Time Tunnel

Time TunnelThe Game: As the conductor of a time-traveling train, you must find and collect your passenger cars in the present day, move on to the near future to pull up to several stations and fill those cars with time travelers, and then deposit See the videothem at various attractions in the distant future. That would be difficult enough to do without running out of fuel, but you also have to contend with space creatures and repeatedly avoid collisions with a competing train by controlling the switches on the tracks. (1982, Taito)

Memories: This exceedingly obscure Taito arcade game is cute and innovative – it’s certainly not another riff on Loco-Motion, that’s for sure. But if you don’t remember it, there may be a reason – it takes several minutes to play a single game. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, but the very nature of arcade games is to vanquish as many challengers as possible, and quickly – the more people come back to play an arcade game, the more money it earns, so conventional wisdom among arcade operators in the 1980s was to dispense quickly with any game that didn’t chew through players’ quarters quickly. A game that took a long time to play had limited earning potential, three words that could get an arcade game scrapped, sent back to the distributor, or converted into another game in record time. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotBuy this gameThe 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 dozens 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. (Centuri [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: One of Konami’s best-ever coin-ops, Time Pilot is an outstanding combination of addictive game play and the concept of “wanting to see what’s on the next level.” If you’re good enough, you get to see what kind of aircraft you’ll be up against in the next time period. 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. It’s like The Mummy, only much more entertaining. (Stern, 1982)

Memories: Konami/Stern’s 1982 maze shooter was about as different from its antecedents (Berzerk and Frenzy) as possible, and was still fun. The one thing that always got people in the arcades, especially on their first attempt at playing the game, was the fact that it was impossible to shoot vertically – firing could be controlled by a second joystick limited to left-right movement. Continue reading

Turtles

3-D computer rendering of Turtles cabinetThe Game: You are the Mama Turtle. Your helpless KidTurtles are stuck in a high-rise building, hiding from mean and hungry beetles. The beetles change colors in accordance with their speed and ferocity, from less aggressive green and blue beetles to fast, furious yellow and red beetles. Mama Turtle has to evade the beetles (which are deadly to touch at all times) and touch the mystery squares See the videothroughout the maze. The squares could reveal another beetle, or they could reveal one of the KidTurtles. When Mama Turtle picks up a KidTurtle, a safe house appears – usually all the way across the maze – and she must deposit the KidTurtles in the safe house, one at a time. Mama Turtle’s only recourse against the beetles is to lay “bombs” in the maze. Each bomb – and there can only be one on screen at a time – will reduce the first beetle that hits it back to the lowest speed/danger level, buying Mama Turtle a little time. (Mama Turtle can pass over her own bombs harmlessly.) The catch? You only start out with three bombs (is anyone else drawing some grim biological anologies to what Mama Turtle’s “bombs” might be at this point?), and you can replenish your supply of bombs only by running over an occasional flashing symbol which appears at the precise center of the maze…which is usually the most dangerous spot on the screen. Clearing a maze of KidTurtles allows you to climb to the next floor of the building and start anew. (Stern [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: Turtles is among the most obscure exponents of the maze chase format to hit the arcade in the early ’80s. I think I saw – maybe – one Turtles arcade game in my life, and it was only there for a few weeks. Actually, though, it’s not a bad game. Continue reading

Zoo Keeper

Zoo KeeperBuy this gameThe Game: You are Zeke the Zoo Keeper, and apparently you’re asleep on the job because the critters are breaking free! Your job is to nab them with a net which appears occasionally (a la Donkey Kong’s hammer), and otherwise avoid the stampeding animals until you can wall them back into their cage. (It seems odd, caging the animals with bricks – wouldn’t that make them rather difficult to feed or show to the public?) See the videoThen you keep going until you reach Zeke’s girlfriend Zelda. (Taito, 1982)

Memories: Taito may have jumped the gun a little on their publicity campaign for Zoo Keeper, which touted Zeke and his girlfriend Zelda (no, not Nintendo’s Zelda) as the next wave of franchise video game characters, right up there with Mario and Pac-Man and family. Instead, Zeke and Zelda wound up in the same class as Mappy and Venture‘s Winky – the victims of the video arcade’s equivalent of the old Hollywood stand-by line, “Don’t call us – we’ll call you.” 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

Cosmic Ark

Cosmic ArkThe Game: As the commander of a spacefaring Ark, your mission is to retrieve two members of every species on every planet you visit, in case the constant ruch of asteroids and meteors renders life on those planets extinct. In the initial See the videoscreen, the large Ark spacecraft is besieged by meteors appearing from every direction, and your job is to use the ship’s weapons the destroy the space rock before they destroy your Ark. After surviving this screen, the Ark descends into low orbit of a planet, and you pilot the scout ship, avoiding planetary defenses to grab two specimens of that planet’s dominant life form with your tractor beam. (Sorry, you don’t get to make crop circles while you’re doing your alien abductions.) If the planetary defenses hit your scout ship, you launch another one, but time is running out – eventually another meteor will plummet from the sky right into the Ark, and you can only defend the Ark if the scout ship has re-docked. When the final destruction of the Cosmic Ark comes at last, the tiny scout ship escapes into deep space… (Imagic, 1982)

See the original TV adMemories: Another addictive entry, though a bit simpler than Atlantis, this game was way ahead of its time – an alien abduction game, even one which gives the player control of the aliens, would go over phenomenally with modern-day UFO enthusiasts. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: You’re another treasure-hunting glory seeker who’s about to meet more than his match. If you can survive crossing the drawbridge into the castle – a task made incredibly difficult by the glowing fireballs of dragon breath being hurled toward you – you’ve got an even more hazardous obstacle ahead: the dragon himself is guarding a huge stash of treasure. Even if he can’t stop you from pocketing every shiny thing in the castle, chances are you won’t make it out alive. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: This is a game that worked well with the Intellivision’s disc controller. Especially on the second screen. It’s a rare case where I don’t mind that devilishly difficult controller at all. Vastly expanded from the same game as we knew it on the Atari 2600, Dragonfire is yet another example of Imagic concocting pure genius for the Intellivision. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: Introducing the ultimate in home security systems: a huge fire-breathing dragon. No keypads or extra power sources necessary! The amazing new dragon will repel any looters from the castle he’s guarding by belching See the videounpredictable barrages of fire across the castle drawbridge. And even if an intrepid looter does gain access to the castle, the dragon will fend off the unwelcome visitor’s attempts to grab the castle’s treasure with an endless hail of fireballs, toasting the looter on contact. If the looter should happen to grab all the treasure – which is highly, highly unlikely due to the rugged design of the dragon – an escape hatch will appear and he’s free to try his luck from the drawbridge again. But it’s very unlikely that any looter will survive a second attempt…which is actually rather unfortunate, since you’re the treasure hunter in this game. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: An addictive little number, this Dragonfire. Granted, the Intellivision version of this game looks fancier – well, compared to the 2600 cartridge, almost every other version of Dragonfire has a little more audiovisual flair. Continue reading

E.T.

E.T.The Game: In something that would best be described as a very vague homage to the Steven Spielberg film of the same name, E.T. allows you to guide the intrepid (and cute) extra-terrestrial on a quest to find Reese’s See the TV adPieces and transmitter pieces (with which one can, presumably, phone home), while avoiding the threatening (but cute) doctors and FBI agents. If you get into a scrape, the helpful (and cute) Elliott may be able to pry you out of a sticky situation. You may then resume your pointless quest until, inevitably, you wind up withering away at the bottom of one of the many pits in the game. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: A few phrases pop into my head when I think about this game, among them: “waste of time,” “cheap licensing cash-in,” and “was there ever anything nearly this lame for the Odyssey2?” As many have noticed, the vast majority of the effort poured, or dripped as the case may be, into E.T. was spent on the opening title screen. Pretty impressive stuff for the 2600, but the game was much more satisfying if one never got past that title screen. Continue reading

Fast Food

Fast FoodThe Game: You’re a disembodied pair of jaws – sort of like that old wind-up clacking teeth toy, minus the wind-up part. And the feet. Food flies at you from the left side of the screen, and your job is to gobble all of it up that you can reach. (Try not to dwell on the digestive process involved with a disembodied pair of jaws – See the videopresumably there’s a grateful disembodied stomach somewhere in this food chain.) The more snacks you snag, the faster the food flies. Beware of the purple peppers, though – you can only eat so many of them before your jaws erupt in a cataclysmic, game-ending “BURP!” (Telesys, 1982)

Memories: This is another game to file away under the category of “games that simply would not be made or marketed today.” As the healthy living movement (not a bad thing) collides and coalesces with the zombie-like conformity movement (almost always a bad thing) and some collective decision has been taken somewhere that overweight people are now as offensive to the general public as chain-smokers, a game like Fast Food – which congratulates players between levels with the tongue-in-cheek message “You’re Getting Fatter” – just wouldn’t make it to the store shelves today. (At this rate, I’m waiting for Pac-Man, with its unrestrained eating, to become somehow politically incorrect.) Continue reading

Fire Fighter

Fire FighterThe Game: It’s a three-alarm fire! Or so the packaging would have you believe. It’s actually more of a .5-alarm fire, giving you more than enough time to extinguish the blaze and rescue the poor soul who’s trapped in the building. Higher diffuculty levels actually give the game some challenge. Needless to say, letting the fire consume the building (or the person inside) does not brighten your prospects for a video game fire-fighting career. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Fire Fighter has always struck me as an oddity among the legendarily challenging Imagic games that accompanied it to the store shelves. Cosmic Ark, Atlantis and Moonsweeper were nothing to sneeze at. On its default skill level, Fire Fighter is something to snooze at. Continue reading

Fishing Derby

Fishing DerbyThe Game: You (and a friend, in the two-player game) are sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the time float away, and trying to catch some dinner at the same time. There’s only one problem: apparently Roy Scheider led you to this fishin’ See the videoBuy this gamehole, because there’s a shark roaming the waters near the surface – and he’ll happily eat your fish (the shark, that is, not Roy Scheider) if you happen to reel them in while he’s facing you. Some of the fish will put up a mighty struggle when caught, which can also lead them to a date with the shark. The first to snag a hundred fishies wins. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: Put away the current gen fishing reel controllers, this is where the odd sport of video fishing began. Fishing Derby, one of Activision’s early offerings, is proof that, once upon a time, imagination dominated the game-making scene instead of marketing considerations reigning supreme. Continue reading

Frog Bog

Frog BogOrder this gameThe Game: One or two players control one (or two) hungry frogs, each on its own lily pad. Flies flitter past overhead, and it’s the player’s job to get his frog to jump to just the right altitude, facing just the right direction, and to send his frog’s tongue snapping out to gobble up a fly at just the right time. The diremelyction of each frog can also be controller – frogs can go from pad to pad, but be careful not to land a frog in the drink; he then loses precious time swimming back to his lily pad while the other frog can be See the videogobbling up more tasty flies. The game follows a complete day in the life of the frogs, from morning to night. Whoever snaps up 100 points worth of flies wins the game. (Mattel Electronics, 1982)

Memories: As a concept, Frog Bog had been around since the 1970s, with the basic game play of two frogs competing for flies dating back to the B&W days of the arcade. But even if the game itself wasn’t anything new, it never got a better graphical treatment than it did in Frog Bog. This is one of those games that showed up incessantly in early press and advertising material about the Intellivision, and with good reason – it’s a simple, fun game married to just the right graphics and sounds. Continue reading

Lost Luggage

Lost LuggageThe Game: Before the TSA, there was… a little pixellated stick man on your Atari. Using the joysticks, your job is to direct this hapless less line of airport defense to catch every piece of luggage before it hits the sides or bottom of the screen. Failure to do so will result in the contents of the luggage spilling out across the floor; on some difficulty settings, black suitcases appear containing explosives that’ll detonate if that case isn’t caught. As soon as the area is successfully cleared of luggage, there’s a moment to catch your breath before the next plane lands and the process begins again. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: As funny as the game’s programmer thought it’d be to stick bombs in his pixellated suitcases on certain settings, Lost Luggage is one of those games that means something completely different now than it did at the time of release. But unintentionally prophetic dark humor or not, it’s one of the better catch-everything-or-else games on the VCS. 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

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

Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Raiders Of The Lost ArkThe Game: You’re guiding a pixellated rendition of famed adventurer Indiana Jones as he embarks on his search for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Meander through Middle Eastern marketplaces, obtain weapons and items of value, and watch out for snakes as you try to overcome a series of obstacles and hazardous environments, find the clues, and recover the Ark. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: One of the two movie licenses that landed on programmer Howard Scott Warshaw’s desk, the Atari 2600 game Raiders Of The Lost Ark is a near-perfect specimen of an adventure game on this console: it makes sense from reading the manual, but in practice, the way in which the game’s various settings and characters interlock and interact is almost abstract. Maybe this is one of those games where I’m just not getting the point, but I’ve always wondered why E.T. is held up as an example of what not to do with a 2600 game, and Raiders is held up as an example of a great game – to me, they’re almost identical. Continue reading

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