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Lasercade

LasercadeThe Game: You’re manning an experimental laser in a shooting gallery, trying to zap objects as they cross a screen at the far end of the room. A direct hit scores points, but the clock is always ticking down and any objects that haven’t See the videobeen shot down will remain in play until they’re eliminated. At the end of each round, you’ll be tasked with shooting the flame off of a candelabra, though its rapidly melting candles may make this trickier than you think. With each new level, targets get smaller – and rows of floating mirrors threaten to bounce your laser right back at you if you hit them instead of your target. (20th Century Fox, 1983 [never released])

Memories: In video game terms, lasers are like the opposite of the weather – everyone fires them, but nobody ever talks about them. Though Lasercade belongs to the same category as Carnival and Shootin’ Gallery, its 3-D angle on the basic shooting gallery game is unique in the 2600 library, and for the first time, it really plays with the underlying concept and physical reality of firing lasers. Really. Continue reading

Looping

LoopingThe Game: What if you were out to perform daring, air-show-style aerial acrobatics, and someone was shooting at you at the same time? Wouldn’t that be dandy? Lucky you, that’s what you’re doing in this game. With a mandate to DESTROY TERMINAL, you set out to obliterate an airport terminal protected by armed hot air balloons. The closer you get to carrying out that mission, the more fiercely they defend their turf. When you do level the terminal to the ground, a door opens up, allowing you to fly your plane into a massive maze of pipes, and if you can navigate that labyrinth, you reach “the end” – where you must fend off more adversaries to touch down safely and start again. (Coleco, 1983 – unreleased / recovered and released by CGE Services, 2003)

Memories: A positively obscure game in the arcades, Venture Line’s Looping really didn’t get any kind of a cult following until it was ported to the ColecoVision – and that translation was the best thing that ever happened to the game, gaining it a bit of popularity and an exclusive home. Continue reading

Lode Runner

The Game: Cavernous rooms are loaded with gold, just ripe for the picking. But before you celebrate hitting the mother lode, look again – there are other gold-diggers homing in on the treasure. What do you have that they don’t? A drill gun that can blast a hole in the floors, into which your opponents will jump blindly. Eventually, the holes will reseal themselves, and that process will swallow your enemies (and you, if you happen to be clumsy enough to wander into the hole yourself). Grabbing all of the gold will reveal a passage to the next level of the game. (IREM [under license from Broderbund], 1984)

Memories: Lode Runner is right up there with the Ultima series and SimCity in my personal hall of fame of the coolest games ever to originate on any model of personal computer. Continue reading

Little Computer People

Little Computer PeopleThe Game: Does it ever seem like your computer has a mind of its own? Maybe it does! Activision’s Little Computer People provides computer owners with a virtual three-story house, designed to lure the computer people out of your wiring and into a hospitable habitat. Once a little person has moved into his new home he can be studied and observed, but this is no hands-off experiment. You’ll need to keep your new friend happy and fed to maintain a healthy relationship. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: When Little Computer People first came out, it was difficult to explain just what kind of program it was to your friends. These days, it’s much easier – I’d simply say the game was like The Sims, but with only one sim and one location. To anyone familiar with the SimCity/SimAnt/SimEarth series of games, I’d describe it as a “SimHouse”. I might even compare the game to one of those popular “virtual pet” programs. But Little Computer People came out in 1985, prior to any of those games. Back then we lacked the vocabulary to describe (much less categorize) the game. Little Computer People was first released for the Commodore 64, quickly ported to the Apple II, and eventually found its way to Atari, Amiga, Amstrad and Sinclair computers. The game was never ported to the PC. Continue reading

The Legend Of Zelda

The Legend Of ZeldaThe Game: Link wanders the kingdom of Hyrule, attempting to defeat the minions of the evil Ganon and trying to gather the weapons, tools, and items he will need to free the kingdom. Most vital on his quest is the recovery of all the pieces of the magical Triforce, the most powerful force that can be brought against Ganon. But as each piece is recovered and each part of the quest is completed, the next leg of the journey is even more difficult. (Nintendo, 1987)

Memories: If Super Mario Bros. and the Donkey Kong series hadn’t already marked the arrival of Shigeru Miyamoto as a master video game designer, the deal was sealed with the arrival of The Legend Of Zelda, which was a game-changing entry in the adventure genre, to say the very least. Zelda was the title that finally blew down the door and gained wide acceptance for adventure games that couldn’t be finished in a single sitting. Prior to this, adventure games had a niche audience, but tweaking the conventions and expectations of the genre and putting it on a console instead of a computer made Zelda a winner. Continue reading

Lock ‘N’ Chase

Lock 'n' ChaseThe Game: You’re in charge of a getaway car loaded with crafty criminals. Your job is to sneak around the maze, avoid a bunch of cranky cops who are hot on your trail, and grab all the dough – and, of course, to escape so you can steal again another day. But the cops can trap you with a series of doors that can prevent you from getting away… (Data East, 1990)

See the videoMemories: After a quick “training” chase in a small maze – presumably in the vault while you’re making the big heist – the Game Boy version of Lock ‘N’ Chase is somewhat faithful to the original, even though it “zooms in” on the section of the maze surroundng your bank robber. However, while the original arcade game was an obvious attempt to get in on Pac-Man‘s maze-chase, dot-gobbling action without aping every aspect of the game, Lock ‘N’ Chase on the Game Boy makes the comparison obvious. Continue reading

Lego Rock Raiders

Lego Rock RaidersOrder this gameThe Game: The Rock Raiders are zipping through space, looking for another planet to explore, when a gigantic wormhole opens up and whisks them into the next galaxy. Before you can say “Mister Paris, engage!,” Chief and his crew are already scouting out new worlds to mine. One planet seems like a particularly promising candidate, but sensors detect other life forms there. Your job is to help various members of the Rock Raiders crew perform mining, exploration and rescue tasks on the surface of this strange new world as safely as possible. (Lego Media, 2000)

Memories: This may be just about the coolest game I’ve seen on the Playstation since MTV Music Generator. Now, you’re probably already laughing it up, wondering why in the world someone who’s pushing 30 is playing a game where the protagonists are well-rendered little Lego men (yep, just like the ones that come with the toys). But believe it or not, despite the exceedingly simple early tutorial missions that kick things off, this is actually quite the crafty little real-time strategy game. Continue reading

Lead (Atari 2600)

Order this gameThe Game: Players pilot a ship barrelling relentlessly down an enclosed tunnel. Turning around simply isn’t an option, and through various stages the player has to blast away at everything in sight, avoid everything in sight, and catch objects without blasting them. This all probably sounds easy, but the tunnels are rather twisty, and the ship is picking up speed constantly.

Memories: Bearing some resemblance to certain stages of games like Vanguard, Lead may not be the most original shoot-’em-up, but it’s one of the most addictive. With the See the videoVanguard-inspired ability to keep exploring once the game has ended (at, naturally, the cost of zeroing out your score), Lead certainly has depth. But, strange as it may sound, the game’s audio makes it a whole different beast. An organically evolving techno beat pulses in the background, its rhythm and melody influenced by the player’s actions and performance. Continue reading

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