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

Park Patrol

Park PatrolThe Game: Swimmers and snakes and turtles, oh my! Help patrol your beach by picking up litter and saving drowning swimmers while avoiding snakes, sharp sticks, and other obstacles. You’ll need to be quick on your feet (and in your innertube) to succeed! (Activision, 1984)

Memories: In Activision’s Park Patrol, you play the role of a litter-collecting park ranger. Your goal is to keep your lakefront property clean by picking up litter (cans and bottles). To do that you’ll need to use your handy-dandy motorized raft to pick up the trash floating in the lake, and run as quickly as possible to clean up debris lying on the shore itself. Continue reading

Garry Kitchen’s Game Maker

The Game: You decide what the game’s going to be. From creating your own characters, animating them, building their world (and the physical rules that govern it) and setting up the conflicts and limits, you have a powerful game-making tool at your disposal. Use it wisely, make something fun, and learn a little bit about how video games are conceived and programmed. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: Almost a transcendental work of genius, Game Maker is one of those programs that, if you were around (and of a certain age) when it was released, you remember it vividly. This is one of those things that probably changed a few lives. Continue reading

Ghostbusters

GhostbustersSee the videoThe Game: Supernarural, paranormal investigations and eliminations are the order of the day, as you open your own ghost busting franchise. You start with a finite budget and have to make some savvy choices about vehicles and gear; then it’s time to strap on a proton pack, get behind the wheel of the Ectomobile, and cruise around the Big Apple watching for flashing red buildings (telltale signs of a poltergeist party in progress). When you arrive on the scene, a little bit of driving is required, which gives you the chance to mop up a few free-roaming full-torso vaporous apparitions off the streets, Ghostbustersbefore you arrive at your destination and try to trap a ghost without crossing the streams. All the while, supernatural forces are converging on a site formerly known as the temple of Zuul, and when the paranormal powers there reach a critical mass, it’s time for roasted marshmallow – or the end of the world. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: A nice balance of arcade action segments and some resource-management strategy, Ghostbusters manages to capture the inherent humor of the movie (failure to capture a ghost results in one or both of your men getting “slimed”) and yet succeeds as a game too. Continue reading

Little Computer People

Little Computer PeopleThe Game: Does it ever seem like your computer has a mind of its own? Maybe it does! Activision’s Little Computer People provides computer owners with a virtual three-story house, designed to lure the computer people out of your wiring and into a hospitable habitat. Once a little person has moved into his new home he can be studied and observed, but this is no hands-off experiment. You’ll need to keep your new friend happy and fed to maintain a healthy relationship. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: When Little Computer People first came out, it was difficult to explain just what kind of program it was to your friends. These days, it’s much easier – I’d simply say the game was like The Sims, but with only one sim and one location. To anyone familiar with the SimCity/SimAnt/SimEarth series of games, I’d describe it as a “SimHouse”. I might even compare the game to one of those popular “virtual pet” programs. But Little Computer People came out in 1985, prior to any of those games. Back then we lacked the vocabulary to describe (much less categorize) the game. Little Computer People was first released for the Commodore 64, quickly ported to the Apple II, and eventually found its way to Atari, Amiga, Amstrad and Sinclair computers. The game was never ported to the PC. Continue reading

Mail Order Monsters

Mail Order MonstersThe Game: Put your money where your fangs are in this monster mash-up that pits twelve different types of creatures against each other in the ultimate battle for survival. Arm your creature with the best weapons and armor to prepare him for games of Capture the Flag, Tournament-Style Battles, or an all out invasion. (Electronic Arts, 1985)

Memories: In the fall of 1985, my parents opened Yukon Software, a computer store specializing in PC, Apple and Commodore software. Every week I drooled over the stacks of brand new games my parents received to stock their shelves with. Occasionally I’d talk my dad into letting me open a game to demo it on one of our in-store computers. Mail Order Monsters was one of those games. The thought of building and battling monsters really appealed to me as a young teenager, a fantasy Mail Order Monsters delivered. Continue reading

Wonderboy

WonderboyThe Game: Wonderboy’s girlfriend Tanya has been abducted and it’s up to you to get her back. You’ll have to be pretty crafty to avoid the dangers of Wonderland in this classic Sega platformer. (Activision, 1987)

Memories: Call me isolated, but for almost two decades I had no idea the classic platformer Wonderboy for the Commodore 64 was actually ported from an arcade game. While I knew the game was licensed from Sega and written by Activision, it wasn’t until just a few years ago when I happened across a Wonder Boy cartridge for the Sega Master System that I realized the game was released for multiple systems! Continue reading

Activision Classic Games

Activision Classic GamesThe Game: Old Atari cartridges taking up too much space in your apartment? Have no fear – a huge portion of Activision’s catalog of titles for the 2600 have been squeezed onto a single CD. (Activision, 1999)

Memories: Now, this is a trip back in time! Activision has recycled many of its early Atari 2600 games for this release, perfectly translated for the Playstation and looking just like they did nearly 20 years ago. Continue reading

Asteroids

AsteroidsBuy this gameThe Game: As the pilot of a lone space cruiser, you must try to clear the spaceways of a swarm of free-floating asteroids, but the job isn’t easy – Newton’s laws of motion must be obeyed, even by asteroids. When you blow a big rock into little chunks, those chunks go zipping off in opposite directions with the speed and force imparted by the amount of energy you used to dispel them. To that screenful of bite-sized chunks o’ death, add an unpredictable hyperspace escape mechanism and a pesky UFO that likes to pop in and shoot at you, and you’re between several large rocks and a hard place. (Activision, 1999)

Memories: Another entry in the race to revive as many video game classics as possible (at least the popular ones – I don’t see anyone reviving Bagman…), Activision’s update of Asteroids is fairly straightforward. This is the same company which produced such a winning resurrection of Space Invaders, so we can trust that these people know what makes for a good Retro Revival. Continue reading

Space Invaders

Space InvadersBuy this gameThe Game: 21 years after the first relentless alien invasion of Earth, the Space Invaders are back – and so are you, in a vastly advanced version of the ubiquitous “tank” which was so critical to the defense of Earth in 1978. But the aliens have made some improvements to their hardware too, and they still outnumber you by at least 20 to 1. Handy survival tip: start blasting, and keep blasting. (Activision, 1999)

See the videoMemories: Now this retro revival surprised me. Updating Pac-Man and Q*Bert, that I could see. Those games had Saturday morning cartoons, vague plotlines of their own (in fine print on the arcade cabinets), and so they’re easy to update. Space Invaders, on the other hand, had a T-shirt, and a legacy of many wasted after-school hours spent on the Atari 2600. The only plotline one could assign to Space Invaders was that you could fight and fight and fight, but you’d eventually perish in the battle. It was inevitable. There were just too many of them. (And you thought UFO paranoia only blossomed in the age of The X-Files and Art Bell?) Continue reading

Star Wars: Demolition

Star Wars: DemolitionOrder this gameThe Game: Jabba the Hutt has convened a host of hotshot pilots and a fleet of modern (i.e. original trilogy) and outdated (i.e. prequel-era) vehicles to engage in winner-take-all vehicular warfare. Contestants and opponents include Boba Fett, super-armed Snowspeeders, Trade Federation tanks, bounty hunter Aurra Sing on her swoop bike, Battle Droids astride their STAPS, and others. Obstacles include slow-moving Jawa sandcrawlers, unpredictable Banthas, and a little thing we call the Sarlacc – and that’s just on the Tattooine track. Other tracks include Cloud City, Hoth, Naboo, and – how did Jabba get permission to race there? – the Death Star. (LucasArts [developed by Activision], 2000)

Memories: Star Wars: Demolition is right up there with the upcoming PS2 game Super Bombad Racing. Demolition is a decent game, but for the fans who demand something that cleaves tightly to the continuity of the Star Wars universe, you’d best look elsewhere. If you have any doubt, check the bullet point on the game’s packaging: Interactive environment – blow it all up! ‘Nuff said. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite ForceOrder this gameThe Game: As Ensign Alexander (or Alexandria) Munro of the elite Hazard Team of the U.S.S. Voyager, you take the missions that no one else wants. You have a phaser rifle in your hand, your teammates at your side, and Captain Janeway counting on you to get the job done. Now go forth and show that alien scum exactly what Hazard Team’s Prime Directive is! (Activision, 2000)

Memories: Here’s a game that I’m sure all true Star Trek fans have been waiting for with bated breath: a first-person shooter in the grand traditions of Doom and Quake set in the Star Trek universe. Elite Force fulfills that desire quite admirably. Continue reading

Star Trek: Invasion

Star Trek: InvasionOrder this gameThe Game: Starfleet’s long-range probes detect a massive Borg invasion fleet headed for Sector 001 – an incursion that couldn’t happen at a worse time, since Starfleet is still licking its wounds after the costly Dominion War. Worf, now Klingon Ambassador to the Federation, dons his Starfleet uniform once more to head up the training and deployment of the Academy’s ace Red Squad pilots in a new class of solo fighter vessel, the Valkyries. In the course of training, unwelcome surprises come from all corners – the Romulans, the last remnants of the Cardassian Empire, a Starfleet Captain who inexplicably goes renegade, and a new threat as well… (Activision, 2000)

Memories: This long-awaited Star Trek game for the Playstation demonstrates that Sony’s nearly-ubiquitous little grey console still has a few tricks up its sleeve before the PS2 grabs the spotlight. Continue reading

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