Gee Bee

Gee BeeThe Game: It’s like pinball, but not quite. Not only are the bouncing-ball physics and bumpers of pinball present, but so are walls of bricks which, when destroyed, add to your score and sometimes redirect your ball in unpredictable directions. Pinball meets Breakout. (Namco, 1978)

Memories: If you’re wracking your brain trying to remember this game, don’t spend too much time – not that many gamers actually got to play it first-hand. It is, in fact, only in retrospect that Gee Bee‘s true historical significance has been revealed. Continue reading

Pinball

Odyssey2 Pinball cartridge signed by Ralph BaerThe Game: A virtual pinball machine is presented, complete with flippers, bumpers, and the ability to physically “bump” the table to influence the motion of the ball. Per standard pinball rules, the See the videoobject of the game is to keep the ball in play as long as possible. (Ralph Baer, 1978 – unreleased prototype)

Memories: Ralph Baer’s Pinball, released to the public on cartridge at the 2001 Classic Gaming Expo, was never intended to be a commercially released title. Instead, it’s a tech demo of sorts, a “rough sketch” example of what kind of games Magnavox’s still-in-development Odyssey2 system would be capable of. There are no special graphics to represent the various elements of the game; the bumpers are simply the letter O, and the flippers are forward and backward slashes. Continue reading

Video Pinball

Video PinballThe Game: Pull the plunger back and fire the ball into play. The more bumpers it hits, the more points you rack up. But don’t let the ball leave the table – doing so three times ends the game. (Atari, 1979)

Memories: Having done Basketball and Football as successful video games, Atari turned its attention to other sports and other balls…so to speak. One such experiment was the not-quite-successful Video Pinball, the company’s attempt to bring the excitement and physics of pinball to the video screen.

The game’s dazzling disco-era look was the result of the video display being generated backward by a monitor laying flat inside the cabinet. The monitor’s display was then reflected toward the player by way of a half-silvered mirror with the overlay decal attached. The result was that the video display now magically shined through the artwork. (The animation seen here shows a rough approximation of the screen as seen in the arcades, the actual video display, and the artwork overlay that made things a bit more colorful.) This was actually a very common trick in early arcade games: Space Invaders used it, and so did many others right into the 1980s…until processing power increased enough for most games to generate their own backgrounds. Continue reading

Thunderball!

Thunderball!The Game: It’s all the thrills of pinball, minus approximately 75% of the excitement! Use your joystick to control the plunger tension and launch your ball into play. Use the action button to pop the flippers, keeping your ball on the See the videofield and out of trouble. The bumpers and spinner score big points…well, relatively speaking. (Magnavox, 1979)

Memories: Ya know, I’ve always thought that video pinball was just a bad idea from start to finish. Thunderball! is very much representative of most early attempts at this doomed genre – it’s not exactly a load of fun, and not even remotely exciting. Continue reading

Pinball

PinballBuy this gameThe Game: It’s a game of video pinball where you can even bump the table to influence the ball’s path. You can even launch the ball into a second level to score big bonus points. Just don’t let it slide out of the reach of your flippers… (Mattel Electronics, 1981)

See the videoMemories: As a rule, I don’t do the video pinball thing. You can look throughout Phosphor Dot Fossils and you’ll find very few big thumbs-up for video pinball. But so help me, Pinball on Intellivision is rather fun. It takes into account some of the physics (though far from all) involved in a pinball table, even the external factors such as the good old-fashioned, time-honored bump-the-machne maneuver. Continue reading

Video Pinball

Video PinballBuy this gameThe Game: Pull the plunger back and fire the ball into play. The more bumpers it hits, the more points you rack up. But don’t let the ball leave the table – doing so three times ends the game. (Atari, 1981)

Memories: I’m just not a huge fan of video pinball simulations – see my review of Thunderball! for Odyssey2 if you have any doubts – but having tried out Atari’s Video Pinball, I can say that it’s more fun than Thunderball! Itself a home version of one of Atari’s late 70s arcade titles, Video Pinball offers some finer graphics than you’d expect from the early waves of VCS titles. Continue reading

Tecmo Classic Arcade

Tecmo Classic ArcadeBuy this gameThe Game: Turn your Xbox into a virtual 80’s arcade with Tecmo Classic Arcade, the newest retro compilation disc to hit home consoles. (Tecmo, 2005, for Xbox)

See the videoMemories: Someone has definitely not been saving the best for last. Tecmo Classic Arcade follows a long line of classic arcade compilations which have been released this summer, including Capcom Classics Collection, Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary, Taito Legends and Midway’s Arcade Treasures 3. Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it, Tecmo’s game collection simply doesn’t stand up against the competition. 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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