Lock ‘n’ Chase

Lock 'n' ChaseThe Game: You’re in charge of a getaway car loaded with crafty criminals. Your job is to sneak around the maze, avoid four colorful cops who are hot on your trail, and grab all the dough – and, of course, to escape so you can steal again another See the videoday. But the cops can trap you with a series of doors that can prevent you from getting away… (M Network [Mattel Electronics], 1983)

Memories: Released early in 1983, this version of Lock ‘N’ Chase further proves my “M Network theory,” which is as follows: somehow, no matter what hardware platform it’s on, an M Network game always winds up somehow looking like it’s a port of an Intellivision game. Not that this detracts from the fun factor of having a decent maze chase game on the Apple II, mind you. Continue reading

Lode Runner

Lode RunnerThe Game: Cavernous rooms are loaded with gold, just ripe for the picking. But before you celebrate hitting the mother lode, look again – there are other gold-diggers homing in on the treasure. What do you have that they don’t? A drill gun that can blast a hole in the floors, into which your opponents will jump blindly. Eventually, the See the videoholes will reseal themselves, and that process will swallow your enemies (and you, if you happen to be clumsy enough to wander into the hole yourself). Grabbing all of the gold will reveal a passage to the next level of the game. (Broderbund, 1983)

Memories: Surely one of the “killer app” games of the early home computer era – right up there with anything in the Wizardry, Ultima or Infocom series – Lode Runner rocked my world way back when. I have to limit myself on praising this game, or this page is never gonna finish loading: it buries the needle on the excellence meters in both the action and puzzle genres, makes some of the best use ever of the Apple II’s hi-res graphics mode, and it even sounds good on the Apple (which is no small feat). Continue reading

Meteor Belt

Meteor BeltThe Game: An evil force near the planet Jupiter has commandeered the asteroid belt between that giant planet and Mars as its personal defense shield. Your mission is simple: man a mobile weapons platform on the inner solar system’s side See the videoof the asteroid belt, exchange fire with the enemy (who can be the computer or another player), and try to knock out their defenses and destroy them. The battle will last only a brief time, and whoever has the best score – with a bonus given at the end for losing the least ships – wins. (Milton Bradley, 1983)

Memories: Milton Bradley is one of the few board game makers who didn’t at least try to make major in-roads into the video game arena. If anything, they tried to buy their way in, investing in and distributing the early models of the Vectrex stand-alone console, and later getting into Atari 2600 games with one-off specialty controllers that added to the games’ price without doing that much for game play. Continue reading

Mr. Cool

Mr. CoolThe Game: You’re Mr. Cool, an ice cube who chills out while hopping around a pyramid-shaped series of platforms. Fireballs streak across the pyramid from time to time, and they’ll melt you if they touch you. If you can stay cool long See the videoenough, you can advance through the game by changing the color of every platform to your target color by hopping onto each one – though in later levels it’ll take more than one hop, putting you in the path of more fireballs that could cause you to lose your cool. If you have one meltdown too many, the game is over. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A classic case of making the best of a system’s limitations (and missing out on the official license for a popular arcade game), Mr. Cool is an unlikely collision of the game mechanics of Q*Bert and Frogger. And yet it works. In the company’s early days, Sierra was great at producing “near beer” games such as Mr. Cool and Crossfire (which approximated the game play of arcade cult classics Targ and Spectar). Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while See the videothey’re blue, and avoid the monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: Introduced at virtually the same time as Atarisoft‘s TI edition of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man looks and sounds slick – and has the same odd issue with slightly sluggish controls that seem to lag a little bit behind what’s happening on the screen. Continue reading

Night Stalker

Night StalkerThe Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a See the videolimited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot the bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)

Memories: An adaptation of one of the Intellivision’s signature games, Night Stalker is actually one of the strongest titles in the tiny Aquarius game library. This isn’t to say that it’s a great port, just that it’s less bad than some of the other Aquarius games. 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 and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, See the videolarge flashing 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 cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: Having spent the better part of a year suing nearly every Pac-Man clone off the home video game market, Atari finally released its own version of the game for several consoles and home computer systems, including the TI 99/4a. TI had already released its own first-party take on the basic play mechanics of Pac-Man, Munch Man, which is generally considered one of the better arcade-style games released by TI itself. So did Atari’s “official” Pac-Man live up to its competition on the TI? Continue reading

Pac-Man

Pac-ManThe Game: As a round white creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, See the videolarge flashing dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period for an escalating score. 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, 1983)

Memories: Atari came by the code for its Apple II version of Pac-Man by the same means used by pirates of the high seas: they vanquished their foes and took their booty. Continue reading

Pogo Joe

Pogo JoeThe Game: Pogo Joe has a pogo stick, a screen full of barrels whose colors need to be changed to the same target color, and a bunch of bouncy enemies too. Players guide Joe from barrel to barrel, sometimes requiring a big bounce if a barrel isn’t immediately adjacent to Joe’s current location, avoiding enemy creatures who are out to get him. Joe advances to the next level when the color of every barrel on the screen has been changed. A limited number of barrels per level act as a kind of “smart bomb” – landing on them wipes out all of Joe’s enemies temporarily (though they quitely repopulate the screen). (Screenplay, 1983)

Memories: An obvious riff on the basic game play of Q*Bert, Pogo Joe rewrites the DNA of the original game more significantly than most knock-offs: the shape of the playing field changes from level to level (a trick that Q*Bert borrowed back when it made the jump to Game Boy Color), the cubes have become cylindrical barrels (and nicely drawn ones too, whether on the Atari computers or the Commodore 64), and in a few spectacularly frustrating screens, the barrels disappear completely, leaving the player with an almost unplayable screen if they haven’t planned their moves very, very carefully. In some ways, Pogo Joe is a game that Q*Bert experts could graduate to once they’ve mastered a pyramid of cubes. Continue reading

Robotron: 2084

Robotron: 2084The 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). (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: I loved the arcade version of Robotron. I loved the idea of it, the graphics, the sound effects…but there was one rather major problem between me and this game: I sucked at it. Pure and simple. Continue reading

Sammy Lightfoot

Sammy LightfootThe Game: Help Sammy Lightfoot, circus performer extraordinaire, climb to the top of multiple levels by using trampolines, trapezes and your wits to avoid roaming meanies. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: From the success of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong came, well, lots of games that were similar to Donkey Kong. And while Donkey Kong‘s plot (especially compared to the games of today) may seem incredibly simplistic, many of the clones that followed it had even less of one. Such is the case with Sammy Lightfoot. Like Mario in Donkey Kong, Sammy is a portly fellow who has been tasked with reaching the top of a series of platforms. The games box art and documentation describe Sammy as a circus performer, ostensibly to explain the trampolines and trapezes located on each level. This is where the plot ends, and the action begins. Continue reading

Super Demon Attack

Super Demon AttackThe Game: Demons coalesce into existence in mid-air above your cannon. Send them back where they came from by force. (Texas Instruments, under license from Imagic, 1983)
See the video
Memories: Somewhat similar to the Intellivision edition of Imagic’s Demon Attack in look and feel, this TI version of the game takes advantage of that computer’s graphics capabilities to turn the attacking demons into little pixellated pieces of Lovecraftian horror. It doesn’t make the game better or worse, really, but it adds a certain frisson to have nightmarish alien jellyfish-like critters descending upon you. Why Super Demon Attack? Because it’s got super demons, plain and simple. Continue reading

Xevious

XeviousThe 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, See the videobombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and deadly ground-based defenses become the norm. (Mindscape, 1983)

Memories: In the arcade, Xevious ushered in a whole new genre of vertical-scrolling shooters, a category that would grow to include hits like 1942, Dragon Spirit and Exed Exes – it would actually become a pretty crowded field. But the graphics and sound hardware of the Apple IIe, using a command set grandfathered in from the late ’70s, wasn’t exactly ideal for this new genre. Continue reading

Zaxxon

ZaxxonThe Game: As the pilot of a lone fighter infiltrating a spaceborne fortress, your mission is simple – survive long enough to vanquish the evil Zaxxon robot hidden deep within the fortress, and take out as much of the defenses as you can in the See the videomeantime. (Datasoft, 1983)

Memories: Probably the best of the early wave of translations of the groundbreaking arcade game, John Garcia’s Apple II edition of Zaxxon successfully boils the game down to its most vital elements: the basics of its graphical look and smooth, fast motion. Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while they’re blue, and avoid the monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: The early days of the IBM PC – which had, at this point, been on the market for two years – saw numerous software publishers trying to second-guess the PC’s position in the market. IBM’s a tech giant for businesses, but will this thing take off in the consumer market? If so, do we market entertainment software for it? Is it even suited to that sort of thing? And the answer to those questions, in 1983, was…well, maybe? Continue reading

Fantasy

FantasyThe Game: Pirates have kidnapped your girlfriend, Cheri, and it’s your job to rescue her, from landing your hot air balloon on the deck of the pirate ship and trying to free her, to flying and climbing your way through the jungle to rescue See the videoher from jungle animals who have abducted her from the pirates. (Texas Instruments, 1983 [unreleased])

Memories: Several years ago, when I wrote up my all-time favorite coin-op, SNK‘s adventurous gem Fantasy (licensed for the US by Rock-Ola), I lamented the lack of a home version. I’ve always thought Fantasy was underappreciated as an arcade game, and a good home translation might have helped. I remember, around the time that NAP finally licensed an arcade game (Turtles) for the Odyssey2, I wrote a letter to them to make the case for an Odyssey2 version of Fantasy, since it now seemed like they were prepared to license arcade titles. When my Fantasy review appeared many years later, TI 99/4a uber-fan Bryan Roppolo wrote in to bring my attention to an unreleased version of the game that had been in the works for that computer system, and I’ve always wondered if it was as much fun as the arcade game. Continue reading

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension

Buckaroo BanzaiThe Game: Players control the actions of rock star brain surgeon (or is that the other way around?) Buckaroo Banzai, who starts the game in Yoyodyne Headquarters and must quickly accumulate the necessary gear to embark on an adventure to fend off the evil Red Lectroid’s latest bid to destroy the Earth. (Adventure International, 1984)

Memories: After virtually starting the home computer adventure gaming craze in the late 1970s, game creator Scott Adams was in a crowded field by 1985. The original Adventure International games – which paired simple graphics with concise, no-nonsense text descriptions – had since been duplicated and surpassed. Sierra On-Line‘s early Hi-Res Adventures were in much the same vein, and Infocom took the text/interactive fiction idea and ran with it sans graphics (at least for a while), but once adventure games were married with real-time action elements (the Ultima series, the Apshai games, King’s Quest, and let’s not forget that whole Zelda thing over on the NES), the days of text-with-illustrations adventures such as those turned out by Scott Adams were numbered. Continue reading

Exodus Construction Set

Exodus Construction SetThe Game: Would-be digital dungeon masters can reshape the world of the most powerful Apple II adventure game of its era – Exodus: Ultima III – in their own image, from changing the coastlines of Sosaria to changing the behavior of its inhabitants. Cities and townes can be completely redrawn, and the deadliest denizens of the world can be unleashed anywhere. (Dan Gartung, 1984)

Memories: With Ultima III acknowledged as the ultimate adventure game for the Apple II by most 8-bit computer RPG enthusiasts, the ultimate challenge was to forge ahead and see the hazardous quest to its completion. And after that? The next challenge was to assume godlike power over the world created by Lord British. Continue reading

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