Spy’s Demise (Apple II)

Spy's DemiseThe Game: Players control a spy sneaking through a building looking for secret information. High-speed elevators zoom up and down their cables throughout each See the videofloor at random intervals, making it difficult to accomplish the goal of crossing to the other side of the screen (the only way to ascend to the next floor). It takes skill, timing and nerves of steel to keep one’s spies from their demise. (Penguin Software, 1982)

Memories: An addictively fun and frustrating early entry on the Apple II computer, Alan Zeldin’s Spy’s Demise gave players some real elevator action. Continue reading

Type & Tell

Type & TellThe Game: You type! It talks! And occasionally you have to throw the damnedest misspellings at it to get it to say the simplest words. And despite the back of the box claiming that it “plays fun games,” it’s much more likely that it’ll just make some fun (and weird) sounds. (Magnavox, 1982)

Memories: A pack-in cartridge included with the Voice of Odyssey 2, Type & Tell is actually a barely-glorified Odyssey version of Speak ‘n’ Spell, except everything it says is in a monotone robotic voice which one of the video game magazines of the time once described as “Darth Vader on quaaludes.” (One of these days, remind me to tell you about my mother’s reaction when I asked her, after reading that review, what quaaludes were.) Continue reading

Jawbreaker II

Jawbreaker IIThe Game: Ever had a sweet tooth? Now you are the sweet tooth – or teeth, as the case may be. You guide a set of clattering teeth around a mazelike screen of horizontal rows; an opening in each row travels down the wall See the videoseparating it from the next row. Your job is to eat the tasty treats lining each row until you’ve cleared the screen. Naturally, it’s not just going to be that easy. There are nasty hard candies out to stop you, and they’ll silence those teeth of yours if they catch you – and that just bites. Periodically, a treat appears in the middle of the screen allowing you to turn the tables on them for a brief interval. Sierra On-Line, 1982

Memories: Faced with the threat of imminent legal action from Atari, Sierra – known by its original name, On-Line Systems – yanked the very Pac-Man-like Jawbreaker off the market, replacing it with a new version that was less obviously attempting to copy the game mechanics of Pac-Man. Those familiar with the Atari 2600 edition of Jawbreaker will find this game familiar: the maze is out, and the horizontal rows of dots with “sliding doors” are in. Though there are still elements similar to Pac-Man – at this point, really just the power pellet-like energizers in the four corners of the screen – the whole thing is different. Continue reading

Munch Man

Munch ManThe Game: You control a round creature consisting of a mouth and little else. When the game begins, you’re given about two seconds’ head start to venture into the maze before blobby monsters are released from their cages and begin pursuing you. As you move, Munch See the videoMan leaves a trail in his wake; you advance to the next level of the game by “painting” the entire maze with that trail. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: A nifty Pac-Man clone done with simple character graphics and a few game play twists designed to make it lawsuit-proof, Munch Man miraculously seemed to be spared being on the receiving end of Atari’s litigious wrath – surprising since Atari was suing Bally, Magnavox, and just about everyone else trying to put a Pac-Man-like game on a home console at the time. Continue reading

Princess & Frog 8K

Princess & FrogThe Game: You’re a frog who has a hot date with the princess in the castle. But in order to reach her, you’ll have to cross four lanes of jousting knight traffic – avoiding the knights’ horses and lances – and then you’ll have to cross the moat on the backs of snakes and alligators, all without ending up in the drink when See the videothey submerge. (There’s also occasionally a lady frog you can hook up with en route to the castle; apparently this whole thing with the princess doesn’t have any guarantee of exclusivity.) When you reach the castle, you can hop into any open window, but if you see a pair of lips in that window, that’s where the princess is. (Romox, 1982)

Memories: It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Romox’s Princess & Frog is, in fact, a cut-rate Frogger clone. And it really doesn’t even bother to change the game play at all – Princess & Frog is to Frogger what the arcade ripoff Pirhana was to Pac-Man: it tries to get by with changing the graphics and nothing else. Continue reading

Rocky’s Boots

Rocky's BootsThe Game: Rocky is trying to build machines to kick stuff. He provides players with a number of connectors and components, and shows them how they can be used to achieve See the video!different tasks. (The Learning Company, 1982)

Memories: Fresh from leaving Atari and then taking a vacation, game designer and programmer Warren Robinett was ready to get back into the game, literally. But he had languished in anonymity at Atari as one of the last holdouts at a time when many of the company’s original pool of programming talent was defecting to Activision and Imagic; when Robinett returned to game making, he’d do it on his own terms. Continue reading

Taipan!

Taipan!The Game: The coast of 19th century China could be a dangerous place – pirates lay in wait for passing (and relatively defenseless) ships, and that’s just the obvious danger. The buyer’s and seller’s markets in dry goods, weapons, silk and opium could pose just as much of a hazard to an independent trader’s finances. And then See the videothere’s Li Yuen’s protection racket… (Avalanche Productions [designed by Art Canfil], 1982)

Memories: One of the first trading strategy games I ever encountered, Taipan! has been a favorite of mine for something like 20 years. When I played it as just one of many games in an all-day weekend screen grab-o-rama, I found myself playing the thing for hours. Continue reading

Telengard

TelengardThe Game: Using primitive text-based graphics, Telengard books for you a no-expenses-paid vacation through dungeons and hallways full of orcs and other nasties. If you can map the twisty passages, you might just make it back to the Adventurers’ Inn to claim your newfound experience points and heal from your many battles…and if you get lost? There are other inns out there – and many painful ends as well. (Avalon Hill, 1982)

Memories: Telengard was my introduction to computer-based adventure RPGs. I was already one foot into the Dungeons & Dragons world at the time, though truthfully some of the people I played those pencil-and-paper-and-dice RPGs with scared me. Some of them – not all of them, by any means, but a few – tackled these games with enough intensity to make a kid nervous. Continue reading

Tron

TronThe Game: Up to two players control light cycles that leave a solid light trail in their wake. The object of the game is to trap the other player by surrounding them with a light trail that they can’t avoid crashing into – or forcing them to run into their own trail. Coming into contact with a light trail, either yours or the other player’s, collapses your own trail and ends your turn. The player still standing at the end of the round wins. (“Ivan”, circa 1982)

Memories: The Apple II software library is as huge as it is because of games like this. It’s a safe bet that “Ivan” didn’t charge for his simple tribute to Tron‘s light cycle scenes; if anyone did charge for it, “Ivan” – whoever he was – probably didn’t see a dime of that. (And even if “Ivan” did try to sell his game, it was probably on such a local basis that Disney never heard of it.) Tron is a homebrew, from an age when nearly every Apple user’s library had at least a few homebrews in it. Continue reading

Tunnels Of Doom

Tunnels Of DoomThe Game: A party of up to four adventurers descends into the depths of a dungeon to recover their kidnapped king and find his magical orb. Along the way, the band of intrepid adventurers will have to fight off everything from See the videopacks of wild dogs to evil creatures determined to bring the quest to an early end. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: I remember seeing this game at a friend’s house right after it came out, and feeling the whole world changing around me. Up until now, I’d been playing the same games on computers that I’d been playing on my consoles, except they looked and sometimes even sounded better. But Tunnels Of Doom, with its obvious nods to Dungeons & Dragons, was a whole dfferent animal. Here was a game that the consoles couldn’t handle. Here was a real live Computer Game. Continue reading

Ultima II: Revenge Of The Enchantress

Ultima IIThe Game: Not happy with her consort’s defeat at your hands (assuming, of course, that you won Ultima I, the enchantress Minax tracks you down to your home planet of Earth and begins the test anew, sending legions of See the videodaemons and other hellspawn to strike you down before you can gain enough power to challenge her. This time, you have intercontinental and even interplanetary travel at your disposal via the moongates, which appear and disappear based on the phases of the moon. Each destination has unique challenges that help to prepare you for the showdown with Minax herself. (Sierra On-Line, 1982)

Memories: The second in the seminal Ultima role-playing game series, Ultima II has always managed to elicit little excitement from me. Continue reading

Zork I: The Great Underground Empire

Zork I: The Great Underground EmpireThe Game: You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a mailbox here. (Infocom, 1982)

Memories: A direct descendant of the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired all-text mainframe adventure games of the 1970s, only with a parser that can pick what it needs out of a sentence typed in plain English. In truth, Zork‘s command structure still utilized the Tarzan-English structure of the 70s game (i.e. “get sword,” “fight monster”), but the parser was there to filter out all of the player’s extraneous parts of speech – anything that wasn’t a noun or a verb, the game had no use for. Many a player just went the “N” (north), “U” (up), “I” (inventory) route anyway. Continue reading

The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt

The Great Wall Street Fortune HuntThe Game: Feel like literally “playing” the stock market? This game allows you to do so with varying degrees of accuracy, ranging from level one – simple trading – to level four, which allows buying on margins, prime rate interest calculations, and numerous other complications. A ticker across the top of the screen gives the current values of several stocks and commodities, while a ticker running across the center of the screen gives the latest news updates. The nature of that news can have drastic effects on the stocks available for trade, ranging from the sometimes silly (“electronic foot massager increases worker productivity”) to the frighteningly prophetic (“war threat in the Middle East”). (North American Phillips, 1983)

Memories: An interesting idea for a console game (whereas this sort of thing would usually be found only on computers, especially back then), The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt was the third and final Master Strategy Series game released for the Odyssey2. Continue reading

Impossible Mission / Programmed Trip

The Game: On an enclosed grid, you control a robotic drone whose job is to collect certain items on the grid and deflect enemies away from those items. If you can plant obstacles – which deflect your enemies with 90-degree left or right turns – that lock your pursuers into an inescapable infinite loop, all the better…but more will come. (Ectron, 1983 [unreleased prototype] / custom copies released in 2006)

The Game: An interesting unreleased game which was apparently developed for the South American market (where the Odyssey2, known simply as the Odyssey, was quite the success story) by an outfit called Ectron, Mission Impossible / Programmed Trip is a little like playing a video game by programming in a visual variant of the LOGO programming language. Continue reading

Archon

ArchonThe Game: What if chess pieces were living creatures, each with its own unique abilities? And what if, every time to pieces met on the board, they had to fight amongst themselves to occupy the square in question? That’s Archon in a nutshell. (Electronic Arts, 1983)

Memories: Whoever came up with this game is a total genius. This is the sort of game that won lots of fans in the early days who may not have necessarily been computer or video game afficionados – a modern variation on the game of chess, with arcade-flavored action segments to determine control of contested territories. Continue reading

Cavern Creatures

Cavern CreaturesThe Game: Why do mountain climbers climb mountains? Because they’re there. Why are you flying a spacecraft into a vast complex of subterranean caverns? Because they’re there, and apparently because you want to blast the multitudes of critters who lurk there. The bad news: there are a lot more of them than there are of you. The good news? Your ship’s cannons fire in four directions simultaneously. Given that fact, and your ship’s maneuverability, you might just survive this little bit of aerial spelunking. (Datamost [designed by Paul Lowrance], 1983)

Memories: These days, the ‘net is loaded with tributes to video games past and present. But Cavern Creatures was one of the first tributes to classic games, and it’s an interesting tribute – it too is playable. Continue reading

Dig Dug (Apple II)

Dig DugThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, See the videowhich you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if Buy this gamea Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: With the license already in-house at Atari (as part of the distribution deal that saw Atari handling the game in the U.S.), Atarisoft began cranking out versions of Dig Dug for competing home computer platforms. As often as not, however, the Apple versions of the games for which Atari had the license were a mixed bag. Continue reading

Doctor Who: The First Adventure

Doctor Who: The First AdventureThe Game: You guide the Doctor, that wayward Time Lord, on a quest to retrieve the three segments of the Key to Time, recover See the videoyour companion from an alien prison, and escape aliens who are on your trail. The game appropriately takes place in four “episodes” (stages). Failing to complete a task will cost you time and a precious regeneration; running out of either one ends the game.

Memories: The first officially approved Doctor Who video game, The First Adventure isn’t a trendsetter or a great innovation in and of itself; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that this game for the BBC Micro would’ve been entirely un-noteworthy if not for the Doctor Who connection. Continue reading

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