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Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr.The Game: As little Donkey Kong Jr., you’re trying to reach the top of a treacherous series of vines and platforms to rescue your dad from Mario. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: I’m a “junior” myself, so I understand that there are certain challenges involved in living up to the name of one’s forebears. And though the little ape was going to have a big task in living up to his dad’s name – after all, Kong Sr.’s game was the foundation of Nintendo’s empire – the original Donkey Kong Jr. arcade game was a great deal of fun. But Coleco did Donkey Kong Jr. a grave injustice in its translation for the Atari 2600. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: You’re another treasure-hunting glory seeker who’s about to meet more than his match. If you can survive crossing the drawbridge into the castle – a task made incredibly difficult by the glowing fireballs of dragon breath being hurled toward you – you’ve got an even more hazardous obstacle ahead: the dragon himself is guarding a huge stash of treasure. Even if he can’t stop you from pocketing every shiny thing in the castle, chances are you won’t make it out alive. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: This is a game that worked well with the Intellivision’s disc controller. Especially on the second screen. It’s a rare case where I don’t mind that devilishly difficult controller at all. Vastly expanded from the same game as we knew it on the Atari 2600, Dragonfire is yet another example of Imagic concocting pure genius for the Intellivision. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: Introducing the ultimate in home security systems: a huge fire-breathing dragon. No keypads or extra power sources necessary! The amazing new dragon will repel any looters from the castle he’s guarding by belching See the videounpredictable barrages of fire across the castle drawbridge. And even if an intrepid looter does gain access to the castle, the dragon will fend off the unwelcome visitor’s attempts to grab the castle’s treasure with an endless hail of fireballs, toasting the looter on contact. If the looter should happen to grab all the treasure – which is highly, highly unlikely due to the rugged design of the dragon – an escape hatch will appear and he’s free to try his luck from the drawbridge again. But it’s very unlikely that any looter will survive a second attempt…which is actually rather unfortunate, since you’re the treasure hunter in this game. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: An addictive little number, this Dragonfire. Granted, the Intellivision version of this game looks fancier – well, compared to the 2600 cartridge, almost every other version of Dragonfire has a little more audiovisual flair. Continue reading

Dracula

DraculaThe Game: Looking for a game where you can spread your wings a little? If bat wings are okay, then Dracula is the game for you. As the impaler himself, you wander the city streets at night, looking for victims to bite. Whether you’re chasing a fleet-footed mortal or avoiding adversaries who also roam the streets, turning into a bat is often the only way to fly. You also have to keep an eye on the clock – if you haven’t returned safely to your crypt by sunrise, Dracula turns to dust. (Imagic, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Yet another Intellivision-only gem from the gang at Imagic, Dracula would seem, on the surface, to do some of the same things that Texas Chainsaw Massacre does on the Atari VCS: it puts the player in the role of the villain of the piece, going through the game and searching for victims. But where Texas Chainsaw Massacre tries (rather unsuccessfully, it must be said) to reach for Tobe Hooper-worthy shock value, Dracula keeps things simple – and it makes sure the player is vulnerable too. Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Coleco Donkey KongThe Game: An oversized gorilla kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend and hauls her up to the top of a building which is presumably under construction. You are Mario, dodging Donkey Kong’s never-ending hail of rolling barrels and “foxfires” in your attempt to climb to the top of the building and topple Donkey Kong. You can actually do this a number of times, and then the game begins again with the aforementioned girlfriend in captivity once more. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Almost every line of games has one: a clunker that tanks so hard that it leaves a crater, and serves as the nadir of its entire genre. But given that Coleco was banking its entire video game empire – whether on the Colecovision or on cartridges for the Atari VCS and Intellivision – on Donkey Kong, you’d figure that this would be the one game they would make sure to get right. Continue reading

Discs Of Tron

Discs Of TronBuy this gameThe Game: It’s the final confrontation between good and evil in the digital world! As video warrior Tron, you unleash up to three deadly discs in the direction of your arch-enemy Sark, who can return the favor in kind – with interest, since he has a larger arsenal at his See the videodisposal. All the while, you must also avoid falling off of the floating platforms, and try to keep a good aim on your opponent. (Bally/Midway, 1983)

Memories: Midway’s second salute to Tron, that 1982 cult-classic film favorite among computer users and video game enthusiasts alike, took the form of a positively enormous “stand-in” wraparound cabinet with a large screen. (Not seen in the ubiquitous MAME-generated series of screen shots is the colorful background artwork, which was a scene from the movie.) Continue reading

Dogfight

DogfightThe Game: Enemy fighters arrive, wave after wave, attempting to outflank the player’s fighter jet and trap it in the path of their fire. The player can only move the jet side to side to avoid incoming fire and attempt to line up a shot on the enemy fighters. Each new wave of enemies brings new tactics, new weapons to evade… and a new batch of targets. (Thunderbolt [under license to Orca], 1983)

Memories: It’s easy to imagine the design and planning meeting for this game. It goes something like this:

“You know what my favorite part of Galaga is? The challenging stage. I hate all those other stages. They’re just there to trip me up on my way to the challenging stage. What if we made a game where the whole thing is like the challenging stage, except they occasionally shoot back at you?” 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, 1983)

See the videoMemories: The third entry in the still-ongoing series of games spawned by the original Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong 3 wasn’t as successful as the previous sequel, Donkey Kong Junior. One possible reason for this could be Nintendo’s brief abandonment of the climbing/jumping game elements in favor of a shooting game whose roots could easily be traced back to Space Invaders. Continue reading

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairThe Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the See the videoBuy this gameSmithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Starcom, 1983)

Memories: Dragon’s Lair was the first laserdisc game to hit the arcades, an early field that included Starcom’s Space Ace and other manufacturers’ Cliff Hanger, among only a handful of others. The Sega laser game Astron Belt was actually in development earlier than Dragon’s Lair, but it languished in the video game equivalent of Hollywood’s “development hell,” meaning that it didn’t arrive until it was an also-ran. 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… (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: Imagic scored major points with its only two releases for the Odyssey 2. Demon Attack was already a ubiquitous title in many Atari 2600 and Intellivision owners’ collections, but third-party games for the Odyssey 2 were almost unheard of. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the See the videoPookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Fresh from the arcade, one of the first fruits of Atari’s new licensing deal with Namco (which also yielded the hits Pole Position and Xevious) was this deliriously cute new take on the maze craze, in which you created your own maze – not that you or anything else in the game were obliged to stick to the confines of that maze, mind you. Atari quickly turned out home versions of Dig Dug for the 2600 and the 5200 consoles, as well as their 8-bit computers and other systems. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the See the original TV adSee the videoPookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, can can toast you if you’re not careful. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: This is one of those cases where one wonders what all the Atari 5200 hype was about. Do you mean to tell me that the graphics in this home version of the licensed-from-Namco Atari coin-op are appreciably better than the cartridge that Atari turned out for the lower-end 2600 console? I just don’t see it. Continue reading

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Jr.The Game: As the offspring of the mighty monkey, it’s up to you to scale vines and chains, avoid mobile traps, occasionally grab some yummy fruit (since when is a little ape on Pac-Man’s diet?), and get to the key or keys that will free your papa. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Again very faithful to its arcade namesake, the Coleco version of Donkey Kong Jr. is an essential addition to the ColecoVision player’s library, with very accurately reproduced sound and graphics. Continue reading

The Dreadnaught Factor

The Dreadnaught FactorThe Game: Piloting a series of solo space fighters, you’re humanity’s last hope against a fleet of gigantic, triangular wedge-shaped battle cruisers bearing down on Earth. Launching from a staging area equipped with a hyperspace See the videogate to fling your fighters into the void at top speed, you must strafe these cruisers in your fighter, bombing and blasting their gun emplacements, engines, and an assortment of weak spots on their ship. The enemy cruisers also have defensive fighters that they’ll launch to keep you from getting the job done, and of course the cruisers themselves are bristling with enormous laser cannons. Hitting all of the guns, engines and other “soft targets” on a cruiser will destroy it, giving you a momentary reprieve until the next cruiser arrives. If you run out of ships or fail to stop the enemy, they’ll wipe out your planet – game over, indeed. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: Further proof that long before Lucasfilm ever entered the video gaming arena, George Lucas was having a massive ripple effect on the medium: the dreadnaughts in Dreadnaught Factor are – and let’s not kid ourselves here – clearly Star Destroyers. They’re shaped and laid out like them, right down to the control tower. If you ever wanted to see what would’ve happened if Han really had taken the Millennium Falcon into a head-to-head battle with a Star Destroyer, or if that poor sap in the A-Wing hadn’t been out of control, this is your game. Continue reading

Dig Dug (Apple II)

Dig DugThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, See the videowhich you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if Buy this gamea Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: With the license already in-house at Atari (as part of the distribution deal that saw Atari handling the game in the U.S.), Atarisoft began cranking out versions of Dig Dug for competing home computer platforms. As often as not, however, the Apple versions of the games for which Atari had the license were a mixed bag. 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

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: How high can you go? Help Jumpman (Mario) save Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches by climbing ladders and avoiding barrels. (AtariSoft, 1983)

Memories: In 1980, Space Invaders became the first arcade game to be officially licensed to a home videogame system. Sales of both the game and the Atari 2600 console itself skyrocketed, thus giving birth to a genre that still exists and sells strongly today: the arcade port. For two years, Atari released ports of arcade games for their competitors’ systems under the brand name AtariSoft. AtariSoft focused predominantly on the expanding home computer market, porting popular arcade games such as Centipede, Dig Dug and Pac-Man to the Apple II, TI-99/4A, IBM PC, and of course the best game-playing machine of the era, the Commodore 64. Continue reading

Dragon’s Lair II: Timewarp

Dragon's Lair II: TimewarpThe Game: Princess Daphne has been kidnapped by the evil wizard Mordroc, and before he can embark on the dangerous quest to save her, Dirk must first fend off the angry attack of his Viking-like mother-in-law as he makes Buy this gamehis way to the castle. Once there, Dirk discovers a talking Time Machine which gets him out of one immediate crisis and then plunges him into several more. If Dirk can’t stop Mordroc from placing his ring on Daphne’s finger, he’ll lose her forever – and the world will have gained one more hideous monster. (Starcom, 1984)

Memories: Don Bluth and Rick Dyer turned to the adventures of Dirk the Daring (hero of the original Dragon’s Lair) for their third laserdisc game outing (the second being Space Ace), this time creating more of a storyline for Dirk to fulfill. The animation is nice, the game play is much more fast and furious, and yet I’m still unimpressed with Dragon’s Lair II as both video game and storytelling exercise. Continue reading

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