The Game: What if you were out to perform daring, air-show-style aerial acrobatics, and someone was shooting at you at the same time? Wouldn’t that be dandy? Lucky you, that’s what you’re doing in this game. With a mandate to DESTROY TERMINAL, you set out to obliterate an airport terminal protected by armed hot air balloons. The closer you get to carrying out that mission, the more fiercely they defend their turf. When you do level the terminal to the ground, a door opens up, allowing you to fly your plane into a massive maze of pipes, and if you can navigate that labyrinth, you reach “the end” – where you must fend off more adversaries to touch down safely and start again. (Coleco, 1983 – unreleased / recovered and released by CGE Services, 2003)
Memories: A positively obscure game in the arcades, Venture Line’s Looping really didn’t get any kind of a cult following until it was ported to the ColecoVision – and that translation was the best thing that ever happened to the game, gaining it a bit of popularity and an exclusive home. But Coleco always planned to spread the Looping joy to other consoles, until the crash of the video game industry threw those plans on the fire. Worse yet, programmer Ed English had already finished the game, promotional material had already been circulated – and those who remembered these announcements would have to wait 20 years to find out what Looping was like on the Atari 2600.
The finished game wound up in the hands of the organizers of the annual Classic Gaming Expo, and 250 copies – complete with nice, shiny new custom boxes and new cartridge casings and labels – were on sale at that event in August 2003.
Worth the wait? Yes. And yet it’s not for the faint of heart or the weak of hand – Looping is some hardcore business, a very tough game indeed with no discernable difficulty levels that can be selected to make things easier. It starts out hard. It gets harder. You’re going to lose a few games just getting the hang of the controls.
The graphics are above average for the 2600, definitely late-era stuff when programmers were figuring out how to milk more out of the machine’s limited graphics capability. The sound seems low-key until you hit the pipe screens, where you’re serenaded by a surprisingly good musical interlude while you fly your plane straight into the pipes repeatedly. I was so impressed the first time I heard it that this is precisely what I did.
Copies of Looping were sold at CGE 2003, complete with authentic Coleco-style box and an authentically designed and printed Coleco-style manual written by Leonard Herman.