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Skeet Shoot

Skeet ShootThe Game: Line up moving targets in your sights and blast ’em away. The more targets you hit, the more points you get. Simple enough, eh? Just don’t expect everything to travel in a straight line – and keep in mind that something like 80% of the time you won’t have a chance of hitting anything at all due to where you’re positioned. (Games By Apollo, 1981)

Memories: The 198384 crash of the home video game industry has often been blamed on an unstoppable tsunami wave of lousy games being produced by companies that had never before shown an interest in the field. Some pundits point at Activision‘s defeat of an Atari lawsuit – which claimed that third-party games would be unfair competition, as they alleged Activision‘s four principal programmers were using Atari trade secrets – as the first crack in the dam. And maybe they’re right. But at first, with Activision and Imagic releasing well-programmed, colorful, cutting edge and most of all fun games, it was all good – and Atari was still selling hardware, so how could they prove they’d lose out on the deal? Continue reading

Spacechase

SpacechaseThe Game: Piloting a lone spaceship zipping over a planet’s surface in a low, fast orbit, your mission is to kick some evasive alien butt. Drawing a See the videobead on the aliens is much harder than it looks, and they arrive in waves of four. Naturally, it seems like it’s much easier for them to target you… (Games By Apollo, 1981)

Memories: Quite an improvement over Richardson, Texas-based Games By Apollo’s first game, the disastrously bad Skeet Shoot, Spacechase isn’t going to blow the doors down in the game originality department, but it wasn’t bad for the VCS at all. The scrolling planetscape beneath the player’s ship may look like an artist’s vague impression of some Arizona landscape, but with games like Defender struggling to get the side-scrolling thing right, it was quite an accomplishment. Continue reading

Infiltrate

InfiltrateThe Game: You’re trapped in a multi-story building with hostile forces all around. Your infiltration mission has gone from mere espionage to a battle for survival – a battle you’re probably not going to win. Board elevators to reach the opposite level of the screen to retrieve enemy secrets, all while avoiding enemy agents and trying to shoot them down. (This spy business would be a lot easier if the enemy couldn’t shoot back, but generally they’re better shots than you are.) Then a new prize appears at the opposite end of the screen, sending you on yet another dangerous mission. (Games By Apollo, 1981)

Memories: A simple Atari 2600 port of the popular computer game Spy’s Demise, Infiltrate simplifies things a bit more than the computer version and keeps players constantly running for their lives. There’s really no win condition – just a grim countdown to the point at which the player is worn down. Continue reading

Lost Luggage

Lost LuggageThe Game: Before the TSA, there was… a little pixellated stick man on your Atari. Using the joysticks, your job is to direct this hapless less line of airport defense to catch every piece of luggage before it hits the sides or bottom of the screen. Failure to do so will result in the contents of the luggage spilling out across the floor; on some difficulty settings, black suitcases appear containing explosives that’ll detonate if that case isn’t caught. As soon as the area is successfully cleared of luggage, there’s a moment to catch your breath before the next plane lands and the process begins again. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: As funny as the game’s programmer thought it’d be to stick bombs in his pixellated suitcases on certain settings, Lost Luggage is one of those games that means something completely different now than it did at the time of release. But unintentionally prophetic dark humor or not, it’s one of the better catch-everything-or-else games on the VCS. Continue reading

Racquetball

RacquetballThe Game: One or two players try to keep a ball in motion in an enclosed space; standard racquetball rules apply. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: As discussed earlier in our review of Skeet Shoot, Games By Apollo was the first third-party game software supplier for the Atari 2600 founded by a speculator with no prior ties to the video game industry. Skeet Shoot, Apollo’s first game, was rushed out as quickly as possible, whereas programmer Ed Salvo had a little more time to roll out Racquetball, and the graphical difference is huge. Continue reading

Shark Attack

Shark AttackThe Game: You’re a deep-sea diver in search of treasure under the ocean. There are only a couple of problems though – there’s a maze made of messy seaweed, which can slow you down or even trap you until you work your way free of it. And if that’s not enough of a problem, these waters are shark-infested, meaning that getting stuck in the path of a finned foe could mean your finish. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: A very thinly-disguised Pac-Man ripoff (the “treasures” are just dots, need I say more?), Shark Attack‘s storied history is more interesting than the game itself. Continue reading

Guardian

GuardianThe Game: Players control a single laser cannon responsible for defending several planets who don’t seem to be able to look out for themselves. The cannon squares off against an alien mothership which deploys its own fleet of attack ships to destroy those planets. Good news: the planets are protected by a force field spanning the bottom of the screen. Bad news? The aliens can shoot through it, exposing the row of fragile planets as they scroll across the screen like shooting gallery targets. Worse news? You can’t defend all of them forever. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: Two years after Atari turned its iconic home version of Space Invaders into the first killer app on the VCS, Texas third-party publishing upstart Games By Apollo was one of several companies still trying to improve on that basic formula. The obscurity of Guardian probably means this wasn’t the evolution of the concept that players were looking for. Continue reading

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