Star Strike

Star StrikeBuy this gameThe Game: Flying low over an alien installation, you are the last hope for the planet Earth. When the alien space vehicle has Earth lined up in the sights of its launcher, the planet will be destroyed. Your mission is to blast alien defensive See the videofighters and bomb their mothership into oblivion before that happens. (Mattel, 1981)

Memories: Star Strike was one of the games Mattel waved in everyone’s face to prove how superior the Intellivision was to its rival, the Atari 2600. But for its time, and considering that Atari’s biggest hits at this point were chunky home versions of Print new overlaysthe distinctly 2-D Asteroids, Missile Command and Space Invaders, Star Strike‘s Star Wars-inspired 3-D animated trench was quite impressive. However, the game was notoriously difficult for those weaned on the excessive simplicity of the aforementioned arcade adaptations. Continue reading

Video Pinball

Video PinballBuy this gameThe Game: Pull the plunger back and fire the ball into play. The more bumpers it hits, the more points you rack up. But don’t let the ball leave the table – doing so three times ends the game. (Atari, 1981)

Memories: I’m just not a huge fan of video pinball simulations – see my review of Thunderball! for Odyssey2 if you have any doubts – but having tried out Atari’s Video Pinball, I can say that it’s more fun than Thunderball! Itself a home version of one of Atari’s late 70s arcade titles, Video Pinball offers some finer graphics than you’d expect from the early waves of VCS titles. 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

Sneakers

SneakersThe Game: Alien invaders are descending on your world, taking on unusual forms in the process: sneaker-clad stomping creatures, roaming eyeballs, “H-wing fighters,” flying saucers and more. Try to use their unusual patterns of See the videomovement against them and keep them from destroying your fighter. (Sirius Software, 1981)

Memories: If this description sounds an awful lot like Activision‘s early hit Megamania!, it’s no coincidence – both games attempted to add a dash of whimsy to the basic game play of the ubiquitous arcade sleeper hit, Astro Blaster. Both Sneakers and Megamania! nearly duplicate the unique meandering movement of Astro Blaster‘s alien invaders. Continue reading

Taxman

TaxmanThe Game: As a round white creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, and apparently somehow tied to the Internal Revenue Service, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful See the videomonsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period for an escalating score. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and you can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and, after spending some noncorporeal time floating around and contemplating taxation without representation, return to chase you anew. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (H.A.L. Labs, 1981)

Memories: Alas, the folly of H.A.L. Labs and Taxman. Clearly a copy of Pac-Man – with only the names changed – this game was crippled by keyboard controls that were counterintuitive even back then. The sad thing is, given the graphics and sound limitations of the Apple II, the rest of the game was stellar, a near-perfect port of Pac-Man. Continue reading

Tranquility Base

Tranquility BaseThe Game: You are go for landing on the moon – only the moon isn’t there to make it easy for you. Craggy mountains and craters make it difficult for you to find one of the few safe landing spots on the surface, and even when you’re See the videoaligned above level ground, your fuel is running out fast. Do you have the right stuff that it’ll take before you can take one giant leap? (Bill Budge, 1981 / re-released by Eduware in 1984)

Memories: This game was one of the earliest efforts by a budding Apple II programmer named Bill Budge, before he achieved fame as the author of Pinball Construction Set. At the time, Budge was experimenting with interchangeable modules that could be slotted into the code of any number of games, including one for smoothly rotating 3-D wireframe objects – well, smoothly where the Apple II was concerned. The result was this unforgiving homage to Atari’s cult coin-op Lunar Lander. Continue reading

The Amazing Adventures Of Mr. F. Lea

Amazing Adventures Of Mr. F. LeaThe Game: Help Mr. F. Lea get to the top in this dog-eat-dog world. Cross a treacherous yard full of lawn-mowers (and helpfully slow-moving dogs), swing from tail to tail until you’ve jumped on every dog on the screen, scale the See the videobig dog’s back and jump over his spots, and climb to the top of Dog Hollow while avoiding the dog toys and bones being thrown at you from the top of the screen. You’d better be itching to win. (Pacific Novelty, 1982)

Memories: An oddball specimen from the dawn of the age of video game litigation, Mr. F. Lea would appear to have slipped through the cracks without attracting the wrath of the legal beagles. How that happened, we can’t even guess, for the game’s four stages strongly resemble Frogger, Donkey Kong and elements of Jungle Hunt. It’s like the hottest games in the average 1982 arcade…as played by a quirky cover band. Continue reading

Blue Print

Blue PrintThe Game: You are the intrepid, barbershop-quartet-suited J.J. (hey, it’s better than being O.J.!), out to save a damsel in distress from a pursuing monster. How does a guy in a little striped suit do this? By building a mobile, tennis-ball-launching contraption to dispatch said dastardly monster, naturally. The catch? The eight pieces of your mechanical creation are hidden somewhere among ten little houses in a maze – See the videoand those houses that don’t contain parts of your machine contain a bomb that must be dumped into the bomb pit immediately (else they’ll explode and kill J.J.). Critters also roam the maze to annoy you, including one pesky monster who will prematurely jump on the “start” button, rattling your still-unfinished machine to bits. If you don’t build your Rube Goldberg gizmo in time, the monster catches the damsel and you lose a life. (Bally/Midway, 1982)

Memories: Fun little game, this Blue Print. Perhaps somewhat like the rodent protagonist of Mappy, J.J. seemed to be primed for some kind of merchandising that never happened. Continue reading

BurgerTime

BurgerTimeBuy this gameThe Game: As Chef Peter Pepper, you climb around a multi-level factory whose sole function is to make some really big burgers. We’re talking about some BIG burgers here. But your ingredients aren’t exactly cooperating with you. Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Egg and Mr. Pickle are doing their best to keep you from making those big See the videoburgers, but you can turn the tables on them and put them in your edible creations! You have a limited supply of pepper which you can use to stun your tasty stalkers (and keep in mind, this was years before Mace). Or you can simply lead them across one of the yummy ingredients, and they’ll become part of the burger. (Which is a rather disturbing thought when it comes to to hot dogs and eggs in a hamburger.) Also, you can walk across a bun or a slab of meat on the level above them, and the falling ingredients will squash them on the way down. (Bally/Midway [under license from Data East], 1982)

Memories: BurgerTime was a cool twist on the climbing genre, but it had one main problem – oh, boy, was it ever slow! I t took forever to climb ladders, and on those later levels where there were huge, dangerous stretches of ladders, this slowed the game down to an annoyingly slow pace. Other than this, though, it was a nifty little game, and just playing it and writing about it has made me hungry for something from Burger King… Continue reading

Disco No. 1

Disco No. 1You’re on the dance floor, they’ve dimmed the lights, the feeling is right, and you’re gonna boogie tonight. Leaving temporary, light-cycle-style tracers behind you, you have to impress all the lovely ladies by literally skating circles around them. When you accomplish this, you claim a bit of territory on the dance floor. (Data East, 1982)

See the videoAnd here you thought Xanadu was the only pop culture celebration of roller disco – not so! This bizarre little coin-op number brings roller boogie back from the brink of extinction (being the voracious second-hand consumers of American pop culture that they were, God bless ’em, the Japanese apparently missed the memo that disco was “dead” by this point). Continue reading

Domino Man

Domino ManThe Game: The town square or the local golf course seems like a reasonable place to set up a huge row of dominoes, doesn’t it? Well, your on-screen protagonist sure seems to think so, and your job is to help him set up his dominoes without allowing any of a number of on-screen “enemies” – such as absent-minded shoppers pushing carts, bees, or a bemuscled bonehead – to knock the dominoes over. (Bally/Midway, 1982)

Memories: Another incredibly fun and offbeat coin-op from the gang at Bally/Midway, Domino Man was a whimsical little number which set all of its action to the music of ragtime maestro Scott Joplin. If only for that reason, this was one of the few arcade games that my mother used to get a kick out of (not that she tried it herself, of course – she just kept chuckin’ quarters at me, bless her heart). Continue reading

Eyes

EyesThe Game: The eyes have it, and you apparently want it. You’re also an eye – that’s right, a perfectly normal disembodied eye, wearing a little Oktoberfest hat, wandering through a maze, and shooting at stuff. You’re basically trying to shoot everything on sight. You see, the maze is filled with tiny objects, and you must shoot them all (running over them won’t cut it). The maze is also filled with a number of equally disembodied-and-yet-armed eyes who are out to get you. Clearing the maze of objects advances you to the next level, but you may only get a brief look at it since the eyes are even faster and more aggressive. Rock-Ola [under license from Digitrex Techstar], 1982

See the videoMemories: A bizarre little game among the glut of Pac-Man imitators, Eyes is an obscure little number that falls between the cracks of video game history by being neither particularly outstanding or awful…just strange. In a world where a game about a mobile yellow mouth is king, I don’t think anyone was looking for anything that they could take literally, but Eyes was simply odd. Continue reading

Eagle

EagleThe Game: As commander of the three-stage fighter rocket Eagle, your job is to ward off endless varieties of evasively weaving space attackers. Every time you knock out two consecutive screens of assailants, you’ll have an opportunity to dock your ship to another one of Eagle’s three stages, until all three portions of the ship are combined to create one bad-ass weapons platform. But you can also lose stages very quickly, See the videoending your game – a bigger ship makes a bigger and easier target. (Centuri [under license from Nichibutsu], 1982)

Memories: Don’t ask me what happened here. I distinctly remember playing both Eagle and Moon Cresta in the arcades and thinking how similar they were. Much later, with the benefit of emulation, I could play both back-to-back and realized what I’d always suspected: they’re the same game! Continue reading

Jolly Jogger

Jolly JoggerThe Game: Players control the Jolly Jogger as he attempts to draw borders around every square area on the playing field. There are several special squares which temporarily give Jolly Jogger the ability to freeze his pursuers for a while; at all other times, they are to be avoided at all costs. Running around every square on the screen clears that level and introduces a new maze of squares where the process begins anew. A lit fuse counts down the time available to Jolly Jogger to complete each screen; if time runs out, a life is lost. (Taito, 1982)

Memories: With a setup and a play mechanic similar to Pepper II and Amidar, Jolly Jogger doesn’t seem to have been a high priority for Taito – even the sell sheet distributed to entice arcade operators and distributors to buy the game seemed lackluster and generic, as if Taito knew it had a game that wasn’t really worthy of prime arcade real estate. 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, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Another rare Atari sequel – from a company that tended to at least try to stay away from repetition – Millipede of course picks up where Centipede left off – in the same garden, with lots of bugs. A major ad campaign kicked this one off, with Atari using the then-world-champion of Centipede as a spokesperson to verify that this game was, indeed, fun and challenging. Continue reading

Pirate Pete

Pirate PeteThe Game: You are the king of the jung…uh, pirate ship! Swinging from rope to rope! Swimming through shark-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing knive-weilding pirates (wait, aren’t See the videothey supposed to be on your side if you’re a pirate too?) to rescue the damsel! (Taito, 1982)

Memories: So…Pirate Pete. I’m sure you’re not fooled – this is Jungle King again, with different scenery. (At the end of the second stage, the Jungle King / Jungle Hunt music still plays.) A few changes were made to the program itself as well, but not many. 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

Solar Fox

Solar FoxThe Game: Your ship is confined to a grid-like playing field, which isn’t all that bad until you take into account that armed ships are gliding along all four of the “walls” surrounding that grid, blasting away at you like a fish in a barrel. Your job is the clear the grid of the objects filling it, and wherever possible, to fire a well-timed shot at the ships trying to destroy you. Clearing the grid advances you to the next level. (Bally/Midway, 1982)

Memories: Another variation on the clear-the-maze concept, Solar Fox only climbed its way up to “sleeper” status, if even that. I don’t recall any reports about Solar Fox burning up the arcades. It had some fairly nice cabinet artwork, playing on the word play of fox (as in a hunted animal) vs. fox (as in slang for an attractive woman), which featured heavily in the advertising campaign. Continue reading

  • IP Disclaimer

    All game names, terminology, logos, screen shots, box art, and all related characters and placenames are the property of the games' respective intellectual property holders. The articles herein are not intended to infringe upon their copyright in any way. The author(s) make no attempt - in using the names described herein - to supercede the copyrights of the copyright holders, nor are these articles officially sanctioned, licensed, or endorsed by the games' creators or publishers.