Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The ApesThe Game: It’s not a good idea being a human on Earth of the future, in a world ruled ruthlessly by intelligent, verbose, violent apes. Or, in this case, persistent, pixellated apes. The player controls a hunted human trying to stay out of the apes’ damn dirty paws. If the human falls into the apes’ hands, an indelicate lobotomy is probably the best treatment he can expect. (20th Century Fox, 1983)

Memories: This is the story of a prototype that was rumored for many years, and with the popularity of the film and TV franchise, it was the subject of much speculation. Little did ardent collectors of unreleased VCS games know that the game was right under their noses the whole time… thanks to being mislabeled. Continue reading

Power Lords: Quest For Volcan

Power Lords: Quest For VolcanThe Game: As superhero Adam Power, you’re the pilot of a space sled on patrol around the explosive Volcan Rock, and what better cover for the bad guys? An enormous laser-eyed space serpent is coiled around the mountain, and you have to take it down single-handedly. Once See the videoyou’ve baked the snake, you land your sled on the surface and have a shootout with Gryptogg, Raygoth and Arkus. Once you’ve beaten them back, you can explore the underground caverns, collecting their instruments of evil and exchanging fire with them again. When you escape from their maze, you advance to the next level and begin the fight anew. (North American Philips / Probe 2000, 1983 – unreleased)

Memories: This Colecovision adaptation of the Odyssey2 game (now there’s a phrase you’re never going to see again), based on a less-than-blockbuster-successful series of comics and action figures, adds more depth to the game than the dear old Odyssey ever could’ve managed. But it’s hard to tell how much depth, as the game was never completed. Continue reading

Pac-Land

Pac-LandThe Game: In a total break with any and all previous Pac-Man games, Pac-Land puts the yellow one onscreen as a very good homage to the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon based on the original game, complete with the show’s bubbly theme song. You wander down the streets of Pac-Land, avoiding those nasty Ghost Monsters and hoping to find Power Pellets, all before your time runs out for that phase of your journey. Ghost Monsters may attack from the ground, or try to bomb you from the air; either way, chomping a Power Pellet will relieve them of their altitude and put them on the run. You may have to jump over them or duck under them until then – and be very careful in the forest, where Ghost Monsters may lurk behind trees. (Bally/Midway [under license from Namco], 1984)

Buy this gameMemories: It may have been well-drawn and animated, but Pac-Land really stuck out like a sore thumb to me – in hindsight, it was more like Super Mario Bros. than Pac-Man. Still, for those few of us who initially liked the Saturday morning cartoon, this game was a lovingly crafted valentine to the TV version of Pac-Man – a very roundabout example of a video game inspired by a licensing spin-off inspired by a video game. Continue reading

Pirate Ship Higemaru

Pirate Ship HigemaruThe Game: Pirates have boarded your ship, and it’s up to you to defend the whole boat. Evade the pirates in the twisty mazes of barrels and treasures in the cargo deck, or pick up one of those barrels and brain the nearest pirate with it. Be careful – some pirates hide inside the barrels, and it’s instant death to pick up See the videoBuy this gamean “occupied” barrel and not back off quickly. Some containers reveal a treasure when you pick them up, and you can go back and grab the treasures for bonus points. Clear the deck of pirates to advance to the next level and start again. (Capcom, 1984)

Memories: Not released in the United States, Pirate Ship Higemaru is a nice little riff on the basic concept of Pengo. You can move the components of the “maze”around as you wish, or use those same components to dispose of enemies. Since the procedure for doing this in Higemaru is a bit more complicated than Pengo, there’s actually a training round that must be completed before the game truly begins – but it’s not risk-free, and you can actually lose a life in training! (I guess the message is that if you can’t get past the training screen, please let someone else put a coin in the machine and defend the boat.) Continue reading

Pitfall II: Lost Caverns

Pitfall IIBuy this gameThe Game: As famed treasure-hunter Pitfall Harry, you’re delving deep into the Lost Caverns, which are loaded with Incan treasures beyond compare – or so they say. But the vast subterranean chambers are also full of dangers – bats, poisonous frogs, electric eels, and huge chasms. Touching any one of these creatures will force you to retreat to the last base camp you See the videoestablished, and you’ll lose points every second until you get back there. The only way to win the game is to find your way back to the surface after recovering all of the treasures of the Lost Caverns – and to do this, you won’t be able to go back the way you came. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: This was the best game ever created for the Atari 2600, hands-down. Continue reading

Pitstop

PitstopThe Game: A day at the races is just another day at the office for you. Pick from a variety of tracks and difficulty levels and try to achieve maximum speed…with a minimum of collisions. (Epyx, 1984)

See the videoMemories: Not quite as pretty as Turbo, Pitstop is a port of a game that Epyx had already made popular on the Atari home computers and the Commodore 64. Though the crash was in full swing by now, Epyx seemed to be hedging its bets by producing console games for the Colecovision and the Atari 2600. But graphically, and in terms of smooth game play, Turbo wins the race ahead of Pitstop in just about every area – and it’s all about control. Continue reading

Park Patrol

Park PatrolThe Game: Swimmers and snakes and turtles, oh my! Help patrol your beach by picking up litter and saving drowning swimmers while avoiding snakes, sharp sticks, and other obstacles. You’ll need to be quick on your feet (and in your innertube) to succeed! (Activision, 1984)

Memories: In Activision’s Park Patrol, you play the role of a litter-collecting park ranger. Your goal is to keep your lakefront property clean by picking up litter (cans and bottles). To do that you’ll need to use your handy-dandy motorized raft to pick up the trash floating in the lake, and run as quickly as possible to clean up debris lying on the shore itself. 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 (10 points) and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots (50 points) enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters Buy this gamefor a brief period for an escalating score (200, 400, 800 and 1600 points). 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… (Tengen, 1985)

Memories: You’ve gotta hand it to Atari – back in the day, they were the experts at exploiting a license until just about every possible option was exhausted. They were also quite adept at staying on the map – up to a point. Where this title might have been released by Atarisoft only a year or two earlier, Atari set up a new imprint – Tengen – to create and market games for the NES. By virtue of Atari’s existing license with Namco, Tengen threrefore produced the first NES port of Pac-Man, and Namco later released its own. (It’s worth noting that the Namco-Atari connection – forged in the late 70s when Namco distributed Atari arcade games in Japan – wasn’t history just yet; Atari later handled the American release of Namco’s Pac-Mania coin-op.) Continue reading

Project Space Station

Project Space StationThe Game: You are the administrator of NASA. Your goal? To launch the necessary components of a full-scale space station, assemble them in orbit, and initiate and maintain any number of commercial or medical research projects aboard your orbital laboratory. You will also be in charge of launching satellites for commercial and military clients. As fun as all of these activities may sound, they don’t come without a price tag. The cost for everything from necessary space hardware, to time spent in the planning stages, to launches and landings, to maintaining the bare essentials of survival in orbit, will reach into the billions of dollars…if you’re good at this game. (HESware, 1985)

Memories: An incredibly fun and very complex game, Project Space Station is a SimCity-style simulation with elements that appeal to almost anyone, including arcade-style action screens. But there are also aspects of the game – such as the budgeting screen (left) – that can best be appreciated by older players. Continue reading

Pac-Mania

Pac-ManiaThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around relatively simple mazes, gobbling small dots and evading five colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, Buy this gamelarger dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. 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 you clear the maze of dots, you advance to a new maze and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atari Games [under license from Namco], 1987)

Memories: I still refer to this game, only half-jokingly, as Paxxon. It resembles nothing so much as classic Pac-Man played from Zaxxon‘s three-quarter overhead view. The only real game play innovation brought about by this vaguely 3-D perspective is Pac’s new ability to jump over monsters, though even this escape method has some bizarre physics: if Pac takes to the air as he’s going around a corner, he will still go around the corner, only airborne. Don’t ask me how that works! Continue reading

Pole Position

Pole PositionThe 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 See the videomiss out on the subsequent race. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: Pole Position has suffered a few indignities before; an arcade game that was a huge evolution for first-person racing and boasted stellar graphics is bound to hit a few speed bumps on the drive home. But the Intellivision version of Pole Position is a gigantic pothole that’s likely to relieve most players of their drive to recreate the arcade experience. Continue reading

Pole Position II

Pole Position IIThe Game: It’s your big chance to qualify for the big race at one of four tracks: the oval test track, Seaside, Suzuka, and the Mt. Fuji track from the original Pole Position. First, you try to get through the qualifying heat, racking up laps around the track as fast you can and accumulating as few wrecks as possible. If you pass muster, then you get to try it again with other cars on the track! (Atari, 1984; released circa 1987)

Memories: Until the Namco Museum series came along for the Playstation, featuring true emulation of the original arcade code and graphics, this is as close as we were going to get to the finesse of an arcade Pole Position game at home – at it wasn’t too far off the mark. Continue reading

Pete Rose Baseball

Pete Rose BaseballThe Game: Batter up! We’re live from the baseball diamond with TV sports-style camera angles that switch to show you where the action is. (Absolute, 1988)

See the videoMemories: An extremely late entry for the 2600, I’d wager that this NES-era baseball game is actually one of the better attempts to bring the sport to Atari’s aging hardware. While I’m still not sure what Pete Rose has to do with this video game, you can bet it delivers a good baseball experience. Continue reading

Pac-Mania

Pac-ManiaThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around relatively simple mazes, gobbling small dots and evading five colorful monsters See the videowho can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, larger dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. 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 you clear the maze of dots, you advance to a new maze and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Tengen, 1990)

Memories: Having watched its own home video game unit fall into obsolescence with the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari Games – the original Atari’s arcade division, spun off into its own entity after the Tramiel family split the company – quietly started a new subsidiary to begin mining the NES market. This new division, Tengen, produced only a few games – and in so doing, wound up in big trouble with Nintendo. Continue reading

Pepenga Pengo

Pepenga PengoThe Game: Pengo the penguin is trapped in an ice maze with seals, walking snowmen and other predators. Pengo can defeat his enemies by pushing ice blocks toward them, crushing them in the process. Pengo can also create new ice blocks via some biological process that’s perhaps best left unexplored (and if he doesn’t leave the spot where he generates ice blocks immediately after starting that process, he’ll be temporarily frozen to that spot); those blocks can also become ammo in a pinch. Treats such as dollar signs and popsicles – both valuable commidities to penguins – appear from time to time. Defeating all enemies on a given level advances Pengo to the next screen. (Sega, 1995, for Japanese market only)

Memories: Released only for the Sega Mega Drive (the Japanese equivalent of the Genesis console), Pepenga Pengo is a nice update of the original, not only enhancing the graphics but including new game play elements that don’t “break the universe” of the original. Continue reading

Pipe Dreams 3D

Pipe Dreams 3DBuy this gameThe Game: Let’s get one thing straight – flooze is bad. Flooze is green, smelly and toxic, and you don’t want to spill any of it. You’re in charge of building a maze of pipes around various obstacles to carry the flooze from its point of origin to a drain that appears at a predetermined time, or when certain objectives have been met (such as running the flooze under a series of floating stars, or getting it to cross a bridge). As with other great puzzle games like Tetris, you can’t just build a great drainage system for the flooze – you’re stuck with whatever pieces are next in the random rotation. You do get a look at the next four pieces in the pipeline – literally – so you can plan ahead strategically. If you fail to keep a continuous run of pipe going, the flooze spills out, costing you points and eventually a life. (Empire Interactive, 2000 – for Playstation)

Memories: Essentially a bit of a rethink of Loco Motion, Pipe Dreams for the NES dispensed with the sliding-tile-puzzle basis of the game and substituted a very Tetris-esque random assortment in its place. The game was still maddeningly fun, and for its revival on the Playstation, not much was changed – just a somewhat gratuitous 3D view of the playing field. Continue reading

Pac-Man Collection

Pac-Man CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Namco raids the archives once more, offering up arcade-perfect handheld adaptations of Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, one of the first-ever home versions of Pac-Man Arrangement, and the Tetris knock-off Pac-Attack. (Namco, 2001)

Memories: Namco has offered some dandy attempts at bringing Pac-Man home from the arcades. They tried with the premiere volume of the Namco Museum series for the Playstation, which suffered from having its display savagely reduced in size to include a lame bitmapped version of the original side art. They tried again with the Game Boy Color version of Pac-Man, and got damn close. Even their battery-powered 5-in-1 TV Game is close enough for government work. But I’ll be gobbled by a quartet of colorful blobs if this ain’t the closest thing this side of MAME to real live honest-to-God Pac-Man. Continue reading

Pac-Man Vs.

Pac-Man Vs.The Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, one player maneuvers around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters, up to three of which are controlled by his fellow players, who can eat Pac-Man on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots enable Pac-Man to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period of time. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and Pac-Man can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to the chase. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster. The game continues until a preset target score is reached, or until Pac-Man is caught by one of the monsters; the player controlling that monster is then handed the Game Boy Advance to take over Pac-Man’s role. (Namco, 2003 – for Nintendo Gamecube)

Memories: Let me just come right out and say that I have a bit of bias toward this game. Pac-Man is an all-time favorite of mine, the very reason I’m still as into video games now as I was 20+ years ago. You just can’t go wrong with Pac-Man – well, then again, maybe you can. In recent years, the character has gotten to star in a series of platform quest games, boldly going where Mario and Luigi have already gone before plenty of times themselves. As much fun as the original Pac-Man World could be, that game’s killer app was still, undoubtedly, that it could play the original arcade Pac-Man, or a slightly 3-D remake of it in “maze mode.” There hasn’t been a really good use of the Pac franchise in years – until now. Continue reading

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