Satan’s Hollow

Satan's HollowBuy this gameThe Game: It’s the ultimate, cataclysmic battle between good and evil – expressed as a variation on the basic theme of Phoenix! Hellish green flying demons try to formation-dive your well-armed, devil-fryin’ vehicle at the bottom of the screen. Each time you knock one of this gargoylesque beasties out of the sky, they drop a piece of a bridge you must drag over to the appropriate spot on the screen. When you’re close to completing the bridge, the Prince of Darkness sends in some heavier artillery – a spooky floating demon head who spits fire at your cannon – to do away with you. Once you’ve toasted the flying meanies out of the sky and cross the bridge, it’s time to do battle with Satan himself, though he starts out looking a little bit like that cute little mascot you see on cans of deviled ham. (Bally/Midway, 1981)

Memories: While it presents some interesting variations – bridge-building while shooting? – Satan’s Hollow really had little to distinguish it from the other dozens of Space Invaders variants which had been appearing in arcades for three years at this point. Continue reading

War Of The Worlds

War Of The WorldsThe Game: The Martians are coming! And they’re coming in colorful vector graphics! The tripod-like Martian War Machines land, extend their legs, and begin marching inexorably toward your cannon, pausing momentarily to sweep the bottom of the screen with their deadly heat rays, or hurling spirals of energy your way to slow down See the videoyour cannon. You have a shield that can offer you mere moments of protection, but if it wears out or you find yourself in the Martians’ sights, your spiky-headed cannon operator is fried, and the cannon is promptly manned by another spiky-headed gunner. When your spiky-headed infantry is exhausted, the Martian invasion continues… (Cinematronics, 1981)

Memories: An entertaining variation on the basic game concept of Space Invaders, War Of The Worlds is quite a tricky game. From a visual standpoint, for line art, the Martian War Machines are menacing foes, and it could be that this is their best moving-image representation, possibly even better than Pal or Spielberg managed. (The rotating “Cylon eye” effect adds a lot of frisson, especially when the heat ray unexpectedly shoots out of it and blasts you!) Continue reading

Astrosmash

AstrosmashThe Game: The end of the world is near: asteroids and meteors are careening toward the surface of your planet at breathtaking speeds. Manning a speedy mobile laser cannon, your job is to take out or dodge the falling fragments from See the videoBuy this gamespace. Letting stray impactors past your defenses will actually diminish your score, but blasting them while they’re still incoming can create another dilemma: they split into smaller pieces which are still falling toward the ground. You’ll lose a cannon if debris lands on it, and you’ll lose the game (please note the air of certainty there) when you run out of cannons. Apparently this asteroid apocalypse is no force of nature either, as bombs both large and small fall toward you as well… (Mattel Electronics, 1981)

See the original TV adMemories: As was the case with the Odyssey2, some of the early arcade-style Intellivision offerings were near-beer versions of bigger brand-name hits – to which Atari, more often than not, held the rights. Astrosmash is one of the Intellivision’s signature games, and it’s a beautiful example of making a virtue out of not being able to ape a popular game too closely. Continue reading

Space Armada

Space ArmadaBuy this gameThe Game: You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your See the videoonly defense is a trio of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When the aliens manage to land on Earth…it’s all over. (Mattel, 1981)

Memories: Sound familiar? It should. This early entry in Mattel’s library of Intellivision games is, rather obviously, a not-very-thinly-disguised version of Space Invaders, the game whose home version had made the Atari 2600 a household name in the home video game biz. Continue reading

Spacechase

SpacechaseThe Game: Piloting a lone spaceship zipping over a planet’s surface in a low, fast orbit, your mission is to kick some evasive alien butt. Drawing a See the videobead on the aliens is much harder than it looks, and they arrive in waves of four. Naturally, it seems like it’s much easier for them to target you… (Games By Apollo, 1981)

Memories: Quite an improvement over Richardson, Texas-based Games By Apollo’s first game, the disastrously bad Skeet Shoot, Spacechase isn’t going to blow the doors down in the game originality department, but it wasn’t bad for the VCS at all. The scrolling planetscape beneath the player’s ship may look like an artist’s vague impression of some Arizona landscape, but with games like Defender struggling to get the side-scrolling thing right, it was quite an accomplishment. Continue reading

Sneakers

SneakersThe Game: Alien invaders are descending on your world, taking on unusual forms in the process: sneaker-clad stomping creatures, roaming eyeballs, “H-wing fighters,” flying saucers and more. Try to use their unusual patterns of See the videomovement against them and keep them from destroying your fighter. (Sirius Software, 1981)

Memories: If this description sounds an awful lot like Activision‘s early hit Megamania!, it’s no coincidence – both games attempted to add a dash of whimsy to the basic game play of the ubiquitous arcade sleeper hit, Astro Blaster. Both Sneakers and Megamania! nearly duplicate the unique meandering movement of Astro Blaster‘s alien invaders. Continue reading

TI Invaders

TI InvadersThe Game: It’s quite simple, really. You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your only defense is a quartet of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When you’re out of “lives,” or when the aliens manage to land on Earth…it’s all over. (Texas Instruments, 1981)

Memories: A straightforward, no-frills take on Space Invaders, TI Invaders trumped just about every other home computer version in terms of faithfulness to the source material. Continue reading

Eagle

EagleThe Game: As commander of the three-stage fighter rocket Eagle, your job is to ward off endless varieties of evasively weaving space attackers. Every time you knock out two consecutive screens of assailants, you’ll have an opportunity to dock your ship to another one of Eagle’s three stages, until all three portions of the ship are combined to create one bad-ass weapons platform. But you can also lose stages very quickly, See the videoending your game – a bigger ship makes a bigger and easier target. (Centuri [under license from Nichibutsu], 1982)

Memories: Don’t ask me what happened here. I distinctly remember playing both Eagle and Moon Cresta in the arcades and thinking how similar they were. Much later, with the benefit of emulation, I could play both back-to-back and realized what I’d always suspected: they’re the same game! Continue reading

Millipede

MillipedeBuy this gameThe Game: Once more unto the breach, your garden of mushrooms is now under attack by a millipede, and the big bug’s even nastier insect entourage has come along too. The spiders, scorpions and fleas are now joined by mosquitoes and inchworms, among others. The only advantage you have? Occasional containers of DDT (can you tell this was the 80’s?) will allow you to wipe out all targets within a given radius…but use them wisely! (Atari, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Another rare Atari sequel – from a company that tended to at least try to stay away from repetition – Millipede of course picks up where Centipede left off – in the same garden, with lots of bugs. A major ad campaign kicked this one off, with Atari using the then-world-champion of Centipede as a spokesperson to verify that this game was, indeed, fun and challenging. Continue reading

Astrosmash

AstroblastThe Game: Your planet is under siege by an unending hail of asteroids, bombs, and space debris. Your simple mission? Blast all of this stuff, or dodge it. But you’re toast if a bomb hits the ground. (M Network [Mattel], 1982)

Memories: Not one of Mattel’s finest titles for the 2600, Astroblast is a loose adaptation of Astrosmash, a game originally released for Mattel’s Intellivision console. The graphics are clunky even compared to such bottom-of-the-barrel entries like Atari’s Pac-Man and Combat. Continue reading

Attack Of The Timelord!

Attack Of The Timelord!The Game: The game begins as the skull-like face of Spyruss the Deathless (the Timelord of Chaos, no less!) taunts you (well, only if you had the Voice), and then a bunch of pesky spaceships pops out of a vortex to shoot at See the videoyou. They shoot at you rather a lot. Fortunately, you can shoot back with reckless abandon, but their ammunition – as you ascend into the higher levels of the game – can track you and even, if you don’t destroy their shots in mid-air, crawl along the ground briefly while you head for the opposite side of the screen, neatly trapped for their next volley. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: One of the last few games to be made for the Odyssey 2, this gem of addictive shooting-gallery fun is obviously heavily derived from the all-time arcade classic Galaga. Continue reading

Centipede

CentipedeThe Game: Centipedes, spiders and fleas invade your garden of ‘shrooms. Spiders follow an evasive course and can collide with you at any moment. Fleas poison the mushrooms, making them impervious to your fire (and thus giving the Buy this gamecentipede impenetrable cover). And the centipede itself can split into many segments, and if it reaches the bottom of the screen, will turn around and start to move upward again, possibly catching you from behind. Every time you manage to completely “debug” the screen, you move up to a harder level. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: Centipede was a huge arcade hit, so it’s no wonder Atari wasted no time in creating the home translation. Though the Atari 2600 version of the game couldn’t compete with its arcade ancestor’s colorful graphics, the home version did get the point across. Continue reading

Cosmic Creeps

Cosmic CreepsThe Game: Aliens are after your kids! Fortunately, you’re armed with a resource that not everyone has: your own flying saucer. In the opening screen, you have to return to the saucer to resume command, and then you signal your kids to come up, one by one, as you try to pick off alien pursuers who are hot on their trail. If you’re See the videonot careful, you can actually zap the kids instead. If an alien manages to reach your saucer, someone else will have to give your kids a ride home from the star academy… (Telesys, 1982)

Memories: It may not have been the biggest, most obvious name in software for the 2600, but I have to give Telesys top marks for coming up with cool ideas for their games. Cosmic Creeps is a great example of what Telesys was best at, and it’s a lot of fun too. Continue reading

Demon Attack

Demon AttackBuy this gameThe Game: Demons coalesce into existence in mid-air above your cannon. Send them back where they came from by force – but watch out, as demons in later levels split into two parts upon being hit, which must then be destroyed individually… (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Ah, the storied history of Demon Attack. Back in the day when the legal game was almost as new the video game, Atari was jealously guarding its See the videoterritory. Now, never mind that Bushnell-era Atari had clearly based some of its cartridge games on arcade sleeper hits – Circus Atari borrowed heavily from Exidy’s coin-op Circus, to name just one – the company was now out for blood under the management of Warner Bros. and Ray Kassar. Continue reading

Demon Attack

Demon AttackThe Game: Demons coalesce into existence in mid-air above your cannon. Send them back where they came from by force – but watch out, as demons in later levels split into two parts upon being hit, which must then be destroyed See the videoindividually. After fending off several waves of attackers, you blast off to deep space to confront their mothership. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: No bones about it, the Intellivision version of Demon Attack is the definitive version of this game. It also drew a lawsuit from Atari, who had just licensed the arcade game Phoenix from Centuri (an American operation which had, in turn, licensed it from Taito in Japan). In a lot of ways, Phoenix and the Intellivision version of Demon Attack were very much alike – swooping alien attackers who split into two equally lethal halves when hit, and a Comet Empire-like alien mothership with only a single vulnerability (and an endless stream of defensive fighters to cover that weakness). Continue reading

Eggomania (Atari 2600)

EggomaniaThe Game: Which came first: your imminent defeat or the egg? A crazed chicken scoots back and forth across the top of the screen, hurling eggs downward at your suspiciously Cookie See the videoMonster-esque protagonist. Once your monster has captured all of the eggs (missing even one egg results in a lost “life”), you can fire the eggs back at the chicken and try to score a direct hit. (U.S. Games, 1982)

Memories: U.S. Games, formerly Vidtec, is one company that industry insiders single out as a prime example that speculators and bandwagon-jumpers were beginning to dominate the third-party software industry around 1982. U.S. Games didn’t really have a breakout hit or a killer app; instead, they had the distinction of being an upstart video game company that happened to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Quaker Oats – a company with no previous interest in the video game field. Continue reading

Galaxian

GalaxianThe Game: In one of the most seminal variations on the Space Invaders format, Galaxian was among the first clones to introduce attacking formations that would break off from the usual rows and columns of See the videoinvaders. Though Galaxian‘s use of this innovation was minimal, it was a drastic change from the usual slowly-advancing target gallery. (Atari, 1982)

Print new overlaysMemories: Like the 5200 version of Pac-Man, Galaxian is a good demonstration of the next-generation Atari console soundly trouncing its older brother. Galaxian is no slouch on the Atari 2600, but while the game play is relatively intact, the look and feel of the arcade game didn’t survive that particular translation. Those elements are handled much more faithfully in this version of the game, though. Continue reading

Gorf

GorfThe Game: The Gorfian Empire is attacking Earth, and naturally you’re our only hope. Symmetrical waves of space invaders lead off the invasion, followed by more unpredictable laser attack waves with long-range weapons. Next, you must pick off Gorfian robots as they emerge from a space warp, and finally you take the fight directly to the Gorfian flagship, trying to get one perfect shot in at its most vulnerable point. (CBS Video Games, 1982)

Memories: It’s almost like the original, this home translation from CBS Video Games, though there’s one rather major omission. When Bally/Midway licensed out its popular original coin-op Gorf, it had to make sure that one whole stage of the pioneering multi-level game was left out – the Galaxians screen. Continue reading

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