Donkey Kong

Coleco Donkey KongThe Game: An oversized gorilla kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend and hauls her up to the top of a building which is presumably under construction. You are Mario, dodging Donkey Kong’s never-ending hail of rolling barrels and “foxfires” in your attempt to climb to the top of the building and topple Donkey Kong. You can actually do this a number of times, and then the game begins again with the aforementioned girlfriend in captivity once more. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Almost every line of games has one: a clunker that tanks so hard that it leaves a crater, and serves as the nadir of its entire genre. But given that Coleco was banking its entire video game empire – whether on the Colecovision or on cartridges for the Atari VCS and Intellivision – on Donkey Kong, you’d figure that this would be the one game they would make sure to get right. Continue reading

Frogger

FroggerThe Game: You are a frog. Your task is simple: hop across a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks, until you get the to the edge of a river, where you must keep yourself from drowning by crossing safely to your grotto at the top of the screen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for snakes and alligators! (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Possibly the best of Coleco’s fixed-matrix LED mini-arcade games, Frogger is actually fun and reasonably faithful to its inspiration, while adding cute touches that are unique to this version of the game. Continue reading

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr.The Game: As the offspring of the mighty monkey, it’s up to you to scale vines and chains, avoid mobile traps, occasionally grab some yummy fruit (since when is a little ape on Pac-Man’s diet?), and get to the key or keys that will free your papa. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Again very faithful to its arcade namesake, the Coleco version of Donkey Kong Jr. is an essential addition to the ColecoVision player’s library, with very accurately reproduced sound and graphics. Continue reading

Gorf

GorfThe Game: As the pilot of a solo space fighter, you take on several different varieties of alien attacks masterminded by those pesky, ever-present Gorfian robots. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: As often is the case with ColecoVision games, this version of the classic Bally/Midway arcade game is visually and aurally faithful to its inspiration, but two key elements didn’t make it into this home version of Gorf: the speech synthesis and the “Galaxians” stage, the latter of which may have vanished to ensure that Bally/Midway could spread around the license for Gorf‘s predecessor, Galaxian, among as many companies as possible, maximizing profits. (The “Galaxians” stage was also missing from CBS/Fox’s Atari 2600 version of Gorf, as Atari had already snagged the cartridge rights to Galaxian for itself.) Continue reading

Mr. Do!

Mr. Do!The Game: As an elfin dweller of a magic garden, you must avoid or do away with a bunch of nasty critters who are after you, while gobbling up as much yummy fruit as you can. (Coleco, 1983)
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Memories: Not the hardest game in the world to translate for home console systems, Mr. Do! is a mixed bag on the 2600. Coleco took a decent swipe at bringing Mr. Do! to the most prolific console of its day, but the problem with this game is that, all the way back to the arcade, there was always another game to which it could be compared: Dig Dug. Continue reading

Rocky Super Action Boxing

Rocky Super Action BoxingThe Game: Spin up “Eye Of The Tiger” on your turntable, power up your Colecovision, and get ready to go ten rounds with Clubber Lang. If you think you’re tough enough to take on a digital Mr. T, take a swing at helping Rocky See the videoBalboa reign victorious once more. Just be ready to taste the mat along the way too. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Alas, my feelings on video boxing are a lot like my feelings on video pinball: once you take either activity into the virtual realm and remove the inherent physicality of it, sure, you might be able to nail the look and sounds of boxing or pinball, or just about any other sport, but in so doing you’ve lost so much of the essence that it’s almost a meaningless exercise. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was a time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through See the original TV addozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: As well-intentioned as Coleco’s translation of the Centuri-licensed Konami classic was, and even as powerful as the ColecoVision is, it wasn’t quite up to the challenge of Time Pilot. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was See the videoa time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through dozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Coleco‘s home version of Time Pilot for the Atari 2600 is one of the company’s better arcade ports for that machine, and yet so much of what made the arcade game such a memorable experience was left behind. I can accept the watering-down of the game’s graphics, especially when an effort was obviously made to keep them flicker-free – an impressive feat for this game. But some of what’s left out includes the game’s very objectives. Continue reading

Looping

LoopingThe Game: What if you were out to perform daring, air-show-style aerial acrobatics, and someone was shooting at you at the same time? Wouldn’t that be dandy? Lucky you, that’s what you’re doing in this game. With a mandate to DESTROY TERMINAL, you set out to obliterate an airport terminal protected by armed hot air balloons. The closer you get to carrying out that mission, the more fiercely they defend their turf. When you do level the terminal to the ground, a door opens up, allowing you to fly your plane into a massive maze of pipes, and if you can navigate that labyrinth, you reach “the end” – where you must fend off more adversaries to touch down safely and start again. (Coleco, 1983 – unreleased / recovered and released by CGE Services, 2003)

Memories: A positively obscure game in the arcades, Venture Line’s Looping really didn’t get any kind of a cult following until it was ported to the ColecoVision – and that translation was the best thing that ever happened to the game, gaining it a bit of popularity and an exclusive home. Continue reading

Bump ‘n’ Jump

Bump 'n' JumpThe Game: The race is on, and no moves are off-limits – bump your competitors off the road (and into apparently highly volatile vegetation that causes them to explode), or jump over them and any other obstacles that get in your way, including See the videoareas of water that cover the road. If you survive the race, you live on to the next round – at least until you run out of cars. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: Another Sega arcade sleeper-hit snagged for the Colecovision under an overall contract between the two game companies, Bump ‘N’ Jump is fun on four wheels, and this console version drives it home perfectly. Continue reading

Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet Of ZoomThe Game: Zoom being the operative word here, your mission – as space hero Buck Rogers – is to fly in close quarters with all kinds of enemy ships, landers and structures, fending off their attacks, and generally staying alive as long as See the videopossible. Obligatory robot wisecracks and utterances of “beedy-beedy-beedy” not included. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Far and away the most faithful home console version of Sega’s arcade sleeper hit, Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom is a blast on the ColecoVision. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: Bongo the Ape sets your toes on fire while you’re asleep during a jungle expedition. So naturally, you drop everything to take revenge on the goofy gorilla. But first you have to reach him. The first level is a hazardous See the videoassortment of ramps and levels and a waterfall to jump across. Be careful of pesky little monkeys who can weigh you down so you move slower (and jump lower), and watch out for snakes. Then you have to hop across various islands and dodge more snakes as you try to get across a river. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Congo Bongo was one of those games that really tested the mettle of the next-generation consoles of the day. Sega’s own translation of the game for the Atari 2600 was a barely-playable mess, though the version released for the Atari 5200 was a marked improvement. But as with Zaxxon, its cousin from a visual-concept point of view, Congo Bongo didn’t really arrive at home until ported to the ColecoVision. Continue reading

Front Line

Front LineThe Game: You’re a lone footsoldier fighting your way through a platoon of enemy troops, trying to take out as many of them as you can until you find your way to a handy empty tank. But once you man your own tank, enemy tanks surround you. If one of them hits your tank, you have mere seconds to bail out before your tank blows, and you have to dodge cannon fire until you can find another friendly tank to commandeer. After crossing hazardous stretches of desert and fighting off entire battallions of enemy tanks, you’re en route to the final confrontation, a showdown with the enemy’s armored headquarters… (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: At one time, this was one of my all-time favorite Atari 2600 games – well, it still is, actually – even though it really pales in comparison to the coin-op it’s based on. Even the version released for the ColecoVision, which used the roller wheel on the Super Action Controller to stand in for the arcade game’s aiming knob, wasn’t quite the same. Still, at the time, this did just fine: you fired your gun in whatever direction you were facing. Continue reading

Frenzy

FrenzyThe Game: You’re back in the maze, but this time, the stakes are increased, the danger is increased, and your strategic options are only slightly increased. Touching the walls, the robots, the robots’ laser blasts, or even your own ricocheted lasers are deadly. And of course, the inevitable appearance by Evil Otto is also deadly. However, you can temporarily repel the smiley little bugger by blasting him until his grin turns into the frown – but he will reappear mere seconds later, moving much faster every time he must retreat and reappear – so you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you enter a generator room, you can halt all the robots in their tracks by penetrating the walls surrounding the generator and blasting it. “Beaded” walls can be eaten away, bit by bit, by laser fire from anyone who shoots it, while solid walls will ricochet lasers around until they hit something – which could mean a death trap for you. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: It’s a bit of a rarity for an arcade manufacturer to license a sequel game to a different company than licensed the original, yet it happened in a handful of cases. Atari had licensed the arcade hit Berzerk and turned it into a near-perfect cartridge for the VCS, but when it came time to license the diabolically difficult follow-up for home video game play, it was Coleco who nabbed the rights. Continue reading

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator

Star Trek: Strategic Operations SimulatorThe Game: Welcome aboard, Captain. Your mission is to travel from sector to sector, eliminating Klingon incursions into See the videoFederation space without getting your Constitution-class starship and her crew destroyed. Friendly starbases offer aid and allow you to make resupply stops so you can keep up the good fight – and you do have to keep a careful eye on your phaser, shield and warp power. Periodically you’ll even have to navigate a minefield laid by the murderous Nomad probe while trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of Nomad itself so you can destroy it. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: One of the better home versions of Sega’s vector arcade game, the ColecoVision edition of Strategic Operations Simulator pulls off the neat trick of very nearly delivering more authentic Star Trek atmosphere than its inspiration. Each game kicks off with the familiar strains of Alexander Courage’s opening fanfare for the Enterprise (replacing the rather non-specific opening music of the arcade game), and even the game-ending “simulation complete” message is accompanied by another passage from the Star Trek theme. Continue reading

Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventure In The Park

Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventure In The ParkThe Game: You are one of those ubiquitously cute icons of the ’80s, a Cabbage Patch Kid, and your mission is to convey your pigtailed self across the screen, circumnavigating whatever dangers await you –See the video rolling balls, puddles of water, and so on. You can jump (and, with the aid of strategically placed trampolines, you can jump really high and snag some high-flying bonus prizes), you can swing across water with ropes hanging from trees, and if you mess up any of the above, you can only do it a few times before you’re a Cabbage Patch Greasy Spot on the ground. Remember, the death of any Cabbage Patch child diminishes the entire Cabbage Patch. (Coleco, 1984 – unreleased prototype)

Memories: Essentially a copycat of Activision’s Pitfall, Cabbage Patch Kids was originally released on the Colecovision, capitalizing on Coleco’s two big sellers at the time – that console, and the newly-acquired Cabbage Patch Kids doll license. At this point in the 1980s, video game publishers were virtually clueless about what drew women and girls to some games, and repelled them from others, so it wasn’t uncommon to see bizarro licensing moves such as Cabbage Patch Kids and Strawberry Shortcake. Only development on this game was still ongoing when the bottom dropped out of the video game industry, so the Cabbage Patch Kids were strictly confined to the Colecovision until a 2008 flea market find which put this reasonably finished and playable game into the hands of an Atari collector. Continue reading

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