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Custer’s Revenge

Custer's RevengeThe Game: As a rude, crude, lewd nude dude in cavalry boots and hat, your mission is to avoid a hail of airborne arrows, make your way over to an Indian maiden tied to a pole, and have your way with her. That’s the game. Replay value and any actual titillation value not included. (Mystique, 1983)

Memories: Before Night Trap, before Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and before those X-rated Playstation “virtual sex games” marketed in far east countries, there was Custer’s Revenge, a smelly dog of a game which was the first attempt to portray sex in a video game. The problem was, it wasn’t just sex. Custer’s Revenge portrayed rape, and did so against the backdrop of one of American history’s most controversial chapters. The National Organization for Women wasn’t happy. Native American organizations were even less happy. And were it possible to be even less happy than that…well, that’s where you’d find the rape victims’ advocacy groups. Continue reading

Cavern Creatures

Cavern CreaturesThe Game: Why do mountain climbers climb mountains? Because they’re there. Why are you flying a spacecraft into a vast complex of subterranean caverns? Because they’re there, and apparently because you want to blast the multitudes of critters who lurk there. The bad news: there are a lot more of them than there are of you. The good news? Your ship’s cannons fire in four directions simultaneously. Given that fact, and your ship’s maneuverability, you might just survive this little bit of aerial spelunking. (Datamost [designed by Paul Lowrance], 1983)

Memories: These days, the ‘net is loaded with tributes to video games past and present. But Cavern Creatures was one of the first tributes to classic games, and it’s an interesting tribute – it too is playable. Continue reading

Circus Charlie

Circus CharlieBuy this gameThe Game: As Charlie the circus clown, you undertake numerous hazardous activities to wow the big-top audience, including ridng a lion as he jumps through flaming hoops, walking a tightrope also inhabited by numerous monkeys over whom you must jump, leaping around on a series of trampolines (and hopefully over fire-breathers and knife-throwers who happen to be displaying their circus skills in an upward direction between trampolines), and finally a death-defying flying trapeze act. You only get three opportunities to strut your stuff, and then the show’s over. (Konami, 1984)

It’s really like Track & Field with clown makeup, which in itself is somewhat disturbing. However you slice it, Circus Charlie is good clean fun, sort of the un-cola of sports games – there are a number of events (the game’s various “difficulty levels”), and the structure of the game is even the same, though here the action is confined to side-scrolling levels and it doesn’t feel like a sports game. Continue reading

Cosmic Commuter

Cosmic CommuterThe Game: Sometimes it’s not all about saving the whole freakin’ world. Sometimes it’s about just being a cabbie. Picking people up, zipping through traffic, and trying to get them to where they’re going without them – or yourself – killed in the process. Substitute traffic for alien ships and space debris, and you’ve got Cosmic Buy this gameCommuter. Make sure your taxi pod is loaded up on fuel, avoid everything except for the passengers, and don’t forget to dock safely with your launch/landing module when you’ve picked everyone up. You can shoot obstacles out of your way in a tight squeeze, but be careful – you could also shoot your next refueling station out of the sky too. Three collisions or crash landings due to an empty gas tank, and you’re out of the taxi business. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: Cosmic Commuter is a very cool scrolling game with a neat premise, something that I can identify with a lot better than being a fighter jock. This is also an extremely colorful game with a heap of animated graphics, and not one second of sprite flicker. Continue reading

Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThe Game: Bongo the Ape sets your toes on fire while you’re asleep during a jungle expedition. So naturally, you drop everything to take revenge on the goofy gorilla. But first you have to reach him. The first level is a hazardous See the videoassortment of ramps and levels and a waterfall to jump across. Be careful of pesky little monkeys who can weigh you down so you move slower (and jump lower), and watch out for snakes. Then you have to hop across various islands and dodge more snakes as you try to get across a river. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Congo Bongo was one of those games that really tested the mettle of the next-generation consoles of the day. Sega’s own translation of the game for the Atari 2600 was a barely-playable mess, though the version released for the Atari 5200 was a marked improvement. But as with Zaxxon, its cousin from a visual-concept point of view, Congo Bongo didn’t really arrive at home until ported to the ColecoVision. Continue reading

Crazy Climber

Crazy ClimberThe Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of a building, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large stork with (apparently flaming) droppings can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below, and even minor things such as annoyed building tenants dropping potted plants at you from above can have the same disastrous effect. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Atari, 1984 – fan club exclusive)

Memories: Crazy Climber for the 2600 is one of the rarest cartridges manufactured by Atari, having been released only through the company’s Atari Age fan club newsletter rather than at retail. On the basis of its scarcity alone, the Crazy Climber cartridge auctions for – appropriately – crazy amounts of money. Continue reading

Crystal Castles

Crystal CastlesThe Game: You are Bentley the Bear, cuddly defender of a vaguely 3-D fairy tale realm just loaded with ruby-like crystals. While this would seem like an idyllic existence for many sentient stuffed animals, it is, of course, not that easy. Berthilda the Witch has sent her evil minions to seize the crystals for her. Walking trees, Buy this gameupright centipedes, and animated skeletons prowl the geometric vistas to keep Bentley from claiming the crystals. Finding the wizard hat will briefly give Bentley the power to dispose of Berthilda if and when she makes an appearance. Bentley also has a weakness for the pot of honey that appears on each level – and if he grabs the honey, a swarm of bees suddenly has a problem with him. Clearing each screen of crystals advances to the next level. Keep in mind that the enemies can also consume crystals, so they may actually clear the level – Bentley gets a bonus if he’s the one who nabs the last gem on the screen. (Atari, 1984)

Memories: This game is a tough nut to crack. It’s something I’d file under “games I can’t believe anyone tried to port to the Atari 2600,” the same category where I’d put Coleco’s disastrous port of Zaxxon. Surprisingly though, while the graphics are a bit of a mess, enough of the game play is intact to make this version of Crystal Castles surprisingly effective. Continue reading

Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventure In The Park

Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventure In The ParkThe Game: You are one of those ubiquitously cute icons of the ’80s, a Cabbage Patch Kid, and your mission is to convey your pigtailed self across the screen, circumnavigating whatever dangers await you –See the video rolling balls, puddles of water, and so on. You can jump (and, with the aid of strategically placed trampolines, you can jump really high and snag some high-flying bonus prizes), you can swing across water with ropes hanging from trees, and if you mess up any of the above, you can only do it a few times before you’re a Cabbage Patch Greasy Spot on the ground. Remember, the death of any Cabbage Patch child diminishes the entire Cabbage Patch. (Coleco, 1984 – unreleased prototype)

Memories: Essentially a copycat of Activision’s Pitfall, Cabbage Patch Kids was originally released on the Colecovision, capitalizing on Coleco’s two big sellers at the time – that console, and the newly-acquired Cabbage Patch Kids doll license. At this point in the 1980s, video game publishers were virtually clueless about what drew women and girls to some games, and repelled them from others, so it wasn’t uncommon to see bizarro licensing moves such as Cabbage Patch Kids and Strawberry Shortcake. Only development on this game was still ongoing when the bottom dropped out of the video game industry, so the Cabbage Patch Kids were strictly confined to the Colecovision until a 2008 flea market find which put this reasonably finished and playable game into the hands of an Atari collector. Continue reading

Create With Garfield!

Create With Garfield!The Game: Using a simple drag-and-drop system (controlled by keyboard, mouse or joystick), put the elements of an original Garfield comic into place, including everyone’s favorite big orange cat, Odie, Jon, Nermal and all the fixtures and fittings of home (including a big burger and some lasagna). Then position speech balloons in the appropriate place, containing either signature Garfield catchphrases or your own words. Print and/or save to disk, repeat ad nauseum, and avoid Jim Davis’s lawyers thereafter! (Developmental Learning Materials, 1985)

Memories: This nifty bit of creative software used to keep me entertained for hours on end. With a bit of advanced option tweaking, it was even possible to import standard hi-res images to use as the background for a scene, so it wasn’t impossible to, say, drop Odie into the middle of a saved image of an Ultima IV meleè. Not that I’d do such a thing, of course. Continue reading

Crazy Climber 2

Crazy Climber 2The Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of a skyscraper in a major metropolitan area, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as falling jam boxes can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Nihon Bussan Co., Ltd. [Nichibutsu], 1988)

Memories: This is a bizarre, and largely graphical-only, updating of Nichibutsu’s addictive classic, Crazy Climber. The game play remains much the same as the original, but the graphics are a major evolution of what was there before. Animated flags flap in the wind, highlights and shading give Crazy Climber himself a 3-D look, and detailed billboards and neon signs glow. Continue reading

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Command & Conquer: Red AlertOrder this gameThe Game: It’s the Cold War all over again – but worse. Tampering with the timeline has wreaked immeasurable damage with the development of technology, and the result is a new wave of deadly weapons, including Tesla tanks and turrets (which discharge immense electrical energy at their opponents) and Chrono-tanks (which can shift their position on the map instantly for a brief time). You must build and protect your base, produce units necessary to defend and attack, and orchestrate an invasion of enemy territory – all while accumulating as few casualties as possible. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1996)

Memories: Westwood’s real-time strategy classic is a major evolutionary leap from the original Command & Conquer, with vast improvements in the artificial intelligence used by both your soldiers and by computer controlled enemies. And it’s a tough game! It’s pretty common practice for me, despite a couple of years of playing Dune 2000 (a later Westwood game which is built on the same engine as Red Alert), to build up quite a nice base and then get my ass kicked big time. Continue reading

Centipede

CentipedeBuy this gameThe Game: You are the chosen one! Cool, huh? Oh, wait…chosen for what? You are Wally, a bumbling elf who is apparently destined to rid the elven world of a vicious army of centipedes and other bugs. You travel from village to village in different locales to undertake your divine exterminating duties, armed with a hovering weapons platform/vehicle simply called the Shooter. (Hasbro Interactive, 1999)

Memories: Sometimes it seems as though the modern video game manufacturers are overdoing their attempts to bestow a Hollywood plot upon the simpler games of the past. Exhibit A: Centipede, based on the mega-hit Atari coin-op of the same name – a game which, to my knowledge, never really needed a plot because most people don’t look kindly upon wormlike creatures with a hundred legs anyway. Continue reading

Crazy Climber 2000

Crazy Climber 2000The Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of the Nichubutsu building, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large stork with (apparently flaming) droppings and a large gorilla can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below, and even minor things such as annoyed building tenants dropping potted plants at you from above can have the same disastrous effect. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Nichibutsu, 2000)

Memories: Go for it in 3-D, baby! It’s a crime that this excessively cool update of Crazy Climber has never been released in the U.S., for it is possibly the best update of a classic game ever. Crazy Climber 2000 is Nichibutsu’s second swipe at dragging Crazy Climber into the modern age of video games, and it is by far the more successful. Continue reading

Capcom Classics Collection

Capcom Classics CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Relive the golden years of arcades through the latest retro compilation disc, Capcom Classics Collection. CCC contains 22 classic arcade games along with tons of unlockable artwork, music and more. (Capcom, 2005, for Sony Playstation 2)

Memories: It is impossible to deny the impact retrogaming has had on the gaming industry. Those of us who spent our youth hanging out in smoke-filled arcades are now the prime videogame demographic. Many of us have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on games, and the companies from our childhood have figured out a way to tap into that cash flow – through retro compilation discs. It’s taken a while for companies to get the formula right; too few games or to high of a price, and consumers complain (or simply avoid) your package. Developers (particularly Sega) have experimented with “updated” versions of classic games, which have been met with mixed reviews. In 2005, manufacturers seem to have dialed in to what consumers want – arcade ports of 20 or more games for $20. Bonus features are a plus. Continue reading

Calculator!

Calculator!The Game: The Odyssey2’s keyboard and processing power are at your disposal for any number of mathematical tasks. If you can do it on an adding machine or a low-end handheld scientific calculator, you can do it on Calculator! See the videoBuy this gametoo. (PackratVG.com / Rene Van Den Enden, 2006)

Memories: It’s difficult to really “review” this cartridge, as it’s not a game, and unlike, say, Type & Tell, it can’t even be twisted into one. So you’ll have to forgive me for forgoing the usual “X out of 5” rating system for this homebrew release. Continue reading

Centipede / Breakout / Warlords

Centipede / Breakout / WarlordsBuy this gameThe Game: Shoot, break and destroy your way through Centipede, Breakout and Warlords, three classic Atari games now available for your Game Boy Advance. (DSI Games/Atari, 2006)

Memories: Two of DSI’s retro compilations for the Game Boy Advance are fairly similar in composition: there’s this one, the Centipede / Breakout / Warlords package, and the Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar Lander compilation. Centipede and Millipede (its sequel) are comparable, as are Breakout and Super Breakout (again, a sequel), making the main difference between the two packages Warlords vs. Lunar Lander. Continue reading

Celestia

CelestiaThe Game: Not a game, but a powerful (and free) space simulator, Celestia lets you pick what celestial bodies you observe, from any distance or close-up. You can tell Celestia to put convenient labels on any or all of the heavenly objects, or none of them, and even pick a minimum magnitude for background stars. But they’re not just wallpaper – you can click on and travel to any one of them, and you can follow them in a variety of ways. Add-on packages offer everything from updated imagery and orbital information for real planets, moons, comets and vehicles, as well as fictional add-ons for those who are feeling a bit fanciful. (Celestia Development Group, 2006)

See the videoDownload this gameMemories: When I was a teenager, at the height of the Halley’s Comet craze in 1985, the top notch solar system simulation on a home computer was a simple game called The Halley Project, released for the Apple II and Commodore 64. Now, some 22 years later, though, instead of having to navigate 12 whole constellations to find my way to large white featureless blobs that have a handful of smaller featureless blobs orbiting them, an open-source PC solar system simulator called Celestia has finally delivered the space exploration program I’ve always wanted – for free, no less. Continue reading

Conquest Of Mars

Conquest Of MarsBuy this gameThe Game: The enemy in an interplanetary war has gone underground, and you’re piloting the ship that’s taking the fight to him. But he hasn’t just hidden away in a hole; he’s hidden away in a very well-defended hole. As if it wasn’t already going to be enough of a tight squeeze navigating subterranean caverns on Mars, you’re now sharing that space with enemy ships and any number of other fatal obstacles. (Fortunately, See the videothe enemy also leaves copious numbers of helpful fuel depots for you too.) Once you fight your way to the bottom of the cave, you plant charges on the enemy mothership – meaning that now you have to escape the caverns again, and fast. (John Champeau / AtariAge.com, 2006)

Memories: As much as Caverns Of Mars caught fire on the Atari home computers, you’d think it would’ve been a shoo-in for the company’s consoles. Now, at least, 2600 owners who resisted stepping up to the mighty Atari 8-bit computers can reap the reward for 20+ years of patience. John Champeau, the programmer who finally made good on Coleco’s unfulfilled promise to bring the arcade sleeper hit Ladybug to the 2600, has struck again. Continue reading

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