Shark Attack

Shark AttackThe Game: You’re a deep-sea diver in search of treasure under the ocean. There are only a couple of problems though – there’s a maze made of messy seaweed, which can slow you down or even trap you until you work your way free of it. And if that’s not enough of a problem, these waters are shark-infested, meaning that getting stuck in the path of a finned foe could mean your finish. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: A very thinly-disguised Pac-Man ripoff (the “treasures” are just dots, need I say more?), Shark Attack‘s storied history is more interesting than the game itself. 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

Spy’s Demise (Apple II)

Spy's DemiseThe Game: Players control a spy sneaking through a building looking for secret information. High-speed elevators zoom up and down their cables throughout each See the videofloor at random intervals, making it difficult to accomplish the goal of crossing to the other side of the screen (the only way to ascend to the next floor). It takes skill, timing and nerves of steel to keep one’s spies from their demise. (Penguin Software, 1982)

Memories: An addictively fun and frustrating early entry on the Apple II computer, Alan Zeldin’s Spy’s Demise gave players some real elevator action. Continue reading

SwordQuest: Earthworld

Swordquest: EarthworldBuy this gameThe Game: As a lone adventurer, you wander through the labyrinthine expanses of an underground dungeon in search of a lost treasure. You must cross Frogger-esque screens of fast-moving logs, avoid rooms full of deadly spears which will only kill you just enough to drop-kick your sorry butt back to the bottom of the screen, and enjoy the full capabilities of the Atari 2600’s ability to generate varying frequencies of white noise. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: One of the handful of debacles that marked the change in Atari‘s fortunes, the SwordQuest series was a very heavily-hyped four-game saga which tried to break new ground in the adventure genre for the 2600 console. Sadly, it didn’t even get close to breaking ground, or even wind for that matter – the fourth title, Airworld, was never released. Supposedly, the winners of each of the first three games would compete for a bejewelled prize and the opportunity to reconvene for a tournament to complete the fourth game first and win a wildly expensive sword. Continue reading

Tron Maze-a-Tron

Tron Maze-a-TronThe Game: You are Flynn, the hero of the movie Tron. In phase one of the game, you navigate a maze of circuitry, avoiding Recognizers, and trying to, as the manual puts it, “gather zeroes to clear the RAM chips.” In phase two, you’re up against the Master Control Program itself, and you can beat it by matching pairs of numbers in the “bit stream” to pairs in the nearby “bit stack”…or something like that. (Mattel, 1982)

Memories: Maze-a-Tron never got around to impressing me. The rule book is thicker than I could imagine the program would be, and the needlessly complicated game play really doesn’t inspire me to come back for more. And in a way, it almost seems like a game that had little to do with Tron, but was barely similar enough that it merited the grafting-on of elements such as the MCP and the Recognizers from the movie, and voila, instant licensed product. Continue reading

Tron Solar Sailer

Tron Solar SailerThe Game: In the third and final game of the trilogy of Intellivision games based on the movie Tron, you’re piloting the solar sailer vehicle stolen by Tron and Yori about 2/3 of the way through the movie. You ride the light beams through the digital realm, avoiding deadly (but dumb) grid bugs and pursuing Recognizers. You can fire weapons at both of the above, but doing this and keeping yourself on a clear path is the real challenge. (Mattel, 1982)

Memories: Of any of the Tron games Mattel manufactured for its own Intellivision platform or the Atari 2600, Solar Sailer is probably the one which is most closely related to a scene in the movie. It may also be the hardest. Continue reading

Venture

VentureThe Game: Trapped in a maze full of HallMonsters, you are adventurer Winky , on a mission to snatch incredible treasures from hazardous underground rooms inhabited by lesser beasts such as re-animated skeletons, goblins, See the videoserpents, and so on. Sometimes even the walls move, threatening to squish Winky or trap him, helpless to run from the HallMonsters. The deeper into the dungeons you go, the more treacherous the danger – and the greater the rewards. Just remember two things – the decomposing corpses of the smaller enemies are just as deadly as the live creatures. And there is no defense – and almost never any means of escape – from the HallMonsters. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: A nice adaptation of an unsung classic, Venture on the Intellivision retains much of the arcade game’s charm and is genuinely fun. Controlling Winky with the disc controller can be a bit challenging at times, especially when you have a Hallmonster trying to invade your room and you’re already fighting to navigate in a hurry. Continue reading

Venture

VentureThe Game: As intrepid (and perpetually happy) adventurer Winky, armed only with a bow and arrow, you’re on a treasure hunt of the deadliest kind. HallMonsters try to stop you at every turn, and their minions guard the individual treasures that lie in the rooms of the maze. You can kill the smaller creatures (though their decomposing remains are still deadly to touch), but the HallMonsters are impervious to your arrows – and you’re lunch. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Based on the addictive arcade game, this game is an excellent home translation, complete with background music and sound effects. Though the ColecoVision was more than capable of displaying more colorful and more detailed graphics, Venture is one of the better “simple” games made for this console. Continue reading

Venture

VentureThe Game: Trapped in a maze full of HallMonsters, you are adventurer Winky, on a mission to snatch incredible treasures from hazardous underground rooms inhabited by lesser beasts such as re-animated skeletons, goblins, serpents, and so on. Sometimes even the walls move, threatening to squish Winky or trap him, helpless to run from the HallMonsters. The deeper into the dungeons you go, the more treacherous the danger – and the greater the rewards. Just remember two things – the decomposing corpses of the smaller enemies are just as deadly as the live creatures. And there is no defense – and almost never any means of escape – from the HallMonsters. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Coleco was widely rumored to be deliberately making its third-party games for Atari and Intellivision total stinkers – look up the 2600 version of Donkey Kong or the even more miserable Intellivision version sometime. But Venture for the VCS was a bit of a surprise: it wasn’t a total stink bomb of a game. Continue reading

Munch Man

Munch ManThe Game: You control a round creature consisting of a mouth and little else. When the game begins, you’re given about two seconds’ head start to venture into the maze before blobby monsters are released from their cages and begin pursuing you. As you move, Munch See the videoMan leaves a trail in his wake; you advance to the next level of the game by “painting” the entire maze with that trail. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: A nifty Pac-Man clone done with simple character graphics and a few game play twists designed to make it lawsuit-proof, Munch Man miraculously seemed to be spared being on the receiving end of Atari’s litigious wrath – surprising since Atari was suing Bally, Magnavox, and just about everyone else trying to put a Pac-Man-like game on a home console at the time. Continue reading

Bubbles

BubblesBuy this gameThe Game: This is an interactive documentary about the life of a Scrubbing Bubble. As a small bubble, your job is to scoot around the sink, See the videosoaking up smaller bubbles, bits of dirt, and any ants that wander into your path. As you accrete more common kitchen debris, your bubble grows bigger and begins to form a face. When your bubble is big enough to sport a big ant-eating grin, you can start to do real damage. Razor blades are always deadly; roving brushes are deadly until your bubble has a mouth, and roaches are deadly unless you can dispatch them with a broom that periodically appears. When the drain at the center of the sink flashes green, you can slide down the drain and advance a level – something which you can only otherwise accomplish by clearing the sink of “edible” items. (Williams Electronics, 1983)

Memories: Okay, and the designers at Williams were smoking what, exactly, when they dreamed this one up?

But I kid Bubbles. It’s actually a pretty cool game, and a rare example of a cutesy game from Williams, a company which usually turned out such macho, kill-’em-all shooters as Defender, Sinistar and Robotron. Williams’ only other entry in the cute game genre was Make Trax (which almost doesn’t count, since it was licensed from an obscure Japanese manufacturer). Continue reading

Crystal Castles

Crystal CastlesBuy this gameThe Game: You are Bentley the Bear, cuddly defender of a vaguely 3-D fairy tale realm just loaded with ruby-like crystals. While this would seem like an idyllic existence for many sentient stuffed animals, it is, of course, not that easy. Berthilda the Witch has sent her evil minions to seize the crystals for her. Walking trees, See the videoupright centipedes, and animated skeletons prowl the geometric vistas to keep Bentley from claiming the crystals. Finding the wizard hat will briefly give Bentley the power to dispose of Berthilda if and when she makes an appearance. Bentley also has a weakness for the pot of honey that appears on each level – and if he grabs the honey, a swarm of bees suddenly has a problem with him. Clearing each screen of crystals advances to the next level. Keep in mind that the enemies can also consume crystals, so they may actually clear the level – Bentley gets a bonus if he’s the one who nabs the last gem on the screen. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: A bizarre little game with play elements of Pac-Man set in an almost Q*Bert-like perspective, Crystal Castles was actually quite the quantum leap forward for graphics back in ’83. (It would later be blown out of the water by Atari’s own Marble Madness not long afterward.) It was also one of the earliest games to utilize Atari’s System 1 hardware. Continue reading

Krull

KrullThe Game: In the video-game adaptation of the movie – which, at the time, was expected to be the next Star Wars-type franchise – you are Colwyn, the hero of the piece. Your first job is to climb a treacherous mountain, dodging boulders, and finding the five pieces of the throwing-star-like Glaive weapon. On the second level, you get to use it against a bunch of nasty swamp creatures who are trying to kill your army. You get to do this for two levels. Then you have to break your men out of a stronghold, and then lead the fight against the invincible chief monster, all to save the princess. (Gottlieb, 1983)

Memories: Krull wasn’t a bad little game. It might take you a few quarters to get through, and that last level with the main monster was a killer. In a way, Krull is sort of like the opposite of Tron – whereas Tron is best remembered as a game and not a movie, Krull is virtually forgotten as a video game, and the movie still enjoys a small cult following. Continue reading

Mappy

MappyBuy this gameThe Game: Mappy the Mouse stars in “Micro Police!” You are Mappy, a mouse determined to bring Boss the Big Bit and his kooky kitty kohorts to justice before they make a huge hail on a house heist. You can snatch up the potential booty yourself to keep it safe, and can temporarily foil your feline foes by slamming doors on them, or by opening special glowing doors which blast them away with a burst of sound. If you snatch up all the treasures and avoid the cats, it’s off to the next level. Periodically, you get to pop balloons on a bonus level for extra points. (Bally/Midway [under license from Namco], 1983)

Memories: You know, it’s just possible that Namco and Bally/Midway put the tail before the dog (or, in this case, the mouse) this time around. With the arcade cabinet’s positively mammoth marquee, and the hint that Mappy was the star of this game and would presumably star in future games, one wonders if the American distributors of Pac-Man were perhaps just a little too certain that everything coming out of their plants would be the dawn of a new franchise. Continue reading

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

Phozon

PhozonThe Game: You control a “Chemic,” a free-floating object while can adhese itself to passing Moleks, but is vulnerable to the Atomic. Within a limited amount of time (charted by a meter at the bottom of the screen), gather and repulse Moleks around your Chemic until you’ve duplicated the example shape shown in the center of Buy this gamethe screen. Beware of the Atomic, however – it will not only become more aggressive in its deceptively aimless wanderings, but it can also separate into its own component molecules – and regather its shape right in your path. It also shoots, in later levels, energy that can dislodge Moleks from the Chemic’s pattern. You advance through the game by successfully duplicating the sample shape – and surviving the Atomic’s attacks. (Namco, 1983)

Memories: If someone pinned me up against the wall and demanded that I name my favorite coin-op manufacturer – and I’ll admit that this isn’t terribly likely to happen – I’d have to say Namco. They brought us such immortal and inexplicably (and insanely) fun games as Pac-Man, Mappy, Dig Dug, Galaga, Motos, Pole Position and Warp Warp – to name just a few. Among these popular titles are games so indescribably weird that they almost defy description, but I have to hand Namco the prize for sheer conceptual brilliance. Phozon, more obscure than any of the games mentioned above (even moreso than Motos, which is pretty esoteric itself), may well be the first video game ever to concern itself with molecular bonding. Continue reading

Sinistar

SinistarBuy this gameThe Game: In a lone space fighter, you’re on the most dangerous space combat mission this side of Luke Skywalker. While evading or destroying drone robots and gunships in a hazardous asteroid field, you’re trying to mine the raw materials needed for Sinibombs, your only defense against the huge, terrifying space See the videostation, Sinistar. You can bomb the components of Sinistar as they are being put in place, but as a last resort, your Sinibombs can damage it in its complete form as well. If you should happen to find yourself within range of the fully-operational Sinistar without the armament needed to protect yourself, there are snowballs in hell that stand a better chance of surviving than you do. (Williams Electronics, 1983)

Memories: A truly intimidating and challenging game, Sinistar‘s only drawback is a slightly aggravating control system; since it doesn’t quite adhere to the physical rules of bodies, motion and inertia that were so interestingly utilized in such games as Asteroids, Sinistar is a bit more difficult to get a handle on. 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

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