Blue Print

Blue PrintThe Game: You are the intrepid, barbershop-quartet-suited J.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 See the videodastardly 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: Sometimes arcade translations for the Atari 2600 miss the mark, and sometimes they’re right on the money. Blue Print isn’t necessarily either extreme; it’s close enough for government work. Continue reading

The Blobbers

The BlobbersThe Game: Amoeba-like monsters spawn and grow in an enclosed space with moving platforms. Players control a very mobile cannon, tasked with the mission of destroying these creatures, or at least trying to keep their population under control. The newly-spawned creatures pose no threat to the cannon – they’ll simply attach themselves to it, slowing it down unless it can shake them off. But the creatures rapidly grow in size and change colors; when a creature turns red, it is capable of destroying the cannon on contact. The cannon’s shots regress the creatures into earlier evolutionary stages; firing on a creature that has been regressed to its newly-spawned stage will destroy it. Both the cannon and the creatures can hitch a ride across the screen – either to safety or into the jaws of the enemy – aboard the platforms. (GST Video, 1983)

Memories: Even if this wasn’t a European-only release for the Videopac – the version of the Odyssey2 that did better in Europe than the Odyssey2 did in the Americas – The Blobbers would be hard to find. Hitting the stores at the end of the Videopac’s life span, this nifty little enclosed-space shoot-’em-up got very little attention and sold very few copies, and as such few copies made their way into the hands of game collectors and traders. Continue reading

Boing!

Boing!The Game: You’re a bubble bounding around a series of platforms, changing the color of every segment on which you land. Your job is to change the color of the entire playing field while avoiding everything else, including an equally mobile See the videoneedle that has a point to make. If you run into your adversaries too many times, I hate to burst your bubble, but the game’s over. (First Star Software. 1983)

Memories: One of the earliest entries into the video game arena by First Star Software – an outfit which is actually still in business, unlike a lot of other latecomers to the ’80s video game race – Boing! is obviously another take on the basic game play concepts of Q*Bert, and truth be told, it doesn’t bring any new innovations to the table, but it’s a slight improvement audiovisually. Boing! can also boast an easier control scheme, since it doesn’t ask the player to rotate the joystick 45 degrees. That’s a big help. Continue reading

Bump ‘N’ Jump

Bump 'N' JumpThe Game: The race is on, and no moves are off-limits – bump your competitors off the road (and into apparently highly volatile vegetation that causes them to explode), or jump over them and any other obstacles that get in your way, See the videoincluding areas of water that cover the road. If you survive the race, you live on to the next round – at least until you run out of cars. (M Network, 1983)

Memories: One of a very few arcade licenses snagged by Mattel for the Intellivision and for the M Network line of games for the Atari 2600 and other platforms, Bump ‘N’ Jump has a bumpy ride as it jumps to the relatively underpowered Atari. Continue reading

Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet Of ZoomThe Game: As space pilot Buck Rogers, you pilot an agile star fighter across a hazardous alien landscape, dodging buildings and destroying enemy vessels. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: Bearing only the most superficial resemblance – just the design of the star fighter – to the television series of the same name, Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom may seem like nothing terribly special these days, but at the time, it was a breakthrough in 3-D, not-quite-first-person aerial/space combat video games – from the same people who brought you Zaxxon, the first vaguely-3-D game. 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

Buggy Challenge

Buggy ChallengeThe Game: It’s a duel for dune buggy supremacy, and it won’t be easy. Drivers must contend not only with other drivers, but with dangerous terrain (sand hills that can launch a buggy into mid-air with little or no control over where it might land), killer obstacles including rocks and fence posts, and the amazing ease of losing all sense of direction. (Taito, 1984)

Memories: A fairly obscure first-person racer from Taito, Buggy Challenge is visually impressive, but in an era when it seemed like arcade game manufacturers were desperately trying to add complexity to control schemes – after all, a complex control scheme will probably get players “killed” more often, forcing more coin drop – Buggy Challenge most outstanding feature may be its blissful simplicity. There’s a gas pedal and a steering wheel. Try not to hit stuff that will cause the dune buggy to blow up. It really is that simple. Continue reading

Ballblazer

BallblazerThe Game: Pong just got a lot more difficult. The table-tennis-inspired sport is now played at blow-your-hair-back speeds on a 3-D field, with vehicles called rotofoils serving as the paddles. Up to four players can compete, or you can humiliate yourself by trying to fight computer-controlled opponents. (Atari/Lucasfilm Games, 1984)

Memories: The announcement was simple, and ominous, and got a lot of press. “Lucasfilm is entering the video game industry.” It made big waves, and why wouldn’t it? The thought of someone with the tremendous creative resources of George Lucas getting in on the action was enough to excite many gamers – particularly those who, around 1984, were deluged in the kind of mediocre titles which brought the video game business to its knees. 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

Buraco Negro! (“Black Hole!”)

Buraco Negro!The Game: This is a tale of a futuristic society advanced almost beyond belief. A black hole has been trapped behind a force field, where its gravity won’t snag the chains of space outposts lining the top and bottom of the screen. That gravity will, however, attract stray asteroids, which naturally can do a number on the space stations. This is where you come in: as the captain of an interplanetary street-sweeper, it’s your job to grab the asteroids and deposit them in the maw of the black hole. It’s tricky, business: letting go of an asteroid too far away from the black hole will allow it to drift toward the space stations, but putting your own ship too close to the black hole will put you in harm’s way (and may still let the asteroid escape). The more asteroids you put in the black hole, the bigger and more powerful it becomes (did anyone really think through this method of disposing of the trash?), which will attract more asteroids and cause them to move faster. You can also shoot asteroids, but this will add no points to your score, and stray missiles could destroy space stations. If your ship plummets into the event horizon, or too many space stations are destroyed, there’s suddenly a vacancy for the most dangerous garbage disposal job in the universe. (GST Video, 1984)

Memories: As a rule, I try not to be too critical of a game’s programmer, but this rare title – initially released only in South America, and then later dressed up with a spacey background and released in Europe for the Videopac G7400+ under the incorrectly-translated name Neutron Star – offers so little reward for so much effort that one can only assume its designer was a masochist. Continue reading

Bump ‘n’ Jump

Bump 'n' JumpThe Game: The race is on, and no moves are off-limits – bump your competitors off the road (and into apparently highly volatile vegetation that causes them to explode), or jump over them and any other obstacles that get in your way, including See the videoareas of water that cover the road. If you survive the race, you live on to the next round – at least until you run out of cars. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: Another Sega arcade sleeper-hit snagged for the Colecovision under an overall contract between the two game companies, Bump ‘N’ Jump is fun on four wheels, and this console version drives it home perfectly. 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 long as See the videopossible. Obligatory robot wisecracks and utterances of “beedy-beedy-beedy” not included. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Far and away the most faithful home console version of Sega’s arcade sleeper hit, Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom is a blast on the ColecoVision. 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… (Namco, 1985 [Japan] / Data East, 1987 [US])

Memories: A little bit of an oddity – a Data East-originated arcade game ported to the Famicom by arcade competitor Namco (and then sold in the US by Data East itself) – this version serves up a happy meal worth of authentic Burgertime action on the NES. Continue reading

Bubble Bobble

Bubble BobbleBuy this gameThe Game: You control a friendly-looking lizard named Bub (and, if you have a second player, they control his blue-tinged twin, Bob). Your See the videomission is simple – use your natural defenses to do away with a multi-tiered screen full of monsters. And your natural defense? Of course, like so many members of the reptile family, you blow bubbles which trap your enemies, and then jump up to pop those bubbles (popping the predators in the process). In many cases, a just-popped enemy will deposit a tasty treat which you have to grab for bonus points within seconds before the treat vanishes. Clearing the screen of critters takes you automatically to the next level. (Taito, 1986)

The Game: I’m not going to delve too deeply into how original this game is (or isn’t) – one can see the Mario Bros. influence pretty clearly – but Bubble Bobble is a lot of fun, and it’s the starting point of Taito’s most enduring “cute” franchise. Continue reading

Baseball

BaseballThe Game: Baseball returns to the small screen – the very small screen – on the Game Boy. Step up to the plate and take a swing; after three outs, take control of the pitcher, basemen and outfield, trying to keep the computer from scoring a run. (Nintendo, 1989)

Memories: If Baseball! on the Odyssey2 was my favorite iteration of baseball as a video game during the 1980s, Nintendo‘s Baseball was my favorite of the late ’80s and ’90s. I remember spending a lot of quality time with this game on my first Game Boy – and most of that time was fun and challenging rather than frustrating, placing this well above quite a few baseball video games. Continue reading

Babylon 5 Interactive Information Kit

Babylon 5 Interactive Information KitThe Game: Log into Babylon 5’s information systems by remote and get a look at various parts of the station, and bios of the ambassadors and station crew. You can even launch a Starfury by remote – which would be about the only way to do that Download this softwarewithout having Ivanova’s hands around your throat within ten minutes. (Warner Bros., 1993 / devloped by Doglight Studios)

Memories: Distributed via floppy disk and the Compuserve and GEnie forums frequented by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, the Babylon 5 Interactive Information Kit (which shall hereafter be referred to as the sanity- and repetitive-motion-conserving acronym B5IIK) was a nice piece of advance publicity for the information age – and one of the first hints that Hollywood was acknowledging the internet as a viable promotional medium. Continue reading

Battleship

BattleshipThe Game: Two fleets of four warships conduct long-distance naval warfare, randomly firing torpedoes (and occasionally some higher-powered ordnance) at each other, guessing at the positions of their targets. Whoever sinks the entire opposing fleet first is the victor. (Hasbro Interactive, 1999)

Memories: This game will always have a special place in my heart. Imagine, if you will, my new bride and I, laying in bed on our honeymoon, glistening candlelight reflected in our link cable, trying to blow up each other’s fleets in a two-player death match. Most couples wait a while before they try to shred each other viciously. But this is one of those advances they talk about with modern technology. Continue reading

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