51 Shades of Geek

Commando Raid

Commando RaidThe Game: Helicopters and planes are dumping paratroopers directly over your land-locked cannon. Your job is to take out both aircraft and paratroopers before the enemy can land on and slowly destroy the rows of buildings on either side of the cannon. Once enemy paratroopers raze a building to the ground, they begin doing something even deadlier: digging tunnels toward your cannon so they can destroy it from below with a giant bomb, at which time your point defense career is over. (U.S. Games, 1982)

Memories: A clever riff on a well-known game, Commando Raid avoids being just another Missile Command clone. At first glance, the element of defending six cities/buildings by covering the entire sky from a fixed position seems familiar, but the gradual enemy occupation of territory beneath the player’s cannon adds an original twist and requires some new strategy.

Commando RaidU.S. Games didn’t exactly make stuff that looked like Activision‘s games, but the audiovisual element of Commando Raid is more than adequate to convey all the information players need. The buildings have several stages of disrepair, from undamaged down to rubble. The sheer twitch factor as multiple incoming targets have to be dealt with is impressive for a VCS cartridge, as is the fact that the barrage of approaching enemies is accomplished with virtually none of the dreaded “flicker” that has plagued countless other games on this platform.

4 stars!Seasoned Missile Commanders looking for a new posting can do a lot worse than signing up to go Commando.

Eggomania (Atari 2600)

EggomaniaThe Game: Which came first: your imminent defeat or the egg? A crazed chicken scoots back and forth across the top of the screen, hurling eggs downward at your suspiciously Cookie See the videoMonster-esque protagonist. Once your monster has captured all of the eggs (missing even one egg results in a lost “life”), you can fire the eggs back at the chicken and try to score a direct hit. (U.S. Games, 1982)

Memories: U.S. Games, formerly Vidtec, is one company that industry insiders single out as a prime example that speculators and bandwagon-jumpers were beginning to dominate the third-party software industry around 1982. U.S. Games didn’t really have a breakout hit or a killer app; instead, they had the distinction of being an upstart video game company that happened to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Quaker Oats – a company with no previous interest in the video game field. Continue reading

Space Jockey

Space JockeyThe Game: Space is a dangerous place, full of enemy fighters, hostile vehicles…and even enemy biplanes and enemy hot air balloons. Your job? Blow ’em all away. Your space fighter can hug the ground or zip into the stratosphere in See the videoa second, which is good because there are oncoming enemies at every altitude. If they take out all of your fighters, you might as well kiss the planet goodbye…which is kind of embarrassing if this means you’ve left the world open to invasion by balloon. (Vidtec [U.S. Games], 1982)

Memories: This is the first Atari game programmed by Garry Kitchen, who, after coding a VCS version of Donkey Kong for Coleco as a freelancer, would later join Activision. Space Jockey may not exactly be up to Activision’s specs, but it’s still an eminently playable variation on what was already a well-worn theme by its 1982 release. Continue reading

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