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Ninja Golf

Ninja GolfThe Game: You face a test of your skills in the time-honored way of the Ninja: you must survive a game of golf. But you’re not the only Ninja on the course, and apparently you are the only Ninja who’s got a bullseye painted on his back. Before you can say “Crouching Tiger Woods, Hidden Dragon,” you must fend off See the videoattackers, including pesky gophers and alarmingly large frogs, in between putts. When you reach the green, a large dragon will attack you, as large dragons are wont to do on the green. Defeat the dragon and you advance to the next hole; do not defeat the dragon, and it will leave a hole in you. (Atari, 1990)

Memories: This utterly bizarre little game is almost like somebody’s idea of a spoof game, something you’d see if there was a Weird Al Signature Series for the 7800. But no, Ninja Golf was an actual mainstream 7800 title – well, that is, if you consider the 7800 mainstream – and proof that someone, somewhere at Atari, was thinking way outside the box. Continue reading

Pac-Mania

Pac-ManiaThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around relatively simple mazes, gobbling small dots and evading five colorful monsters See the videowho can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, larger 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 you clear the maze of dots, you advance to a new maze and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Tengen, 1990)

Memories: Having watched its own home video game unit fall into obsolescence with the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari Games – the original Atari’s arcade division, spun off into its own entity after the Tramiel family split the company – quietly started a new subsidiary to begin mining the NES market. This new division, Tengen, produced only a few games – and in so doing, wound up in big trouble with Nintendo. Continue reading

Klax

KlaxThe Game: It is the nineties, as the intro screen says, and there is time for this home version of Klax, in which players try to stack colored bricks according to on-screen instructions: horizontal, vertical and diagonal rows may be required. The conveyor belts carrying the bricks gradually speed up until the bricks are zipping toward the bottom of the screen at a dizzying pace. Allowing too many bricks to slide off the bottom of the screen without catching them will forfeit the game, as will failing to come up with the configuration of stacked bricks demanded by the on-screen instructions. (Atari, 1990)

Memories: A late attempt to keep the Atari 7800 relevant in an age where the NES had firmly dominated the home video game landscape (even the Sega Master System enjoyed a larger market share than the 7800), this adaptation of Atari Games’ arcade sleeper hit Klax seems fitting somehow in retrospect: Klax was a puzzle game also-ran, trying to catch up with Tetris. And Tetris had already been snapped up by Nintendo, which was handily beating Atari with both the NES and the new Game Boy, making the 7800 an also-ran too (and let’s not talk about that whole dust-up over Atari Games’ arcade Tetris and the Tengen version of the game for NES). As if there needed to be a way to make Klax even less relevant in Atari’s fight against Tetris, there’s one more wrinkle: this version never actually hit the stores. Continue reading

Centipede

CentipedeBuy this gameThe Game: You are the chosen one! Cool, huh? Oh, wait…chosen for what? You are Wally, a bumbling elf who is apparently destined to rid the elven world of a vicious army of centipedes and other bugs. You travel from village to village in different locales to undertake your divine exterminating duties, armed with a hovering weapons platform/vehicle simply called the Shooter. (Hasbro Interactive, 1999)

Memories: Sometimes it seems as though the modern video game manufacturers are overdoing their attempts to bestow a Hollywood plot upon the simpler games of the past. Exhibit A: Centipede, based on the mega-hit Atari coin-op of the same name – a game which, to my knowledge, never really needed a plot because most people don’t look kindly upon wormlike creatures with a hundred legs anyway. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertBuy this gameThe Game: Q*World is attacked by the evil purple snake Coily, and the apple of Q*Bert’s eye, Q*Dina, is abducted by Coily, along with several others. Q*Bert pursues Coily through several dimensions to rescue his friends. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 1999)

Memories: Another quest-style revival of an arcade classic, this new version of Q*Bert still manages to stay faithful to the original, perhaps even moreso than See the videoPac-Man World. While one never had to deal with the yellow fellow jumping, butt-bouncing, or rev-rolling, Q*Bert sticks to the mode of movement from the original game – hopping around diagonally. In short, if you could play the original, you can play this. Continue reading

Breakout

BreakoutBuy this gameThe Game: There exists, somewhere on a tropical isle, a species of paddle-esque life forms (not unlike the inhabitants of Pong), and their idyllic existence is shattered by the arrival of evil dictator Batnix. Batnix kidnaps fair Daisy and the rest of your friends, sequestering them in perilous dungeons around the world. As Bouncer the Paddle, you must break out of your own prison by smashing through the walls with steel balls, and then travel to various locales to free all of your friends. As you release your comrades, you can also play as them in certain rounds to make use of their special abilities in your quest to free Daisy and defeat Batnix once and for all. As always, keep an eye on your balls, for they are your greatest weapons. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 2000)

Memories: This game is proof positive that I can milk any video ping-pong game for an endless array of lowbrow “balls” jokes. It’s also proof positive that updated versions really do work sometimes. Continue reading

Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge

Frogger 2: Swampy's RevengeBuy this gameThe Game: What a crock! Swampy the crocodile has grown tired of Frogger’s fame and fortune. (The fact that Frogger now has a cute girlfriend named Lillie Frog probably doesn’t help matters much in the jealousy department either.) Swampy kidnaps Lillie’s baby siblings and scatters them in a variety of settings. Now it’s up to Frogger and Lillie to tracks down the tadpoles and show Swampy who’s in charge. (Hasbro Interactive, 2000)

Memories: This game almost needs to be titled Frogger 2: The Apology. As happy as everyone was to see Hasbro’s new version of Frogger a year or two ago, the game suffered from control problems, the common “swooping camera” malaise, and very few connections to the original arcade game. Frogger 2 rectifies many of those problems. Continue reading

Atari Anniversary Advance

Atari Anniversary AdvanceBuy this gameThe Game: It used to take a pocket full of quarters to enjoy some of the finest arcade games from Atari’s golden age, but now it just takes a pocket full of Game Boy Advance. Included are Asteroids, Tempest, Centipede, Battlezone, Super Breakout and Missile Command, along with a dandy trivia game focusing on Atari’s history and most famous games. (Atari / Infogrames, 2002)

Memories: What should be one of the better classic game compilations on the Game Boy Advance turns out to be a classic example of a mixed bag. The audiovisual side of things is great – though a few of these games have been “reformatted to fit your screen,” to quote the dreaded pan-and-scan movie disclaimer, all of the games look great – very authentic – only this isn’t really the display they were intended for. Missile Command and Super Breakout are somewhat “scrunched” to fit into the available space, and Asteroids is a case where too much effort was poured into preserving the original game’s graphics: everything is shrunken down to the point where smaller asteroids, or incoming fire from an attacking UFO, can be hard to spot because they’re so tiny. Tempest, Centipede and Battlezone, on the other hand, look fantastic. Continue reading

Centipede / Breakout / Warlords

Centipede / Breakout / WarlordsBuy this gameThe Game: Shoot, break and destroy your way through Centipede, Breakout and Warlords, three classic Atari games now available for your Game Boy Advance. (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: Two of DSI’s retro compilations for the Game Boy Advance are fairly similar in composition: there’s this one, the Centipede / Breakout / Warlords package, and the Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar Lander compilation. Centipede and Millipede (its sequel) are comparable, as are Breakout and Super Breakout (again, a sequel), making the main difference between the two packages Warlords vs. Lunar Lander. Continue reading

Gauntlet / Rampart

Gauntlet / RampartThe Game: DSI strikes again with Gauntlet and Rampage, two nearly perfect arcade conversions for the Game Boy Advance. In Gauntlet you’ll trade shots with ghosts, demons, and Death himself. In Rampart you’ll defend your ground and exchange buckshot with more worldly enemies. (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: Gauntlet will be forever imbedded in my mind as the first four-player cooperative quarter eater. From the day I first saw it way back in seventh grade, the game has always held a special place in my heart. At least that’s the story I told my wife as I was moving a vintage Gauntlet arcade cabinet into our home gameroom. Continue reading

Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar Lander

Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar LanderThe Game: Relive exciting arcade action on your Gameboy Advance with the latest game pack from DSI Games. Millipede, Super Breakout and Lunar Lander, three classic games from Atari, are waiting for you! (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: DSI Games‘ latest game pack consists of three games, Super Breakout (1978), Lunar Lander (1979), and Millipede (1982). DSI has a consistent track record of offering gamers two newer games (Gauntlet/Rampart, Paperboy/Rampage, Spy Hunter/Super Sprint) or three classic games (Pong/Asteroids/Yars’ Revenge, Centipede/Breakout/Warlords) per pack. This pack contains three classic Atari games, although none of them will hold your attention for long. Continue reading

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