Math Gran Prix

Math Gran PrixBuy this gameThe Game: This race is a numbers game. For each turn, players have to decide how many spaces they want to move (overdoing it can result in going off-track and crashing), and then have to answer a math question (math functions and difficulty depend on game settings). Answering correctly will allow the player to move forward the desired number of spaces. A few spots on the track offer the chance to pick a random number for an additional jump forward in the race. (Atari, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Few equations have proven as impossible in the video game industry as the still-ongoing quest to make educational games not just fun, but something that anyone would actually want to fork over money for and play. Hint: Math Gran Prix, despite its noble intentions, did not solve that equation. Continue reading

Megamania

MegamaniaBuy this gameThe Game: The sky is falling! Or so it seems. As this game is subtitled “A Space Nightmare,” you’re not battling aliens here, but ever-descendig and evading waves of such ordinary items as bow ties, hamburgers, dice, and so on. Unlike so many other Space Invaders variations, you won’t die the moment the attacking forces reach ground zero – but you could, if they slide horizontally right into you. (Activision, 1982)

See the TV adSee the videoMemories: Activision, much like the Odyssey 2 game designers, always knew how to put enough of a twist on game with an established “formula” to keep the litigious wolf from the door, and this is another classic example of that – not to mention an annoyingly addictive little game. Continue reading

Mine Storm

Mine StormThe Game: An alien ship zooms into view overhead, depositing a network of mines in deep space. Your job is to clear the spaceways, blasting each mine and then blasting the smaller mines that are released by each See the videosubsequent explosion; there are three different mine sizes, and blasting the smallest and fastest ones finally does away with them. In later stages, there are homing mines, mines that launch a missile in your direction when detonated, and other hazards. Smaller alien ships periodically zip through the screen, trying to blast you while also laying fresh mines. (GCE, 1982)

Memories: Obviously the Vectrex answer to Asteroids, Mine Storm wins about a zillion bonus points just for being drawn in honest-to-God vector graphics – and for being built in to the Vectrex’s circuitry. If you power the machine up without a cartridge plugged in, you get Mine Storm, and it’s a gem of a game. Continue reading

Microsurgeon

MicrosurgeonThe Game: Ready for a fantastic journey? So long as you’re not counting on Raquel Welch riding shotgun with you, this is as close as you’re going to get. You control a tiny robot probe inside the body of a living, breathing human patient who has a lot of health problems. Tar deposits in the lungs, cholesterol clogging the arteries, and rogue infections traveling around messing everything up. And then there’s you – capable of administering targeted doses of ultrasonic sound, antibiotics and aspirin to fix things up. Keep an eye on your patient’s status at all times – and be careful not to wipe out disease-fighting white blood cells which occasionally regard your robot probe as a foreign body and attack it. Just because you don’t get to play doctor with the aforementioned Ms. Welch (ahem – get your mind out of the gutter!) doesn’t mean this won’t be a fun operation. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Microsurgeon, designed and programmed by Imagic code wrangler Rick Levine (who even put his signature – as a series of slightly twisted arteries – inside the game’s human body maze), is a perfect example of Imagic’s ability to get the best out of the Intellivision – it’s truly one of those “killer app” games that defines a console. Continue reading

Moonsweeper

MoonsweeperBuy this gameThe Game: As the pilot of a super-fast intergalactic rescue ship (which is also armed to the teeth, which explains the absence of a red cross painted on the hull), you must See the videonavigate your way through hazardous comets and space debris, entering low orbit around various planets from which you must rescue a certain number of stranded civilians. But there’s a reason you’re armed – some alien thugs mean to keep those people stranded, and will do their best to blast you into dust. You can return the favor, and after you rescue the needed quota of people from the surface, you must align your ship with a series of launch rings to reach orbit again. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: The coolest Imagic game ever, Moonsweeper kept my attention for hours and hours, just trying to beat the bloody thing. Continue reading

Mouse Trap

Mouse TrapThe Game: In this munching-maze game, you control a mouse who scurries around a cheese-filled maze which can only be navigated by strategically opening and closing yellow, red and blue doors with their color-coded buttons. Occasionally a big chunk o’ cheese can be gobbled for extra points. Is it that easy? No. There is also a herd of hungry kitties who would love a mousy morsel. But you’re not defenseless. By eating a bone, you can transform into a dog, capable of eating the cats. But each bone’s effects only last for a little while, after which you revert to a defenseless mouse. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Based on the almost-obscure Exidy arcade game, Coleco turned out a faithful cartridge version of Mouse Trap, with one drawback – just as it was in the arcade, the control scheme for opening the color-coded doors throughout the maze wasn’t the most intuitive way that anyone had ever come up with for controlling a game, even if one does have the overlays that fit over the controller keypads. Continue reading

Mouse Trap

Mouse TrapThe Game: In this munching-maze game (one of the dozens of such games which popped up in the wake of Pac-Man), you control a cartoonish mouse who scurries around a cheese-filled maze which can only be navigated by strategically opening and closing doors in the maze. Occasionally a big chunk o’ cheese can be gobbled for extra points. Is it that easy? No. There is also a herd of hungry kitties who would love a mousy morsel. But you’re not defenseless. By eating a bone (the equivalent of Pac-Man’s power pellets), you can transform into a dog, capable of eating the cats. But each bone’s effects only last for a little while, after which you revert to a defenseless mouse. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: To some extent, I think regular readers of Phosphor Dot Fossils have come to expect certain things…and the occasional justified slamming of a 2600 game or two is probably one of them. But not this one. No, I’m here to tell you that I love Coleco’s 2600 translation of the obscure Exidy coin-op maze chase Mouse Trap. Yes, seriously! Continue reading

Mr. Do!

Mr. Do!The Game: As an elfin dweller of a magic garden, you must avoid or do away with a bunch of nasty critters who are after you, while gobbling up See the original TV adas much yummy fruit as you can. (Coleco, 1982)

Memories: Probably the highest-profile title of Coleco’s original licensing deal with Universal, Mr. Do! came home in an almost insanely entertaining cartridge for the ColecoVision. The graphics and sound closely mimic those of the arcade game, and control seems fairly smooth to me. Continue reading

Munch Man

Munch ManThe Game: You control a round creature consisting of a mouth and little else. When the game begins, you’re given about two seconds’ head start to venture into the maze before blobby monsters are released from their cages and begin pursuing you. As you move, Munch See the videoMan leaves a trail in his wake; you advance to the next level of the game by “painting” the entire maze with that trail. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: A nifty Pac-Man clone done with simple character graphics and a few game play twists designed to make it lawsuit-proof, Munch Man miraculously seemed to be spared being on the receiving end of Atari’s litigious wrath – surprising since Atari was suing Bally, Magnavox, and just about everyone else trying to put a Pac-Man-like game on a home console at the time. Continue reading

Marvin’s Maze

Marvin's MazeThe Game: Marvin built a maze on two levels, with habitrail-style tunnels to take him from the first floor to the second and back again, and all was well until the Robonoids moved in and took over. Now they’re out to evict Marvin from his own turf! It’s up to you to guide Marvin through his maze, using cunning one-way bridges to escape from the Robonoids and find the power-ups he needs to zap them. Marvin moves on to See the videothe next maze (and the next level of difficulty) only by clearing this maze of power-ups and dots. (SNK, 1983)

Memories: I hadn’t heard of this one before, and now I wonder why. In a way, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Crystal Castles, but there’s also a little bit of an homage to Pac-Man‘s power pellets and a little bit of shooting too. So now it’s like Crystal Butt-Kickin’ Castles. With cute character designs that are worthy of Q*Bert. Continue reading

Mario Bros.

Mario Bros.The Game: Twin brothers Mario and Luigi give up the illustrious life of ape-chasers and damsel-rescuers for their original line of work… plumbing. But this doesn’t mean the job’s any less dangerous. Killer lobsters and turtles abound in the sewer system (well, isn’t it that way everywhere?), along with airborne fireballs not unlike the foxfires in the original Donkey Kong. Another key event in this game? Nintendo solidifies its near-total dominance of the video game industry for the better part of the following decade and a half. (Nintendo, 1983)

Memories: The fourth game in an ongoing line of coin-ops starring either Mario or some member of Donkey Kong’s family, Mario Bros. cemented the rotund plumber as the star of the show, rather than a simian’s sidekick. Continue reading

Mappy

MappyBuy this gameThe Game: Mappy the Mouse stars in “Micro Police!” You are Mappy, a mouse determined to bring Boss the Big Bit and his kooky kitty kohorts to justice before they make a huge hail on a house heist. You can snatch up the potential booty yourself to keep it safe, and can temporarily foil your feline foes by slamming doors on them, or by opening special glowing doors which blast them away with a burst of sound. If you snatch up all the treasures and avoid the cats, it’s off to the next level. Periodically, you get to pop balloons on a bonus level for extra points. (Bally/Midway [under license from Namco], 1983)

Memories: You know, it’s just possible that Namco and Bally/Midway put the tail before the dog (or, in this case, the mouse) this time around. With the arcade cabinet’s positively mammoth marquee, and the hint that Mappy was the star of this game and would presumably star in future games, one wonders if the American distributors of Pac-Man were perhaps just a little too certain that everything coming out of their plants would be the dawn of a new franchise. Continue reading

Marble Madness

Marble MadnessBuy this gameThe Game: You control the speed and direction of a marble which is racing other marbles to reach the finish line. Obstacles along the way include marble-eating creatures, treacherous cliffs and drawbridges, and the game’s own trakball controller! (Atari, 1983)

Memories: One of the most bizarrely abstract games to emerge from the post-Pac-Man ’80s, Marble Madness is like a virtual homage to those wooden maze-under-glass games, in which you’d try to shift the game to various angles and get a ball bearing to go where you wanted it to go. Marble Madness does away with the moving-the-whole-maze element and puts the marble under its own power – and that’s just where the frustration begins! Continue reading

Major Havoc

Major HavocBuy this gameThe Game: Journey through space, visit free-floating outposts, and raid ’em in search of oxygen. Then you just have to get back out with your precious loot – and that’s the hard part. (Atari, 1983)

See the videoMemories: Introduced to much fanfare in 1983, Atari’s Major Havoc may well have been the last of the red-hot vector graphics games – and truth be told, it didn’t catch on like the wildfire their marketing materials seemed to be hinting at. It was a really challenging game too – it was easy to lose a lot of quarters to this machine. Continue reading

Motorace USA / Traverse USA / Zippy Race

Motorace USAThe Game: As the lone motorcyclist in a cross-country car race, you have to dodge your opponents at high speed, one two-ton vehicle at a time. You drive through city streets, highways, and through the rough desert, trying to reach See the videoyour goal without running out of gas or getting splattered across the asphalt. (Williams Electronics [under license from IREM], 1983)

Memories: Whatever you called it, this was one of my favorite driving/racing games, combining the best elements of both maze games and scrolling obstacle course games, and handling things differently from the Pole Position and Turbo formula which dominated this particular genre at the time. Continue reading

Mr. Do!’s Castle

Mr. Do!'s CastleThe Game: As cuddly clown Mr. Do, you’re scrambling to squish all the unicorns who are invading your castle. You can repel them momentarily with your clown hammer, but you can only squish them permanently by knocking a brick out from the floor above. Most bricks contain cherries, but some also contain keys that See the videounlock the door at the top. When that door is completely unlocked, touching it will transform the unicorns into letters that make up the word EXTRA. As with Mr. Do!, collecting all five letters merits an extra “life.” Clearing the screen of monsters or cherries advances you to the next level. (Universal, 1983)

Memories: Another of my favorite obscure games, Mr. Do!’s Castle is truly cool, fun and addictive – all the requisite qualities of a good video game. In my mind, it easily outshines the original Mr. Do! by miles, and is one of the most unique and original entries in the ladders-and-levels genre since Donkey Kong. Continue reading

Masters Of The Universe: Power Of He-Man

Masters Of The Universe: Power Of He-ManThe Game: Don’t be too eager to say “By the power of Greyskull,” because there’s one problem: Skeletor has wrested See the videothe power of Castle Greyskull for himself, and seems none too keen on giving it back. As He-Man, the player is tasked with reaching the castle via a flying vehicle, shooting down fireballs (and, if possible, ensnaring Skeleton in traps from above) along the way; provided He-Man doesn’t use up all of his fuel in the aerial fight, he lands at Greyskull and must dodge Skeletor’s fiery projectiles in order to do battle with the ghastly one. Only one will win. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)

Memories: Early in Intellivision‘s shelf life, the Intellivision programmers had learned a hard lesson: don’t assume that because Mattel’s toy division has the toy license, Intellivision has the game license. This painful lesson had hit home hard when Mattel Electronics’ in-house game designers came up with a winner of a game for Battlestar Galactica, only to discover that they couldn’t release it under that name. When it came to the multimedia marketing slam dunk that was Masters Of The Universe – a hit toy line bolstered by a hit animated series – Mattel made damned sure the video game rights stayed in-house. Continue reading

M*A*S*H

M*A*S*HThe Game: In a bizarre collision of two very different game play elements that would probably be considered minigames today, you’re a fearless helicopter rescue pilot for the 4077th, fishing wounded U.S. soldiers out of harm’s way during See the videothe Korean War. When the window of your helicopter no longer shows up as hollow, you’ve got a full load and must safety return the wounded to the M*A*S*H base, and then go to retrieve more wounded. An enemy tank scoots along the bottom of the screen, trying to down both your helicopter and a computer-controlled chopper or an opponent’s chopper. This does not help matters, although being shot down merely causes a delay as an emergency vehicle appears – miraculously impervious to enemy fire – to push the wreckage off the screen before a new helicopter appears. Every so often, the action suddenly switches to the operating table, where you have to retrieve projectiles from victims’ bodies without causing worse damage as you remove them, and with the clock ticking down – if you fail to complete the surgery in time, then it’s goodbye, farewell and amen to that patient. (Think of the board game Operation! here and you’ve got the idea.) (20th Century Fox Games Of The Century, 1983)

Memories: M*A*S*H could be held up as a prime example of the third party video game market right before the Crash, being two very simple (and not terribly original) games squashed together with a licensed title. But let’s give it credit for being better than, say, Chase The Chuckwagon – M*A*S*H is at least fun. Continue reading

  • IP Disclaimer

    All game names, terminology, logos, screen shots, box art, and all related characters and placenames are the property of the games' respective intellectual property holders. The articles herein are not intended to infringe upon their copyright in any way. The author(s) make no attempt - in using the names described herein - to supercede the copyrights of the copyright holders, nor are these articles officially sanctioned, licensed, or endorsed by the games' creators or publishers.