Mario Bros.

Mario Bros.The Game: As Mario (or Luigi, if you’re playing with a second person), you’re trying to rid the sewers of such pests as evil lobsters and turtles. Try to grab as many coins as you can (it’s amazing what people let fall down the drain and into the sewer system sometimes), and always be on the lookout for the fireballs which bounce from level to level. Just how did all these things get into the sewers, anyway? (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Atari snatched the home video game license for Mario Bros. and proved that it could successfully port the game to the Atari 2600, as if to thumb its nose at Coleco for the mediocre (and that’s being charitable) 2600 version of Donkey Kong Jr.. Mario Bros. turned out to be one of the better Atari arcade adaptations. Continue reading

Moon Patrol

Moon PatrolThe Game: Driving an agile, armed moon buggy across the lunar surface, you must jump over craters and land mines, shoot large boulders (some occasionally mobile) out of your way, and try not to be on the receiving end of hostile fire from alien ships that try to strafe you. Some of the ships, which look very suspiciously like the triangle-of-spheres enemy ships from Gyruss, can even bomb the moon and make new craters for you to jump over – which may put you right into their line of fire.

Later on, you also get to blast away tanks and dodge pesky jet cars which “tailgate” and then try to ram you. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: This was a game that I played the hell out of as a kid – I’m stunned that all the bits didn’t fall out of the cartridge from repeated use. Granted, Moon Patrol in the arcade was a feast for the eyes and ears, and it’d be foolish to expect none of that to be lost in the translation to a far simpler hardware platform like the Atari 2600. But what’s surprising is how much of the game actually survived the transition. Continue reading

Moonsweeper

MoonsweeperThe 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 navigate your way through hazardous comets and See the videospace 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, 1983)

Memories: Not terribly different from the Atari 2600 edition of the same game, Colecovision Moonsweeper gets a big graphical boost from the step up to the most powerful console of the early 80s. 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 as much yummy fruit as you can. (Coleco, 1983)
See the video
Memories: Not the hardest game in the world to translate for home console systems, Mr. Do! is a mixed bag on the 2600. Coleco took a decent swipe at bringing Mr. Do! to the most prolific console of its day, but the problem with this game is that, all the way back to the arcade, there was always another game to which it could be compared: Dig Dug. Continue reading

Mr. Do’s Castle

Mr. Do's CastleSee the videoThe 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 unlock the door at the top. When that door is completely unlocked, touching it will transform the unicorns into walking plus signs; if you hammer five of them and spell the word EXTRA, you get an extra “life.” Clearing the screen of monsters or cherries advances you to the next level. (Parker Brothers., 1983)

Memories: I loved Mr. Do’s Castle in the arcade, and at the time I loved it on the VCS as well, though with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think the home version was as definitive as I once thought it was. Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while they’re blue, and avoid See the videothe monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Oh, God. If there’s a genre of video game that suffers most pathetically at the hands of Atari’s non-centering 5200 controllers, it’s the maze game. And Ms. Pac-Man is among the worst victims of the 5200’s joysticks: you could wind up smacking into a wall, unable to move before those three ghosts nailed you from behind. (Actually, that sounds pretty bad.) Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManSee the videoThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while they’re blue, and avoid See the TV adthe monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: Some people were surprised when, after the stunning success of the Ms. Pac-Man arcade game, Atari announced that it would be bringing the latest member of the Pac-family home. After how the first game had turned out, why bother? Continue reading

Meteor Belt

Meteor BeltThe Game: An evil force near the planet Jupiter has commandeered the asteroid belt between that giant planet and Mars as its personal defense shield. Your mission is simple: man a mobile weapons platform on the inner solar system’s side See the videoof the asteroid belt, exchange fire with the enemy (who can be the computer or another player), and try to knock out their defenses and destroy them. The battle will last only a brief time, and whoever has the best score – with a bonus given at the end for losing the least ships – wins. (Milton Bradley, 1983)

Memories: Milton Bradley is one of the few board game makers who didn’t at least try to make major in-roads into the video game arena. If anything, they tried to buy their way in, investing in and distributing the early models of the Vectrex stand-alone console, and later getting into Atari 2600 games with one-off specialty controllers that added to the games’ price without doing that much for game play. Continue reading

Mr. Cool

Mr. CoolThe Game: You’re Mr. Cool, an ice cube who chills out while hopping around a pyramid-shaped series of platforms. Fireballs streak across the pyramid from time to time, and they’ll melt you if they touch you. If you can stay cool long See the videoenough, you can advance through the game by changing the color of every platform to your target color by hopping onto each one – though in later levels it’ll take more than one hop, putting you in the path of more fireballs that could cause you to lose your cool. If you have one meltdown too many, the game is over. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A classic case of making the best of a system’s limitations (and missing out on the official license for a popular arcade game), Mr. Cool is an unlikely collision of the game mechanics of Q*Bert and Frogger. And yet it works. In the company’s early days, Sierra was great at producing “near beer” games such as Mr. Cool and Crossfire (which approximated the game play of arcade cult classics Targ and Spectar). Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while See the videothey’re blue, and avoid the monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: Introduced at virtually the same time as Atarisoft‘s TI edition of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man looks and sounds slick – and has the same odd issue with slightly sluggish controls that seem to lag a little bit behind what’s happening on the screen. Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while they’re blue, and avoid the monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: The early days of the IBM PC – which had, at this point, been on the market for two years – saw numerous software publishers trying to second-guess the PC’s position in the market. IBM’s a tech giant for businesses, but will this thing take off in the consumer market? If so, do we market entertainment software for it? Is it even suited to that sort of thing? And the answer to those questions, in 1983, was…well, maybe? Continue reading

Millipede

MillipedeBuy this gameThe Game: Once more unto the breach, your garden of mushrooms is now under attack by a millipede, and the big bug’s even nastier insect entourage has come along too. The spiders, scorpions and fleas are now joined by mosquitoes and inchworms, among others. The only advantage you have? Occasional containers of DDT (can you tell this was the 80’s?) will allow you to wipe out all targets within a given radius…but use them wisely! (Atari, 1984)

Memories: Though the graphics aren’t markedly different from those of the Atari 2600 version of Centipede, the elements of the game are a great deal more challenging. In a way, Millipede isn’t quite so well-suited to the trakball controller…it’s just too fast. Continue reading

Mr. Do!’s Wild Ride

Mr. Do!'s Wild RideThe Game: Mr. Do, having vanquished unicorns and other beasties, decides to take a little bit of vacation time at the nearest amusement park. But there’s one problem! (Isn’t there always?) The roller coasters are trying to kill him. Your job is to guide Mr. Do along the roller coaster tracks, avoiding deadly fast-moving roller coaster cars and climbing little ladders to reach cherries (is it my imagination, or does this guy eat more cherries than anybody since Pac-Man?). Watch your head at all times! (Universal, 1984)

Memories: The fourth and final entry in the obscure attempt at a Mr. Do! franchise, this one is also my least favorite – but that’s not to say that it isn’t fun. First off, I just find the theme appealing. In Do Run Run!, one is required to kill off endless waves of killer kritters, making Mr. Do the blood-thirstiest clown since John Wayne Gacy. This game, however, takes a less violent approach – things can happen to you, sure, but they’re not the deliberate acts of sinister characters who are hell-bent on destroying you. Continue reading

Mr. Do! Run Run

Mr. Do! Run RunThe Game: As everyone’s favorite pixellated clown since Bozo, you guide Mr. Do around a multi-level platform, pursued by multicolored killer critters. You have a magic power ball you can shoot at them, but if you score a hit, you’ll have to scramble around and pick up fruit and other items on the platforms until you have the See the videostrength to hurl another power ball. If, in the other hand, your power ball doesn’t score a direct hit, it will ricochet back and forth across the screen until you retrieve it, or it hits a monster that has wandered into that part of the screen. (You can only have one power ball bouncing around at a time.) (Universal, 1984)

Memories: An odd cross between the game mechanics of Mr. Do! and the almost-but-not-quite-3-D graphics of Congo Bongo, Mr. Do! Run Run was actually quite a fun and frantic little game. It also sported some killer music for its time – very weird in places, almost Carl-Stalling-by-way-of-Devo, but still very enjoyable. The graphics are very clean, and the evil critters are actually cute. Considering the game’s “kill-’em-all” premise, it’s pretty cute for such a bloodthirsty exercise! Continue reading

Moto-Crash+

Moto-Crash+The Game: It’s a cross-country motorcycle race, and you’re at the handlebars. Avoid other bikes, stay within the traffic markers, and be alert to constantly changing lighting conditions and weather (this race is 24 hours a day, and the days seem awfully short). (Philips, 1984)

Memories: Released only in Europe (and, for the most part, confined to France, where it was sold for the Jopac+ console, the Gallic equivalent to the Videopac G7400 or the Odyssey3), Moto-Crash+ is a fairly bold attempt to do something that was unheard of on the original Odyssey2/Jopac hardware: a first-person racing game along the lines of Enduro. Continue reading

Music Construction Set

Music Construction SetThe Game: If you’re a music lover of any kind, from student level upward, Music Construction Set guarantees that you can make music with the Apple II right out of the box, even with the machine’s puny built-in speaker. A drag-and-drop interface – best used with a mouse and sometimes tiringly clunky with a joystick – allows you to piece together your own music, save it, load it and tweak it later. Several built-in tunes illustrate how to do this. A sound card is almost required, but even with the tinny sound of the Apple II’s built-in speaker the results are surprisingly good. (Electronic Arts, 1984)

Memories: What I was doing with this, I’ve never quite figured out – I compose in my head and can’t even read sheet music. But it’s still an intensely interesting little program. I never had a sound card for my Apple-compatible machines, but I was still stunned at how good it all sounded coming out of the machine’s native speaker – real live polyphony, it just about knocked my socks off. Continue reading

Motos

MotosBuy this gameThe Game: This contest places you in a vehicle on a grid suspended in space. Going over the edge of the grid is bad news, and yet that’s exactly where you must ram every other object on the screen. Be careful: Isaac Newton’s laws of motion apply here, and every action begets a reaction, namely your vehicle being bounced as far back as your target has been knocked ahead. And depending on the configuration of the playing field, which eventually evolves to include gaps in the middle of the screen which can only be jumped with the proper combination of “power parts” and “jump parts,” ramming an enemy can put you over the edge too. Later levels introduce more aggressive enemies which will leave you almost strictly on the defensive. (Good tip? Position yourself between two enemies and let the recoil from attacking one help you put another one out of the game as well.) Lingering too long on the playing field will cause whoever’s in charge of this genteel sporting event to hurl projectiles at the field, blasting holes out of the grid which must then be jumped or avoided – and even your own jumps can weaken or destroy other squares on the grid. (Namco, 1985)

Memories: Say what you like about Namco, but they’ve probably introduced more singularly addictive games to the arcades than any other company out there, and those games cover a more diverse palette than today’s never-ending smorgasboard of fighting and sports titles. Continue reading

Mail Order Monsters

Mail Order MonstersThe Game: Put your money where your fangs are in this monster mash-up that pits twelve different types of creatures against each other in the ultimate battle for survival. Arm your creature with the best weapons and armor to prepare him for games of Capture the Flag, Tournament-Style Battles, or an all out invasion. (Electronic Arts, 1985)

Memories: In the fall of 1985, my parents opened Yukon Software, a computer store specializing in PC, Apple and Commodore software. Every week I drooled over the stacks of brand new games my parents received to stock their shelves with. Occasionally I’d talk my dad into letting me open a game to demo it on one of our in-store computers. Mail Order Monsters was one of those games. The thought of building and battling monsters really appealed to me as a young teenager, a fantasy Mail Order Monsters delivered. Continue reading

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