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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!See the videoBuy this game (Sega [under license from Konami], 1981)

Memories: Frogger is a truly ribbeting game, and very addictive. It was one of the handful of cute action games that arrived around the same time as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, though it was never franchised as heavily as those games were. There was a Frogger sticker set, the occasional T-shirt, and a rockin’ musical tribute from Bucker & Garcia on the Pac-Man Fever album. Frogger also existed very briefly as a Saturday morning cartoon on CBS, in which he and his amphibian pals were reporters on the swamp beat, but this incarnation of Frogger was even shorter-lived than the cartoon based on Pac-Man. Continue reading

Scramble

ScrambleBuy this gameThe Game: Once again, you’re apparently the only space pilot willing to take on this dangerous mission – though there’s probably a reason for that. You’re storming a heavily-armed installation which has loads of missiles and other defenses. And there’s one thing you don’t have a load of – fuel. If your gas needle lands on the big E, you’re going to your doom in a big rush. For some reason whose physics I can’t even begin to explain, bombing fuel depots in the enemy base will replenish your tank. Good luck! (Stern [under license from Konami], 1981)

Memories: A fun little Defender-style game, Scramble is a real challenge, especially the pesky, persistent problem of fuel shortage. But it proved to have a pesky, persistent problem of its own in the courtroom. Scramble was the basis of a major landmark copyright case in the history of computer-based works. Continue reading

Amidar

AmidarThe Game: I’ll try to explain this as best I can. You’re a paintroller (recent escapee from Make Trax?) beseiged by pigs. Or a gorilla pursued by natives. Or something like that. It depends on which level you’re playing. You must try to enclose as many of the spaces in the game area as possible, in a zig-zagging pattern. This, the attract mode wisely advises us, is “Amidar movement.” You have one way to avoid an imminent See the videohead-on collision – you can hit the jump button, which doesn’t make you jump, but forces everything else on the board to jump. Enclosing all of the available spaces advances you to the next level, with different animal enemies. (Stern [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: My God. Who programmed this game, and what were they smoking? I mean, okay, the enclosing-of-spaces thing is nothing new – look at Qix. But paintrollers versus pigs? Gorillas versus nasty natives? Oh well. I suppose it makes about as much sense as Exidy’s very similar Pepper II, of which more another time. Continue reading

Loco Motion

Loco MotionThe Game: A train scoots around a twisty maze of tiles representing overpasses, turns, straightaways and terminals. One portion of the maze is blank, and a train will be lost if it hits that blank tile. Using the joystick, you move the blank tile and one adjacent tile around on the map – even if the train is in transit on that tile – in an effort to keep it moving around the maze, picking up passengers. (Passengers that the train See the videocan reach are smiley faces; passengers cut off from the main route are frowning.) If any passengers are cut off for an extended period of time, a monster begins wandering that route, and it’ll cost you a train if it comes in contact with your train. You may have to outrun it with the “speed” button in order to pick up the last passengers and clear the level to move on to a bigger maze. (Centuri (under license from Konami), 1982)

Memories: A very minor star in the constellation of early Konami coin-ops (Konami also being responsible for Frogger, Time Pilot and Gyruss), Loco Motion is actually a variation on a very old theme: the 2-D sliding tile puzzle. Continue reading

Pooyan

PooyanThe Game: As a mama pig whose piglets have been abducted by a bunch of mean ol’ wolves, you’re trying to splatter as many wolves as you can. They descend from a tree with balloons, and if you fail to shoot them down at this point, they climb up the tree you’re hanging from and try to bite your butt. (Konami, 1982)

Memories: Pooyan is a wonderfully fun and funny little game, with its almost obscenely cute little piggies and wolves. Like many other cutesy games of the same era, namely Pengo and Blueprint, Pooyan almost seems to have been designed to take advantage of the character marketing mine that Pac-Man and Donkey Kong unearthed. But at its most basic, Pooyan is a sliding shooter game turned at a 90-degree angle. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotBuy this gameThe 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 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. (Centuri [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: One of Konami’s best-ever coin-ops, Time Pilot is an outstanding combination of addictive game play and the concept of “wanting to see what’s on the next level.” If you’re good enough, you get to see what kind of aircraft you’ll be up against in the next time period. Continue reading

Tutankham

TutankhamThe Game: As an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer, you’re exploring King Tut’s catacombs, which are populated by a variety of killer bugs, birds, and other nasties. You’re capable of firing left and right, but not vertically – so any oncoming threats from above or below must be outrun or avoided. Warp portals will instantly whisk you away to other parts of the maze (though this doesn’t necessarily mean safer). Gathering all of the treasures and keys will allow you to open the vault at the end of each level…which leads to the next, and even more difficult level. It’s like The Mummy, only much more entertaining. (Stern, 1982)

Memories: Konami/Stern’s 1982 maze shooter was about as different from its antecedents (Berzerk and Frenzy) as possible, and was still fun. The one thing that always got people in the arcades, especially on their first attempt at playing the game, was the fact that it was impossible to shoot vertically – firing could be controlled by a second joystick limited to left-right movement. Continue reading

Turtles

3-D computer rendering of Turtles cabinetThe Game: You are the Mama Turtle. Your helpless KidTurtles are stuck in a high-rise building, hiding from mean and hungry beetles. The beetles change colors in accordance with their speed and ferocity, from less aggressive green and blue beetles to fast, furious yellow and red beetles. Mama Turtle has to evade the beetles (which are deadly to touch at all times) and touch the mystery squares See the videothroughout the maze. The squares could reveal another beetle, or they could reveal one of the KidTurtles. When Mama Turtle picks up a KidTurtle, a safe house appears – usually all the way across the maze – and she must deposit the KidTurtles in the safe house, one at a time. Mama Turtle’s only recourse against the beetles is to lay “bombs” in the maze. Each bomb – and there can only be one on screen at a time – will reduce the first beetle that hits it back to the lowest speed/danger level, buying Mama Turtle a little time. (Mama Turtle can pass over her own bombs harmlessly.) The catch? You only start out with three bombs (is anyone else drawing some grim biological anologies to what Mama Turtle’s “bombs” might be at this point?), and you can replenish your supply of bombs only by running over an occasional flashing symbol which appears at the precise center of the maze…which is usually the most dangerous spot on the screen. Clearing a maze of KidTurtles allows you to climb to the next floor of the building and start anew. (Stern [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: Turtles is among the most obscure exponents of the maze chase format to hit the arcade in the early ’80s. I think I saw – maybe – one Turtles arcade game in my life, and it was only there for a few weeks. Actually, though, it’s not a bad game. Continue reading

Pooyan

PooyanThe Game: You’re a mama pig trying to prevent her adorable piglets from becoming a side of bacon for a pack of big bad wolves. First, you try to shoot down as many wolves as they try to parachute to safety with balloons, and then you have to prevent them from rising back up again, because if they do, they’re going to push a big rock right off a cliff and on top of you. (Konami, 1982)

Memories: For some unfathomable reason, the Atari 2600 cartridge of Pooyan is incredibly rare and valuable. Not that it isn’t a decent game, mind you; for Konami’s first entry into the home video game arena, Pooyan was a very good effort. Continue reading

Gyruss

GyrussThe Game: The aliens are taking their complaints to the home office! As the pilot of an agile space fighter, you have to blast your way through the alien forces from Pluto all the way back to Earth. Occasionally you can boost your ship’s firepower, but that’s the only help you’re going to get. The rest is up to your speed, your See the videoBuy this gamestrategy, and your ability to nail the attackers in mid-dive. (Centuri [under license from Konami], 1983)

Memories: Konami’s cult classic basically put a vaguely Tempest-esque 3-D spin on the strategy of Galaga, borrowed some music from a certain Mr. Bach and blasted it out as a stereo techno-symphony, and got a lot of people to blow their hard-earned money. It was also a lot of fun. Continue reading

Track & Field

Track & FieldBuy this gameThe Game: It’s time for the 1984 Olympics! Qualify and compete in such events as the 100-meter dash, the long jump, javelin throw, and the shot-put. (Konami, 1983)

Memories: Though the above summary of Track & Field may seem unjustly short, that really summed up the game, which was actually quite fun, especially if you could get a second player to compete against you at the same time. Very rarely have I given a sports game the time of day unless it was a good one (such as Atari’s Pole Position) or a game so goofy that it transcended its genre (i.e. the hilarious Odyssey2 Computer Golf! cartridge). Track & Field was a true rarity – a decent sports game. Continue reading

Circus Charlie

Circus CharlieBuy this gameThe Game: As Charlie the circus clown, you undertake numerous hazardous activities to wow the big-top audience, including ridng a lion as he jumps through flaming hoops, walking a tightrope also inhabited by numerous monkeys over whom you must jump, leaping around on a series of trampolines (and hopefully over fire-breathers and knife-throwers who happen to be displaying their circus skills in an upward direction between trampolines), and finally a death-defying flying trapeze act. You only get three opportunities to strut your stuff, and then the show’s over. (Konami, 1984)

It’s really like Track & Field with clown makeup, which in itself is somewhat disturbing. However you slice it, Circus Charlie is good clean fun, sort of the un-cola of sports games – there are a number of events (the game’s various “difficulty levels”), and the structure of the game is even the same, though here the action is confined to side-scrolling levels and it doesn’t feel like a sports game. Continue reading

Time Pilot ’84

Time Pilot '84The Game: You’re back in the hotseat as the Time Pilot, but this time an even more fearsome breed of ships from the future is after you. The good news is that you have a new weapon at your disposal – guided missiles – but the bad news is that the enemy has them too. Blast enough enemy planes out of the sky and lure their See the videocommand ship out of hiding; if you can survive long enough to blow the missile-spewing command ship to pieces, you’re off to the next level. (Konami, 1984)

Memories: Bearing the deliciously Engrish-esque subtitle “Further into unknown world,” Time Pilot ’84 is a re-interpretation of the original game, with a few more bells and whistles in both the audiovisual and game play departments. Those accustomed to just constantly blasting away with both barrels in the original Time Pilot have to adjust to the proper use of the missile guidance system (don’t waste a missile until your screen paints a viable target), but other than that, it’s the same game with a new coat of paint. 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

Rush’N Attack

Rush'N AttackBuy this gameThe Game: You’re a lone soldier behind enemy lines, but this is no Front Line. Armed with a knife and some serious kickboxing skills, you weave your way through an enemy installation, doing away with soldiers who are trying to block your way. Occasionally, you can pick up a weapon from a downed enemy, including flame-throwers, machine guns and rocket launchers. (Konami, 1985)

Memories: I remember encountering only one Rush’N Attack machine, which was one of the last arcade games I ever became hooked on. There’s actually something addictive, in a bloodthirsty sort of way, about this little war game. Continue reading

Kitten Kaboodle

Kitten KaboodleThe Game: An adorable kitten (and his twin, in the case of two-player games) runs and jumps around a maze of obstacles, trying to stay out of the clutches of such enemies as an insect in a lab coat, a large and angry-looking tomato, and a crocodile that walks upright. (Further levels add new and even stranger enemies to avoid.) The kitten(s) can push the blocks making up the maze, hopefully smashing an enemy against another block or one of the playfield’s outer walls in the process, temporarily removing that enemy from play. A defeated enemy drops numerous items, including coins, diamonds, and one of several keys needed to open a door allowing access to the next level of the game. (Konami, 1988)

Memories: Even in the late ’80s, game companies weren’t above “borrowing” each other’s concepts and play mechanics, and here we have a prime example of Konami “borrowing” the basic play mechanic of one of Sega‘s more low-key sleeper hits, because just six years before Kitten Kaboodle, enemies were being squished by blocks pushed by a penguin. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a three-dimensional pyramid of cubes, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a slightly different plane (i.e., they move down the pyramid as if it were rotated one-third). Any green objects and creatures Q*Bert can catch will not hurt him – in fact, the little bouncing green balls will stop time briefly for everyone but Q*Bert. If he gets into a tight spot, Q*Bert can jump off the pyramid onto a flying disc which will despoit him back at the top of the pyramid – and lure Coily to a nasty fate by jumping into nothing. Changing the colors of the top of every cube in the pyramid to the target color indicated at the top left of the screen will clear the pyramid and start the craziness all over again. If Q*Bert is hit by an enemy or falls off the pyramid, he hits bottom with a resounding, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Konami/Ultra, 1989)

Memories: Ah, the eternal conundrum of Q*Bert – to turn the controller, or try to do diagonals with an NES joypad? The original arcade incarnation of the mighty orange one solved the problem pretty simply by turning a standard four-directional joystick at a 45-degree angle within the coin-op’s casing. To truly replicate that effect, you’re given the option of rotating the NES controller 45 degrees or to try to do diagonals while holding it straight (in effect, hitting the left and down portions of the plus-shaped pad simultaneously to move in that direction). There’s a whole pre-game startup screen devoted to controller orientation here. And as awkward as it is, the 45-degree angle option is much more responsive on the NES. Now, a joystick such as the Advantage may help here, but again, the hardware itself dictates that the controller won’t be as responsive diagonally. Continue reading

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