Eliminator

EliminatorThe Game: One or two players, using a control knob and a thrust button, pilot their ships around a rectangular arena which is also home to a floating fortress. At the heart of the deadly fortress is a growing Eliminator, which will eventually, when it reaches its full potential, slip its bonds and zip around the arena, destroying See the videoeverything in sight. The only way to destroy the Eliminator is to force it into the outer wall of the fortress with your lasers. (This also works on your fellow player, or the computer-controlled second player surrogate, as well.) You can also fire a well-placed shot down the launch tube of the fortress and destroy it before the Eliminator can fully form. (Sega/Gremlin, 1981)

Memories: What an exasperating and fun little game this was! With its seemingly Asteroids-inspired control scheme (and its blatantly Star Wars-inspired way of beating the enemy), Eliminator was a real hoot…if you could master the controls. Continue reading

Eyes

EyesThe Game: The eyes have it, and you apparently want it. You’re also an eye – that’s right, a perfectly normal disembodied eye, wearing a little Oktoberfest hat, wandering through a maze, and shooting at stuff. You’re basically trying to shoot everything on sight. You see, the maze is filled with tiny objects, and you must shoot them all (running over them won’t cut it). The maze is also filled with a number of equally disembodied-and-yet-armed eyes who are out to get you. Clearing the maze of objects advances you to the next level, but you may only get a brief look at it since the eyes are even faster and more aggressive. Rock-Ola [under license from Digitrex Techstar], 1982

See the videoMemories: A bizarre little game among the glut of Pac-Man imitators, Eyes is an obscure little number that falls between the cracks of video game history by being neither particularly outstanding or awful…just strange. In a world where a game about a mobile yellow mouth is king, I don’t think anyone was looking for anything that they could take literally, but Eyes was simply odd. Continue reading

Eagle

EagleThe Game: As commander of the three-stage fighter rocket Eagle, your job is to ward off endless varieties of evasively weaving space attackers. Every time you knock out two consecutive screens of assailants, you’ll have an opportunity to dock your ship to another one of Eagle’s three stages, until all three portions of the ship are combined to create one bad-ass weapons platform. But you can also lose stages very quickly, See the videoending your game – a bigger ship makes a bigger and easier target. (Centuri [under license from Nichibutsu], 1982)

Memories: Don’t ask me what happened here. I distinctly remember playing both Eagle and Moon Cresta in the arcades and thinking how similar they were. Much later, with the benefit of emulation, I could play both back-to-back and realized what I’d always suspected: they’re the same game! Continue reading

The Electric Yo-Yo

The Electric Yo-YoThe Game: Don’t take this personally, but you’re a yo-yo in The Electric Yo-Yo, trying to clear all the dots from the screen and trying just as hard to avoid the bug-eyed monsters and other enemies who seem to be natural predators of toys on strings. You must plan your movement around the screen carefully – the further you can move in a straight line to eliminate the most dots, the faster you’ll move. See the videoBuy this gameGetting stuck in limbo with no targets in the same horizontal or vertical space means you have to take painfully slow baby steps around the screen, making you a sitting duck (or a sitting yo-yo) for your adversaries. You can occasionally grab a flashing dot to give you the power to knock the bug-eyed monster out of the way momentarily. If you clear the screen of dots, a new pattern of dots appears, each one more difficult to complete than the last. (Taito, 1982)

Memories: Even two years after Pac-Man hit it big, just about everyone was trying to carve out a slice of the dot-gobbling pie with games that, if they weren’t outright ripoffs, were at least conceptually similar. Taito, normally associated with such trail-blazingly original games as Qix and Jungle Hunt, was no exception, but at least The Electric Yo-Yo is far more original than the vast majority of Pac-Man-inspired arcade games. Continue reading

Eggomania (Atari 2600)

EggomaniaThe Game: Which came first: your imminent defeat or the egg? A crazed chicken scoots back and forth across the top of the screen, hurling eggs downward at your suspiciously Cookie See the videoMonster-esque protagonist. Once your monster has captured all of the eggs (missing even one egg results in a lost “life”), you can fire the eggs back at the chicken and try to score a direct hit. (U.S. Games, 1982)

Memories: U.S. Games, formerly Vidtec, is one company that industry insiders single out as a prime example that speculators and bandwagon-jumpers were beginning to dominate the third-party software industry around 1982. U.S. Games didn’t really have a breakout hit or a killer app; instead, they had the distinction of being an upstart video game company that happened to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Quaker Oats – a company with no previous interest in the video game field. Continue reading

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackThe Game: Derived from an action scene in the second of a trilogy of little-known films about a budding Jedi Knight named Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back puts you in the cockpit of Luke’s snowspeeder in a desperate bid to beat back huge Imperial Walkers – also known as AT-ATs – from destroying the Rebel back on the ice planet of Hoth. The AT-ATs’ heavy artillery can seriously deplete your snowspeeder’s shielding with a single hit, though you must score numerous direct hits before you can even begin to have the same effect on the onslaught of Imperial Walkers, let alone destroy one. Occasionally, a weakness will be exposed in the “neck” region of the huge mechanical monsters, and you’ll have a few seconds in which you may take advantage of that and blow the machine away. And even less frequently, the triumphant strains of John Williams’ Star Wars theme – as squeaked out by the Atari 2600’s limited sound facility – will signal that the Force is with you, rendering you invincible for a short period of time. You’re going to need it. (Parker Brothers, 1982)

Memories: The Empire Strikes Back is just one in a series of excellent Star Wars-themed game cartridges released around this time by Parker Brothers (other titles included Star Wars: The Arcade Game, an excellent adaptation of the Atari vector arcade game, and the intriguing Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle). Continue reading

E.T.

E.T.The Game: In something that would best be described as a very vague homage to the Steven Spielberg film of the same name, E.T. allows you to guide the intrepid (and cute) extra-terrestrial on a quest to find Reese’s See the TV adPieces and transmitter pieces (with which one can, presumably, phone home), while avoiding the threatening (but cute) doctors and FBI agents. If you get into a scrape, the helpful (and cute) Elliott may be able to pry you out of a sticky situation. You may then resume your pointless quest until, inevitably, you wind up withering away at the bottom of one of the many pits in the game. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: A few phrases pop into my head when I think about this game, among them: “waste of time,” “cheap licensing cash-in,” and “was there ever anything nearly this lame for the Odyssey2?” As many have noticed, the vast majority of the effort poured, or dripped as the case may be, into E.T. was spent on the opening title screen. Pretty impressive stuff for the 2600, but the game was much more satisfying if one never got past that title screen. Continue reading

Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: Love in an elevator, it’s not. As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1983)

See the videoBuy this gameMemories: This neat little entry from Taito wound up eating a lot of my allowance money back when I was eleven years old. There was a genuine sense of trying to reach a goal (though, to this day, even with emulation and official retro collections, I have no idea what lies below, say, the 20th level of the enemy compound). Elevator Action is also a real test of one’s mental multitasking abilities: agents closing in on all sides, elevator going down…do you jump? Duck? Shoot the agents? Shoot out the overhead lights? Some combination of the above? Whew. Continue reading

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackBuy this gameThe Game: You are Rebel snowspeeder pilot Luke Skywalker, flying low over the surface of Hoth, prowling for Probots and waging war on AT-ATs and AT-STs. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: The description sounds rather glib, but there’s a simple reason for it – this game, based on the 1980 sequel to Star Wars, is – in case you hadn’t guessed it from the screen shots – merely a very thinly-disguised makeover of Atari’s original Star Wars arcade game. Ripped straight out of the second level of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back replaces the towers and bunkers with probe droids and Imperial Walkers, replaces the X-Wing gunsights of the earlier game with two Snowspeeder blasters, and voilà, it’s a new game – almost. Continue reading

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackThe Game: The Empire Strikes Back puts you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalkers’s snowspeeder in a desperate bid to beat back huge Imperial Walkers – also known as AT-ATs – from destroying the Rebel back on the ice See the videoplanet of Hoth. The AT-ATs’ heavy artillery can seriously deplete your snowspeeder’s shielding with a single hit, though you must score numerous direct hits before you can even begin to have the same effect on the onslaught of Imperial Walkers, let alone destroy one. Occasionally, a weakness will be exposed in the “neck” region of the huge mechanical monsters, and you’ll have a few seconds in which you may take advantage of that and blow the machine away. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Based on Parker Brothers‘ rendition of The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600, this is one of those games that you’d expect to be even better on the Intellivision…and yet something is “off.” The phrase “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” is very applicable here. Continue reading

Enduro

EnduroBuy this gameThe Game: As one of many drivers in a round-the-clock endurance race through many areas, terrains and weather conditions. While the pretty boys at Fuji may have sunshine all the time (or so it seems), an Enduro racer has to contend with slick snow, nighttime driving conditions (where the other drivers’ tail lights are the only warning you have of their presence), fog (which is much like night driving, but about 10 times worse), and so on. (Activision, 1983)

See the videoMemories: Enduro is a killer driving game, taking the same graphical gimmick that made Pole Position a hit, and increasing the challenge of the game – even to the point of exceeding the depth of the game that it’s loosely based on. Continue reading

Evolution

EvolutionThe Game: It can take billions of years for a microbe to evolve into a race of creatures crossing the stars, except in the confines of the Colecovision universe, where it can take mere minutes. Players control an amoeba, avoiding predators on the screen except the DNA needed to grow and evolve. Through several successive stages, avoiding aggressors and gathering material for future growth is the only way to stay alive and evolve, from amoeba to frog to rodent to beaver to gorilla to human space warrior. (Sydney, 1983)

Memories: An unusual game by any measure, Evolution isn’t content simply to put the player through several levels of difficulty; it guides the player through entire stages of biological life. Already released on the Apple II and Commodore 64, Evolution was really a computer game at heart. Even though action and quick reflexes are required to survive, Evolution is really a game of patience and perseverance. Continue reading

Exodus Construction Set

Exodus Construction SetThe Game: Would-be digital dungeon masters can reshape the world of the most powerful Apple II adventure game of its era – Exodus: Ultima III – in their own image, from changing the coastlines of Sosaria to changing the behavior of its inhabitants. Cities and townes can be completely redrawn, and the deadliest denizens of the world can be unleashed anywhere. (Dan Gartung, 1984)

Memories: With Ultima III acknowledged as the ultimate adventure game for the Apple II by most 8-bit computer RPG enthusiasts, the ultimate challenge was to forge ahead and see the hazardous quest to its completion. And after that? The next challenge was to assume godlike power over the world created by Lord British. Continue reading

Exed Exes (a.k.a. Savage Bees)

Exed ExesBuy this gameThe Game: Bees are attacking, but they have more than just the sting in their tail, to mix an insect metaphor. These are alien bees with energy weapons and some serious technology to back them up. And guess how many ships are going to fight these buzz-bombers off? You got it – just your ships, one at a time, flying in and blowing up everything in sight. While you’re limited to flying one ship at a time, remember that the bees are attacking in graceful and deadly waves. Occasionally, you’ll encounter “high point areas” where hitting a “pow” marker will transform bees or indestructible skull obstacles on the screen into a fruit that you can collect harmlessly for bonus points. But the bees have a backup plan, too – hive-shaped carriers that appear from time to time, offloading a whole fleet of enemies for you to contend with. (Capcom, 1985)

Memories: I love Exed Exes (released in the U.S. as Attack Of The Savage Bees). But there’s nothing especially original about it, you know? The game play reeks of Xevious, with elements of Mario Bros. (the “pow” power-up) and even Pac-Man (bonus fruit) thrown in for good measure. The enemies appear in waves very much like those of Galaga and Gaplus, even down to their sneaky trick of attacking you from behind at the bottom of the screen. Continue reading

Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1985)

Memories: Almost a dead ringer for its arcade inspiration graphically, the NES edition of Elevator Action actually loses a few points for having lousy sound – something I rarely count off points for, truth be told. But by the time of the NES, the means were there to replicate the arcade sound – take a listen to Super Mario Bros. for proof. Continue reading

Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1991)

See the videoMemories: I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, audiovisually (and, for the most part, game-play wise as well), the original B&W Game Boy’s version of Elevator Action is incredibly faithful to the arcade game. On the other hand, there are major changes to the structure of the game that I’ve never been crazy about. Put simply, Elevator Action on the Game Boy adds some NES-era conventions to a game that just didn’t need them. Continue reading

Ultima III: Exodus

Ultima IIIThe Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Sosaria, and Lord British calls for your service again. You set out with four adventurers on a quest to gain the experience that will be necessary to survive the long voyage to a volcanic island where the source of all the evil plaguing the world is said to be. (Sven Carlberg, 2002)

Memories: Programmed as a homebrew project, this unofficial version of Ultima III ports the massive home computer RPG to the Game Boy Color. If even half of the game survives that translation intact, that’s a stupendous achievement. But how does it play? Continue reading

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