The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw MassacreThe Game: You’re Leatherface, the notorious killer, and your job is pretty simple: track down those meddling teenagers (a See the videoprerequisite for every horror flick) and slice ‘n’ dice them with your chainsaw. Simple enough, right? It would be if not for obstacles that block your path (some of which you can also dispose of with your chainsaw), and the fact that – get this – these kids scream and run away from you. The nerve! But you can sever that nerve, and all the others, with your chainsaw…at least until it runs out of fuel. (Wizard, 1983)

Memories: Wizard Games was a short-lived outfit that sprang up during that fleeting, fertile window of time when it seemed like anyone could make a mint doing Atari 2600 games – or at least everyone thought they could. With this and a similar game based on John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween (in which the player tried to escape from killer Michael Myers), Wizard put itself on the map instantly. Not with great games, mind you, but with pure controversy: at the time, these games were decried for gore and violence! 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

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

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. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

See the TV adMemories: Something is almost always lost in the translation from the arcade to the much simpler processor of the Atari VCS, and here, what got lost was the fine visual grain that differentiated Tutankham from other maze games in the first place. Once a sufficient number of enemies is on the screen at the same time, a nasty case of sprite flicker plagues the game, and it all just boils down to a kind of non-descript, more tightly-confined version of Berzerk. Which just isn’t that much fun. Continue reading

Impossible Mission / Programmed Trip

The Game: On an enclosed grid, you control a robotic drone whose job is to collect certain items on the grid and deflect enemies away from those items. If you can plant obstacles – which deflect your enemies with 90-degree left or right turns – that lock your pursuers into an inescapable infinite loop, all the better…but more will come. (Ectron, 1983 [unreleased prototype] / custom copies released in 2006)

The Game: An interesting unreleased game which was apparently developed for the South American market (where the Odyssey2, known simply as the Odyssey, was quite the success story) by an outfit called Ectron, Mission Impossible / Programmed Trip is a little like playing a video game by programming in a visual variant of the LOGO programming language. Continue reading

Doctor Who: The First Adventure

Doctor Who: The First AdventureThe Game: You guide the Doctor, that wayward Time Lord, on a quest to retrieve the three segments of the Key to Time, recover See the videoyour companion from an alien prison, and escape aliens who are on your trail. The game appropriately takes place in four “episodes” (stages). Failing to complete a task will cost you time and a precious regeneration; running out of either one ends the game.

Memories: The first officially approved Doctor Who video game, The First Adventure isn’t a trendsetter or a great innovation in and of itself; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that this game for the BBC Micro would’ve been entirely un-noteworthy if not for the Doctor Who connection. Continue reading

Night Stalker

Night StalkerThe Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a See the videolimited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot the bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)

Memories: An adaptation of one of the Intellivision’s signature games, Night Stalker is actually one of the strongest titles in the tiny Aquarius game library. This isn’t to say that it’s a great port, just that it’s less bad than some of the other Aquarius games. 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

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while they’re blue, and avoid the monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: The early days of the IBM PC – which had, at this point, been on the market for two years – saw numerous software publishers trying to second-guess the PC’s position in the market. IBM’s a tech giant for businesses, but will this thing take off in the consumer market? If so, do we market entertainment software for it? Is it even suited to that sort of thing? And the answer to those questions, in 1983, was…well, maybe? Continue reading

Attack Of The Timelord! (Terrahawks+)

Attack Of The Timelord!The Game: The game begins as the skull-like face of Spyruss the Deathless (the Timelord of Chaos, no less!) taunts you (well, only if you had the Voice), and then a bunch of pesky spaceships pops out of a vortex to shoot at See the videoyou. They shoot at you rather a lot. Fortunately, you can shoot back with reckless abandon, but their ammunition – as you ascend into the higher levels of the game – can track you and even, if you don’t destroy their shots in mid-air, crawl along the ground briefly while you head for the opposite side of the screen, neatly trapped for their next volley. (Philips, 1983)

Memories: Known as Attack Of The Timelord outside of Europe and the U.K., this game was released abroard as Terrahawks+ for the Philips G7400+ console. It’s essentially the same game, except with a relatively elaborate background graphic of the Earth and moon (complete with the man in the moon, no less). Continue reading

RealSports Basketball

RealSports BasketballThe Game: Two players each control one man in one-on-one, full-court action. Whoever has the highest score by a predetermined time limit wins. (Atari, 1983 [unreleased])
See the video
Memories: Atari’s RealSports series was created to challenge the upper hand Intellivision’s sports games had gained over the blocky, primitive virtual versions of the same sports on the Atari 2600. The RealSports brand was extended into the 5200 line as well, and did manage to score some firsts, including the first home video game to offer speech without additional custom hardware (RealSports Baseball). But for some reason, neither the 2600 nor 5200 versions of RealSports Basketball ever saw the light of day. Continue reading

Fantasy

FantasyThe Game: Pirates have kidnapped your girlfriend, Cheri, and it’s your job to rescue her, from landing your hot air balloon on the deck of the pirate ship and trying to free her, to flying and climbing your way through the jungle to rescue See the videoher from jungle animals who have abducted her from the pirates. (Texas Instruments, 1983 [unreleased])

Memories: Several years ago, when I wrote up my all-time favorite coin-op, SNK‘s adventurous gem Fantasy (licensed for the US by Rock-Ola), I lamented the lack of a home version. I’ve always thought Fantasy was underappreciated as an arcade game, and a good home translation might have helped. I remember, around the time that NAP finally licensed an arcade game (Turtles) for the Odyssey2, I wrote a letter to them to make the case for an Odyssey2 version of Fantasy, since it now seemed like they were prepared to license arcade titles. When my Fantasy review appeared many years later, TI 99/4a uber-fan Bryan Roppolo wrote in to bring my attention to an unreleased version of the game that had been in the works for that computer system, and I’ve always wondered if it was as much fun as the arcade game. Continue reading

Killer Bees

Killer Bees!The Game: You control a solitary swarm of “good” bees, trailed by a couple of handy ray guns on the same vertical axis. The game starts out with a bunch of dim-witted Beebots bumbling around the screen, which you can sting with your See the videobee swarm until the ‘bots slow down and finally expire, marked by a rather grim little tombstone! This probably sounds easy enough, but there are killer bees from outer space emerging from hives around the edge of the play area, and when their swarms collide with your swarm, you lose bees. The only defense against the killer bees is a pair of ray guns, which have to recharge after every use. (North American Philips, 1983)

Memories: Another example of how Philips might have revised existing Odyssey2 games for their new platform, Killer Bees winds up being another example of how ungraceful the transition could’ve been. Continue reading

Tempest

TempestThe Game: As a strangely crablike creature, you scuttle along the rim of an abstract, hollow geometric tube, zapping red bow-tie-ish critters and See the videopurple diamond-shaped things which carry them. There are also swirly green things (swirly thing alert!!) which spin “spikes” like webs, and by the way, you should avoid spikes. (Atari, 1983 – never released)

Memories: This version of Tempest never officially saw the light of day…but in looking at this attempt at a 2600 version of Atari’s own popular vector graphics game, one wonders if the game’s no-show wasn’t an attempt to prevent another turkey of Pac-proportions from marring Atari’s recently-repaired reputation. Continue reading

Millipede

MillipedeBuy this gameThe Game: Once more unto the breach, your garden of mushrooms is now under attack by a millipede, and the big bug’s even nastier insect entourage has come along too. The spiders, scorpions and fleas are now joined by mosquitoes and inchworms, among others. The only advantage you have? Occasional containers of DDT (can you tell this was the 80’s?) will allow you to wipe out all targets within a given radius…but use them wisely! (Atari, 1984)

Memories: Though the graphics aren’t markedly different from those of the Atari 2600 version of Centipede, the elements of the game are a great deal more challenging. In a way, Millipede isn’t quite so well-suited to the trakball controller…it’s just too fast. Continue reading

Mr. Do!’s Wild Ride

Mr. Do!'s Wild RideThe Game: Mr. Do, having vanquished unicorns and other beasties, decides to take a little bit of vacation time at the nearest amusement park. But there’s one problem! (Isn’t there always?) The roller coasters are trying to kill him. Your job is to guide Mr. Do along the roller coaster tracks, avoiding deadly fast-moving roller coaster cars and climbing little ladders to reach cherries (is it my imagination, or does this guy eat more cherries than anybody since Pac-Man?). Watch your head at all times! (Universal, 1984)

Memories: The fourth and final entry in the obscure attempt at a Mr. Do! franchise, this one is also my least favorite – but that’s not to say that it isn’t fun. First off, I just find the theme appealing. In Do Run Run!, one is required to kill off endless waves of killer kritters, making Mr. Do the blood-thirstiest clown since John Wayne Gacy. This game, however, takes a less violent approach – things can happen to you, sure, but they’re not the deliberate acts of sinister characters who are hell-bent on destroying you. Continue reading

Buraco Negro! (“Black Hole!”)

Buraco Negro!The Game: This is a tale of a futuristic society advanced almost beyond belief. A black hole has been trapped behind a force field, where its gravity won’t snag the chains of space outposts lining the top and bottom of the screen. That gravity will, however, attract stray asteroids, which naturally can do a number on the space stations. This is where you come in: as the captain of an interplanetary street-sweeper, it’s your job to grab the asteroids and deposit them in the maw of the black hole. It’s tricky, business: letting go of an asteroid too far away from the black hole will allow it to drift toward the space stations, but putting your own ship too close to the black hole will put you in harm’s way (and may still let the asteroid escape). The more asteroids you put in the black hole, the bigger and more powerful it becomes (did anyone really think through this method of disposing of the trash?), which will attract more asteroids and cause them to move faster. You can also shoot asteroids, but this will add no points to your score, and stray missiles could destroy space stations. If your ship plummets into the event horizon, or too many space stations are destroyed, there’s suddenly a vacancy for the most dangerous garbage disposal job in the universe. (GST Video, 1984)

Memories: As a rule, I try not to be too critical of a game’s programmer, but this rare title – initially released only in South America, and then later dressed up with a spacey background and released in Europe for the Videopac G7400+ under the incorrectly-translated name Neutron Star – offers so little reward for so much effort that one can only assume its designer was a masochist. Continue reading

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator

Star Trek: Strategic Operations SimulatorThe Game: Your mission is to travel from sector to sector, eliminating Klingon incursions into Federation space without getting your ship and 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… (Sega, 1984)

Memories: Some of the games ported to the Atari 5200 are a bit perplexing when they’re hardly a step above the same title as released for the Atari 2600. Sega’s 5200 edition of its own arcade game doesn’t improve much on the graphics of the 2600 version, and doesn’t even take advantage of the 5200’s controller keypad to control things like shields and warp power (that’s actually a bit disappointing there). Continue reading

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