The Game: Watch for falling rocks – because it’s your job to catch them. You control a series of containers arranged in a vertical row, and your task is to catch all of the rocks, without fail, not letting a single one of them hit the ground. The more rocks you catch, the more containers you’ll fill, and you’ll be left with fewer, and smaller, containers. If you let a rock through your defenses too many times, the game’s over. And you’ll probably be hit in the head with a lot of rocks. Neither outcome is really a good thing. (Atari, 1978)
Memories: Avalanche is a relic of the early days of videogaming, where no idea was left untried. It’s a fiendishly simple and surprisingly tense little number for what appears to be such a simple game.
One of the first things you’ll probably notice is that the game seems awfully familiar. Activision pinched the concept, turned the rocks into bombs, turned the featureless rectangular receptacles into buckets, added a mad bomber, and came up with the much more readily identifiable Kaboom! – and this being the era before so-called “look and feel” lawsuits were an everyday thing. (What’s doubly surprising is that Atari sued Activision relentlessly when the start-up company began producing third-party games for the VCS, alleging theft of trade secrets. You’d think that two remarkably similar game concepts would’ve been a key part of that case.)
Like more than a few early games, the audiovisual simplicity of Avalance is part of its charm. The audio in particular is surprisingly effective; despite it simply being a matter of generating white noise on an increasing volume curve throughout each turn, the steadily rising background noise certainly doesn’t ease any of the tension the player experiences as the game progresses. It’s a nice touch. And it drives me nuts.
It may not be as pretty as Kaboom!, but Avalanche stands the test of time quite well.