Mystery House

Mystery HouseThe Game: You find yourself outside an inviting two-story house, and when you go in, you find several people waiting for you – and that inviting front door suddenly locked behind you. When dead bodies turn up on the second floor and night See the videobegins to fall (hope you found the matches in the cupboard already!), it quickly becomes apparent that among the friendly faces of the first floor is a cold-blooded killer. (On-Line Systems, 1980)

Memories: The very first game released by a new company formed by husband-and-wife team Ken and Roberta Williams, Mystery House is the first in a series of “Hi-Res Adventures” combining simple graphics and text descriptions and actions. The “Hi-Res Adventures” series would grow to include titles licensed from Disney and the Jim Henson Company, and would even survive the Williams’ company’s transformation from On-Line Systems into Sierra On-Line. Continue reading

Jawbreaker

JawbreakerThe Game: You’re a mobile set of chattering teeth, gobbling up goodies in a maze as jaw-breaking candies pursue you. If you bite down on one of these killer candies, you’ll rack up quite a dental bill (enough to lose a life). You can snag one of four snacks in the corners of the maze and suddenly the tooth-rotting treats become crunchy and vulnerable. Advance to the next level by clearing the maze of dots. (On-Line Systems, 1981)

See the videoMemories: Atari’s home version of Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 was like a trail of telltale blood in a tank full of pirhanas. It was quickly apparent that there was one wounded one in the group, and other predators quickly closed in for the kill – or, in the case of Pac-Man, provided games for various platforms that duplicated the Pac-Man experience better than Atari could apparently manage to do. Continue reading

Mouskattack

MouskattackThe Game: Plumber Larry Bain is out to earn his hazard pay, trying to run pipes through a rat-infested maze. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that the rats are as big as he is. He can lay a limited number of traps in the maze that will temporarily stop the rats in their tracks so he can double back and eliminate them, but in the end Larry’s best chance of survival is to stay on the run and fill the maze with plumbing. (Sierra On-Line, 1981)

Memories: Cut from the same “let’s do Pac-Man but make it different enough from Pac-Man that we don’t get sued” cloth as his own Jawbreaker, John Harris strikes again with Mouskattack, which was actually advertised as being “by the author of Jawbreaker,” which may be one of the earliest instances of a game being advertised as something that should be bought on the strength of that programmer’s previous works. Continue reading

Jawbreaker II

Jawbreaker IIThe Game: Ever had a sweet tooth? Now you are the sweet tooth – or teeth, as the case may be. You guide a set of clattering teeth around a mazelike screen of horizontal rows; an opening in each row travels down the wall See the videoseparating it from the next row. Your job is to eat the tasty treats lining each row until you’ve cleared the screen. Naturally, it’s not just going to be that easy. There are nasty hard candies out to stop you, and they’ll silence those teeth of yours if they catch you – and that just bites. Periodically, a treat appears in the middle of the screen allowing you to turn the tables on them for a brief interval. Sierra On-Line, 1982

Memories: Faced with the threat of imminent legal action from Atari, Sierra – known by its original name, On-Line Systems – yanked the very Pac-Man-like Jawbreaker off the market, replacing it with a new version that was less obviously attempting to copy the game mechanics of Pac-Man. Those familiar with the Atari 2600 edition of Jawbreaker will find this game familiar: the maze is out, and the horizontal rows of dots with “sliding doors” are in. Though there are still elements similar to Pac-Man – at this point, really just the power pellet-like energizers in the four corners of the screen – the whole thing is different. Continue reading

Ultima II: Revenge Of The Enchantress

Ultima IIThe Game: Not happy with her consort’s defeat at your hands (assuming, of course, that you won Ultima I, the enchantress Minax tracks you down to your home planet of Earth and begins the test anew, sending legions of See the videodaemons and other hellspawn to strike you down before you can gain enough power to challenge her. This time, you have intercontinental and even interplanetary travel at your disposal via the moongates, which appear and disappear based on the phases of the moon. Each destination has unique challenges that help to prepare you for the showdown with Minax herself. (Sierra On-Line, 1982)

Memories: The second in the seminal Ultima role-playing game series, Ultima II has always managed to elicit little excitement from me. Continue reading

B.C.’s Quest For Tires

B.C.'s Quest For TiresThe Game: As beleaguered caveman B.C., you’ve just discovered the wheel. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, on the same day that you harness mechanical motion for the first time, you’re also going to discover the traffic See the videoaccident. Jump over holes in the ground, rocks and rolling boulders, and duck under tree limbs – and then you’ve got to survive showing your new evolutionary step off to the Mrs.! (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: B.C.’s Quest For Tires is one of those games that immediately brings the word “Colecovision” to mind – it was a striking game for its day, and this was the platform where it truly excelled (though it was also available on several home computers as well). Johnny Hart’s comic strip wasn’t quite in the Garfield stratosphere of daily newspaper comics, but it was popular enough that its characters would seem familiar. Continue reading

Threshold

ThresholdThe Game: Players control a space fighter on patrol as alien attack fleets gather in deep space. Always keeping a wary eye on his ship’s fuel and laser temperature, would-be space heroes must blow away every alien ship on the screen before collecting the reward – See the videonamely, the privelege of blowing away another wave of alien attackers. (Sierra On-Liine, 1983)

Memories: Another of Sierra’s early forays into non-computer game software via its “Sierravision” imprint, Threshold admittedly fills a gap in the Colecovision library – that system somehow managed to avoid accumulating heaps of slide-and-shoot Space Invaders derivatives. But it doesn’t do it particularly well, as Threshold is simply a watered-down Colecovision edition of Astro Blaster. Continue reading

Apple Cider Spider

Apple Cider SpiderThe Game: You control a spider, wandering though a factory that makes cider, and to survive this trip you better be a good hider, for the spider can’t survive with any apples that might collide ‘er. The spider can become a rider on conveyor belts, but she can also fall off if the spider tries to jump over something wider than she can navigate. See the videoThe goal is to help your spider reach home despite all the perils that would divide ‘er. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A cute game requiring heaps of good timing, Ivan Strand’s Apple Cider Spider takes some staples of the platform/climbing genre, adds a few twists, and pours on the cute for good measure. It’s a delightful game that’s funny because nothing really violent can happen here, aside from stumbling into a few grisly ways to die here and there. (Well, grisly if you’re a spider.) 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 See the videoscreen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for snakes and alligators! (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: When I fired up Sierra’s rendition of Frogger for the Apple II for the first time in something like 25 years, old synapses that hadn’t fired in ages suddenly came to life once more. This was the very first game I got with my very first computer, back in the day – back when neither one was anywhere in the same neighborhood as “cheap.” So I have a great sentimental attachment to this version of Frogger. Continue reading

Mr. Cool

Mr. CoolThe Game: You’re Mr. Cool, an ice cube who chills out while hopping around a pyramid-shaped series of platforms. Fireballs streak across the pyramid from time to time, and they’ll melt you if they touch you. If you can stay cool long See the videoenough, you can advance through the game by changing the color of every platform to your target color by hopping onto each one – though in later levels it’ll take more than one hop, putting you in the path of more fireballs that could cause you to lose your cool. If you have one meltdown too many, the game is over. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A classic case of making the best of a system’s limitations (and missing out on the official license for a popular arcade game), Mr. Cool is an unlikely collision of the game mechanics of Q*Bert and Frogger. And yet it works. In the company’s early days, Sierra was great at producing “near beer” games such as Mr. Cool and Crossfire (which approximated the game play of arcade cult classics Targ and Spectar). Continue reading

Sammy Lightfoot

Sammy LightfootThe Game: Help Sammy Lightfoot, circus performer extraordinaire, climb to the top of multiple levels by using trampolines, trapezes and your wits to avoid roaming meanies. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: From the success of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong came, well, lots of games that were similar to Donkey Kong. And while Donkey Kong‘s plot (especially compared to the games of today) may seem incredibly simplistic, many of the clones that followed it had even less of one. Such is the case with Sammy Lightfoot. Like Mario in Donkey Kong, Sammy is a portly fellow who has been tasked with reaching the top of a series of platforms. The games box art and documentation describe Sammy as a circus performer, ostensibly to explain the trampolines and trapezes located on each level. This is where the plot ends, and the action begins. Continue reading

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