Gotcha!

Gotcha!The Game: Two players – one represented by a roving square and the other by a plus sign – roam the ever-changing halls of a maze. The object of the game is for one player to catch the other before time runs out; however, the See the videomaze’s ability to constantly reconfigure itself isn’t going to make that easy. (Atari, 1974)

Memories: Among Atari’s first major forays outside of Pong and its endless variations on Pong was Gotcha, a coin-op which can boast the historical first of being the first video maze game. But Gotcha also got stuck with what may be one of the weirdest control schemes ever devised, possibly purely for marketing considerations…and one still wonders what the thought process was behind it. Continue reading

Gun Fight

Gun FightThe Game: Grab yer guns and draw, sonny! You face off against another player, with only six bullets and plenty of obstacles in the way – a pesky cactus or two, a roaming covered wagon, and so on. Whoever lines his opponent’s belly with lead first wins the round, and the final victory goes to whoever wins the most rounds. (Midway, 1975)

Memories: Originated in Japan as Gunman, Gun Fight holds a very special place in video game history – it’s the first arcade game with a microprocessor chip at its core. But that innovation didn’t start in Japan – it started when Dave Nutting, the brother of Bill Nutting (whose Nutting & Associates took one failed shot at arcade success with the first coin-op, Computer Space, in 1971), licensed Gunman from Taito. When originally manufactured by Taito, Gunman‘s guts were strictly analog, just like every arcade game that had come before in either country. Nutting had already been experimenting with implementing a game program through microprocessors, and decided to completely remake Gunman from the ground up. Continue reading

Gee Bee

Gee BeeThe Game: It’s like pinball, but not quite. Not only are the bouncing-ball physics and bumpers of pinball present, but so are walls of bricks which, when destroyed, add to your score and sometimes redirect your ball in unpredictable directions. Pinball meets Breakout. (Namco, 1978)

Memories: If you’re wracking your brain trying to remember this game, don’t spend too much time – not that many gamers actually got to play it first-hand. It is, in fact, only in retrospect that Gee Bee‘s true historical significance has been revealed. Continue reading

Galaxian

GalaxianThe Game: In one of the most seminal variations on the Space Invaders format, Galaxian was among the first clones to introduce attacking formations that would break off from the usual rows and columns of See the videoBuy this gameinvaders. Though Galaxian‘s use of this innovation was minimal, it was a drastic change from the usual slowly-advancing target gallery. (Bally/Midway [under license from Namco], 1979)

Memories: Galaxian may not be as well remembered as the much more strategically challenging Galaga, but it ultimately added a vital new twist to the Space Invaders-inspired genre, a format which was badly in danger of becoming stale. Galaxian was also the first arcade video game to use a color display instead of a monochrome monitor with translucent colored overlays. Continue reading

Golf

GolfBuy this gameThe Game: Rouse your caddy, grab your golf bags, and get ready to hit the digital green. A series of crafty virtual courses awaits, with trees, sand traps and water hazards standing between you and the hole. (Atari, 1980)

See the videoMemories: Whoa now, what’s this then? Foreshadowing a trend that would characterize Atari’s sports game output for the rest of the 2600’s life span, a game that had already been issued on the VCS was revisited, with better graphics and game play. Atari already had Miniature Golf on the market, but it was golf-by-way-of-squares-and-rectangles, not something that a casual observer would look at and say, without prompting, that it resembled golf in any way. (I’d say it was subpar, but let’s not putter around.) Continue reading

Galaga

GalagaBuy this gameThe Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives with each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the See the videomothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Bally/Midway [under license from Namco], 1981)

Memories: Where its predecessor, Galaxian, brought “attack formations” to standard Space Invaders-style shooters, Galaga introduced real strategy, and influenced nearly every shooter that came after it. Continue reading

Gorf

GorfThe Game: The evil Gorfian Empire is attacking, and for only a quarter, you can enlist and defend Earth against the vicious (yet strangely cute) little critter with a robotic voice. In the first stage, Astro Battle, you have a defesive shield which is weakened with each shot the aliens fire at you – and every shot you fire back at them. (Truth be told, it’s a very thinly disguised take on the Space Invaders formula.) Then, in the Laser Attack level, the aliens break out heavier, nastier artillery that you have to dodge…if you can. Stage 3 sees a guest star from an earlier Midway game in the Galaxians stage, which is a sort of scaled-down version of the Galaxian game itself. Stage 4 is the hardest, with the Gorfian menace repeatedly spiraling out of a Space Warp, defying you to get so much as a single good shot fired off at it. Finally, if you survive the fourth stage, the Flagship level awaits. The flagship can fire any number of projectiles in your direction through your shield, and you have to not only dodge incoming fire, but try to get your own shot to hit just the right place on the flagship to destroy it. (Bally/Midway, 1981)

Memories: Gorf was a minor hit in its time, though this latest attempt to turn the Galaxian format into a franchise fell through the cracks. It didn’t help that the first stage seen in the attract mode was a Space Invaders clone. Continue reading

Galaxian

GalaxianThe Game: In one of the most seminal variations on the Space Invaders format, Galaxian was among the first clones to introduce attacking formations that would break off from the usual rows and columns of See the videoinvaders. Though Galaxian‘s use of this innovation was minimal, it was a drastic change from the usual slowly-advancing target gallery. (Atari, 1982)

Print new overlaysMemories: Like the 5200 version of Pac-Man, Galaxian is a good demonstration of the next-generation Atari console soundly trouncing its older brother. Galaxian is no slouch on the Atari 2600, but while the game play is relatively intact, the look and feel of the arcade game didn’t survive that particular translation. Those elements are handled much more faithfully in this version of the game, though. Continue reading

Gorf

GorfThe Game: The Gorfian Empire is attacking Earth, and naturally you’re our only hope. Symmetrical waves of space invaders lead off the invasion, followed by more unpredictable laser attack waves with long-range weapons. Next, you must pick off Gorfian robots as they emerge from a space warp, and finally you take the fight directly to the Gorfian flagship, trying to get one perfect shot in at its most vulnerable point. (CBS Video Games, 1982)

Memories: It’s almost like the original, this home translation from CBS Video Games, though there’s one rather major omission. When Bally/Midway licensed out its popular original coin-op Gorf, it had to make sure that one whole stage of the pioneering multi-level game was left out – the Galaxians screen. Continue reading

Grand Prix (Atari 2600)

Grand PrixBuy this gameThe Game: Start your digital engines! Grand Prix puts the player behind the wheel of a sleek (and, it has to be said, colorful) race car. With the track scrolling from right to left, the game is simple: get ahead, and don’t crash into the other cars. That may sound easy enough, but hazards such as oil slicks can send a car spinning out of control very easily. (Activision, 1982)

See the videoMemories: One of David Crane’s earliest games at Activision, Grand Prix is almost as important as a tech demo as it is as a game. Consider the large, blocky pixel-cars Atari‘s first-party racing games; the colorful, finely-detailed cars in Crane’s Grand Prix were a revelation by comparison. Grand Prix brought us cars of many different colors, with animated tires, and none of the sprite flicker that had already come to characterize many a 2600 game by this point. It was yet another case of Activision putting Atari on notice to start bringing its “A” game – literally. Continue reading

Guardian

GuardianThe Game: Players control a single laser cannon responsible for defending several planets who don’t seem to be able to look out for themselves. The cannon squares off against an alien mothership which deploys its own fleet of attack ships to destroy those planets. Good news: the planets are protected by a force field spanning the bottom of the screen. Bad news? The aliens can shoot through it, exposing the row of fragile planets as they scroll across the screen like shooting gallery targets. Worse news? You can’t defend all of them forever. (Games By Apollo, 1982)

Memories: Two years after Atari turned its iconic home version of Space Invaders into the first killer app on the VCS, Texas third-party publishing upstart Games By Apollo was one of several companies still trying to improve on that basic formula. The obscurity of Guardian probably means this wasn’t the evolution of the concept that players were looking for. Continue reading

Guzzler

GuzzlerThe Game: As a fluid little fellow, you zip around a maze flooded with flaming foes who’ll fry you with fire without fair warning. However, since water can put out fire, you can belch forth a mighty stream of water at your enemies, extinguishing them instantly. However, you’re only a little Guzzler, so you only contain a certain See the videoamount of water. You replenish yourself very slowly, but you can gobble up clouds full of moisture or drink from a fountain that occasionally appears at the center of the maze to refill yourself more quickly. And some fires are bigger than others, and putting them out will accordingly take more out of you. And you do eventually run out of clouds… (Tekhan, 1983)

Memories: An incredibly fun, easy-to-learn, challenging, and cute game, Guzzler was always a favorite of mine, though I only got to play it in the arcade a handful of times. But this innovative take on the maze-chase theme that pervaded many an ’80s arcade game appears to have barely made a drop in the bucket of video game history. Continue reading

Gyruss

GyrussThe Game: The aliens are taking their complaints to the home office! As the pilot of an agile space fighter, you have to blast your way through the alien forces from Pluto all the way back to Earth. Occasionally you can boost your ship’s firepower, but that’s the only help you’re going to get. The rest is up to your speed, your See the videoBuy this gamestrategy, and your ability to nail the attackers in mid-dive. (Centuri [under license from Konami], 1983)

Memories: Konami’s cult classic basically put a vaguely Tempest-esque 3-D spin on the strategy of Galaga, borrowed some music from a certain Mr. Bach and blasted it out as a stereo techno-symphony, and got a lot of people to blow their hard-earned money. It was also a lot of fun. Continue reading

Gravitar

GravitarThe Game: Various worlds lie near a powerful gravitational vortex. From the moment you leave your launch pad, you’re in trouble – the vortex will draw you in if you don’t act quickly and fire your thrusters to take you to one of the planets. On each planet, you arrive in a deadly free-fall, requiring you to point your ship Buy this gameupward and fire retro-thrust, all the while turning to blast cannons which are attempting to shoot you down. Your fuel supply is also dwindling all this time, requiring you to find enemy fuel depots and siphon energy away from them. If you succeed in destroying all enemy installations on one world, there are several other planets waiting – with the deadly gravity vortex in the middle the whole time. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Damn, but this is a tough game! Tough but fun. It’s pretty embarrassing to get oneself iced on what basically amounts to the menu screen. Sheesh. Not that I’m saying that’s happened to me lately, of course. Continue reading

Galaxian

GalaxianThe Game: As with the classic arcade game, you’re fending off numerous attack waves of an advancing alien fleet, trying to pick them off one by See the videoone while trying not to allow the space creepies to return the favor. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: A slightly odd choice for a 1983 release, Galaxian is another fruit of Atari’s overall licensing deal with Namco, but by this time its popularity had been eclipsed by that of its sequel, Galaga, and in the context of trying to keep up with the latest and greatest, an adaptation of a game with a 1979 vintage in 1983 is slightly strange. Continue reading

Glib

GlibThe Game: Think of it as Scrabble without the board. A random selection of letters flashes past (or marches past, depending on your chosen game variation), leaving it up to you to press the fire button and stop them in your tracks. At that moment, you have a limited amount of time to fashion a word from as many of the letters on screen as See the videopossible; scoring depends on the standard Scrabble value of each letter. You can either pass on doing anything with the selection of letters you end up with (resulting in no points), or you can enter your word, which gives you (or another player) a chance to approve or disqualify the word depending on whether or not it’s a real word according to the dictionary. (Selchow & Righter, 1983)

Memories: One of the rarest cartridges in the Atari 2600’s library, Glib is one of those oddities from the tail end of the era when anyone and everyone was turning out Atari games – even outfits like Purina which arguably had no business trying to break into the home video game arena. But surely Selchow & Righter, the folks who had invented Scrabble, had a better game-design pedigree than a dog food company…right? Continue reading

Gorf

GorfThe Game: As the pilot of a solo space fighter, you take on several different varieties of alien attacks masterminded by those pesky, ever-present Gorfian robots. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: As often is the case with ColecoVision games, this version of the classic Bally/Midway arcade game is visually and aurally faithful to its inspiration, but two key elements didn’t make it into this home version of Gorf: the speech synthesis and the “Galaxians” stage, the latter of which may have vanished to ensure that Bally/Midway could spread around the license for Gorf‘s predecessor, Galaxian, among as many companies as possible, maximizing profits. (The “Galaxians” stage was also missing from CBS/Fox’s Atari 2600 version of Gorf, as Atari had already snagged the cartridge rights to Galaxian for itself.) Continue reading

The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt

The Great Wall Street Fortune HuntThe Game: Feel like literally “playing” the stock market? This game allows you to do so with varying degrees of accuracy, ranging from level one – simple trading – to level four, which allows buying on margins, prime rate interest calculations, and numerous other complications. A ticker across the top of the screen gives the current values of several stocks and commodities, while a ticker running across the center of the screen gives the latest news updates. The nature of that news can have drastic effects on the stocks available for trade, ranging from the sometimes silly (“electronic foot massager increases worker productivity”) to the frighteningly prophetic (“war threat in the Middle East”). (North American Phillips, 1983)

Memories: An interesting idea for a console game (whereas this sort of thing would usually be found only on computers, especially back then), The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt was the third and final Master Strategy Series game released for the Odyssey2. Continue reading

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