The Game: In the timeless tradition, you suit up in armor, grab a lance, and mount your trusty ostrich. Then you try to impale others who have done the same, and eliminate the remaining “eggs” which will hatch a new warrior if left long enough. Other threats include the almost invincible pterodactyl and the Lava Troll (whose firey hands assist enemy knights while trying to drag yours into the molten rock). In later levels, there are fewer solid surfaces on which to take refuge. When one of your knights is toppled, another appears, given momentary immunity from harm until he is moved. On second thought, maybe it isn’t all that traditional… (Williams Electronics, 1982)
Memories: One of the best-remembered games, Joust enjoys a cult following to this day, something which can probably be attributed to the game’s bizarre juxtaposition of perfectly-normal elements (knights in armor trying to kill one another) with the bizarre (lava trolls, flying ostriches as steeds, pterodactyls, knights hatching from eggs). It was a perfect enough mix that Joust has stuck in people’s minds to this day. It was also the only game whose action button served the purpose of flapping the wings of an ostrich.
Joust has been reborn in any number of forms, ranging from a rather good Atari 2600 translation to modern-day resurrection via various Midway and Williams arcade compilations. Actually, one of the most surprisingly enjoyable ports of the game exists on, of all things, the Nintendo Game Boy Color. For all of that platform’s inherent limitations, it delivers an almost arcade-perfect translation.
An extremely limited run of a sequel game, Joust 2, could be found in 1986, but since this followed the great shakedown of the video game industry, few gamers took notice. Also, in a video interview included on Arcade’s Greatest Hits, one of Joust‘s original designers revealed some of his plans for a Joust movie. Someone must’ve been listening to him, because there’s such a project on the drawing board now.
By the way…ever fed an ostrich? They’re very large and very heavy birds. And some of them get pretty mean. Having shared my personal space with a gaggle of ostriches that each weighed into hundreds of pounds, I think there just might be something to this suit of armor approach, to say nothing of the lance. It’s interesting to note that while knights, both good and evil, drop like flies in any given round of Joust, the ostriches never seem to come to any harm – unless it’s your ostrich, getting dragged into the molten magma by your friendly neighborhood Lava Troll.