Circus Atari

Circus AtariThe Game: You control a clown on a moving see-saw, launching your fellow clown into the air to pop balloons and defy gravity. But what goes up must come down, and your airborne clown, if he doesn’t bounce upward upon impact with Buy this gamemore balloons, will plummet at alarming speed. You have to catch him with the empty end of the see-saw, thus catapulting the other clown into a fresh round of inflatible destruction. (Atari, 1980)

Memories: It seems like almost every system has seen a version of this game in some form or other, but you may be surprised to learn that Atari wasn’t the first by a long shot. Circus Atari steals its game play and even its setting, lock, stock and barrel, from the obscure black & white Exidy arcade game Circus (1977).

Circus AtariWhat’s funny is that just five years later, Atari was suing competitors left and right for supposedly encroaching on its home video game license for Pac-Man, but by that same token, Exidy could’ve done serious damage by inventing the “look and feel” lawsuit just half a decade ahead of Atari.

But at this time, imitation was the surest path to profit, if not the sincerest form of flattery, and it put Atari in the curious position of copying others’ games – acceptable perhaps in the consumer division, but a huge no-no in the company’s coin-op division.

3 quartersThe end result is Circus Atari – a perennially fun, if somewhat flawed, game. The graphics can be terribly flickery at time, but all the same, it looks better than some of its contemporaries. And apparently, an enduring enough collective memory to merit inclusion on Jakks Pacific’s 10-in-1 Atari 2600 standalone game.