No Escape!

No Escape!The Game: Jason, having made off with the Golden Fleece, has enraged the gods, who trap him in a temple along with a never-ending supply of Furies. Players can move Jason from side to side to avoid the Furies’ fire, and to fire back – but shooting a Fury directly will create another Fury rather than destroying it. Carefully-timed shots at the temple’s roof, however, will dislodge bricks that can permanently eliminate any Furies that they hit. Jason (and, presumably, countless screaming Argonauts) will advance a level when all of the Furies on the present level are destroyed. Taking too much damage from the Furies (or from chunks of the roof that he himself has caused to fall) will cost Jason his life. (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: One of the lesser-known Imagic titles for the 2600, No Escape! was titled Escape From Argos for much of its development cycle. It combines the tried-and-true elements of slide-and-shoot games and brick-busting games such as Breakout, but does it in such a novel way that it manages to be fresh. Continue reading

Plaque Attack

Plaque AttackBuy this gameThe Game: One of the great dental scare games (also see Tooth Protectors and Jawbreaker), Plaque Attack pits you against tooth decay itself! Wave after wave of burgers, hot dogs, fries ‘n’ fruit assault a mouth with eight teeth in it (only eight? Something tells me this patient’s beyond help already), and you pilot a tube of toothpaste packing enough fluoride to blast them all into sparkly white oblivion – if you can keep up with all of them. (Activision, 1983)

Memories: It’s a weird topic for a game, but truth be told, that’s one of the many things I loved about the early era of video games: it wasn’t all fighting, driving, first-person shooter, RPG, flight sim or dancing. Anything was game (to coin a phrase). Now, in all honesty, Plaque Attack is little more than a rehash of Megamania (right down to the killer burgers) with a dash of Missile Command thrown in for good measure (if you’re doing well and survive a wave where you’ve lost teeth, you’ll actually get a tooth back). Continue reading

Spectron

SpectronThe Game: Aliens are closing in on your planetary base, and apparently you’re the only one on call to fend them off. Shields protect your ground-hugging mobile cannon, but they tend to be eroded away quickly by both incoming enemy fire and your own shots from the ground. If See the videoenemy ships infiltrate your protective bunker, you can find yourself in a very close-quarters firefight. When you eliminate a wave of alien ships, the next wave moves in to attack. (Spectravideo, 1983)

Memories: “Oh no!” you might be saying, “Not another Space Invaders clone!” But the thing is, as obvious a genre of game as that might have been on nearly every other console in existence, Spectron is one of the very few such games that was released for the Colecovision during the console’s heyday. Continue reading

Threshold

ThresholdThe Game: Players control a space fighter on patrol as alien attack fleets gather in deep space. Always keeping a wary eye on his ship’s fuel and laser temperature, would-be space heroes must blow away every alien ship on the screen before collecting the reward – See the videonamely, the privelege of blowing away another wave of alien attackers. (Sierra On-Liine, 1983)

Memories: Another of Sierra’s early forays into non-computer game software via its “Sierravision” imprint, Threshold admittedly fills a gap in the Colecovision library – that system somehow managed to avoid accumulating heaps of slide-and-shoot Space Invaders derivatives. But it doesn’t do it particularly well, as Threshold is simply a watered-down Colecovision edition of Astro Blaster. Continue reading

Doctor Who: The First Adventure

Doctor Who: The First AdventureThe Game: You guide the Doctor, that wayward Time Lord, on a quest to retrieve the three segments of the Key to Time, recover See the videoyour companion from an alien prison, and escape aliens who are on your trail. The game appropriately takes place in four “episodes” (stages). Failing to complete a task will cost you time and a precious regeneration; running out of either one ends the game.

Memories: The first officially approved Doctor Who video game, The First Adventure isn’t a trendsetter or a great innovation in and of itself; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that this game for the BBC Micro would’ve been entirely un-noteworthy if not for the Doctor Who connection. Continue reading

Meteor Belt

Meteor BeltThe Game: An evil force near the planet Jupiter has commandeered the asteroid belt between that giant planet and Mars as its personal defense shield. Your mission is simple: man a mobile weapons platform on the inner solar system’s side See the videoof the asteroid belt, exchange fire with the enemy (who can be the computer or another player), and try to knock out their defenses and destroy them. The battle will last only a brief time, and whoever has the best score – with a bonus given at the end for losing the least ships – wins. (Milton Bradley, 1983)

Memories: Milton Bradley is one of the few board game makers who didn’t at least try to make major in-roads into the video game arena. If anything, they tried to buy their way in, investing in and distributing the early models of the Vectrex stand-alone console, and later getting into Atari 2600 games with one-off specialty controllers that added to the games’ price without doing that much for game play. Continue reading

Super Demon Attack

Super Demon AttackThe Game: Demons coalesce into existence in mid-air above your cannon. Send them back where they came from by force. (Texas Instruments, under license from Imagic, 1983)
See the video
Memories: Somewhat similar to the Intellivision edition of Imagic’s Demon Attack in look and feel, this TI version of the game takes advantage of that computer’s graphics capabilities to turn the attacking demons into little pixellated pieces of Lovecraftian horror. It doesn’t make the game better or worse, really, but it adds a certain frisson to have nightmarish alien jellyfish-like critters descending upon you. Why Super Demon Attack? Because it’s got super demons, plain and simple. Continue reading

Attack Of The Timelord! (Terrahawks+)

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. (Philips, 1983)

Memories: Known as Attack Of The Timelord outside of Europe and the U.K., this game was released abroard as Terrahawks+ for the Philips G7400+ console. It’s essentially the same game, except with a relatively elaborate background graphic of the Earth and moon (complete with the man in the moon, no less). Continue reading

Lasercade

LasercadeThe Game: You’re manning an experimental laser in a shooting gallery, trying to zap objects as they cross a screen at the far end of the room. A direct hit scores points, but the clock is always ticking down and any objects that haven’t See the videobeen shot down will remain in play until they’re eliminated. At the end of each round, you’ll be tasked with shooting the flame off of a candelabra, though its rapidly melting candles may make this trickier than you think. With each new level, targets get smaller – and rows of floating mirrors threaten to bounce your laser right back at you if you hit them instead of your target. (20th Century Fox, 1983 [never released])

Memories: In video game terms, lasers are like the opposite of the weather – everyone fires them, but nobody ever talks about them. Though Lasercade belongs to the same category as Carnival and Shootin’ Gallery, its 3-D angle on the basic shooting gallery game is unique in the 2600 library, and for the first time, it really plays with the underlying concept and physical reality of firing lasers. Really. Continue reading

Robot Rubble

Robot RubbleThe Game: Robots descend from the mountains with one mission in mind: they’d like to fry you. In fact, they’re pretty adamant on that point. You’re armed with a weapon that can fling anti-robot grenades at them, but you have to account for a trajectory that can be affected by your own movement; mountainous See the videooutcroppings give you shelter, but not for long, since they also give the robots target practice. If you score a direct hit and blast a robot apart, you’re left with a narrow window of opportunity in which to land another grenade and permanently dismantle the remaining robot parts…if you can’t accomplish that, the robot will gather up its parts and reassemble itself to have another go at you. (Activision, 1983 – never released)

Memories: One of the strangest marketing policies to emerge from the golden age of video games was Activision‘s absurd – and eventually abandoned – strategy of trying to make its early Intellivision titles look and sound exactly like their Atari 2600 counterparts. While Activision was doing this, possibly to save the marketing department from having to prepare two different sets of artwork per game, Imagic vaulted ahead of them and became the definitive third-party software provider for the Intellivision. One only needs to look at the 2600 and Intellivision versions of Demon Attack or Atlantis to formulate the question “Why on Earth would Activision hobble their own developers like that?” Continue reading

Gaplus / Galaga 3

Gaplus / Galaga 3The Game: The Galaxian/Galaga saga continues! You control a solo space fighter against unending hordes of alien attackers who dive, weave, and evade your fire, while trying to nail your ship with their own shots. But one of See the videoBuy this gamethe aliens is hauling precious cargo: a device used to generate a tractor beam. In Galaga, the aliens used this weapon to capture and control your own fighters, using them against you. Now you can turn the tables by destroying the alien ferrying this precious piece of technology (but don’t shoot the device itself!). You’ll be able to capture an entire row of alien ships, using all of them to fire simultaneously at the next wave of attackers. If alien fire destroys one of your captured ships, the others, and your ship, survive; if they manage to draw a bead on your own fighter, however, all bets are off. (Namco, 1984)

Memories: This sequel to Galaga was titled Gaplus in Japan (and in its limited original release in the U.S., if I’m not mistaken). In an attempt to draw more attention to it by tying it to a familiar property, Namco rechristened the sequel Galaga 3 for widespread American distribution. Whatever you call it (I tend to remember it as Gaplus myself), it’s a very difficult 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, 1984)

Memories: Though the graphics aren’t markedly different from those of the Atari 2600 version of Centipede, the elements of the game are a great deal more challenging. In a way, Millipede isn’t quite so well-suited to the trakball controller…it’s just too fast. Continue reading

Beamrider

BeamriderBuy this gameThe Game: Alien ships are sliding toward you on a gridwork of energy; as the pilot of the Beamrider, your job is to destroy them before they get too close to home (i.e. the bottom of the screen). They can fire back, though, and while in some cases you can return fire and intercept their shots, it depends on what kind of weaponry they’re using. When you run out of Beamriders, the aliens take over. (Activision, 1984)

See the videoMemories: With the abandoned 2600 prototype of Tempest being the closest thing to an exception, Beamrider was the only attempt to the bring that arcade game’s style of action to the 2600. And in the end, Beamrider more closely resembles the one-line idea that led to Tempest: “First Person Space Invaders“. Continue reading

Beamrider

BeamriderThe Game: Alien ships are sliding toward you on a gridwork of energy; as the pilot of the Beamrider, your job is to destroy them before they get too close to home (i.e. the bottom of the screen). They can fire back, though, and while in some cases you can return fire and intercept their shots, it depends on what kind of weaponry they’re using. When you run out of Beamriders, the aliens take over. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: The Colecovision port of Activision‘s answer to Tempest, Beamrider is – perhaps not surprisingly – a lot smoother than it is on the Atari 2600. But somehow it manages to take its sweet time getting faster. Continue reading

Halley’s Comet

Halley's CometThe Game: Defend Earth from the comets! Halley’s Comet is on a collision course with Earth, and it’s teeming with evil aliens bent on destroying humanity. They attack the player’s ship in endless waves, even building walls in space that the player can collide with before they realize what’s happening. Power-ups can be revealed by blasting away at meteors, though catching them and accumulating their firepower in the middle of a fierce firefight is a skill unto itself. Smaller comets plunge toward the Earth at lightning speed. Any alien ships or comets that the player doesn’t destroy keep going and attack the planet; if too many are allowed to strike at Earth directly, or if the player runs out of ships, the game ends. (Taito, 1986)

Memories: An interesting take on the slide-and-shoot genre, Halley’s Comet finally addresses what happens when dive-bombing alien invaders zoom past the player’s ship at the bottom of the screen – they keep barreling toward whatever the player was protecting in the first place. This raises the stakes nicely and holds the player accountable for any stragglers who slip past the defenses, something that most shoot-’em-ups since Space Invaders (which ended the moment the invaders landed) didn’t bother to do. Continue reading

Donkey Kong 3

Donkey Kong 3The Game: As Stanley the gardener, you’re trying to repel a swarm of pests unleashed by that meanest of pixellated gorillas, while also using your pesticide to propel him off the screen. Protect your flowers and yourself, and wear plenty of Off. (Nintendo, 1986)

Memories: As much as many gamers don’t grow as attached to Donkey Kong 3 as they did with the first games in that series, with its Mario-less sidestep into shooter territory, it’s still quite a bit of fun, and this NES cartridge captures the arcade experience perfectly. Continue reading

Galaga ’88

Galaga '88The Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Namco, 1987)

Memories: Where the Galaga sequel Gaplus turned some elements of the game play around, Galaga ’88 returns to the original rules and adds a lot of visual flair. Continue reading

Galaga

GalagaThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: It took three years for anyone to bring this game to any home video game or computer platform. Who knows why? I never thought it was all that complicated, but apparently not even the ColecoVision or the 5200 were up to the task. Continue reading

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