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Blasto

BlastoThe Game: Piloting your mobile cannon around a cluttered playfield, you have but one task: clear the screen of mines, without blowing yourself up, in the time allotted. If you don’t clear the screen, or manage to detonate a mine so close See the videoto yourself that it takes you out, the game is over. If you do clear all the mines, you get a free chance to try it again. Two players can also try to clear the minefield simultaneously. (Texas Instruments, 1980)

Memories: Programmed for TI by Milton Bradley‘s in-house video game group under contract, Blasto is an adaptation of an oscure 1978 B&W arcade game, and while the TI 99/4a has no problem replicating the game play, it has virtually no choice but to improve on the arcade Blasto‘s almost-nonexistent graphics and sound. Continue reading

TI Invaders

TI InvadersThe Game: It’s quite simple, really. You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your only defense is a quartet of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When you’re out of “lives,” or when the aliens manage to land on Earth…it’s all over. (Texas Instruments, 1981)

Memories: A straightforward, no-frills take on Space Invaders, TI Invaders trumped just about every other home computer version in terms of faithfulness to the source material. 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

Parsec

ParsecThe Game: You control a space patrol fighter cruising over the surface of a planet. Alien attackers swarm on the right side of the screen and strafe you, and you must get out of the way of their laser fire and return some of your own; the more enemy ships you allow to safely leave the screen, the more you’ll have to deal with when they re-enter from the right side of the screen. Avoid their fire, avoid colliding with them, and avoid slamming into the ground, and you might just live long enough to repel the invasion. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: This fun little side-scrolling shooter, very much along the lines of Defender, Scramble or Cosmic Avenger, is a showcase for the TI99/4A’s graphics capability. The spaceships are fine line art in motion, and the ground especially is crisp and rich with detail, including Texas Instruments and Parsec logos carved out of the landscape. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topper

TopperThe Game: As Topper the top-hat-wearing turtle, your job is to jump from platform to platform until every platform on the screen is the same color, all without jumping into the empty space beyond the platforms. But as easy as this task See the videomay sound, it’s not that easy: rambunctious rabbits are ready to pounce on you, or at the very least keep you from reaching all of the platforms. Random explosives appear on some platforms and you have to avoid that platform until the danger has passed – and not even all of the platforms stay in one place. (Navarone Software, 1986)

Memories: The TI 99/4a version of Q*Bert is a decent port of Q*Bert, but on this computer, I much prefer Topper. With tense seconds ticking by as Topper stares down the slow approach of the evil rabbits (who actually look more like evil guys in evil rabbit suits, to be honest), there’s an element of patience and strategy that brings an almost chess-like dimension to what could easily have been just another Q*Bert clone. Continue reading

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