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Crazy Climber

Crazy ClimberBuy this gameThe Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of the Nichubutsu building, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large stork with (apparently flaming) droppings and a large gorilla (perhaps on loan from the Nintendo building) can cause you to plunge to your See the videodeath several stories below, and even minor things such as annoyed building tenants dropping potted plants at you from above can have the same disastrous effect. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Taito [under license from Nichibutstu], 1980)

Memories: A bit of a cult favorite that never achieved a major following, Crazy Climber was a staple of many arcades and game rooms in the early 80s. The two-joystick control scheme took a little bit of practice, but once players got used to it, it was a major and unique part of the game’s appeal. Continue reading

Space Panic

Space PanicThe Game: An astronaut is trapped in an enclosed, vertical space with aliens who have a taste for human flesh. With his oxygen supply running out, he must dig holes in the floors of the multi-level structure and lure the aliens into those holes, which gives him mere seconds to dispose of the trapped aliens by filling the holes in. Clearing a level of aliens replenishes the oxygen tank and deposits the player on a new screen full of aliens, some of whom require extra effort – namely, the carefully-planned digging of an entire vertical shaft to fall through – to kill. (Universal, 1980)

Memories: A fiendishly hard and oft-copied game (particularly in the home computer arena, where it inspired such games as Apple Panic and Lode Runner), Space Panic may well be the first game of its kind: a game in which the player controls someone climbing up and down vertical levels on the screen. Continue reading

Monkeyshines!

Monkeyshines!The Game: An elaborate game of tag, only the simian players have an advantage; human players, when tagged, must be “un-tagged” by the other player to return to the game. (Magnavox, 1980)

Memories: This was the first attempt to mine the “ladder-climbing” style of games – i.e. Donkey Kong for the Odyssey2, and it wasn’t all that successful. Oh, it had levels you could jump up or down on, and it had monkeys, but it wasn’t quite in the same genre. Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: An oversized gorilla kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend and hauls her up to the top of a building which is presumably under construction. You are Mario, dodging Donkey Kong’s never-ending hail of rolling barrels and “foxfires” in your See the videoattempt to climb to the top of the building and topple Donkey Kong. You can actually do this a number of times, and then the game begins again with the aforementioned girlfriend in captivity once more. (Nintendo, 1981)

Memories: Make no mistake about it, Donkey Kong is the point of origin of one of today’s largest video game empires, both fictional and real. The character of Mario appeared again in numerous arcade games. Continue reading

Fantasy

FantasyThe Game: As an unnamed but cartoonishly cute little hero, you are powerless to watch as your girlfriend Cheri is abducted by a boatload of pirates. Only then are you inspired to act, chasing after the heavily armed pirate ship in your defenseless balloon. You dodge cannonballs as you try to reach the pirate ship’s landing pad (what is it, an aircraft carrier?!). Then you have to battle those nasty pirates on the deck of their ship while still dodging that pesky cannon, until you do away with them all and get to Cheri. A bird then scoops her up, leaving you to take a treacherous balloon trip, climb a tree teeming with dangerous critters, avoid tigers in the jungle, and take on an entire tribe of natives (who seem to be in cahoots with the pirates, who now have helicopters and artillery!) to rescue Cheri. Then, of course, she goes and gets herself kidnapped again. (Rock-Ola [under license from SNK], 1981)

See the videoMemories: Why do I like this game? Hmmmmm…I don’t know. I only ever saw one Fantasy machine, at the game room at Gaston’s fishing resort on the White River in Arkansas. I think one of the game’s best qualities was the “continue” feature, which allowed you to pop another quarter into the machine and pick up where your previous game left off within 30 seconds. Continue reading

Frisky Tom

Frisky TomThe Game: Tom the plumber smells a rat – actually, he smells a lot of them, and they’re all crawling around the plumbing, breaking pipes and planting bombs. While this is generally atypical rodent behavior, Tom only cares about knocking Buy this gamethe rats off the pipes, fixing the broken sections, and making sure the bathtub at the bottom of the screen fills in time for a lovely lady to take a shower. (With her bikini on.) Obviously she isn’t worried about the rats. (Nichibutsu, 1980)

See the videoMemories: This oddball entry from Nichibutsu, a.k.a. Japan’s Nihon Bussan Co., Ltd., is an interesting mix of climbing and puzzle games, once again proving that perhaps Nichibutsu missed its calling to innovate in the coin-op industry. Frisky Tom does, however, include a little hint of the direction Nichibutsu would take in later years: the “bathing beauty” scenes in the game are barely a shadow of what currently makes up the bulk of Nichibutsu’s output – R-rated versions of games like Mah-Jongg for the Japanese market. The hints were always there – Frisky Tom‘s bikini-clad woman, the kissing woman in Crazy Climber 2 – but the bulk of Nichibutsu’s output these days is decidedly adults-only. Frisky indeed. Continue reading

Rock Climber

Rock ClimberThe Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of a steep mountain, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large purple bear, pesky monkeys and waterfalls can cause you to plunge to your death several hundred feet below. (Taito, 1981)

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Memories: Imagine, for a moment, Crazy Climber, only with less fun and more frustration. That, in a nutshell, is a fairly accurate description of Taito’s Rock Climber, obviously an offshoot of Crazy Climber, which they had licensed from Nitsibushu. Instead of climbing a building, now your climber – still guided with two joysticks – is now trying to scale a mountain, plagued by annoying monkeys and deadly purple bears. (The bears probably wouldn’t be all that mean, except that they’re overcompensating for being what must seem to a bear to be an embarrassing shade of purple.) Continue reading

Crazy Kong

Crazy KongThe Game: An oversized gorilla kidnaps the girlfriend of an unidentified plumber and hauls her up to the top of a building. You are that plumber who shall remain nameless, dodging Donkey Crazy Kong’s never-ending hail of rolling barrels and fireballs in your attempt to climb to the top of the building and topple Donkey Crazy Kong. This rescue operation is repeated in several settings: a screen of sloped girders, a cement factory with conveyor belts, a series of precarious platforms and elevators, and the top of the building, with rivets that can be removed to send Donkey Crazy Kong plummeting to the ground… and then the game begins again with the aforementioned girlfriend in captivity once more. (Falcon, 1981)

Memories: As was often the case in the early ’80s, when the video game business was a vast, unexplored frontier, there were legal boundaries waiting to be pushed – and quite a few that just didn’t exist yet. From the same mentality that brought about an exact duplicate of Scramble from another company, and brought you Piranha and Popeye Pac-Man, came a Donkey Kong dupe: Crazy Kong. 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

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

Bagman

BagmanThe Game: You’re a thief trying to make away with all the loot buried in a complex maze of interconnected mines and shafts, and you’d get away with it if it weren’t for some pesky cops who are hot on your trail. You can drop bags of money See the videoon them from a level above, or temporarily brain them with a pick, and they’ll occasionally also bumble into open mine shafts of their own accord. In any of these events, they vanish for a little while to recover before reappearing. But any of these things will do you in too! (Stern/Seeburg [under license from Valadon Automation], 1982)

Memories: Bagman was a very addictive and fun variation on the ladder-climing format that had become familiar in the space of just one year. Despite putting the player in the role of a crook, the worst behavior this game could possibly encourage would be slapstick, Keystone Kops-type violence (wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of comically clumsy cops, and wouldn’t it be great if they brought beer – really good beer?). It’s a very cute and playable game. 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

Donkey Kong Junior

Donkey Kong JuniorThe Game: Mario, in his second-ever videogame appearance, has Donkey Kong in captivity, and it’s up to Donkey Kong Jr. to rescue his dad by scaling vines and chains, avoiding nasty-toothed traps and pesky birds, and reaching the key to free the great ape from Mario’s clutches. (Nintendo, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Donkey Kong Junior was a really cool game, because it added new ideas to the same general concept as Donkey Kong, resulting in a game that those proficient at the original game wouldn’t find difficult to learn. It was also unique in that the character that you played in Donkey Kong – the hero – was suddenly the villain in this game, and you were out to defeat him. Continue reading

Kangaroo

KangarooThe Game: As a mama marsupial trying to save your baby from many malignant marauding monkeys, you go on a rescue mission that involves climbing through many, many levels of the monkeys’ treehouse village, punching primates, dodging airborne apples, grabbing various fruit items along the way (considering the abundance See the videoof apples, strawberries, cherries and bananas, one can only assume these are Pac-Man’s table leavings), and avoiding the big, purple boxing-glove-stealing ape. (Atari [under license from Sun], 1982)

Memories: While some American coin-op game companies jumped on the license-from-Japan bandwagon and scored big early on, such as Midway (who imported Space Invaders and Pac-Man from two different Japanese game makers), Atari was a long-time holdout. Atari’s internal coin-op division was its own internal hit machine, and that simplified things when the consumer division needed hot new arcade titles to translate to the company’s home game consoles. Continue reading

Super Mouse

Super MouseThe Game: Super Mouse is on the case. He’s trying to grab all the food from every level of the screen. While he’s on the case, cats are on the chase, trying to catch Super Mouse. Two blocks of cheese on the top levels of the screen can be dropped on top of the cats, or the cats can be tricked into chasing Super Mouse over a trap door that’ll dump them in a water tank. But the cats don’t stay gone for long. Super Mouse advances to a new level when he takes every piece of food back to his secret hideout. (Taito, 1982)

Memories: Barely remembered by anyone, Super Mouse was one of the hundreds of games that heralded the 1982 arcade “boom,” when no idea was too strange or too derivative. Super Mouse combines elements of Donkey Kong and Turtles (not exactly two games that one hears mentioned in the same breath a lot) to create something intriguingly unique. But it’s not all that and a piece of cheese. Continue reading

Zzyzzyxx

ZzyzzyxxThe Game: You control a hapless creature who can jump between rows of moving bricks and even temporarily build a brick around himself. You’re trying to help him gather gifts for Lola, the object of his desires, at the opposite end of the screen; she won’t even pay attention to you until you’ve accumulated a certain number of gifts for her. (Demanding, isn’t she? I can hear Dr. Phil screaming “Stay away from her! She’s bad See the videofor you!” already.) Other than Lola’s curiously materialistic outlook on life, your biggest obstacles are colorful critters who would happily jump on you and end your quest. You can hide from them temporarily by building a brick around yourself, but if they catch you, it’s time to start over again. (Cinematronics, 1982)

Memories: First off, I have no idea what’s up with the title of this game. I really don’t. It’s like someone’s trying to make sure they’re absolutely the last thing in the white pages. Other than that, though, it’s strangely fun and frustrating, with the rows and rows of moving blocks providing you with more stuff than you can hope to keep track of. Continue reading

Adventures Of Tron

Adventure Of TronThe Game: As video warrior Tron, you scale the heights of the MCP’s domain, avoiding Tanks, Recognizers and Grid Bugs, and trying to collect Bits. You can occasionally hitch a brief ride on a perpetually airborne Solar Sailer on one level, allowing you to fly over your opponents’ heads for a few seconds. (M Network [Mattel], 1982)

Memories: Though formatted like one of the numerous platform adventure games that would one day become associated with Mario, Adventures Of Tron, while quite challenging, is frustrating since there seems to be no actual goal to reach. After a few levels, it becomes extremely repetitious. Continue reading

Beauty & The Beast

Beauty & The BeastThe Game: You control Bashful Buford, apparently a redneck cousin to Mario. You’re trying to reach the top of the Mutton Building to rescue your ladyfriend, Tiny Mabel, from huge Horrible Hank, who’s chucking boulders at you. See the videoYou can jump over these, and use open windows to get a leg up on the next floor of the building. Avoid bats and birds – and try to catch any floating hearts Mabel sends down, because they make Buford invincible for a short time. If you reach Hank and Mabel, you advance to the next few floors, which get increasingly cramped since the Mutton Building tapers off to a point. If you can reach Hank and Mabel at the top level of the building, you can clobber Hank right off the side of the structure and rescue Mabel – but not for long, since it all starts again a moment later, only faster. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Remember the hideous mutant of a game Coleco made for the Intellivision under the name of Donkey Kong? Not only did it bear only the most superficial resemblance to the arcade game of the same name, but it was even more inadequate than the legendarily bad version Coleco turned out for the Atari 2600. Continue reading

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