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Jr. Pac-Man

Jr. Pac-ManBuy this gameThe Game: As the offspring of a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a bigger maze than your parents ever had to deal with, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Six large flashing dots in the maze enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted toys will begin hopping through the maze, turning every uneaten dot they touch into a larger dot which yields more points, but also forces little Pac to slow down to digest them. 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… (Atari, 1984; released by AtariAge.com, 2003)

Memories: A victim of former Commodore executive Jack Tramiel’s takeover of Atari‘s home video game and computer division, Jr. Pac-Man was one of the many “orphaned” games that were finished and ready for mass-production, but despite the money that had been spent on acquiring the license and developing the actual software, Jr. Pac-Man stayed off the schedule, never to hit the stores. Continue reading

Star Fire

Star FireBuy this gameThe Game: This may sound awfully familiar, but you’re the lone surviving pilot of a space squadron decimated by enemy attacks. The enemy’s bow-tie-shaped fighters are closing in on you from all sides, and you must keep an eye on your own fighter’s shields and weapon temperature (overheated lasers don’t like to fire anymore), all while trying to draw a bead on those pesky enemy ships. You’re also very much on your own – nobody’s going to show up and tell you you’re all clear, kid. (Xype/AtariAge.com, 2003)

Star FireMemories: A nifty after-the-fact version of an oft-imitated arcade classic, Star Fire isn’t undiscovered 80s vaporware, but was rather programmed from the ground up by Manuel Polik, paying homage to and slightly expanding on the original game. Continue reading

Conquest Of Mars

Conquest Of MarsBuy this gameThe Game: The enemy in an interplanetary war has gone underground, and you’re piloting the ship that’s taking the fight to him. But he hasn’t just hidden away in a hole; he’s hidden away in a very well-defended hole. As if it wasn’t already going to be enough of a tight squeeze navigating subterranean caverns on Mars, you’re now sharing that space with enemy ships and any number of other fatal obstacles. (Fortunately, See the videothe enemy also leaves copious numbers of helpful fuel depots for you too.) Once you fight your way to the bottom of the cave, you plant charges on the enemy mothership – meaning that now you have to escape the caverns again, and fast. (John Champeau / AtariAge.com, 2006)

Memories: As much as Caverns Of Mars caught fire on the Atari home computers, you’d think it would’ve been a shoo-in for the company’s consoles. Now, at least, 2600 owners who resisted stepping up to the mighty Atari 8-bit computers can reap the reward for 20+ years of patience. John Champeau, the programmer who finally made good on Coleco’s unfulfilled promise to bring the arcade sleeper hit Ladybug to the 2600, has struck again. Continue reading

Lead (Atari 2600)

Order this gameThe Game: Players pilot a ship barrelling relentlessly down an enclosed tunnel. Turning around simply isn’t an option, and through various stages the player has to blast away at everything in sight, avoid everything in sight, and catch objects without blasting them. This all probably sounds easy, but the tunnels are rather twisty, and the ship is picking up speed constantly.

Memories: Bearing some resemblance to certain stages of games like Vanguard, Lead may not be the most original shoot-’em-up, but it’s one of the most addictive. With the See the videoVanguard-inspired ability to keep exploring once the game has ended (at, naturally, the cost of zeroing out your score), Lead certainly has depth. But, strange as it may sound, the game’s audio makes it a whole different beast. An organically evolving techno beat pulses in the background, its rhythm and melody influenced by the player’s actions and performance. Continue reading

Moon Cresta

Moon CrestaThe Game: As commander of the three-stage fighter rocket Moon Cresta, your job is to ward off endless varieties of evasively weaving space attackers. Every time you knock out two consecutive screens of assailants, you’ll have an opportunity to dock your ship to another one of Moon Cresta’s three stages, until all three See the videoportions of the ship are combined to create one bad-ass weapons platform. But you can also lose stages very quickly, ending your game – a bigger ship makes a bigger and easier target. (AtariAge.com, 2011)

Memories: Quite simply one of the most superb arcade-to-console ports ever made on an Atari platform, whether cranked out professionally or as a homebrew, Moon Cresta is a knockout on the Atari 7800. Continue reading

K.C. Munchkin

K.C. MunchkinThe Game: As a small blue spherical creature whose sole sensory organs consist of two eyes, two antennae and an enormous mouth, you are on a mission to eat twelve dots which are floating around a small maze. Pursuing you are three multicolored jellyfish-like horrors who will gobble you up on contact. (AtariAge.com, 2015)

Memories: The Atari 7800 was the Rip Van Winkle of the classic console world. Put into deep freeze by the incoming Tramiel administration, the 7800 was awoken by that same management regime when the whole “Atari does computers now, not video games” strategy didn’t work out; when the 7800 – developed and market tested in 1984 – was revived, it was thrust into a late-‘80s world where it had the more powerful Nintendo Entertainment System for competition. Continue reading

Rally

RallyThe Game: As the driver of a high-powered race car, you rocket around corners and down straightaways, trying to pick up every yellow flag in the maze-like course and avoiding deadly collisions with pursuing red cars. Watch out for rocks and oil spills, and use your smokescreen only when necessary to distance yourself from the red cars. (AtariAge.com, 2015)

Memories: Now that there’s a homebrew version of Rally-X, I find myself wondering why this didn’t happen back in the day? Especially if Atari and Namco had “an arrangement” (one which, famously, landed the home console rights to Pac-Man in Atari’s lap). Continue reading

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