The Game: You control a dot making its way through a twisty maze with two exits – one right behind you and one across the screen from you. The computer also controls a dot which immediately begins working its way toward the exit behind you. The game is simple: you have to guide your dot through the maze to the opposite exit before the computer does the same. If the computer wins twice, the game is over. (Midway, 1976)
Memories: Not, strictly speaking, the first maze game, Midway’s early B&W arcade entry The Amazing Maze Game bears a strong resemblence to that first game, which was Atari’s Gotcha. Gotcha was almost identical, except that its joystick controllers were topped by pink rubber domes, leading to Gotcha being nicknamed “the boob game.” Amazing Maze was just a little bit more austere by comparison.
While it’s not exactly thrilling, The Amazing Maze Game is at least entertaining, and it’s an interesting look back in time; now that Pong and Tank! and Gun Fight had been accomplished, what else could be done with the medium of the video game? Amazing Maze was clearly an attempt to retrofit a classic paper-and-pencil maze game and bring it into the electronic medium, but without the kind of processor power needed to turn the squares and lines into something a little more distinctive, it didn’t really represent much of a step up from the pencil and paper maze. (As an executive in Atari’s Europe office commented years later, in the throes of the industry crash, why bother to make a Rubik’s Cube game to sell for upward of $30 when the actual $5 toy is far more interesting?)
But this was far from the last maze game that would appear in the arcades – in fact, just a few years later, Midway would import a Japanese maze game to America that would change the whole industry. In the meantime, The Amazing Maze Game was a tantalizing taster of things to come.