Frogs

FrogsThe Game: Long before Frogger and Frog Bog, there were simply Frogs, the original arcade amphibians. One or two frogs hop along a lily pad at the bottom of the screen, scoping out tasty flies to eat. When you’ve got a See the videomorsel in your frog’s reach, jump and try to activate your frog’s tongue at just the right time. (You’ll know if you’ve snared a meal because your frog will seem to ascend the screen in heavenly bliss.) Whoever has the most points at the end of the timed game is the supreme frog. (Gremlin, 1978)

Memories: Though the game concept would be more widely popularized by Frog Bog several years later on the Intellivision, this is where the two-frogs-catching-flies game began. If you’re wowed by the amazing graphics on this early game, don’t be – the colorful background was a piece of artwork set into the arcade cabinet, onto which the game’s graphics were “projected” by laying the monitor flat on its back and reflecting the computer-generated graphics of the frogs and flies toward the player via a mirror at a 45-degree angle. (The game’s graphics were actually generated and shown backward, so the mirror reflection would show letters and numbers properly.) 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

Frogger

FroggerThe Game: You are a frog. Your task is simple: hop across a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks, until you get the to the edge of a river, where you must keep yourself from drowning by crossing safely to your grotto at the top of the screen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for snakes and alligators!See the videoBuy this game (Sega [under license from Konami], 1981)

Memories: Frogger is a truly ribbeting game, and very addictive. It was one of the handful of cute action games that arrived around the same time as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, though it was never franchised as heavily as those games were. There was a Frogger sticker set, the occasional T-shirt, and a rockin’ musical tribute from Bucker & Garcia on the Pac-Man Fever album. Frogger also existed very briefly as a Saturday morning cartoon on CBS, in which he and his amphibian pals were reporters on the swamp beat, but this incarnation of Frogger was even shorter-lived than the cartoon based on Pac-Man. 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

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

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

Jungle King / Jungle Hunt

Jungle HuntThe Game: You are the king of the jungle! Swinging from vine to vine! Swimming through crocodile-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing spear-weilding natives to rescue the damsel! (Taito, 1982)

Buy this gameMemories: Not that Jungle King was an incredibly simple game – the above description is supposed to be a little bit humorous, if oversimplified – but Jungle King‘s most infamous footnote in video game history is the lawsuit that it drew. The original Jungle King game opened with the sound of a sampled “Tarzan yell” – and the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs was not amused. 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

Moon Patrol

Moon PatrolBuy this gameThe Game: Driving an agile, armed moon buggy across the lunar surface, you must jump over craters and land mines, shoot large boulders (some occasionally mobile) out of your way, and try not to be on the receiving end of hostile fire from alien ships that try to strafe you. Some of the ships, which look very suspiciously like See the videothe triangle-of-spheres enemy ships from Gyruss, can even bomb the moon and make new craters for you to jump over – which may put you right into their line of fire. Later on, you also get to blast away tanks and dodge pesky jet cars which “tailgate” and then try to ram you. (Williams Electronics [under license from IREM], 1982)

Memories: Moon Patrol is a cool game with an actual goal, and with that in mind, it shares a common trait with SNK’s Fantasy – a “continue game” feature which allows you to continue from your last position for just 25 cents more. Continue reading

Pirate Pete

Pirate PeteThe Game: You are the king of the jung…uh, pirate ship! Swinging from rope to rope! Swimming through shark-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing knive-weilding pirates (wait, aren’t See the videothey supposed to be on your side if you’re a pirate too?) to rescue the damsel! (Taito, 1982)

Memories: So…Pirate Pete. I’m sure you’re not fooled – this is Jungle King again, with different scenery. (At the end of the second stage, the Jungle King / Jungle Hunt music still plays.) A few changes were made to the program itself as well, but not many. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a three-dimensional pyramid of cubes, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a slightly different plane (i.e., they move down the pyramid as if it were rotated See the videoBuy this gameone-third). Any green objects and creatures Q*Bert can catch will not hurt him – in fact, the little bouncing green balls will stop time briefly for everyone but Q*Bert. If he gets into a tight spot, Q*Bert can jump off the pyramid onto a flying disc which will despoit him back at the top of the pyramid – and lure Coily to a nasty fate by jumping into nothing. Changing the colors of the top of every cube in the pyramid to the target color indicated at the top left of the screen will clear the pyramid and start the craziness all over again. If Q*Bert is hit by an enemy or falls off the pyramid, he hits bottom with a resounding, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Gottlieb/Mylstar, 1982)

Memories: So many arcade games looked like hits and smelled like hits before they actually got an arcade road test, and this archive is itself littered with screenshots of wanna-be hits where every name, graphic and sound were trademarked. Because someone was sure that, for example, Winky from Venture would be a runaway hit. Q*Bert is a case where that optimism – and the marketing muscle behind it – was perfectly justified. With a game concept by Warren Davis, memorable characters from Gottlieb staff artist Jeff Lee and wacky jumbled-synthesized-speech effects by David Thiel, Q*Bert was one of those games that went into orbit instantly. It was almost universally loved and talked-about, and you could count on quite a line at the Q*Bert machine at your local arcade. And this is a rare case where I’ll admit, even in jaded hindsight, that all the praise was so worth it. 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

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

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: In a very faithful adaptation of Nintendo’s all-time classic arcade game, you’re Mario, a rotund and lovesick fellow who would gladly scale scaffolding, bound over barrels and feint past foxfires, all to save the damsel in See the videodistress. (Coleco, 1982)

The Game: This was it, friends. This was what sold the ColecoVision. Donkey Kong was one of the hottest games in arcades at that time, and Coleco was smart enough to grab the rights from Nintendo as well as to make it the pack-in cartridge for the ColecoVision (like Combat was the pack-in for the Atari 2600). Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: In the rotund plumber Mario’s first adventure, you have to help him reach the top of a perilous scaffolding to rescue a damsel in distress from the dastardly Donkey Kong. (Coleco, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Once upon a time, Nintendo didn’t manufacture its own home video game system. Perhaps games like this convinced it to pick up the habit. Coleco did a very good job of translating Nintendo’s first arcade hit into its first game for the higher-priced ColecoVision console, but truthfully, more people had an Atari 2600 at the time, and this is the version of Donkey Kong they got. Continue reading

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