Time Pilot ’84

Time Pilot '84The Game: You’re back in the hotseat as the Time Pilot, but this time an even more fearsome breed of ships from the future is after you. The good news is that you have a new weapon at your disposal – guided missiles – but the bad news is that the enemy has them too. Blast enough enemy planes out of the sky and lure their See the videocommand ship out of hiding; if you can survive long enough to blow the missile-spewing command ship to pieces, you’re off to the next level. (Konami, 1984)

Memories: Bearing the deliciously Engrish-esque subtitle “Further into unknown world,” Time Pilot ’84 is a re-interpretation of the original game, with a few more bells and whistles in both the audiovisual and game play departments. Those accustomed to just constantly blasting away with both barrels in the original Time Pilot have to adjust to the proper use of the missile guidance system (don’t waste a missile until your screen paints a viable target), but other than that, it’s the same game with a new coat of paint. Read More

Tube Panic

Tube PanicThe Game: You pilot a high-speed starfighter through both open space and narrowly-confined tubes bristling with obstacles and enemies, ranging from scarab-like tanks complete with pincers to tumbling, TIE-fighter-esque ships. Your job is See the videosimple: shoot everything, and don’t collide with anything. Periodically, if you survive long enough, you’ll get to dock with your mothership between stages and refuel, and then you plunge back into battle until all of your ships are lost. (Nichibutsu/Fujitek, 1984)

Memories: If you’re docking with a mothership, it’s gotta be Nichibutsu’s game (see also: Moon Cresta). An interesting and eminently playable coin-op from the makers of Crazy Climber, Tube Panic is a bit of a cousin of Tempest. In fact, Tempest designer Dave Theurer has said that originally, the knob in Tempest rotated the geometric playing field and not the player’s cannon. Tube Panic goes back to the “rotating playing field” concept a bit and, yeah, one can see where Atari might have wound up with some play-testers with motion sickness back in the day. But Tube Panic is its own game, and it’s a lot of fun. Read More


VulgusBuy this gameThe Game: Piloting a lone space fighter, you carve a leisurely path through an endless onslaught of alien marauders, none of whom seem to be in any particular hurry to go anywhere either. Despite all this lack of hustle and bustle, however, it must be noted that they’re still shooting at you, and you still need to shoot back, using lasers or a limited supply of missiles. Some aliens will line up in a vertical formation that, if taken out with a missile, means big points, though you should also be saving some of your heavy ammo for larger alien ships that, if lasers were used, would require several shots to kill. (Capcom, 1984)

Memories: Another of Capcom’s long line of vertical-scrolling shooters – a design craze that can be traced back to Namco’s Xevious – Vulgus may seem like it’s terribly leisurely, but it’s actually one of the most grueling hand-eye coordination challenges since Robotron. Read More

Dig Dug II

Dig Dug IIBuy this gameThe Game: Dig Dug is back, and he’s still got a hoarde of Pookas and Fygars to exterminate – or else they’ll ruin his new island garden. Blowing the beasties up with Dig’s trusty pump will still work, but as a last resort, he can also drill into his island’s irrigation pipes and actually sink a part of the land into the sea, taking any enemies with it (and Dig too, if you’re not careful!). (Namco, 1985)

Memories: This sequel to one of the most beloved titles from the brief Namco/Atari licensing alliance is virtually unknown, primarily because Dig Dug II hit the arcades after the great video game industry crash of 1983. Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until MAME came along. Read More

Exed Exes (a.k.a. Savage Bees)

Exed ExesBuy this gameThe Game: Bees are attacking, but they have more than just the sting in their tail, to mix an insect metaphor. These are alien bees with energy weapons and some serious technology to back them up. And guess how many ships are going to fight these buzz-bombers off? You got it – just your ships, one at a time, flying in and blowing up everything in sight. While you’re limited to flying one ship at a time, remember that the bees are attacking in graceful and deadly waves. Occasionally, you’ll encounter “high point areas” where hitting a “pow” marker will transform bees or indestructible skull obstacles on the screen into a fruit that you can collect harmlessly for bonus points. But the bees have a backup plan, too – hive-shaped carriers that appear from time to time, offloading a whole fleet of enemies for you to contend with. (Capcom, 1985)

Memories: I love Exed Exes (released in the U.S. as Attack Of The Savage Bees). But there’s nothing especially original about it, you know? The game play reeks of Xevious, with elements of Mario Bros. (the “pow” power-up) and even Pac-Man (bonus fruit) thrown in for good measure. The enemies appear in waves very much like those of Galaga and Gaplus, even down to their sneaky trick of attacking you from behind at the bottom of the screen. Read More

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of DoomThe Game: As famed archaeologist / adventurer Indiana Jones, you enter a vast complex of caverns through one of three entrances (which one determines how hard the game will be). Your first task is to evade See the videoand/or whip the Thuggee guards into submission as you free caged children. You then make your escape in a runaway mine cart, which you have to keep on the tracks while also whipping anyone in a pursuing cart who gets too close. After getting the children to safety, you embark on far more dangerous adventures, but with greater risks come greater rewards… (Atari Games, 1985)

Memories: Now this is the kind of experience one expects from an Indiana Jones game – kicking butt, grabbing treasure, getting out alive, and avoiding snakes because you hate snakes. It’s by no means a perfect game, but when I need a pixellated Indiana Jones fix, this winds up being my go-to game. Read More


MotosBuy this gameThe Game: This contest places you in a vehicle on a grid suspended in space. Going over the edge of the grid is bad news, and yet that’s exactly where you must ram every other object on the screen. Be careful: Isaac Newton’s laws of motion apply here, and every action begets a reaction, namely your vehicle being bounced as far back as your target has been knocked ahead. And depending on the configuration of the playing field, which eventually evolves to include gaps in the middle of the screen which can only be jumped with the proper combination of “power parts” and “jump parts,” ramming an enemy can put you over the edge too. Later levels introduce more aggressive enemies which will leave you almost strictly on the defensive. (Good tip? Position yourself between two enemies and let the recoil from attacking one help you put another one out of the game as well.) Lingering too long on the playing field will cause whoever’s in charge of this genteel sporting event to hurl projectiles at the field, blasting holes out of the grid which must then be jumped or avoided – and even your own jumps can weaken or destroy other squares on the grid. (Namco, 1985)

Memories: Say what you like about Namco, but they’ve probably introduced more singularly addictive games to the arcades than any other company out there, and those games cover a more diverse palette than today’s never-ending smorgasboard of fighting and sports titles. Read More

Rush’N Attack

Rush'N AttackBuy this gameThe Game: You’re a lone soldier behind enemy lines, but this is no Front Line. Armed with a knife and some serious kickboxing skills, you weave your way through an enemy installation, doing away with soldiers who are trying to block your way. Occasionally, you can pick up a weapon from a downed enemy, including flame-throwers, machine guns and rocket launchers. (Konami, 1985)

Memories: I remember encountering only one Rush’N Attack machine, which was one of the last arcade games I ever became hooked on. There’s actually something addictive, in a bloodthirsty sort of way, about this little war game. Read More


ToggleThe Game: Two players’ vehicles start in opposite corners of a confined grid; when moved, each vehicle leaves a light cycle-style trail of that player’s color (red or gold) in its wake. But here’s the twist: the players won’t be eliminated by running over the opponent’s “wake.” Instead, running over the other player’s wake once will knock that portion of it down; running over the resulting gap refills that space with your color See the videoinstead. The object of the game is to occupy as much of the grid as possible by the end of 45 seconds. (Each game consists of three 45-second rounds, and each successive round adds obstacles such as walls, or gaps through which players’ vehicles can fall, resulting in a delay while that vehicle is replaced.) The winner of the best two out of three rounds wins the game. (1985, Bally [under license from Sente Ltd.] – unreleased)

Memories: After being “put on the beach” by Atari’s new Warner Bros.-controlled management – a term meaning that he was out the door, but still receiving money from a bonus pool that, in Atari’s heyday, was quite substantial – founder Nolan Bushnell was left at a loose end in more ways than one. He began building his new empire, a chain of franchise restaurants called Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, which combined food service, robotic characters whose technology Atari had no interest in pursuing and therefore allowed him to retain, and arcade games. Bushnell was still eager to have something to do with the video game industry, but a non-compete clause literally took him out of that game for seven years. In 1985, that clause expired, and Bushnell was ready to get back in the game. Read More

Bubble Bobble

Bubble BobbleBuy this gameThe Game: You control a friendly-looking lizard named Bub (and, if you have a second player, they control his blue-tinged twin, Bob). Your See the videomission is simple – use your natural defenses to do away with a multi-tiered screen full of monsters. And your natural defense? Of course, like so many members of the reptile family, you blow bubbles which trap your enemies, and then jump up to pop those bubbles (popping the predators in the process). In many cases, a just-popped enemy will deposit a tasty treat which you have to grab for bonus points within seconds before the treat vanishes. Clearing the screen of critters takes you automatically to the next level. (Taito, 1986)

The Game: I’m not going to delve too deeply into how original this game is (or isn’t) – one can see the Mario Bros. influence pretty clearly – but Bubble Bobble is a lot of fun, and it’s the starting point of Taito’s most enduring “cute” franchise. Read More

Halley’s Comet

Halley's CometThe Game: Defend Earth from the comets! Halley’s Comet is on a collision course with Earth, and it’s teeming with evil aliens bent on destroying humanity. They attack the player’s ship in endless waves, even building walls in space that the player can collide with before they realize what’s happening. Power-ups can be revealed by blasting away at meteors, though catching them and accumulating their firepower in the middle of a fierce firefight is a skill unto itself. Smaller comets plunge toward the Earth at lightning speed. Any alien ships or comets that the player doesn’t destroy keep going and attack the planet; if too many are allowed to strike at Earth directly, or if the player runs out of ships, the game ends. (Taito, 1986)

Memories: An interesting take on the slide-and-shoot genre, Halley’s Comet finally addresses what happens when dive-bombing alien invaders zoom past the player’s ship at the bottom of the screen – they keep barreling toward whatever the player was protecting in the first place. This raises the stakes nicely and holds the player accountable for any stragglers who slip past the defenses, something that most shoot-’em-ups since Space Invaders (which ended the moment the invaders landed) didn’t bother to do. Read More


RampageThe Game: Monsters are running amok in cities across America… and you’re one of them! A giant lizard, a giant werewolf and a giant gorilla walk into a bar and tear it down. Monsters can compete to see who will topple tall buildings first, or they can qang up on puny defenseless human scum. It’s pretty easy to knock over buildings, and pretty easy to take a lot of damage from the armed forces who have been called out to stop the creatures. If they accrue too much damage, the monsters de-evolve to their un-mutated original human form, and require quick action (and additional quarters) to stay in the game. (Midway, 1986)

Memories: A devilishly fun masterpiece of pure destruction, Rampage appeals to any current or former kid who’s ever gained an innate understanding that the next best thing rto building something is to knock it over again. Rampage‘s implied violence is cartoonish at worst, with just a wink and a nod toward the classic Toho and Universal Studios monster movies. And that is a great combination. Read More

Super Xevious

The Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and Buy this gamedeadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Nintendo [under license from Namco], 1986)

Memories: Adapted for the Nintendo Vs. arcade cartridge system, which used the same technology as the NES console, Super Xevious underwent a transformation, trading in its extremely vertical view for an extremely crunched horizontal/almost-square screen, typical of games which were ported to the Vs. system. Read More

Joust 2: Survival Of The Fittest

Joust 2Buy this gameThe Game: Mount up that ostrich and ride into battle once more, this time in strange new environments such as “The Altar,” “The Blues,” a deadly mechanical warrior which can be dismantled by lancing strategic points, and crystal caves filled with killer bats. If all this sounds like too much for an armored guy on a lousy See the videoostrich, you’re right, it is – and this is why you can transform into a Pegasus, which is a larger target and harder to keep in the air, but can take out more armored guys on lousy ostriches – and they can’t turn their steeds into flying horses. Beware, buzzard bait! (Williams, 1986)

Memories: I have to admit, I only became aware of the existence of a sequel to Williams’ immortal Joust in the late ’90s…and even now that I’ve gotten to play it, the jury’s still out. Joust needed a sequel about like The Matrix needs a sequel – meaning not at all. Both were fine as stand-alones, and didn’t need to be turned into franchises. Read More

Galaga ’88

Galaga '88The Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Namco, 1987)

Memories: Where the Galaga sequel Gaplus turned some elements of the game play around, Galaga ’88 returns to the original rules and adds a lot of visual flair. Read More


Pac-ManiaThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around relatively simple mazes, gobbling small dots and evading five colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, Buy this gamelarger dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and you can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to chase you anew. If you clear the maze of dots, you advance to a new maze and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atari Games [under license from Namco], 1987)

Memories: I still refer to this game, only half-jokingly, as Paxxon. It resembles nothing so much as classic Pac-Man played from Zaxxon‘s three-quarter overhead view. The only real game play innovation brought about by this vaguely 3-D perspective is Pac’s new ability to jump over monsters, though even this escape method has some bizarre physics: if Pac takes to the air as he’s going around a corner, he will still go around the corner, only airborne. Don’t ask me how that works! Read More

Super Qix

Super QixThe Game: You are a marker, trying to claim as much of the playing field as you can by enclosing areas of it. Drawing your boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves you vulnerable to attack from the Qix Dragon and the Sparx, gives you many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the jumpy Qix Dragon touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are See the videodrawing, you lose a “life” and start again. And the Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of areas of the screen you’ve already enclosed, can destroy you by touching your marker. And if you linger too long, a fuse will begin burning at the beginning of your unfinished boundary, and will eventually catch up with you. (Taito, 1987)

Memories: The beauty of the original Qix was that it was a simple-but-difficult, instinctive puzzle game, and it was gloriously abstract. No motives were assigned to anything or anyone; the helix-like Qix was automatically your antagonist because it would stop you from drawing your stix (in essence, as Daily Variety might say, nixing your stix pix). Simple as that. Read More

Crazy Climber 2

Crazy Climber 2The Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of a skyscraper in a major metropolitan area, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as falling jam boxes can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Nihon Bussan Co., Ltd. [Nichibutsu], 1988)

Memories: This is a bizarre, and largely graphical-only, updating of Nichibutsu’s addictive classic, Crazy Climber. The game play remains much the same as the original, but the graphics are a major evolution of what was there before. Animated flags flap in the wind, highlights and shading give Crazy Climber himself a 3-D look, and detailed billboards and neon signs glow. Read More