Pirate Pete

Pirate PeteThe Game: You are the king of the jung…uh, pirate ship! Swinging from rope to rope! Swimming through shark-infested waters! Jumping and ducking huge rolling boulders! And vanquishing knive-weilding pirates (wait, aren’t See the videothey supposed to be on your side if you’re a pirate too?) to rescue the damsel! (Taito, 1982)

Memories: So…Pirate Pete. I’m sure you’re not fooled – this is Jungle King again, with different scenery. (At the end of the second stage, the Jungle King / Jungle Hunt music still plays.) A few changes were made to the program itself as well, but not many. Continue reading

Pioneer Balloon

Pioneer BalloonThe Game: This is a game about the rough-and-tumble history of the taming of the North American continent, as told by someone who’s never been allowed access to any kind of reading material at all. You pilot a balloon across a scrolling landscape, avoiding (or blasting) birds and bombing a convoy of covered wagons. After conquering this level, you move on to a village of boomerang-throwing natives (and hey, early America was just thick with those puppies, wasn’t it?), followed by coconut-hurling gorillas (another prominent feature on the landscape of the early United States). A brief stage follows in which you must evade a series of random tornadoes, and then you have more wagons to bomb. At least they got something right – there are tornadoes in the U.S. (Rock-Ola [under license from SNK], 1982)

Memories: Before I launch into my tirade on this game, let me just remind you that the team of Rock-Ola and SNK was responsible for my all-time favorite coin-op, Fantasy. Continue reading

Pooyan

PooyanThe Game: As a mama pig whose piglets have been abducted by a bunch of mean ol’ wolves, you’re trying to splatter as many wolves as you can. They descend from a tree with balloons, and if you fail to shoot them down at this point, they climb up the tree you’re hanging from and try to bite your butt. (Konami, 1982)

Memories: Pooyan is a wonderfully fun and funny little game, with its almost obscenely cute little piggies and wolves. Like many other cutesy games of the same era, namely Pengo and Blueprint, Pooyan almost seems to have been designed to take advantage of the character marketing mine that Pac-Man and Donkey Kong unearthed. But at its most basic, Pooyan is a sliding shooter game turned at a 90-degree angle. Continue reading

Pole Position

Pole PositionBuy this gameThe Game: Prepare to qualify! Fly to the finish line in a fierce field of Formula One competitors in a qualifying lap. Leaving the track is trouble – and hitting one of the billboards dotted around the edges of the Mt. Fuji track is a sure way to miss out on the subsequent race. (I’ve always wondered anyway: why are there billboards around a racetrack? Are race car drivers a desirable demographic to advertisers? Can they actually read those signs at 200+ MPH?) (Atari [under license from Namco], 1982)

See the videoMemories: First off, a note to our loyal readers: I hope you’re happy! Pole Position is, by a vast margin, the single most-requested, most-asked-about game ever at Phosphor Dot Fossils. You should see some of the mail I’ve gotten regarding this game’s absence in the past few years – accusations of everything from bad taste to just plain incompetence. Well fear not, faithful Phosphor Dot Fossils followers, for I actually love this game. Continue reading

Pepper II

Pepper IIThe Game: You’re a little angel (of sorts). You run around a maze consisting of zippers which close or open, depending upon whether or not you’ve already gone over that section of the maze. Zipping up one square of the maze scores points for you, but it gets trickier. Little devils chase you around the maze, trying to kill you before you can zip up the entire screen. If you zip up enough of the maze and grab a power-pellet-like object, you can dispatch some of your pursuers. Clear the screen and the fun begins anew. (Exidy, 1982)

Memories: One of the first games released for Colecovision, Pepper II lived up to the advertising hype that basically said that owning Coleco’s new console was as good as having your own arcade. While the original arcade game didn’t exactly set the bar very high for any home adaptations, Pepper II really sells the Colecovision = arcade message by being almost flawless. Continue reading

Pac-Man

Pac-ManThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, See the videolarge flashing dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period for an escalating score . Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and you can consume these for additional points as well. 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, 1982)

Memories: In the war of the second-generation consoles, it was clear what the chief ammunition would be: immensely popular arcade game licenses. The ColecoVision jumped out of the gates with Donkey Kong as a pack-in title, and Atari – already fighting bad word-of-mouth criticism of the 5200’s lackluster joysticks – would have to give the SuperSystem something a little more compelling than its cousin 2600’s Combat pack-in. But then, of course, everyone already knew that Atari held that most precious of arcade licenses in the early 80s, Pac-Man. Continue reading

Pac-Man

Pac-ManThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, large See the videoflashing dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: It all began with the arrival of the Pac-Man arcade game in 1980. Pac-Man was guzzling millions of quarters and generating a licensing and merchandising firestorm. Numerous home video game companies bid for the rights to the game, and you have to understand, bidding for the rights to produce the home video game version of Pac-Man was like bidding for the toy rights for the next Star Wars movie – very expensive and very high-profile. Money was flying fast and furious. Atari won. Continue reading

Phaser Patrol

Phaser PatrolThe Game: The war between the humans and the spacefaring enemy Dracons isn’t going well, and you’ve enlisted to join the fight. In the cockpit of your space fighter, you toggle between your flight computer (where you can find and set a course for Dracon attack groups on the map, or helpful starbases where you can replenish and repair your ship) and the direct view ahead when you engage in combat. The Dracons throw a lot of firepower at you, but your own torpedoes have a longer “reach” than their ammo. Your ship can take a pounding in a firefight, gradually eliminating your shields, your targeting ability, and even your weapons. The game is over when you can’t withdraw for repairs and are destroyed by the Dracons. (Arcadia, 1982)

See the videoThe Game: In 1982, an assemblage of former Atari programmers, along with a few hand-picked rookie programmers, started their own third-party video game venture. To be in that market at that time, however, one had to make games for the Atari 2600, and the Arcadia programmers’ game concepts outstripped that machine’s software. Not to be slowed down by that minor problem, Arcadia introduced a new piece of hardware along with its first game. The Supercharger more than doubled the 2600’s RAM, and had the beneficial side effect of allowing Arcadia to avoid the costly practice of having cartridge casings made; instead of cartridges, the Supercharger loaded its enhanced games from cassette tape, usually in under 30 seconds. Continue reading

Phoenix

PhoenixSee the videoThe Game: In a heavily armed space fighter, your job is pretty simple – ward off wave after wave of bird-like advance fighters and Phoenix creatures until you get to the mothership, and then try to blow that to smithereens. All of which would be simple if not for the aliens’ unpredictable kamikaze dive-bombing patterns. The Phoenix creatures themselves are notoriously difficult to kill, requiring a direct hit in the center to destroy them – otherwise they’ll grow back whatever wings you managed to pick off of them and come back even stronger. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: A very good translation, this. Atari’s edition of Phoenix opted to skimp a little on the graphics of the arcade original (which, truthfully, weren’t that elaborate to begin with) and concentrated more on duplicating the maddeningly random attacks of the enemy birds from its coin-op forebear. The result is an extremely playable, addictive slice of the arcade right in your living room. Continue reading

Pick Axe Pete!

Pick Axe Pete!The Game: As Pete, you start out in the center of a multi-tiered mine – not at the bottom – and your boulder-smashing pick axe begins to deteriorate after about one minute. Then you either have to jump over or duck under the See the videoSee the TV adonslaught of falling rocks, or you’re toast. Falling to the lower levels won’t kill you, if you time it just right so as not to land right in the middle of an avalanche. When two boulders collide, they can uncover treasures such as a fresh pick axe or, more importantly, a key to the next level. As you progress through the levels, one horizontal space is deleted somewhere on the screen at random, progressing on until you have a death-trap of open space where rocks can bounce right up into your face. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: As far as this gamer was concerned, Pick Axe Pete! was the greatest game ever created for the Odyssey 2. Far from your typical arcade adaptation, you can get further in this game by short stretches of furious action when you’ve got an axe to grind and then waiting patiently for the key to the next level to arrive. Continue reading

Pitfall!

Pitfall!Buy this gameThe Game: As Pitfall Harry, you’re exploring the deepest jungle in search of legendary lost treasures, whether they be above ground, hidden strategically next to inescapable tar pits or ponds infested with hungry gators, or in the underground catacombs under the guard of deadly scorpions. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: Pitfall! – subtitled The Adventures of Pitfall Harry – was the first blockbuster title from Activision, a software house formed by four former Atari programmers. Activision consistently turned out addictively playable and – bearing in
See the original TV adSee the videomind the 2600’s graphic limitations – gorgeous games. After all, Activision’s core gamesmiths knew the Atari 2600 hardware better than anyone, and were able to avoid such common, erm, pitfalls as flickering sprites and big, clunky pixels. Continue reading

Pooyan

PooyanThe Game: You’re a mama pig trying to prevent her adorable piglets from becoming a side of bacon for a pack of big bad wolves. First, you try to shoot down as many wolves as they try to parachute to safety with balloons, and then you have to prevent them from rising back up again, because if they do, they’re going to push a big rock right off a cliff and on top of you. (Konami, 1982)

Memories: For some unfathomable reason, the Atari 2600 cartridge of Pooyan is incredibly rare and valuable. Not that it isn’t a decent game, mind you; for Konami’s first entry into the home video game arena, Pooyan was a very good effort. Continue reading

P.T. Barnum’s Acrobats!

P.T. Barnum's Acrobats!The Game: You control an acrobat on a moving see-saw, launching your fellow acrobat into the air to pop balloons and defy gravity in an act that would’ve done old Barnum proud! But what goes up must come down, and your See the videoairborne acrobat, if he doesn’t bounce upward upon impact with more balloons, will plummet at alarming speed. You have to catch him with the empty end of the see-saw, thus catapulting the other acrobat into a fresh round of inflatible destruction. (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: Another variation on the timeless Breakout formula, this game represented one of the Odyssey2’s first ventures into an area which most other home video game systems had already entered: licensing. Continue reading

Parsec

ParsecThe Game: You control a space patrol fighter cruising over the surface of a planet. Alien attackers swarm on the right side of the screen and strafe you, and you must get out of the way of their laser fire and return some of your own; the more enemy ships you allow to safely leave the screen, the more you’ll have to deal with when they re-enter from the right side of the screen. Avoid their fire, avoid colliding with them, and avoid slamming into the ground, and you might just live long enough to repel the invasion. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: This fun little side-scrolling shooter, very much along the lines of Defender, Scramble or Cosmic Avenger, is a showcase for the TI99/4A’s graphics capability. The spaceships are fine line art in motion, and the ground especially is crisp and rich with detail, including Texas Instruments and Parsec logos carved out of the landscape. Continue reading

Princess & Frog 8K

Princess & FrogThe Game: You’re a frog who has a hot date with the princess in the castle. But in order to reach her, you’ll have to cross four lanes of jousting knight traffic – avoiding the knights’ horses and lances – and then you’ll have to cross the moat on the backs of snakes and alligators, all without ending up in the drink when See the videothey submerge. (There’s also occasionally a lady frog you can hook up with en route to the castle; apparently this whole thing with the princess doesn’t have any guarantee of exclusivity.) When you reach the castle, you can hop into any open window, but if you see a pair of lips in that window, that’s where the princess is. (Romox, 1982)

Memories: It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Romox’s Princess & Frog is, in fact, a cut-rate Frogger clone. And it really doesn’t even bother to change the game play at all – Princess & Frog is to Frogger what the arcade ripoff Pirhana was to Pac-Man: it tries to get by with changing the graphics and nothing else. Continue reading

Pac ‘N’ Pal

Pac 'N' PalThe Game: Once again, you are a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, maneuvering around a relatively simple maze. But this time, you have a Pal! A little round green Pal who is here just to help you. (Pal appears to be wearing a little bow, so there’s no indication of whether or not Ms. Pac-Man knows about See the videoBuy this gamePac-Man’s pal…) Those four pesky monsters are back. This time, the handful of treats in each maze is locked away behind doors vaguely reminiscent of Super Pac-Man. These doors can be unlocked by munching one of the cards lying around the maze. Fruit will score points for you, but if you eat one of the two Galaxians in each maze, Pac-Man is briefly imbued with a super shout which stuns the monsters for a little while. The only problem? Pac’s Pal will grab the fruit or the Galaxians and…very slowly…get around to bringing it to him. Sometimes this helps – Pal is impervious to the monsters, and there are no power pellets to help Pac-Man this time – but sometimes Pal dimwittedly marches your much-needed Galaxian right into the middle of the monsters, making it inaccessible. (Bally/Midway, 1983)

Memories: Possibly the most bizarre entry in the Pac-Man series, this game is a little bit confusing…and is, perhaps, the final indication that Bally/Midway and Namco had gone to the Pac-Man well one too many times. By this time, the only resemblance the latest Pac-game bore to the original were the elements of Pac-Man, the monsters, and the maze. And don’t even ask where Pal came from. I haven’t a clue. Continue reading

Phozon

PhozonThe Game: You control a “Chemic,” a free-floating object while can adhese itself to passing Moleks, but is vulnerable to the Atomic. Within a limited amount of time (charted by a meter at the bottom of the screen), gather and repulse Moleks around your Chemic until you’ve duplicated the example shape shown in the center of Buy this gamethe screen. Beware of the Atomic, however – it will not only become more aggressive in its deceptively aimless wanderings, but it can also separate into its own component molecules – and regather its shape right in your path. It also shoots, in later levels, energy that can dislodge Moleks from the Chemic’s pattern. You advance through the game by successfully duplicating the sample shape – and surviving the Atomic’s attacks. (Namco, 1983)

Memories: If someone pinned me up against the wall and demanded that I name my favorite coin-op manufacturer – and I’ll admit that this isn’t terribly likely to happen – I’d have to say Namco. They brought us such immortal and inexplicably (and insanely) fun games as Pac-Man, Mappy, Dig Dug, Galaga, Motos, Pole Position and Warp Warp – to name just a few. Among these popular titles are games so indescribably weird that they almost defy description, but I have to hand Namco the prize for sheer conceptual brilliance. Phozon, more obscure than any of the games mentioned above (even moreso than Motos, which is pretty esoteric itself), may well be the first video game ever to concern itself with molecular bonding. Continue reading

Pole Position II

Pole Position IIThe Game: So, you survived the qualifying lap and the big race in Pole Position and you’re ready to move on to bigger and better challenges? Well okay then. Now, in addition to the Fuji track, there are others to choose from – Buy this gamethe simple oval of the Test track, and the elaborate (and sometimes deadly) curves of the Seaside and Wonder tracks. As before, going over the shoulder isn’t a good thing – nor is crawling up the tailpipe of the cars in front of you, for the explosions in this game are even more spectacular than those of its predecessor. (Atari [under license from Namco], 1983)

Memories: Namco knows a thing or two about decent sequels, having given us such classics as Galaga (the sequel to Galaxian), Dig Dug 2 and the obscure Hopping Mappy. Pole Position II‘s controls are even more responsive, the graphics more fluid and realistic, and the explosions? Well, let’s put it this way – Pole Position kills you with a nice big explosion. Pole Position II throws debris. Continue reading

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