K.C.’s Krazy Chase

K.C.'s Krazy ChaseThe Game: As a small blue spherical creature whose sole sensory organs consist of two eyes, two antennae and an enormous mouth, your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to start munching on the segmented body of the dreaded See the videoDratapillar while avoiding its always-lethal head. When you consume one of its body segments, the Dratapillar’s two henchbeings – known only as Drats – turn white with fright and you can send them a-spinning (normally, they’re deadly to touch too). Eating all of the Dratapillar segments gets you to the next level, and the mayhem begins anew. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: Perhaps just out of spite, the first non-educational game released to take advantage of the Odyssey 2’s new Voice add-on module featured K.C. Munchkin, the Pac-Man-esque critter who had landed Magnavox on the wrong side of a look-and-feel software lawsuit filed by Atari. Continue reading

Mine Storm

Mine StormThe Game: An alien ship zooms into view overhead, depositing a network of mines in deep space. Your job is to clear the spaceways, blasting each mine and then blasting the smaller mines that are released by each See the videosubsequent explosion; there are three different mine sizes, and blasting the smallest and fastest ones finally does away with them. In later stages, there are homing mines, mines that launch a missile in your direction when detonated, and other hazards. Smaller alien ships periodically zip through the screen, trying to blast you while also laying fresh mines. (GCE, 1982)

Memories: Obviously the Vectrex answer to Asteroids, Mine Storm wins about a zillion bonus points just for being drawn in honest-to-God vector graphics – and for being built in to the Vectrex’s circuitry. If you power the machine up without a cartridge plugged in, you get Mine Storm, and it’s a gem of a game. Continue reading

Microsurgeon

MicrosurgeonThe Game: Ready for a fantastic journey? So long as you’re not counting on Raquel Welch riding shotgun with you, this is as close as you’re going to get. You control a tiny robot probe inside the body of a living, breathing human patient who has a lot of health problems. Tar deposits in the lungs, cholesterol clogging the arteries, and rogue infections traveling around messing everything up. And then there’s you – capable of administering targeted doses of ultrasonic sound, antibiotics and aspirin to fix things up. Keep an eye on your patient’s status at all times – and be careful not to wipe out disease-fighting white blood cells which occasionally regard your robot probe as a foreign body and attack it. Just because you don’t get to play doctor with the aforementioned Ms. Welch (ahem – get your mind out of the gutter!) doesn’t mean this won’t be a fun operation. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Microsurgeon, designed and programmed by Imagic code wrangler Rick Levine (who even put his signature – as a series of slightly twisted arteries – inside the game’s human body maze), is a perfect example of Imagic’s ability to get the best out of the Intellivision – it’s truly one of those “killer app” games that defines a console. Continue reading

Moonsweeper

MoonsweeperBuy this gameThe Game: As the pilot of a super-fast intergalactic rescue ship (which is also armed to the teeth, which explains the absence of a red cross painted on the hull), you must See the videonavigate your way through hazardous comets and space debris, entering low orbit around various planets from which you must rescue a certain number of stranded civilians. But there’s a reason you’re armed – some alien thugs mean to keep those people stranded, and will do their best to blast you into dust. You can return the favor, and after you rescue the needed quota of people from the surface, you must align your ship with a series of launch rings to reach orbit again. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: The coolest Imagic game ever, Moonsweeper kept my attention for hours and hours, just trying to beat the bloody thing. Continue reading

Mr. Do!

Mr. Do!The Game: As an elfin dweller of a magic garden, you must avoid or do away with a bunch of nasty critters who are after you, while gobbling up See the original TV adas much yummy fruit as you can. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Probably the highest-profile title of Coleco’s original licensing deal with Universal, Mr. Do! came home in an almost insanely entertaining cartridge for the ColecoVision. The graphics and sound closely mimic those of the arcade game, and control seems fairly smooth to me. Continue reading

Pepper II

Pepper IIThe Game: You’re a little angel (of sorts). You run around a maze consisting of zippers which close or open, depending upon whether or not you’ve already gone over that section of the maze. Zipping up one square of the maze scores points for you, but it gets trickier. Little devils chase you around the maze, trying to kill you before you can zip up the entire screen. If you zip up enough of the maze and grab a power-pellet-like object, you can dispatch some of your pursuers. Clear the screen and the fun begins anew. (Exidy, 1982)

Memories: One of the first games released for Colecovision, Pepper II lived up to the advertising hype that basically said that owning Coleco’s new console was as good as having your own arcade. While the original arcade game didn’t exactly set the bar very high for any home adaptations, Pepper II really sells the Colecovision = arcade message by being almost flawless. Continue reading

Phaser Patrol

Phaser PatrolThe Game: The war between the humans and the spacefaring enemy Dracons isn’t going well, and you’ve enlisted to join the fight. In the cockpit of your space fighter, you toggle between your flight computer (where you can find and set a course for Dracon attack groups on the map, or helpful starbases where you can replenish and repair your ship) and the direct view ahead when you engage in combat. The Dracons throw a lot of firepower at you, but your own torpedoes have a longer “reach” than their ammo. Your ship can take a pounding in a firefight, gradually eliminating your shields, your targeting ability, and even your weapons. The game is over when you can’t withdraw for repairs and are destroyed by the Dracons. (Arcadia, 1982)

See the videoThe Game: In 1982, an assemblage of former Atari programmers, along with a few hand-picked rookie programmers, started their own third-party video game venture. To be in that market at that time, however, one had to make games for the Atari 2600, and the Arcadia programmers’ game concepts outstripped that machine’s software. Not to be slowed down by that minor problem, Arcadia introduced a new piece of hardware along with its first game. The Supercharger more than doubled the 2600’s RAM, and had the beneficial side effect of allowing Arcadia to avoid the costly practice of having cartridge casings made; instead of cartridges, the Supercharger loaded its enhanced games from cassette tape, usually in under 30 seconds. Continue reading

Pick Axe Pete!

Pick Axe Pete!The Game: As Pete, you start out in the center of a multi-tiered mine – not at the bottom – and your boulder-smashing pick axe begins to deteriorate after about one minute. Then you either have to jump over or duck under the See the videoSee the TV adonslaught of falling rocks, or you’re toast. Falling to the lower levels won’t kill you, if you time it just right so as not to land right in the middle of an avalanche. When two boulders collide, they can uncover treasures such as a fresh pick axe or, more importantly, a key to the next level. As you progress through the levels, one horizontal space is deleted somewhere on the screen at random, progressing on until you have a death-trap of open space where rocks can bounce right up into your face. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: As far as this gamer was concerned, Pick Axe Pete! was the greatest game ever created for the Odyssey 2. Far from your typical arcade adaptation, you can get further in this game by short stretches of furious action when you’ve got an axe to grind and then waiting patiently for the key to the next level to arrive. Continue reading

Pitfall!

Pitfall!Buy this gameThe Game: As Pitfall Harry, you’re exploring the deepest jungle in search of legendary lost treasures, whether they be above ground, hidden strategically next to inescapable tar pits or ponds infested with hungry gators, or in the underground catacombs under the guard of deadly scorpions. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: Pitfall! – subtitled The Adventures of Pitfall Harry – was the first blockbuster title from Activision, a software house formed by four former Atari programmers. Activision consistently turned out addictively playable and – bearing in
See the original TV adSee the videomind the 2600’s graphic limitations – gorgeous games. After all, Activision’s core gamesmiths knew the Atari 2600 hardware better than anyone, and were able to avoid such common, erm, pitfalls as flickering sprites and big, clunky pixels. Continue reading

Ram It!

Ram It!The Game: Controlling the on-screen “ramroid,” you’re up against what appears to be a malevolent bar graph. Your job is to keep the colorful bars from reaching the center of the screen from the left and right sides of the playing field; once they reach the center, you can’t eliminate them unless you’re playing a game variation where they might randomly become flashing “bonus” bars that can be eliminated with a single shot. If two bars meet at the center of the screen, they form an inpenetrable barrier that traps you above or below them. A round ends when the timer runs out (it counts down from 5000), when you’ve eliminated the last oncoming bar from the screen that you can reach, or – preferably – when you completely clear the screen of those bars. (Telesys, 1982)

Memories: This is a game that shouldn’t work in terms of being entertaining, but it does. This is a game that, by 1982, was certainly graphically behind the times, but it still works. Ram It! is a seemingly simple game that is nothing short of a maddening addiction for me – I’m always compelled to hit the reset switch again, to try and do better one more time. Perhaps the best description of it would be “Breakout from both ends,” but that just sounds wrong somehow. Continue reading

River Raid

River RaidBuy this gameThe Game: You’re piloting a fighter jet on a canyon run through enemy territory. You can’t fly outside the canyon walls, so stay over the river and blast everything in sight. Well, almost everything – flying your plane on top of “FUEL” buoys instead of shooting them puts a little bit of gas in the tank, and if you run out of fuel, you might as well just swallow the next enemy bullet, because you’re goin’ down. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: As you advance through the levels and it gets more challenging, River Raid becomes the same kind of balancing act between self-preservation and going on the See the TV adSee the videooffensive that is a hallmark of all-time classics like Robotron. River Raid was the brainchild of Activision programmer Carol Shaw, one of the small number of women who had a vital hand in the early video game industry (such as Carla Meninsky, programmer of numerous early Atari 2600 titles, and Dona Bailey, an Atari arcade programmer who co-designed Centipede). And yet River Raid is a shoot-’em’-up that’ll challenge any hardcore joystick jock. Continue reading

Shark! Shark!

Shark! Shark!The Game: Would you rather be a small fish in a small pond, or a big fish in a small pond? If you’re going to survive in this game, you’d better think big. Sharks and larger fish swim through the water, and if they’re bigger than you, you See the videoBuy this gamehave to avoid them or be eaten. You, on the other hand, can feed on smaller items which are below you on the food chain – and the more you eat, the more you grow, and this means you can eat more of the fish on the screen at any given time. But growth has its price: the bigger you get, the slower your fish becomes and the harder it is to get away from the shark. You can try to nibble the shark to death by biting his tail, but beware…he can bite back! (Mattel Electronics, 1982)

Memories: One of the Intellivision’s more unique titles, Shark! Shark! is literally a cool little game about the food chain – and it’s an addictively fun one too, perfect for the whole family. The first time I set eyes on the game, I had no manual – and it took me the loss of just one of my fishy lives to suss out how it’s played. Of course, every so often one still gets a little too brave and drives the poor little fish right into some blatantly obvious hazard because it looked like it might be small enough to eat… Continue reading

Smithereens!

Smithereens!The Game: Armed with a catapult and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of projectiles (sorry, Python fans, no cows!), your task is to repeatedly and continuously smash your opponent’s castle, his catapult (rendering him harmless for a few See the videoseconds), or your opponent himself (much the same effect; a new enemy soldier enters the fray after a few seconds). (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: Possibly the best two-player Odyssey2 game there ever was, Smithereens! was exceedingly simple, and simply some of the best fun to be had on this game system. Continue reading

Tron Deadly Discs

Tron Deadly DiscsThe Game: You are Tron, a lone video game warrior pitted against three other enemies with much greater armament. You can take a number of hits before you’re “de-rezzed” out of existence, but those hits can pile up pretty quickly. By throwing your disc at certain portions of the arena wall and changing them to the same color as your on-screen character, you can make tunnels for yourself – not unlike the side tunnels in Pac-Man – handy for escape or ambush. (M Network [Mattel], 1982)

Memories: Though it only corresponds to a very brief scene in the movie Tron, Deadly Discs is a very addictive game – and quite a bit of fun, actually! 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

Taipan!

Taipan!The Game: The coast of 19th century China could be a dangerous place – pirates lay in wait for passing (and relatively defenseless) ships, and that’s just the obvious danger. The buyer’s and seller’s markets in dry goods, weapons, silk and opium could pose just as much of a hazard to an independent trader’s finances. And then See the videothere’s Li Yuen’s protection racket… (Avalanche Productions [designed by Art Canfil], 1982)

Memories: One of the first trading strategy games I ever encountered, Taipan! has been a favorite of mine for something like 20 years. When I played it as just one of many games in an all-day weekend screen grab-o-rama, I found myself playing the thing for hours. Continue reading

Tunnels Of Doom

Tunnels Of DoomThe Game: A party of up to four adventurers descends into the depths of a dungeon to recover their kidnapped king and find his magical orb. Along the way, the band of intrepid adventurers will have to fight off everything from See the videopacks of wild dogs to evil creatures determined to bring the quest to an early end. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: I remember seeing this game at a friend’s house right after it came out, and feeling the whole world changing around me. Up until now, I’d been playing the same games on computers that I’d been playing on my consoles, except they looked and sometimes even sounded better. But Tunnels Of Doom, with its obvious nods to Dungeons & Dragons, was a whole dfferent animal. Here was a game that the consoles couldn’t handle. Here was a real live Computer Game. Continue reading

Zork I: The Great Underground Empire

Zork I: The Great Underground EmpireThe Game: You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a mailbox here. (Infocom, 1982)

Memories: A direct descendant of the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired all-text mainframe adventure games of the 1970s, only with a parser that can pick what it needs out of a sentence typed in plain English. In truth, Zork‘s command structure still utilized the Tarzan-English structure of the 70s game (i.e. “get sword,” “fight monster”), but the parser was there to filter out all of the player’s extraneous parts of speech – anything that wasn’t a noun or a verb, the game had no use for. Many a player just went the “N” (north), “U” (up), “I” (inventory) route anyway. Continue reading

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