Mr. Do!’s Castle

Mr. Do!'s CastleThe Game: As cuddly clown Mr. Do, you’re scrambling to squish all the unicorns who are invading your castle. You can repel them momentarily with your clown hammer, but you can only squish them permanently by knocking a brick out from the floor above. Most bricks contain cherries, but some also contain keys that See the videounlock the door at the top. When that door is completely unlocked, touching it will transform the unicorns into letters that make up the word EXTRA. As with Mr. Do!, collecting all five letters merits an extra “life.” Clearing the screen of monsters or cherries advances you to the next level. (Universal, 1983)

Memories: Another of my favorite obscure games, Mr. Do!’s Castle is truly cool, fun and addictive – all the requisite qualities of a good video game. In my mind, it easily outshines the original Mr. Do! by miles, and is one of the most unique and original entries in the ladders-and-levels genre since Donkey Kong. Continue reading

Popeye

PopeyeThe Game: Well, blow me down! Popeye the sailor man gets his own video game. On level one, you’re trying to catch Olive Oyl’s falling hearts before they descend to sea level and are lost, while ducking Bluto’s punches at the same time. A can of spinach appears every so often, giving you the opportunity to read the big bully the riot act (comic strip-style, of course). On level two, the falling hearts are replaced by falling musical notes, and you’ll need Wimpy’s hefty help to keep Swee’Pea from drifting away on a balloon. (Nintendo, 1983)

Memories: A true licensing coup for relative newcomers Nintendo, this project hooked them up with the cartoon marketing savvy of King Features Syndicate (and don’t think for a moment that Nintendo didn’t soak up as much knowledge as it could to put to use on its next hot property, Mario Bros.) But even though it’s a well-loved and remembered game, it wasn’t Popeye’s first arcade outing. Continue reading

Super Bagman

Super BagmanThe Game: As in the original Bagman, you’re a crook trying to heist all the gold out of an underground mine as a bunch of pesky cops try to catch up with you. What’s different in this sequel? You can also find a loaded gun in the subterranean caverns and take out your pursuers…but this only intensifies their determination to find you. (Stern/Seeburg [under license from Valadon Automation], 1983)

Memories: This is an “enhancement” we didn’t need. The original Bagman is a total hoot without the gunplay. Now, I’ve played Berzerk and Robotron and Wizard Of Wor and dozens, if not hundreds, of other games in which one shoots at one’s adversaries…so why do I object to the gunplay in Super Bagman? There’s a simple reason. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: Bongo the ape sets your toes on fire while you’re asleep during a jungle expedition. So naturally, you drop everything to take revenge on the goofy gorilla…but first you have to traverse craggy outcroppings, cross See the videotreacherous bridges, hop across a river on the backs of hippos, duck the attacks of charging rhinos, all to set Bongo’s toes on fire as he sleeps… and then the whole thing starts again. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Possibly the single rarest Intellivision game that doesn’t require extra gear such as the ECS computer keyboard, Congo Bongo was Sega‘s singular foray into providing home versions of its arcade titles for Intellivision players. Sega had already been collaborating with Coleco for some time, but had recently gone it alone with Atari 2600 and 5200 editions of such games as Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator and Congo Bongo. If Sega had a single problem with its early attempts as a software publisher in the American market, it was timing: most of its games arrived just as the video game industry crash was forcing retailers into a no-win scenario of price cuts and losses. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: You’re a jungle explorer hot on the trail of Bongo the Ape. The first level in your quest is a hazardous assortment of ramps and levels and a waterfall to jump across. Be careful of pesky little monkeys who can weigh you down so See the videoyou move slower (and jump lower). And watch out for snakes. Then you have to hop across a river using lily pads, the backs of hippos, and other floating objects – just try not to miss! (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Egads. Didn’t Sega learn the lesson from Coleco’s horrid VCS version of Zaxxon? Guess not, because their in-house attempt to translate the equally elaborate Congo Bongo arcade game for the 2600, while a bit less of a graphical and game play train wreck than Zaxxon, is still a train wreck. Continue reading

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr.The Game: As the offspring of the mighty monkey, it’s up to you to scale vines and chains, avoid mobile traps, occasionally grab some yummy fruit (since when is a little ape on Pac-Man’s diet?), and get to the key or keys that will free your papa. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Again very faithful to its arcade namesake, the Coleco version of Donkey Kong Jr. is an essential addition to the ColecoVision player’s library, with very accurately reproduced sound and graphics. 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, 1983)

Memories: Released for the Atari 2600 and 5200 simultaneously, it’s a no-brainer as to which version of Kangaroo is a better representation of the sleeper hit game Atari distributed in the U.S. (a rare licensed import for a company that usually released only homegrown product). The 5200 edition looks and plays more like the coin-op, including all four of the original game’s levels and doing so without the strange blue-going-on-purple background of the 2600 cartridge. 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 of apples, strawberries, cherries and bananas, one can only assume these are Pac-Man’s table leavings). (Atari, 1983)

See the videoMemories: One of the glut of arcade translations from the heyday of the VCS, Kangaroo is more or less faithful to its arcade namesake, though it’s missing one level (the one where you have to punch out an entire column of monkeys one at a time) and lacks many other details: the giant purple gorilla who swipes your boxing gloves never appears, and neither does the monkey who drops apples on you from above – the apples merely bounce out of nowhere of their own accord. Continue reading

Mr. Do’s Castle

Mr. Do's CastleSee the videoThe Game: As cuddly clown Mr. Do, you’re scrambling to squish all the unicorns who are invading your castle. You can repel them momentarily with your clown hammer, but you can only squish them permanently by knocking a brick out from the floor above. Most bricks contain cherries, but some also contain keys that unlock the door at the top. When that door is completely unlocked, touching it will transform the unicorns into walking plus signs; if you hammer five of them and spell the word EXTRA, you get an extra “life.” Clearing the screen of monsters or cherries advances you to the next level. (Parker Brothers., 1983)

Memories: I loved Mr. Do’s Castle in the arcade, and at the time I loved it on the VCS as well, though with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think the home version was as definitive as I once thought it was. Continue reading

Pick Axe Pete

Pick Axe Pete - Odyssey3 versionThe 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 See the videounder the onslaught 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. (N.A.P., 1983)

Memories: Released in Europe only for the Videopac G7400 – the European hardware equivalent of the Odyssey3 – Pick Axe Pete is a good barometer of how the classic Odyssey2 games would’ve been “enhanced” for the ultimately unreleased Odyssey3. And when I say “enhanced”, I mean that very loosely. On the plus side: the game is untouched in and of itself, which is a good starting point. (I think I’ve made clear that I consider Pete the pinnacle of gaming on the O2.) Continue reading

Popeye

PopeyeThe Game: Well, blow me down! Popeye the sailor man gets his own video game. As Popeye, you’re trying to catch Olive Oyl’s falling hearts before they descend to sea level and are lost, while ducking Bluto’s punches at the same time. See the videoA can of spinach appears every so often, giving you the opportunity to read the big bully the riot act (comic strip-style, of course). (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Well, shiver me timbers! It took me just shy of twenty years to get it, mateys, but this old landlubber has finally gotten his mitts on Popeye for the Odyssey2 – and blow me down, it’s seaworthy! Continue reading

Popeye

PopeyeThe Game: Popeye the sailor man gets his own video game. On level one, you’re trying to catch Olive Oyl’s falling hearts before they descend to sea level and are lost, while ducking Bluto’s punches at the same time. A can of spinach appears every so often, giving you the opportunity to read the big bully the riot act (comic strip-style, of course). On level two, the falling hearts are replaced by falling musical notes, and you’ll need Wimpy’s hefty help to keep Swee’Pea from drifting away on a balloon. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: After you’ve seen a few of Parker Brothers’ 2600 games, a bit of a style begins to emerge: simple characters that dispense with trying to be too graphically elaborate, and instead settle for being a decent light-and-shadow silhouette of what they’re representing. Such was the case with Parker Brothers’ version of Q*Bert, and it’s also the case here. Continue reading

Popeye

PopeyeThe Game: Well, blow me down! Popeye the sailor man gets his own video game. On level one, you’re trying to catch Olive Oyl’s falling hearts before they descend to sea level and are lost, while ducking Bluto’s punches at the same time. A can of spinach appears every so often, giving you the opportunity to read the big bully the riot act (comic strip-style, of course). On level two, the falling hearts are replaced by falling musical notes, and you’ll need Wimpy’s hefty help to keep Swee’Pea from drifting away on a balloon. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Possibly the most faithful home version of Nintendo’s game about a certain sailor man there is, Popeye for the ColecoVision does this game proud. Continue reading

Quick Step

Quick StepSee the videoThe Game: In what one can only assume is a long-standing rivalry spawned at your local zoo, a kangaroo and a squirrel battle it out on a relentlessly scrolling playing field of multicolored magic flying carpets. The player’s kangaroo tries to change as many of those carpets to his color (green) by hopping on them, while the squirrel (controlled either by the computer or by a second player) will try to turn those carpets blue. Allowing your critter to scroll off the bottom of the screen will cost you one of his lives, and the game ends when one critter or the other has run out of them. (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: In the early days of third-party games for the 2600, game manufacturers were happy to just mimic what was in the arcades – Activision‘s early hit Kaboom! directly copied an early arcade game called Avalanche, Imagic‘s Atlantis (which borrowed heavily from the obscure Taito coin-op Colony 7), and countless Pac-Man clones (Alien, Shark Attack, and so on). Even Atari got in on the act, porting Exidy‘s Circus to the VCS as Circus Atari. But after Atari sued the Odyssey2 game K.C. Munchkin! off the shelves, however, you’d think the rules would’ve changed, and the third-party developers would have found that ever-present legal threat encouragement enough to pursue more innovative ideas. Continue reading

Spider-Man

Spider-ManThe Game: The Green Goblin and his henchmen are terrorizing the city once more, and it’s up to Spider-Man to restore order. But the odds are against him: he can only attach his web to the surface of the building, naturally, but the Goblin’s underlings are ready and eager to cut Spidey’s web should it be planted near them. Worse yet, the difficult-to-navigate high voltage tower at the top of the building is riddled with the Goblin’s bombs, and even if Spidey can defuse them, there’s a Super Bomb waiting for him at the top of the building – and he can only put it out of commission after dealing with the Green Goblin personally. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

See the TV adMemories: What if…Crazy Climber was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more? That’s almost what Spider-Man seems like on the Atari 2600. Though I will step away from the comparison and point out that Spider-Man is a lot more challenging than the 2600’s less than stellar rendition of Crazy Climber. Simply getting a “foothold” (web-hold?) for your next ascent is a huge challenge, and getting to your next temporary destination is always a dicey deal. Unlike that other scaler of buildings, however, Spidey can catch himself in mid-fall – if he’s in the right place and you’re really fast. Continue reading

Spike!

Spike!The Game: Poor Spike – his girlfriend Molly has been snatched by a beastly enemy, and it’s up to Spike to rescue her (after, of course, declaring “Darnit!”). Spike must climb his way up several ever-moving platforms. He can change the position of the ladders he uses to climb up these platforms, but it’s not as easy as simply reaching the top: to advance to the next level, Spike has to See the videograb a key. Beastly henchmen scoot along the platforms to bump Spike off to his death, but Spike can kick them away momentarily. (GCE, 1983)

Memories: The first voice-synthesis game for GCE‘s already wildly innovative Vectrex console, Spike missed being the first home video game to produce voice synthesis without additional hardware by mere months (wait for it, wait for it… “Darnit!”). (The prize, if anyone’s counting, went to Atari‘s RealSports Baseball for the Atari 5200.) But that’s not the only neat trick Spike! brought to the table. Continue reading

Apple Cider Spider

Apple Cider SpiderThe Game: You control a spider, wandering though a factory that makes cider, and to survive this trip you better be a good hider, for the spider can’t survive with any apples that might collide ‘er. The spider can become a rider on conveyor belts, but she can also fall off if the spider tries to jump over something wider than she can navigate. See the videoThe goal is to help your spider reach home despite all the perils that would divide ‘er. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A cute game requiring heaps of good timing, Ivan Strand’s Apple Cider Spider takes some staples of the platform/climbing genre, adds a few twists, and pours on the cute for good measure. It’s a delightful game that’s funny because nothing really violent can happen here, aside from stumbling into a few grisly ways to die here and there. (Well, grisly if you’re a spider.) Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: How high can you go? Help Jumpman (Mario) save Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches by climbing ladders and avoiding barrels. (AtariSoft, 1983)

Memories: In 1980, Space Invaders became the first arcade game to be officially licensed to a home videogame system. Sales of both the game and the Atari 2600 console itself skyrocketed, thus giving birth to a genre that still exists and sells strongly today: the arcade port. For two years, Atari released ports of arcade games for their competitors’ systems under the brand name AtariSoft. AtariSoft focused predominantly on the expanding home computer market, porting popular arcade games such as Centipede, Dig Dug and Pac-Man to the Apple II, TI-99/4A, IBM PC, and of course the best game-playing machine of the era, the Commodore 64. Continue reading

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