51 Shades of Geek

Popeye

PopeyeThe Game: Well, blow me down! Popeye the sailor man gets his own video game. On level one, you’re trying to catch Olive Oyl’s falling hearts before they descend to sea level and are lost, while ducking Bluto’s punches at the same time. A can of spinach appears every so often, giving you the opportunity to read the big bully the riot act (comic strip-style, of course). On level two, the falling hearts are replaced by falling musical notes, and you’ll need Wimpy’s hefty help to keep Swee’Pea from drifting away on a balloon. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Possibly the most faithful home version of Nintendo’s game about a certain sailor man there is, Popeye for the ColecoVision does this game proud. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a three-dimensional pyramid of cubes, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a slightly different plane (i.e., they move down the pyramid as if it were rotated one-third). Changing the colors of the top of every cube in the pyramid to the target color indicated at the top left of the screen will clear the pyramid and start the craziness all over again. If Q*Bert is hit by an enemy or falls off the pyramid, he hits bottom with a resounding, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: With a huge advantage over the other consoles of its generation, the Colecovision should’ve been able to play the best game of Q*Bert in town. And the graphics are probably the best console rendition that the game got prior to the NES era. Where this Q*Bert makes one want to jump off the pyramid is in the controller. Continue reading

Rocky Super Action Boxing

Rocky Super Action BoxingThe Game: Spin up “Eye Of The Tiger” on your turntable, power up your Colecovision, and get ready to go ten rounds with Clubber Lang. If you think you’re tough enough to take on a digital Mr. T, take a swing at helping Rocky See the videoBalboa reign victorious once more. Just be ready to taste the mat along the way too. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Alas, my feelings on video boxing are a lot like my feelings on video pinball: once you take either activity into the virtual realm and remove the inherent physicality of it, sure, you might be able to nail the look and sounds of boxing or pinball, or just about any other sport, but in so doing you’ve lost so much of the essence that it’s almost a meaningless exercise. Continue reading

Spectron

SpectronThe Game: Aliens are closing in on your planetary base, and apparently you’re the only one on call to fend them off. Shields protect your ground-hugging mobile cannon, but they tend to be eroded away quickly by both incoming enemy fire and your own shots from the ground. If See the videoenemy ships infiltrate your protective bunker, you can find yourself in a very close-quarters firefight. When you eliminate a wave of alien ships, the next wave moves in to attack. (Spectravideo, 1983)

Memories: “Oh no!” you might be saying, “Not another Space Invaders clone!” But the thing is, as obvious a genre of game as that might have been on nearly every other console in existence, Spectron is one of the very few such games that was released for the Colecovision during the console’s heyday. Continue reading

Threshold

ThresholdThe Game: Players control a space fighter on patrol as alien attack fleets gather in deep space. Always keeping a wary eye on his ship’s fuel and laser temperature, would-be space heroes must blow away every alien ship on the screen before collecting the reward – See the videonamely, the privelege of blowing away another wave of alien attackers. (Sierra On-Liine, 1983)

Memories: Another of Sierra’s early forays into non-computer game software via its “Sierravision” imprint, Threshold admittedly fills a gap in the Colecovision library – that system somehow managed to avoid accumulating heaps of slide-and-shoot Space Invaders derivatives. But it doesn’t do it particularly well, as Threshold is simply a watered-down Colecovision edition of Astro Blaster. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was a time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through See the original TV addozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: As well-intentioned as Coleco’s translation of the Centuri-licensed Konami classic was, and even as powerful as the ColecoVision is, it wasn’t quite up to the challenge of Time Pilot. Continue reading

Tutankham

TutankhamThe Game: As an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer, you’re exploring King Tut’s catacombs, which are populated by a variety of killer bugs, birds, and other nasties. You’re capable of firing left and right, but not vertically – so any oncoming See the videothreats from above or below must be outrun or avoided. Warp portals will instantly whisk you away to other parts of the maze (though this doesn’t necessarily mean safer). Gathering all of the treasures and keys will allow you to open the vault at the end of each level…which leads to the next, and even more difficult level. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: If there was a better home version of this arcade sleeper hit to emerge during the 1980s, I haven’t seen it yet. Parker Brothers’ Colecovision edition of Tutankham does everything a good console port of a coin-op should do – it brings the game play, as well as the audiovisual elements, home – and this version does it in spades. It looks like it, it sounds like it, and it plays like it. Continue reading

Pac-Man

Pac-ManThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots (10 points) and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots (50 points) enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period for an escalating score (200, 400, 800 and 1600 points). 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 cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atarisoft, circa 1983 [never released])

Memories: There are only so many ways you can really slice Pac-Man, but this unreleased ColecoVision edition – unearthed just in time for the 2001 Classic Gaming Expo – is one of the better ones. Continue reading

Power Lords: Quest For Volcan

Power Lords: Quest For VolcanThe Game: As superhero Adam Power, you’re the pilot of a space sled on patrol around the explosive Volcan Rock, and what better cover for the bad guys? An enormous laser-eyed space serpent is coiled around the mountain, and you have to take it down single-handedly. Once See the videoyou’ve baked the snake, you land your sled on the surface and have a shootout with Gryptogg, Raygoth and Arkus. Once you’ve beaten them back, you can explore the underground caverns, collecting their instruments of evil and exchanging fire with them again. When you escape from their maze, you advance to the next level and begin the fight anew. (North American Philips / Probe 2000, 1983 – unreleased)

Memories: This Colecovision adaptation of the Odyssey2 game (now there’s a phrase you’re never going to see again), based on a less-than-blockbuster-successful series of comics and action figures, adds more depth to the game than the dear old Odyssey ever could’ve managed. But it’s hard to tell how much depth, as the game was never completed. Continue reading

Beamrider

BeamriderThe Game: Alien ships are sliding toward you on a gridwork of energy; as the pilot of the Beamrider, your job is to destroy them before they get too close to home (i.e. the bottom of the screen). They can fire back, though, and while in some cases you can return fire and intercept their shots, it depends on what kind of weaponry they’re using. When you run out of Beamriders, the aliens take over. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: The Colecovision port of Activision‘s answer to Tempest, Beamrider is – perhaps not surprisingly – a lot smoother than it is on the Atari 2600. But somehow it manages to take its sweet time getting faster. Continue reading

Bump ‘n’ Jump

Bump 'n' JumpThe Game: The race is on, and no moves are off-limits – bump your competitors off the road (and into apparently highly volatile vegetation that causes them to explode), or jump over them and any other obstacles that get in your way, including See the videoareas of water that cover the road. If you survive the race, you live on to the next round – at least until you run out of cars. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: Another Sega arcade sleeper-hit snagged for the Colecovision under an overall contract between the two game companies, Bump ‘N’ Jump is fun on four wheels, and this console version drives it home perfectly. Continue reading

Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet Of ZoomThe Game: Zoom being the operative word here, your mission – as space hero Buck Rogers – is to fly in close quarters with all kinds of enemy ships, landers and structures, fending off their attacks, and generally staying alive as long as See the videopossible. Obligatory robot wisecracks and utterances of “beedy-beedy-beedy” not included. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Far and away the most faithful home console version of Sega’s arcade sleeper hit, Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom is a blast on the ColecoVision. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: Bongo the Ape sets your toes on fire while you’re asleep during a jungle expedition. So naturally, you drop everything to take revenge on the goofy gorilla. But first you have to reach him. The first level is a hazardous See the videoassortment of ramps and levels and a waterfall to jump across. Be careful of pesky little monkeys who can weigh you down so you move slower (and jump lower), and watch out for snakes. Then you have to hop across various islands and dodge more snakes as you try to get across a river. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Congo Bongo was one of those games that really tested the mettle of the next-generation consoles of the day. Sega’s own translation of the game for the Atari 2600 was a barely-playable mess, though the version released for the Atari 5200 was a marked improvement. But as with Zaxxon, its cousin from a visual-concept point of view, Congo Bongo didn’t really arrive at home until ported to the ColecoVision. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: You’re another treasure-hunting glory seeker who’s about to meet more than his match. If you can survive crossing the drawbridge into the castle – a task made incredibly difficult by the glowing fireballs of dragon breath being hurled toward you – you’ve got an even more hazardous obstacle ahead: the dragon himself is guarding a huge stash of treasure. Even if he can’t stop you from pocketing every shiny thing in the castle, chances are you won’t make it out alive. (Imagic, 1984)

Memories: A nicely dolled-up version of a game that was already a lot of fun on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, Dragonfire is one of Imagic‘s few Colecovision entries. The game is still fun, but now it looks simply incredible too. Continue reading

Frenzy

FrenzyThe Game: You’re back in the maze, but this time, the stakes are increased, the danger is increased, and your strategic options are only slightly increased. Touching the walls, the robots, the robots’ laser blasts, or even your own ricocheted lasers are deadly. And of course, the inevitable appearance by Evil Otto is also deadly. However, you can temporarily repel the smiley little bugger by blasting him until his grin turns into the frown – but he will reappear mere seconds later, moving much faster every time he must retreat and reappear – so you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you enter a generator room, you can halt all the robots in their tracks by penetrating the walls surrounding the generator and blasting it. “Beaded” walls can be eaten away, bit by bit, by laser fire from anyone who shoots it, while solid walls will ricochet lasers around until they hit something – which could mean a death trap for you. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: It’s a bit of a rarity for an arcade manufacturer to license a sequel game to a different company than licensed the original, yet it happened in a handful of cases. Atari had licensed the arcade hit Berzerk and turned it into a near-perfect cartridge for the VCS, but when it came time to license the diabolically difficult follow-up for home video game play, it was Coleco who nabbed the rights. Continue reading

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

It's Only Rock 'N' RollThe Game: You control the destiny of a pixellated rock band. A menu presents you with options to write songs, play concerts, go on tour, or even sign witha record company if you’ve racked up the money and the popularity (and the band still has the energy and drive to work a crowd). You can ask your manager to try to See the videowork out some special deals for you, but even success has its dark side – and what’s worse, now the dark side of stardom is randomly generated! (Xonox / K-Tel, 1984)

Memories: This game isn’t Dark Side Of The Moon or Sgt. Pepper. This game isn’t even up to Dr. Demento standards. This game isn’t even “Achy Breaky Heart” and it’s not even the Macarena. Because at least those flash-in-the-pan hits were catchy and compelling on some level, and people came back to them again and again for a feel-good fix. I can’t say the same for It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll for the Colecovision. Continue reading

Pitstop

PitstopThe Game: A day at the races is just another day at the office for you. Pick from a variety of tracks and difficulty levels and try to achieve maximum speed…with a minimum of collisions. (Epyx, 1984)

See the videoMemories: Not quite as pretty as Turbo, Pitstop is a port of a game that Epyx had already made popular on the Atari home computers and the Commodore 64. Though the crash was in full swing by now, Epyx seemed to be hedging its bets by producing console games for the Colecovision and the Atari 2600. But graphically, and in terms of smooth game play, Turbo wins the race ahead of Pitstop in just about every area – and it’s all about control. Continue reading

River Raid

River RaidThe Game: You’re piloting a fighter jet on a canyon run through enemy territory. You can’t fly outside the canyon walls, so stay over the river and blast everything in sight. Well, almost everything – flying your plane on top of “FUEL” buoys See the videoinstead of shooting them puts a little bit of gas in the tank, and if you run out of fuel, you might as well just swallow the next enemy bullet, because you’re goin’ down. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: A dandy upgrade from the Atari 2600 River Raid, the Colecovision edition plays much the same. There are some audiovisual improvements, but it’s also surprising to see what’s been left alone in the graphics department too: these elements of the game weren’t broken, so there are no “fixes” for their own sake. Continue reading

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