The Game: In the year 2084, all hell has broken loose on Earth. Robotic servants, created to perform dangerous tasks and defend their human creators, have decided they can do without their masters. The robots have evolved into new and terrifying varieties – the ever-multiplying Ground Roving UNit Terminators (GRUNTs), indestructible Hulks, self-replicating Quarks and Tanks, and most horrfying of all, the Brain robots, which capture humans and reprogram them into super-fast killing machines. And the only thing protecting the last remaining survivors of homo sapiens is your strength, endurance and cunning (and the multi-directional weaponry helps too). (Williams Electronics, 1982)
Memories: Hands-down one of the most challenging and addictive games of all time, Robotron: 2084 was a brilliant masterpiece of design and engineering. The sounds were unearthly, the graphics, though simple, were easy to interpret, and the two-joystick control scheme (one for moving your character, the other for firing your lasers in any direction) is what the phrase “sweaty palms” was invented for. Sheer genius!
Robotron: 2084 was initially touted as the third game in a trilogy that began with Defender and continued with Defender‘s sequel Stargate, but the game play and basic premise of Robotron: 2084 are so vastly different from either of those games that the connection is virtually impossible to imagine. Surely the Williams marketing team realized that this game would be a huge hit? But perhaps they didn’t, and decided to hedge their bets by forging a tenuous association with Defender. (In any event, a later game, the first-person cockpit shooter Blaster, was tied back into Robotron as a sequel.)
With its two-joystick control scheme, and the fact that most home video game systems required players to hold the base of the joystick and not just the stick itself, Robotron: 2084 was fiendishly difficult to replicate for home game systems. That said, Atarisoft snatched up the home computer rights, and I still own the wonderfully faithful Apple II floppy disk version of Robotron. Atari later released a Robotron cartridge for the Atari 7800, its final home video game platform, and many who own that game gives the 7800 Robotron port rave reviews.