The Game: You’re the commander of a small squad of robots, and your opponent – be it a second player or the computer – is commanding a similar platoon o’ droids. Your job is to avoid the enemy’s robots while you wait for your robots to reach the enemy commander. Of course, the enemy’s robots could reach you first, but that’s another story. The only control you have over your robots is to press the action button and call them toward you. The robots fight hand-to-hand, rather than shooting, and your robots may become incapacitated. You can leap into the fray and touch one of your malfunctioning robots to repair it and return it to the fight, but in so doing, you run a risk of being captured by enemy robots. (Magnavox, 1979)
Memories: This is a game about the Arnold Rimmer vision of combat.
In the Marooned episode of Red Dwarf, Rimmer says “Generals don’t smash chairs over people’s heads. They don’t smash Newcastle Brown bottles into your face and say ‘Stitch that, Jimmy.’ They’re in the nice white tent, on the top of the hill, sipping Sancerre and directing the battle. They’re men of honor!” Which is pretty much your function in this game. Continue reading
The Game: In a very genteel and almost inappropriately cute game about armored combat, you’re a lone footsoldier fighting your way through a platoon of enemy troops, trying to take out as many of them as you can until you find your way to a handy empty tank. (Nice of the enemy to allow your government to plant friendly tanks behind their borders, isn’t it?) But once you man your own tank, enemy tanks surround you. If one of them hits your tank, you have mere seconds to bail out before your tank blows, and you have to dodge cannon fire until you can find another friendly tank to commandeer. Finally, after crossing hazardous stretches of desert and fighting off entire battallions of enemy tanks, you’re en route to the final confrontation, a showdown with the enemy’s armored headquarters… (Taito, 1982)
Memories: Front Line was a really fun and addictive game to play, and was always one of my favorites. I didn’t ever give a thought, at the time, that this game really keeps the player’s vision of warfare from delving into the bloody or the unpleasant, and all the characters – even those octagonal, roly-poly little tanks – are really cute. Continue reading
The Game: Helicopters and planes are dumping paratroopers directly over your land-locked cannon. Your job is to take out both aircraft and paratroopers before the enemy can land on and slowly destroy the rows of buildings on either side of the cannon. Once enemy paratroopers raze a building to the ground, they begin doing something even deadlier: digging tunnels toward your cannon so they can destroy it from below with a giant bomb, at which time your point defense career is over. (U.S. Games, 1982)
Memories: A clever riff on a well-known game, Commando Raid avoids being just another Missile Command clone. At first glance, the element of defending six cities/buildings by covering the entire sky from a fixed position seems familiar, but the gradual enemy occupation of territory beneath the player’s cannon adds an original twist and requires some new strategy.
U.S. Games didn’t exactly make stuff that looked like Activision‘s games, but the audiovisual element of Commando Raid is more than adequate to convey all the information players need. The buildings have several stages of disrepair, from undamaged down to rubble. The sheer twitch factor as multiple incoming targets have to be dealt with is impressive for a VCS cartridge, as is the fact that the barrage of approaching enemies is accomplished with virtually none of the dreaded “flicker” that has plagued countless other games on this platform.
Seasoned Missile Commanders looking for a new posting can do a lot worse than signing up to go Commando.
The Game: You’re a lone footsoldier fighting your way through a platoon of enemy troops, trying to take out as many of them as you can until you find your way to a handy empty tank. But once you man your own tank, enemy tanks surround you. If one of them hits your tank, you have mere seconds to bail out before your tank blows, and you have to dodge cannon fire until you can find another friendly tank to commandeer. After crossing hazardous stretches of desert and fighting off entire battallions of enemy tanks, you’re en route to the final confrontation, a showdown with the enemy’s armored headquarters… (Coleco, 1984)
Memories: At one time, this was one of my all-time favorite Atari 2600 games – well, it still is, actually – even though it really pales in comparison to the coin-op it’s based on. Even the version released for the ColecoVision, which used the roller wheel on the Super Action Controller to stand in for the arcade game’s aiming knob, wasn’t quite the same. Still, at the time, this did just fine: you fired your gun in whatever direction you were facing. Continue reading
The Game: You’re a lone soldier behind enemy lines, but this is no Front Line. Armed with a knife and some serious kickboxing skills, you weave your way through an enemy installation, doing away with soldiers who are trying to block your way. Occasionally, you can pick up a weapon from a downed enemy, including flame-throwers, machine guns and rocket launchers. (Konami, 1985)
Memories: I remember encountering only one Rush’N Attack machine, which was one of the last arcade games I ever became hooked on. There’s actually something addictive, in a bloodthirsty sort of way, about this little war game. Continue reading
The Game: The King of England has been assassinated and the crown has gone missing! To regain the crown and restore order you’ll need to conquer the entire country, one castle at a time. Equal parts strategy and action make for lots of fun and replayability. The ultimate cinematic experience for the Commodore 64. (Cinemaware, 1987)
Memories: In 1986, Cinemaware released Defender Of The Crown for the Commodore Amiga, introducing a new style of game to home computer owners. Equal parts movie, strategy and action, Cinemaware called their new style of games “Interactive Movies”. Defender Of The Crown begins like a real Hollywood experience, complete with opening credits and a montage explaining the game’s backstory. The Amiga version’s graphics were literally mind-blowing. No one had seen graphics like that before on a home computer, and gamers were convinced that the game would not appear on any other platform. Commodore 64 owners got their wish one year later, when Cinemaware ported the game over to the Amiga’s 8-bit little brother. Continue reading
The Game: It’s the Cold War all over again – but worse. Tampering with the timeline has wreaked immeasurable damage with the development of technology, and the result is a new wave of deadly weapons, including Tesla tanks and turrets (which discharge immense electrical energy at their opponents) and Chrono-tanks (which can shift their position on the map instantly for a brief time). You must build and protect your base, produce units necessary to defend and attack, and orchestrate an invasion of enemy territory – all while accumulating as few casualties as possible. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1996)
Memories: Westwood’s real-time strategy classic is a major evolutionary leap from the original Command & Conquer, with vast improvements in the artificial intelligence used by both your soldiers and by computer controlled enemies. And it’s a tough game! It’s pretty common practice for me, despite a couple of years of playing Dune 2000 (a later Westwood game which is built on the same engine as Red Alert), to build up quite a nice base and then get my ass kicked big time. Continue reading