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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: Remember how much of a train wreck Coleco made of Donkey Kong when they made that dismal version of it for the Atari 2600? Well, if anything, Coleco’s equally mind-numbing translation of Nintendo’s original smash hit for the Intellivision proves that Coleco was definitely trying to make their ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong look better. Continue reading

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr.The Game: As little Donkey Kong Jr., you’re trying to reach the top of a treacherous series of vines and platforms to rescue your dad from Mario. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: I’m a “junior” myself, so I understand that there are certain challenges involved in living up to the name of one’s forebears. And though the little ape was going to have a big task in living up to his dad’s name – after all, Kong Sr.’s game was the foundation of Nintendo’s empire – the original Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game was a great deal of fun. But Coleco did Donkey Kong Jr. a grave injustice in its translation for the Atari 2600. 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

Frogger

FroggerThe Game: As in the arcade game of the same name, you try to help an amiable amphibian amble his way through rush hour traffic and a river full of dangers in a quest to get home. (Parker Brothers, 1982)

Memories: While faithful to its namesake, the Atari 2600 edition of Frogger is hampered not by the 2600’s graphical limitations, but by the flickering caused by the presence of more animated characters on the screen than the machine could keep track of. When you consider that the Atari 2600 encountered this problem if there were ever more than four sprites on the screen at the same time, you begin to see the problem with Frogger and its playing field chock full of traffic, and the river full of turtles and logs. 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

Frogs and Flies

Frogs and FliesThe Game: As one of two lowly bullfrogs, your task is simple: try to nab the greatest number of insect morsels possible on your froggy tongue while hopping around the lily pad. Hey, not every frog can live the wild life of Frogger, can they? (M Network [Mattel], 1982)

Memories: An exceedingly simple game, the basic premise of Frogs & Flies was recycled into no fewer than two games for the Atari 2600 (the other exponent of the “frog 2 quarterseating flies” sub-genre being Atari’s own Frog Pond). Frogs & Flies is basically an Atari 2600 port of Mattel’s Frog Bog cartridge for their own Intellivision platform, a game which in turn “borrowed” its concept from Gremlin’s 1978 Frogs coin-op.

Keystone Kapers

Keystone KapersSee the videoThe Game: Kriminals are on the loose in an unspecified retail establishment, and you happen to be the lone kop on the kase. Bouncy balls, shopping karts and other krap get in your way as you try to katch the kriminal before time runs out. You might get lucky and hitch an elevator ride, or you may have to take the escalators at opposite ends of the store, which will take more time. If you don’t kapture the krook, he gets away with the loot. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: A simple little game from the hallowed house of Activision, Keystone Kapers is one of those games you really don’t need the docs to play. Continue reading

King Kong

King KongThe Game: In a stick-figure firefighter’s greatest adventure, you have to help him reach the top of a perilous scaffolding to rescue a damsel in distress from the dastardly Kong Kong. (Tiger Electronic Toys, 1982)
See the video
Memories: Just when you thought no one could make a worse Atari 2600 Donkey Kong than Coleco could, the electronics division of Tiger Toys comes along and demonstrates that yes, it could have easily been worse. In fact, that this game even made it to the stores after initially being rejected is just a small part of a much more convoluted legal saga. Continue reading

Nimble Numbers NED!

Nimble Numbers NED!The Game: You are NED, hopping over boulders and, with each obstacle overcome, tackling progressively more difficult math questions and pattern-matching exercises. You can select what kind of math you need to work on See the video(addition, subtraction, etc.), and if you don’t solve a problem correctly the first time, it’s broken down into smaller parts to help you work out how it all goes together. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: This game was originally going to be called Math Potatoes! – and as inauspicious a title as Nimble Numbers NED! may be, you have to admit that Math Potatoes! probably would’ve been too bizarre to entice parents looking for suitable educational software for their kids. Continue reading

Pick Axe Pete!

Pick Axe Pete!The 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 under the See the videoSee the TV adonslaught 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. As you progress through the levels, one horizontal space is deleted somewhere on the screen at random, progressing on until you have a death-trap of open space where rocks can bounce right up into your face. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: As far as this gamer was concerned, Pick Axe Pete! was the greatest game ever created for the Odyssey 2. Far from your typical arcade adaptation, you can get further in this game by short stretches of furious action when you’ve got an axe to grind and then waiting patiently for the key to the next level to arrive. 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

Smurf: Rescue From Gargamel’s Castle

Smurf: Rescue From Gargamel's CastleThe Game: You are an unidentified Smurf en route to save Smurfette from Gargamel’s castle. Now, you may think that Gargamel would deploy his vicious black cat to stop you from reaching that goal, but that sort See the original TV adof melodramatic stuff only happens in cartoons. Real Smurfs can be felled by something as innocuous as a fall off a very short ledge or running into clumps of grass. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: The early 80s: video games were hot, new wave music was now mainstream, everybody who was anybody had given Rubik’s Cube a twist, and of course, there were Smurfs all over the place. Now, setting aside the fact that with the plural of knife being knives and the plural of scarf being scarves, the plural of Smurf should be Smurves, Peyo’s little blue critters were all over the place – cartoons, clothing, lunchboxes, toys, and more. You’d think that a market would have arisen for an effective Smurf repellant, perhaps in an environmentally-friendly non-aerosol spray form, but instead Coleco gave us this marvelous video game, in which those so inclined could send hundreds of the little pests hurtling headlong, lemming-like, to their death. Continue reading

Princess & Frog 8K

Princess & FrogThe Game: You’re a frog who has a hot date with the princess in the castle. But in order to reach her, you’ll have to cross four lanes of jousting knight traffic – avoiding the knights’ horses and lances – and then you’ll have to cross the moat on the backs of snakes and alligators, all without ending up in the drink when See the videothey submerge. (There’s also occasionally a lady frog you can hook up with en route to the castle; apparently this whole thing with the princess doesn’t have any guarantee of exclusivity.) When you reach the castle, you can hop into any open window, but if you see a pair of lips in that window, that’s where the princess is. (Romox, 1982)

Memories: It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Romox’s Princess & Frog is, in fact, a cut-rate Frogger clone. And it really doesn’t even bother to change the game play at all – Princess & Frog is to Frogger what the arcade ripoff Pirhana was to Pac-Man: it tries to get by with changing the graphics and nothing else. Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Coleco 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 attempt 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. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Almost every line of games has one: a clunker that tanks so hard that it leaves a crater, and serves as the nadir of its entire genre. But given that Coleco was banking its entire video game empire – whether on the Colecovision or on cartridges for the Atari VCS and Intellivision – on Donkey Kong, you’d figure that this would be the one game they would make sure to get right. 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! (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Possibly the best of Coleco’s fixed-matrix LED mini-arcade games, Frogger is actually fun and reasonably faithful to its inspiration, while adding cute touches that are unique to this version of the game. Continue reading

Arabian

ArabianThe Game: Bring your turban up to speed! As you’re serenaded with a monophonic rendition of Rimsky Korsakov’s “Scheherazade”, you climb and jump and kick your way to collecting all the letters on the screen. If you collect them in the See the videocorrect order to spell ARABIAN, you get a bonus before moving on to the next screen. And watch out for the big genie… (Atari, 1983)

Memories: This is a rather cute and simplistic game, but it’s not a pushover. I can’t tell you how many quarters Arabian relieved me of. And even while playing it in MAME to grab screen stills for this page, it kicked my scrawny little pixellated butt. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: Bongo the Ape, presumably Donkey Kong’s third cousin, 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 reach See the videohim. The first level 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 you move slower (and jump lower). And watch out for snakes. Then you have to hop across various islands and dodge more snakes as you try to get across a river. The most difficult level is the third, where you must try to dodge charging rhinos (and I don’t mean they have credit cards), occasionally ducking out of sight in little sinkholes where you get to squash other critters. The fourth level is very Frogger-like, consisting of riding across another river on the backs of hippos, fish, and lily pads. When you complete this screen, you set Bongo’s toes on fire as he sleeps…and then the whole thing starts again. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Congo Bongo was entertaining enough, though it suffered from some of the same frustrations caused by the overhead 3-D graphic scheme that originated with Sega’s own Zaxxon. In some ways, Congo Bongo was nothing more than a 3-D version of Donkey Kong, right down to the pesky primate. Continue reading

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