Bradley Trainer (a.k.a. “Military Battlezone”)

Atari Bradley TrainerThe Game: As the pilot of a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, you wander the desolate battlefield, trying to wipe out enemy tanks and helictopers without accidentally firing on your own allies. (Atari, under special contract for the United States Army, 1981)

Memories: You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the arcade business who’d complain that a game was too good. But Ed Rotberg, designer of Atari’s original 3-D vector graphics tank hit Battlezone, would be the exception. His revolutionary first-person fighting game was impressive enough to attract the attention of the United States Army, and this landed him a very special job he did not want: retooling the game to the Army’s exacting specifications to turn it into a real training simulation. Continue reading

Bagman

BagmanThe Game: You’re a thief trying to make away with all the loot buried in a complex maze of interconnected mines and shafts, and you’d get away with it if it weren’t for some pesky cops who are hot on your trail. You can drop bags of money See the videoon them from a level above, or temporarily brain them with a pick, and they’ll occasionally also bumble into open mine shafts of their own accord. In any of these events, they vanish for a little while to recover before reappearing. But any of these things will do you in too! (Stern/Seeburg [under license from Valadon Automation], 1982)

Memories: Bagman was a very addictive and fun variation on the ladder-climing format that had become familiar in the space of just one year. Despite putting the player in the role of a crook, the worst behavior this game could possibly encourage would be slapstick, Keystone Kops-type violence (wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of comically clumsy cops, and wouldn’t it be great if they brought beer – really good beer?). It’s a very cute and playable game. Continue reading

Blue Print

Blue PrintThe Game: You are the intrepid, barbershop-quartet-suited J.J. (hey, it’s better than being O.J.!), out to save a damsel in distress from a pursuing monster. How does a guy in a little striped suit do this? By building a mobile, tennis-ball-launching contraption to dispatch said dastardly monster, naturally. The catch? The eight pieces of your mechanical creation are hidden somewhere among ten little houses in a maze – See the videoand those houses that don’t contain parts of your machine contain a bomb that must be dumped into the bomb pit immediately (else they’ll explode and kill J.J.). Critters also roam the maze to annoy you, including one pesky monster who will prematurely jump on the “start” button, rattling your still-unfinished machine to bits. If you don’t build your Rube Goldberg gizmo in time, the monster catches the damsel and you lose a life. (Bally/Midway, 1982)

Memories: Fun little game, this Blue Print. Perhaps somewhat like the rodent protagonist of Mappy, J.J. seemed to be primed for some kind of merchandising that never happened. Continue reading

Black Widow

Black WidowBuy this gameThe Game: You’re a spider whose web seems to be a popular hangout for any number of flies who seem to have an aversion to getting caught there. So you’re left with the only option nature leaves open to a spider in this scenario: you shoot your prey down and eat the yummy grubsteak that’s left behind! Some bugs will have the whaudacity to lay their eggs in your web, which you can either push off the edge (a risky trick depending on how “developed” some of the eggs are) or wait to hatch into more bugs that you See the videocan shoot down. Beware of “grenade bugs” which destroy everything within a certain radius around them when you shoot them; they may take out other adversaries as they go, or destroy you if you’re too close. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: Black Widow is a fun number which smacks of an attempt to do Robotron: 2084 in vector graphics. It’s also one of the handful of Atari arcade games sporting the color vector monitor, which was prone to numerous technical glitches (not the least of which was overheating to the point that capacitors melted off the board). What vector graphics had over traditional raster displays, however, was fast action, and Black Widow is a beauty in that respect. Within only a few levels, the action is almost too much for the average player to handle. Continue reading

BurgerTime

BurgerTimeBuy this gameThe Game: As Chef Peter Pepper, you climb around a multi-level factory whose sole function is to make some really big burgers. We’re talking about some BIG burgers here. But your ingredients aren’t exactly cooperating with you. Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Egg and Mr. Pickle are doing their best to keep you from making those big See the videoburgers, but you can turn the tables on them and put them in your edible creations! You have a limited supply of pepper which you can use to stun your tasty stalkers (and keep in mind, this was years before Mace). Or you can simply lead them across one of the yummy ingredients, and they’ll become part of the burger. (Which is a rather disturbing thought when it comes to to hot dogs and eggs in a hamburger.) Also, you can walk across a bun or a slab of meat on the level above them, and the falling ingredients will squash them on the way down. (Bally/Midway [under license from Data East], 1982)

Memories: BurgerTime was a cool twist on the climbing genre, but it had one main problem – oh, boy, was it ever slow! I t took forever to climb ladders, and on those later levels where there were huge, dangerous stretches of ladders, this slowed the game down to an annoyingly slow pace. Other than this, though, it was a nifty little game, and just playing it and writing about it has made me hungry for something from Burger King… Continue reading

Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet Of ZoomThe Game: Zoom being the operative word here, your mission – as space hero Buck Rogers – is to fly in close quarters with all kinds of enemy ships, landers and structures, fending off their attacks, and generally staying alive as See the videolong as possible. Obligatory robot wisecracks and utterances of “beedy-beedy-beedy” not included. (Sega, 1982)

Memories: Debuting in arcades a mere two years after the exit of the popular but troubled Buck Rogers TV series, Sega’s coin-op had no real connection with it. If anything, the enemy ships and architecture in Planet Of Zoom are a bit more art deco, suggesting the comic book roots of Buck Rogers. Sega later ported the game to a few home consoles, and while the player’s ship in those games seemed to hearken back to the sleek fighters of the TV series, it was more likely a case of simplifying the arcade game’s fancy rocketship. Continue reading

Barnstorming

BarnstormingBuy this gameThe Game: Players climb into a biplane to race against time to fly through barns and try to avoid geese, who have a habit of finding their way into one’s propellers. Other obstacles include windmills and, well, the broad side of a barn; collisions are a mere setback, not a fiery death. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: As one of the best-remembered early Activision titles, Barnstorming is actually See the videoa very simple game: most, if not all, of the game is based on easily memorized patterns, and the rest is down to reflexes. One element of the game, however, has a surprisingly checkered history. Continue reading

Beauty & The Beast

Beauty & The BeastThe Game: You control Bashful Buford, apparently a redneck cousin to Mario. You’re trying to reach the top of the Mutton Building to rescue your ladyfriend, Tiny Mabel, from huge Horrible Hank, who’s chucking boulders at you. See the videoYou can jump over these, and use open windows to get a leg up on the next floor of the building. Avoid bats and birds – and try to catch any floating hearts Mabel sends down, because they make Buford invincible for a short time. If you reach Hank and Mabel, you advance to the next few floors, which get increasingly cramped since the Mutton Building tapers off to a point. If you can reach Hank and Mabel at the top level of the building, you can clobber Hank right off the side of the structure and rescue Mabel – but not for long, since it all starts again a moment later, only faster. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Remember the hideous mutant of a game Coleco made for the Intellivision under the name of Donkey Kong? Not only did it bear only the most superficial resemblance to the arcade game of the same name, but it was even more inadequate than the legendarily bad version Coleco turned out for the Atari 2600. Continue reading

Burgertime

BurgertimeThe Game: As Chef Peter Pepper, you climb around a multi-level factory whose sole function is to make some really big burgers. We’re talking about some BIG burgers here. But your ingredients aren’t exactly cooperating with you… (M Network [Mattel, under license from Data East], 1982)

Memories: In an ambitious bid to exploit their Burgertime license on systems other than the Intellivision, Mattel did their best to bring Chef Peter Pepper and that pack of pesky pickles to the 2600, and while the end result fell a little bit short, it also racked up its share of good selling points. And perhaps by virtue of its name alone, Burgertime was one of the best selling M Network titles. Continue reading

Burgertime

BurgertimeThe Game: As a trundling chef, you’re simply trying to make four nicely-stacked burgers, but there’s one little obstacle – the ingredients are coming to life and stalking you! If the walking pickles, eggs, and hot dogs catch up with you, See the videothey’ll make a meal of your chef. You have a limited number of pepper shakers you can use to repel your enemies (talk about pepper spray!), but the only way to do away with them permanently is to squash them by dropping a layer of your burger-under-construction on top of them. (Mattel [under license from Data East], 1982)

See the original TV adMemories: Burgertime was one of Mattel’s biggest arcade game licensing coups, and the arcade game is usually fondly remembered. The best feature of the Intellivision edition of Burgertime may, in fact, be its calliope-like music – after a few minutes, it grates on the nerves, but it’s a very close match to the arcade game. The graphics are a bit blocky, but the game is still recognizable as Burgertime. Continue reading

Blaster

BlasterBuy this gameThe Game: The human race narrowly escapes the conquering of Earth by the merciless Robotrons. The last surviving remnants of mankind See the videoscatter as they leave the planet, heading for a distant world known as Paradise. Your job? Make sure they get there – by blasting away at anything and everything along the perilous journey. (Williams Electronics, 1983)

Memories: In the continuation of the Defender / Stargate / Robotron story cycle, Blaster builds nicely on the nearly-movie-worthy saga by picking up from the inevitable conclusion of Robotron (i.e., the protagonist’s death). Now humanity is on the run, and there are all kinds of nasty creatures waiting to finish the human race off, including the Masterminds, which look a lot like Robotron‘s Brains, only more hideous (imagine a large brain wearing a Darth Vader faceplate, and you’ll get the idea.) Continue reading

Botanic

BotanicThe Game: Players control a caterpillar, hungrily navigating a twisty maze of twigs and branches to eat leaves. Sometimes the player’s caterpillar will have reached a dead end, but this is not revealed until the leaf covering that dead end is consumed. Other insects swarm around the caterpillar, trying to catch and eat it for themselves. At the beginning of each “life” the player can press a button, giving the caterpillar a brief bug-zerker rage, allowing it to eat its enemies for a change, but this change is short-lived; special flowers must be consumed to regain the ability. Once all of the leaves have been eaten in an entire maze (which takes up more than a single interlinked screen), a “home” appears, into which the caterpillar must be successfully guided for transformation into a butterfly. Then the player is given a new caterpillar to guide and a new maze to navigate. (Valadon Automation [under license to Iti S.A.], 1983)

Memories: If you remember playing Botanic in your local arcade, your local arcade must have been in France or Spain, since Botanic did not receive worldwide distribution. Valadon Automation, the originators of Bagman (a game which did receive worldwide distribution), licensed Botanic from Palamos, Spain-based game maker Iti S.A. Continue reading

Bubbles

BubblesBuy this gameThe Game: This is an interactive documentary about the life of a Scrubbing Bubble. As a small bubble, your job is to scoot around the sink, See the videosoaking up smaller bubbles, bits of dirt, and any ants that wander into your path. As you accrete more common kitchen debris, your bubble grows bigger and begins to form a face. When your bubble is big enough to sport a big ant-eating grin, you can start to do real damage. Razor blades are always deadly; roving brushes are deadly until your bubble has a mouth, and roaches are deadly unless you can dispatch them with a broom that periodically appears. When the drain at the center of the sink flashes green, you can slide down the drain and advance a level – something which you can only otherwise accomplish by clearing the sink of “edible” items. (Williams Electronics, 1983)

Memories: Okay, and the designers at Williams were smoking what, exactly, when they dreamed this one up?

But I kid Bubbles. It’s actually a pretty cool game, and a rare example of a cutesy game from Williams, a company which usually turned out such macho, kill-’em-all shooters as Defender, Sinistar and Robotron. Williams’ only other entry in the cute game genre was Make Trax (which almost doesn’t count, since it was licensed from an obscure Japanese manufacturer). 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)

See the videoBuy this gameMemories: Battlezone, in its arcade incarnation, was a huge, lumbering hulk of a beast with controls which were at best difficult to master (and at worst impossible), though it did sport some very good faux-3-D vector graphics. How on Earth was Atari going to turn this into a 2600 game? Continue reading

Balao Travesso! (“Looney Balloon!”)

Balao Travesso!The Game: You’re piloting a balloon-toting brat around an amusement park. Ride the rides! Slide down the slide! Crawl under the trees and play! But watch out for that balloon – the thing is vital to your survival! Don’t let it get popped See the videoagainst the trees, or the rides, or the walls of the amusement park. Worse yet, a cloud may appear at the side of the screen and blow your balloon away, forcing you to run after it and catch it before it collides with something and pops. Birds will also fly over the park, and they can pop your balloon too. Even if you’re not holding onto it at the time, the balloon popping ends your game. (Frankly, this reliance on the balloon seems to be a bit unhealthy, and will probably lead the game’s kid to be a shut-in with another inflatable friend by the time he’s 40.) (Phillips, 1983)

Memories: Released in Europe as Loony Balloon, Balao Travesso! is essentially a near-beer version of the late 70s Taito arcade game Crazy Balloon – only, quite frankly, Balao Travesso! has more elaborate graphics than the arcade game (who here thought they’d ever be reading that about an Odyssey2 game?). Continue reading

B.C.’s Quest For Tires

B.C.'s Quest For TiresThe Game: As beleaguered caveman B.C., you’ve just discovered the wheel. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, on the same day that you harness mechanical motion for the first time, you’re also going to discover the traffic See the videoaccident. Jump over holes in the ground, rocks and rolling boulders, and duck under tree limbs – and then you’ve got to survive showing your new evolutionary step off to the Mrs.! (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: B.C.’s Quest For Tires is one of those games that immediately brings the word “Colecovision” to mind – it was a striking game for its day, and this was the platform where it truly excelled (though it was also available on several home computers as well). Johnny Hart’s comic strip wasn’t quite in the Garfield stratosphere of daily newspaper comics, but it was popular enough that its characters would seem familiar. Continue reading

Berzerk

BerzerkThe Game: You’re alone in a maze filled with armed, hostile robots who only have one mission – to kill you. If you even so much as touch the walls, you’ll wind up dead. You’re a little bit faster than the robots, and you have human instinct on See the videoyour side…but even that won’t help you when Evil Otto, a deceptively friendly and completely indestructible smiley face, appears to destroy you if you linger too long in any one part of the maze. The object of the game? Try to stay alive however long you can. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Already released in a near-picture-perfect version on the Atari 2600, Berzerk was surely an easy game to port to that console’s newer, more powerful sibling. But the 2600 version was so good, what could Atari do to top it? Continue reading

Blue Print

Blue PrintThe Game: You are the intrepid, barbershop-quartet-suited J.J. (hey, it’s better than being O.J.!), out to save a damsel in distress from a pursuing monster. How does a guy in a little striped suit do this? By building a mobile, tennis-ball-launching contraption to dispatch said dastardly monster, naturally. The catch? The eight pieces of your mechanical creation are hidden somewhere among ten little houses in a maze – and those houses that don’t contain parts of your machine contain a bomb that must be dumped into the bomb pit immediately (else they’ll explode and kill J.J.). Critters also roam the maze to annoy you, including one pesky monster who will prematurely jump on the “start” button, rattling your still-unfinished machine to bits. If you don’t build your Rube Goldberg gizmo in time, the monster catches the damsel and you lose a life. (CBS Electronics, 1983)

Memories: One of my favorite genre-crossing arcade titles, Blue Print was one of several in-house gems from Bally/Midway which were licensed under an overall deal with CBS Electronics. And while I mourn the fact that they never got around to making Kickman for the 5200, I can take come comfort in the work of art that is CBS’ home version of Blue Print. Continue reading

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