A) Joystick: This controls Popeye's movement. Pushing left or right makes Popeye run, while pushing up or down makes Popeye climb or descend ladders or stairs.
B) Punch: Pushing this button makes Popeye punch in the direction he is facing. Popeye can punch the glass bottles or bouncing skulls that are thrown at him by Brutus and the Seahag, but careful timing is necessary.
C) 1 or 2 Players: Push these buttons to begin a one or two player game.
You play as Popeye on your mission to prove your love to Olive Oyl, and stay alive by avoiding Brutus's wrath. Popeye is controlled with the direction pad. Pressing left or right will cause Popeye to run in that direction. If Popeye reaches the end of a ledge, he will automatically jump down to the next available level. Pushing up or down will cause Popeye to climb up or down any ladder or steps that he is in front up. Pushing the punch button will make Popeye throw a punch. Punches are only useful against bottles and skulls, so do not attempt to punch Brutus, unless you've recently eaten spinach (which you must punch to grab.)
The object of Popeye's affection, and the wishful girlfriend of Brutus. Olive Oyl stands at the top of every stages throwing items that Popeye must catch in order to advance to the next stage. In the first stage, she throws hearts, in the second, notes pour out of her harp, and in the third, the letter H, E, L, and P escape her lips. The objects must be capture before they fall in to the water below. If they reach the water, Popeye has only precious seconds to fish them out by walking over them, or Popeye loses a life.
Brutus will do everything in his power to stop Popeye from succeeding. He will try to catch him, and whenever Popeye is on a level adjacent to him, he will jump up and punch Popeye from underneath, or reach down and try to grab Popeye from above. On occasion, he will even stop and throw bottles at Popeye which Popeye must either punch or avoid. Brutus can only be punished for his misdeeds when Popeye eats some spinach, at which time Brutus will run from Popeye in fear for 10 seconds.
The Sea Hag will start by appearing on one side of the screen and throwing a bottle from time to time. As time progresses, she will begin to appear on both sides of the screen simultaneously, each one throwing a bottle at you. In higher levels, she will throw bouncing skulls at you which can also drop from level to another, attempting to hit you from above. The Sea Hag herself poses no direct threat, but you must be mindful of all the projectiles she throws on to the screen.
Bernard represents a mild but ever present threat in the third stage. He constantly swoops down from the upper left corner of the screen and crosses along various levels of the ship, flying out through the upper right corner. He is somewhat slow and can be punched in the face to temporarily rid Popeye of the problem, but he will soon return again.