors, so you can use this to your advantage – you can avoid getting sent directly into danger. You can also jump across elevator shafts but this requires some precision and is obviously pretty risky. Further more, you can ride an elevator by standing on the roof of it. This won’t let you control the elevator though, so it is best used with caution.


The game can be played with two players taking turns (requires two controllers), but other than this there are no alternative game modes.

In your quest for the secret documents you’ll face not only enemy agents but also other hazards such as the risk of falling down an elevator shaft, or being crushed by an elevator. The hostile agents won’t hesitate to use guns against you, so you must dodge bullets all the time. Enemies will appear randomly throughout the entire skyscraper coming out of unmarked doors that are everywhere. With that said, you’ll never know where an enemy may appear, so you must be prepared for the worst at all times. What’s worse, you die from one single hit – however you will not die from simply touching an enemy. You’re only given three lives to beat the entire game – or set your best score, rather.

You can see how many floors you have left to explore at any time by the numbering of the floors, and if you fail to collect all the documents in the house, you aren’t allowed to proceed to the next stage but are instead forced to backtrack.

Simply being prepared for the enemy is sometimes not enough. Having the proactive habit of shooting down every hallway, regardless of whether there actually is someone or not, is perhaps the best practice as it will potentially give you an upper hand in case of an enemy ambush.

The enemy agents will also travel using elevators, and certain parts of the skyscraper has multiple elevators going up and down. It forces you to think ahead and make estimates on where enemies and elevators will be positioned in the coming next few moments. It’s very challenging to keep track of everything and staying on the edge is absolutely necessary at all times.

To some extent you can hinder enemy movement by occupying an elevator that they are wanting to use, and this can give you a much needed advantage. Make no mistake, the enemy agents can surround you in the blink of an eye.

Elevator Action will randomly generate the locations of the secret documents for you each time you play. Every stage in the game is randomized, and you can tell them apart from what color it has. Each stage is differentiated by its color scheme, and the further you go the quicker reactions you’ll need as the game speeds up somewhat from stage to stage.

The game quickly becomes incredibly hard and there is no way to adjust difficulty level. Each bullet fired at you is, of course, a potential threat and it only gets worse the further you go. Sometimes, enemies will ready their guns and fire before they even have you in sight, but the bullet may still hit you if you’re traveling in an elevator/escalator and get into the line of fire. If you’re lucky, incoming bullets can be avoided by jumping but it there are more than enough situations where there’s no chance of survival.

Other features of the game are that you can shoot lamps to render the entire building dark for a period of time. This is useful for scoring extra points when killing agents. Also, as doors open and close they will block your gunfire, which saves many bad guys’ lives.

When you enter a red door to collect secret documents you can stay hidden and protected from gunfire in that room. This is an important strategy, especially later in the game. With all this considered, the game has some depth to it, and creates for some unpredictable and fun play experiences. But the joy is relatively short lived simply because the difficulty level is mad and the limited scope of the game becomes obvious after a while.


The visuals are pretty good when compared to the original arcade game. Also considering the release date the graphics hold up well. The animation is a bit jerky here and there, but it’s not enough to really be distracting. The scrolling is also handled adequately, so the game displays its graphics without any major issues. Sure, there is some sprite flickering going on when the going gets tough, but even then it’s not enough to get in your way.


The background music consists of a short loop, so it quickly becomes tiring and repetitive. The sound effects are simple but effective. When you step into an elevator you’ll hear it buzz, which is a useful hint on that you are in control of that elevator. On the whole, the sound and music is pretty nondescript.


Elevator Action is a classic game that has been released on many platforms. It has a unique design, and its simple idea is approachable and easy to enjoy. The novelty of the game wears of quickly though, so you may find that this is a game best enjoyed in short bursts.

If you’re looking to master Elevator Action you’d need quick reflexes and the ability to oversee multiple events occurring at the same time. This is one hard game and most players will probably never make it through the first few stages. But either way, it’s good fun for a while.

Developed By: Taito
Published By: Taito
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Entertainment System
Genre: Run ‘n Gun
Players: 1
Also Available On: Arcade, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, CPC, MSX, Game Boy
Released: 1985

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