Jawbreaker

JawbreakerThe Game: You’re a mobile set of chattering teeth, gobbling up goodies in a maze as jaw-breaking candies pursue you. If you bite down on one of these killer candies, you’ll rack up quite a dental bill (enough to lose a life). You can snag one of four snacks in the corners of the maze and suddenly the tooth-rotting treats become crunchy and vulnerable. Advance to the next level by clearing the maze of dots. (On-Line Systems, 1981)

See the videoMemories: Atari’s home version of Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 was like a trail of telltale blood in a tank full of pirhanas. It was quickly apparent that there was one wounded one in the group, and other predators quickly closed in for the kill – or, in the case of Pac-Man, provided games for various platforms that duplicated the Pac-Man experience better than Atari could apparently manage to do. Continue reading

Jolly Jogger

Jolly JoggerThe Game: Players control the Jolly Jogger as he attempts to draw borders around every square area on the playing field. There are several special squares which temporarily give Jolly Jogger the ability to freeze his pursuers for a while; at all other times, they are to be avoided at all costs. Running around every square on the screen clears that level and introduces a new maze of squares where the process begins anew. A lit fuse counts down the time available to Jolly Jogger to complete each screen; if time runs out, a life is lost. (Taito, 1982)

Memories: With a setup and a play mechanic similar to Pepper II and Amidar, Jolly Jogger doesn’t seem to have been a high priority for Taito – even the sell sheet distributed to entice arcade operators and distributors to buy the game seemed lackluster and generic, as if Taito knew it had a game that wasn’t really worthy of prime arcade real estate. Continue reading

Joust

JoustThe Game: In the timeless tradition, you suit up in armor, grab a lance, and mount your trusty ostrich. Then you try to impale others who have done the same, and eliminate the remaining “eggs” which will hatch a new warrior if left long enough. Other threats include the almost invincible pterodactyl and the Lava Troll (whose firey See the videoBuy this gamehands assist enemy knights while trying to drag yours into the molten rock). In later levels, there are fewer solid surfaces on which to take refuge. When one of your knights is toppled, another appears, given momentary immunity from harm until he is moved. On second thought, maybe it isn’t all that traditional… (Williams Electronics, 1982)

Memories: One of the best-remembered games, Joust enjoys a cult following to this day, something which can probably be attributed to the game’s bizarre juxtaposition of perfectly-normal elements (knights in armor trying to kill one another) with the bizarre (lava trolls, flying ostriches as steeds, pterodactyls, knights hatching from eggs). It was a perfect enough mix that Joust has stuck in people’s minds to this day. It was also the only game whose action button served the purpose of flapping the wings of an ostrich. Continue reading

Jungle King / Jungle Hunt

Jungle HuntThe Game: You are the king of the jungle! Swinging from vine to vine! Swimming through crocodile-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing spear-weilding natives to rescue the damsel! (Taito, 1982)

Buy this gameMemories: Not that Jungle King was an incredibly simple game – the above description is supposed to be a little bit humorous, if oversimplified – but Jungle King‘s most infamous footnote in video game history is the lawsuit that it drew. The original Jungle King game opened with the sound of a sampled “Tarzan yell” – and the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs was not amused. Continue reading

Jawbreaker

JawbreakerThe Game: Ever had a sweet tooth? Now you are the sweet tooth – or teeth, as the case may be. You guide a set of clattering teeth around a mazelike screen of horizontal rows; an opening in each row travels down the wall separating it from the next row. Your job is to eat the tasty treats lining each row until you’ve cleared the screen. Naturally, it’s not just going to be that easy. There are nasty hard candies out to stop you, and they’ll silence those teeth of yours if they catch you – and that just bites. Periodically, a treat appears in the middle of the screen allowing you to turn the tables on them for a brief interval. (Tigervision, 1982)

Memories: When Atari’s licensed version of Pac-Man hit the store shelves in 1982, it gained an instant notoriety as those looking for the perfect home Pac experience muttered a collective “screw this” and went elsewhere in search of a better game. Tigervision, a subsidiary of Tiger Toys making its first tentative steps into the increasingly-crowded video game arena, gave them that game. Continue reading

Jin

JinThe Game: The player controls a marker, trying to claim as much of the playing field as possible by enclosing areas of it. Drawing boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves the marker vulnerable to attack from the Jin and from the enemies in hot pursuit of the marker’s every move, is worth many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the ever-shifting Jin touches the marker or an uncompleted boundary it is drawing, a “life” is lost and the game starts again. (Falcon, 1982)

Memories: Not content merely to copy Donkey Kong in the form of Crazy Kong (though that game was actually Nintendo-licensed for distribution in Far East markets outside Japan, and never intended to wind up in North America, though it did anyway), bootleg maker Falcon diversified its offerings by copying another Japanese game maker, unapologetically turning Taito‘s Qix into Jin. But for some bizarre reason, Falcon used a different game’s hardware to do this. Continue reading

Jungler

The Game: Players control a segmented, centipede-like creature as it wanders through an open maze inhabited by similar creatures. The player’s creature can shoot segments off of the opponent creatures, but the opponents can See the videoalso turn around and eat their own segments to get out of a corner, which won’t score any points for the player. To clear a level, the player must eliminate the other creatures from the maze. (Emerson [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: 1982 had the dubious distinction of being both the peak year for video gaming, and – arguably – the beginning of the end. That end didn’t play out until the industry crash of 1983 and ’84, but the seeds were planted at least as early as 1982, when the arcade license ruled the home video game roost. Even modest or completely unknown games could command top dollar for home console ports, often in advance of their arcade release, just on the off chance that the licensee was hitching its wagon to the next Pac-Man. Hence… Nibbler. Continue reading

Jawbreaker II

Jawbreaker IIThe Game: Ever had a sweet tooth? Now you are the sweet tooth – or teeth, as the case may be. You guide a set of clattering teeth around a mazelike screen of horizontal rows; an opening in each row travels down the wall See the videoseparating it from the next row. Your job is to eat the tasty treats lining each row until you’ve cleared the screen. Naturally, it’s not just going to be that easy. There are nasty hard candies out to stop you, and they’ll silence those teeth of yours if they catch you – and that just bites. Periodically, a treat appears in the middle of the screen allowing you to turn the tables on them for a brief interval. Sierra On-Line, 1982

Memories: Faced with the threat of imminent legal action from Atari, Sierra – known by its original name, On-Line Systems – yanked the very Pac-Man-like Jawbreaker off the market, replacing it with a new version that was less obviously attempting to copy the game mechanics of Pac-Man. Those familiar with the Atari 2600 edition of Jawbreaker will find this game familiar: the maze is out, and the horizontal rows of dots with “sliding doors” are in. Though there are still elements similar to Pac-Man – at this point, really just the power pellet-like energizers in the four corners of the screen – the whole thing is different. Continue reading

Journey

JourneyThe Game: Just another day in the life of the rock group Journey, as you help Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain and Steve Smith evade alien “groupoids” intent on keeping them from reaching their next gig. (Bally/Midway, See the video1983)

Memories: Not one of the brightest ideas ever to occur in the history of arcade games, Journey is an stepchild of the much better Tron video game. Someone, somewhere, thought it was be a brilliant idea to recycle the basics of Tron‘s game play, while attaching a new celebrity licensing opportunity to it. Fresh from two hit rock albums (Escape and Frontiers), Journey seemed a likely choice. Continue reading

Jr. Pac-Man

Jr. Pac-ManThe Game: As the offspring of a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a bigger maze than your parents ever had to deal with, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Six large flashing dots in the maze enable you to turn the tables and eat See the videothe monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted toys will begin hopping through the maze, turning every uneaten dot they touch into a larger dot which yields more points, but also forces little Pac to slow down to digest them. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to chase you anew. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Namco, 1983)

Memories: In yet another sequel to the most profitable and popular arcade game of all time, the backwards-titled Jr. Pac-Man did away with the life-saving warp tunnels of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, instead confining the little Pac and his opponents to a larger, horizontally-scrolling maze. The only other innovation was the digestion dilemma caused by the bouncing toys – equivalent to the earlier Pac games’ fruit – turning uneaten dots into larger dots which slow you down enough for the monsters to catch up. Continue reading

Joust

JoustThe Game: Suit up in armor, grab a lance, and mount your trusty ostrich. Then you try to impale others who have done the same, and eliminate the remaining “eggs” which will hatch a new warrior if left long enough. Other threats include the almost invincible pterodactyl and the Lava Troll (whose firey hands assist enemy knights while trying to drag yours into the molten rock). In later levels, there are fewer solid surfaces on which to take refuge. When one of your knights is toppled, another appears, given momentary immunity from harm until he is moved. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: In a rare instance, the 5200’s non-centering joysticks, the bugbear of many an otherwise decent arcade translation, could occasionally help you in this game. Continue reading

Journey Escape

Journey EscapeThe Game: Ah, life on the road with an internationally successful rock band – it’s all about avoiding photographers and “groupoids,” getting quick pick-me-ups from helpful managers, and not running face-first into fences. It’s all about circumventing these obstacles, scoring lots of points, and making your way back safely to the band’s spaceship. Wait a minute, spaceship? Who’s in this band, Steve Perry and Neil Schon or Sy Snootles and Max Rebo? (Data Age, 1983)

Memories: Completely unrelated to the arcade game based on Journey’s music and album artwork, Journey Escape is one of those games where it seemed like the industry was just licensing stuff willy-nilly because video games sell! Strawberry Shortcake, Kool-Aid, Purina Dog Chow, Cabbage Patch Kids, Smurfs, Journey…they were all licensed for cartridge games, and the truth of it is, of the licensed properties I just listed, Journey Escape was probably among the best. Continue reading

Joust

JoustThe Game: As a fearless pile of buzzard bait encased in armor, you pilot your trusty steed – who happens to be an ostrich, by the way – in an effort to impale your opponents – who also happen to be riding ostriches – before they can lance you. Other dangers include a pterodactyl who periodically arrives to thin out the ranks of on-screen See the TV adwarriors if things are taking too long, and platforms that disappear under your feet, plunging you into a sea of molten lava. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Joust is an incredibly fun and addictive game with a loyal cult following, and Atari did it “joust-ice”. Many of Atari’s home versions of arcade games from this period, whether programmed in-house or farmed out to General Computer, seemed to follow a tenet of getting key graphics and gameplay right above all else, and Joust is a good specimen of that. Continue reading

Jungle Hunt

Jungle HuntThe Game: You’re an intrepid explorer, swinging from vine to vine, braving a swim through crocodile-infested waters, leaping over and ducking under an avalanche of rocks both large and small, and trying to leap over angry natives, all to save a See the videodamsel in distress at the end of the game. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: One of the best arcade adaptations for the 5200, Jungle Hunt in cartridge form provided a very faithful port of the arcade game, right down to the jaunty music. Continue reading

Jungle Hunt

Jungle HuntThe Game: You are an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer of the jungle! Swinging from vine to vine! Swimming through crocodile-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing spear-weilding natives to rescue the damsel! (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: One of a handful of Atarisoft games for the ColecoVision, Jungle Hunt proves a point: while Coleco was trying to drive discriminating gamers toward its own console with subpar ports of games like Zaxxon (compare the ColecoVision edition to the Atari 2600 port) and Donkey Kong (again, compare the ColecoVision and 2600 versions), Atari – post-2600 Pac-Man debacle – was at least trying to turn out quality games for whatever platform it released games on. Continue reading

Jungle Hunt

Jungle HuntThe Game: You are the king of the jungle! Swinging from vine to vine! Swimming through crocodile-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing spear-weilding natives to rescue the damsel! (Atari, See the video1983)

Jungle Hunt, based on the revised version of Taito’s Jungle King arcade game, was a fairly solid entry from the heyday of the Atari 2600 as the premier platform for home editions of arcade games. Faithfully adapting the four levels of the arcade game, albeit in simplified form, Jungle Hunt was actually one of the better 2600 arcade ports. Continue reading

Juice!

Juice!The Game: You’re the circuit maker, and they’re the circuit breakers. You hop around a maze-like structure, dropping circuitry patterns in your wake, as a variety of adversaries try to stop you from completing a circuit leading from the power source at your starting point to the receptacle across the maze from you. Colliding with See the videoany of them will cost you a life, but you can entice them to try to chase you off the maze and into oblivion while you escape safely. Completing the circuit advances you to the next maze – just on’t get too caught up in your power trip. (Tronix, 1983)

Memories: A neat combination of some well-worn game play elements, Juice is an eminently playable example of taking elements from different games and combining them into a new one. Bits of Pac-Man and Q*Bert, with a hint of Zaxxon‘s 3-D isometric perspective, combine to make Juice! unique and fun. Continue reading

Jr. Pac-Man

Jr. Pac-ManBuy this gameThe Game: As the offspring of a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a bigger maze than your parents ever had to deal with, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Six large flashing dots in the maze enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted toys will begin hopping through the maze, turning every uneaten dot they touch into a larger dot which yields more points, but also forces little Pac to slow down to digest them. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to chase you anew. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atari, 1984; released by AtariAge.com, 2003)

Memories: A victim of former Commodore executive Jack Tramiel’s takeover of Atari‘s home video game and computer division, Jr. Pac-Man was one of the many “orphaned” games that were finished and ready for mass-production, but despite the money that had been spent on acquiring the license and developing the actual software, Jr. Pac-Man stayed off the schedule, never to hit the stores. Continue reading

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