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Robot Tank

Robot TankBuy this gameThe Game: So much for the tank platoon. You’re in charge of a lone robotic tank on a battlefield buzzing with bad guys. A radar sweep gives you advance notice of approaching enemies, but there are so many of them out there that even that warning may not come soon enough. A series of critically-placed blasts could leave you immobile, or worse yet, unarmed and helpless to do anything but take a pounding until it’s all over. Repair systems can restore these lost abilities – if you survive that long. The fighting doesn’t stop at night either – the sun goes down, leaving you in the dark for several minutes, capable of fighting and navigating only by instrumentation with little in the way of visual cues. (Activision, 1983)

Memories: Just as Activision beat Parker Bros.‘ rendition of Frogger to the punch with Freeway, they also bested Atari’s own unexpectedly impressive Atari 2600 port of Battlezone with their own first-person tank entry, Robot Tank. Designed and programmed by Alan Miller, Robot Tank has some of Activision’s familiar signatures – the near-impossible color palette they squeezed out of the 2600, the almost flicker-free graphics, and just plain addictive game play. But in this case, Atari’s home version of Battlezone was no slouch either, so it’s hard to pick a clear winner. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe 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 See the videoa 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. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Coleco‘s home version of Time Pilot for the Atari 2600 is one of the company’s better arcade ports for that machine, and yet so much of what made the arcade game such a memorable experience was left behind. I can accept the watering-down of the game’s graphics, especially when an effort was obviously made to keep them flicker-free – an impressive feat for this game. But some of what’s left out includes the game’s very objectives. Continue reading

Battlezone

BattlezoneThe Game: As the pilot of a heavy tank, you wander the desolate battlefield, trying to wipe out enemy tanks and landing vehicles. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: If Atari’s 2600 version of the arcade wargame was a pleasant surprise, the unreleased 5200 edition of the same game is almost a revelation. Combining adaptations of the menacingly angular vector graphics of the arcade game with more realistic raster backgrounds, the 5200 prototype is not only fun, but rather pretty to look at. Continue reading

Grobda

GrobdaThe Game: You’re piloting a lone tank trapped in an arena with numerous indestructible obstacles – and quite a few hostile tanks. The moment you’re sent into battle, those other tanks converge on you immediately, so survival usually Buy this gamehinges on finding an advantageous configuration of obstacles to use as a makeshift fortress from behind which you can try to pick off enemy tanks without giving them a clear shot at yours. When you blast an enemy tank, it’s best not to be too close to it, because the shockwave of an exploding tank can catch nearby tanks and share the destruction, sometimes allowing you to fire one shot and set off a screen-clearing chain reaction. (Also, exploding tanks leave behind craters that slow you down if you try to cross over them.) You have a shielding system that offers very temporary shelter from enemy fire and from the explosions of nearby enemies, but constant firing and shield use will drain your precious energy reserves, and if that happens you’re as good as dead. (Namco, 1984)

Memories: Not one of the most original games in Namco’s history, Grobda borrows game play concepts left and right from some of the all-time arcade greats, boils them into one stew, and speeds things up considerably. Continue reading

Front Line

Front LineThe 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

Skyfox

SkyfoxThe Game: The invasion is on, and as usual, you’re the only thing standing between Earth and alien domination. (Ever wonder why no one else is answering their pagers at times like these when the call goes out?) Fortunately, your aircraft is See the videoa kick-ass piece of military hardware, capable everything from breaking the sound barrier to hovering, helicopter-like, over a friendly installation to defend from an onslaught of enemy tanks. But the enemy makes up for its occasionally lackluster hardware with impressive numbers – and whether the hail of gunfire is coming from their tanks, their jets, or their motherships (which look suspiciously like little Comet Empires from Star Blazers), you can rack up a fatal amount of damage pretty quickly. (Electronic Arts, 1984)

Memories: To my day, Skyfox is still my favorite combat flight sim. Actually, it’s one of my all-time favorite flight sims, combat or otherwise. Continue reading

Rush’N Attack

Rush'N AttackBuy this gameThe 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

Defender Of The Crown

Defender Of The CrownThe 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

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Command & Conquer: Red AlertOrder this gameThe 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

Wii Play

Wii PlayThe Game: Wii Play gathers a collection of mini-games in one place, from fishing, billiards and target shooting to a futuristic hockey game and tank battles, each showcasing different ways that the Wii remote controls Buy this gamecan be used. (Nintendo, 2007)

Memories: As with Wii Sports, Wii Play is an easy-to-pick-up but hard-to-put-down grouping of fairly simple minigames. Some of the games in Wii Play simulate real sports, while others delve into more abstract areas of game play. That’s the good news, and the even better news is that just about all of them are fun, making this another all-in-one first-party home run for Nintendo – if anyone knows a dozen different ways to use the Wii controllers, it should be the folks who made the things. Continue reading

Namco Museum Megamix

Namco Museum MegamixThe Game: Join Pac-Man as he rolls around the carnival-like grounds of the Namco Museum. Six “remixed” games are featured: Buy this gameGalaga Remix, Rally-X Remix, Gator Panic Remix, Pac ‘n’ Roll, Pac-Motos, Grobda Remix – as well as a healthy selection of Namco arcade classics: Cutie Q, Galaxian, Pac-Man, King & Balloon, Rally-X, Galaga, Bosconian, Super Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Xevious, Grobda, Motos, New Rally-X, Dig Dug II, Pac-Mania, Gaplus, Pac & Pal and Mappy. None of the games are hidden away as “unlockables,” achievements or Easter eggs, and all can be enjoyed freely. (Namco, 2010)

Memories: A Wii exclusive, Namco Museum Megamix elicits both suspicion and joy from this reviewer. On the “suspicious” side of things, the Wii has already had Namco Museum Remix, which had five of the six “remixed” games listed above, and maybe half of the arcade games that appear in Megamix; even Megamix‘s manual seems to acknowledge that you’ve already been suckered into buying Remix and therefore you already know the control scheme for the selection menu (which is almost a game unto itself). But on the good side, for the first time in quite a while, Namco has finally acknowledged something else: the media on which Namco Museum Megamix arrives has a much greater capacity than the 74-meg Playstation CD-ROMs that carried the first iteration of Namco Museum in the 1990s. Let’s fill that open space with… more games! Continue reading

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