Turtles

3-D computer rendering of Turtles cabinetThe Game: You are the Mama Turtle. Your helpless KidTurtles are stuck in a high-rise building, hiding from mean and hungry beetles. The beetles change colors in accordance with their speed and ferocity, from less aggressive green and blue beetles to fast, furious yellow and red beetles. Mama Turtle has to evade the beetles (which are deadly to touch at all times) and touch the mystery squares See the videothroughout the maze. The squares could reveal another beetle, or they could reveal one of the KidTurtles. When Mama Turtle picks up a KidTurtle, a safe house appears – usually all the way across the maze – and she must deposit the KidTurtles in the safe house, one at a time. Mama Turtle’s only recourse against the beetles is to lay “bombs” in the maze. Each bomb – and there can only be one on screen at a time – will reduce the first beetle that hits it back to the lowest speed/danger level, buying Mama Turtle a little time. (Mama Turtle can pass over her own bombs harmlessly.) The catch? You only start out with three bombs (is anyone else drawing some grim biological anologies to what Mama Turtle’s “bombs” might be at this point?), and you can replenish your supply of bombs only by running over an occasional flashing symbol which appears at the precise center of the maze…which is usually the most dangerous spot on the screen. Clearing a maze of KidTurtles allows you to climb to the next floor of the building and start anew. (Stern [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: Turtles is among the most obscure exponents of the maze chase format to hit the arcade in the early ’80s. I think I saw – maybe – one Turtles arcade game in my life, and it was only there for a few weeks. Actually, though, it’s not a bad game. Continue reading

Threshold

ThresholdThe Game: A lone space pilot is faced with the impossible task of fending off an entire alien invasion force single-handedly. Colliding with either the aliens or their decidedly unfriendly fire costs the player a ship. Clearing the screen of aliens only reveals a further wave of extraterrestrial killing machines. (Tigervision, 1982)

Memories: Tiger Electronics‘ entry into the increasingly crowded Atari VCS arena had a bit of an insurance policy: Tiger had made a deal with Sierra (then known as On-Line Systems) to port some of the company’s home computer hits to the console market. Threshold had a unique place in Sierra history: its programmer, Warren Schwader, was the company’s first employee from “outside the family” (all of the company’s previous products had been programmed by its founders, the husband-and-wife team of Ken and Roberta Williams). Continue reading

Tron Deadly Discs

Tron Deadly DiscsThe Game: You are Tron, a lone video game warrior pitted against three other enemies with much greater armament. You can take a number of hits before you’re “de-rezzed” out of existence, but those hits can pile up pretty quickly. By throwing your disc at certain portions of the arena wall and changing them to the same color as your on-screen character, you can make tunnels for yourself – not unlike the side tunnels in Pac-Man – handy for escape or ambush. (M Network [Mattel], 1982)

Memories: Though it only corresponds to a very brief scene in the movie Tron, Deadly Discs is a very addictive game – and quite a bit of fun, actually! Continue reading

Tron Maze-a-Tron

Tron Maze-a-TronThe Game: You are Flynn, the hero of the movie Tron. In phase one of the game, you navigate a maze of circuitry, avoiding Recognizers, and trying to, as the manual puts it, “gather zeroes to clear the RAM chips.” In phase two, you’re up against the Master Control Program itself, and you can beat it by matching pairs of numbers in the “bit stream” to pairs in the nearby “bit stack”…or something like that. (Mattel, 1982)

Memories: Maze-a-Tron never got around to impressing me. The rule book is thicker than I could imagine the program would be, and the needlessly complicated game play really doesn’t inspire me to come back for more. And in a way, it almost seems like a game that had little to do with Tron, but was barely similar enough that it merited the grafting-on of elements such as the MCP and the Recognizers from the movie, and voila, instant licensed product. Continue reading

Tron Solar Sailer

Tron Solar SailerThe Game: In the third and final game of the trilogy of Intellivision games based on the movie Tron, you’re piloting the solar sailer vehicle stolen by Tron and Yori about 2/3 of the way through the movie. You ride the light beams through the digital realm, avoiding deadly (but dumb) grid bugs and pursuing Recognizers. You can fire weapons at both of the above, but doing this and keeping yourself on a clear path is the real challenge. (Mattel, 1982)

Memories: Of any of the Tron games Mattel manufactured for its own Intellivision platform or the Atari 2600, Solar Sailer is probably the one which is most closely related to a scene in the movie. It may also be the hardest. Continue reading

Tron Deadly Discs

Tron Deadly DiscsThe Game: You are Tron, a lone video game warrior pitted against three other enemies with much greater armament. You can take a number of hits before you’re “de-rezzed” out of existence, but those hits can pile up pretty quickly. By throwing your disc at certain portions of the arena wall and changing them to the same color as your on-screen character, you can make tunnels for yourself – not unlike the side tunnels in Pac-Man – handy for escape or ambush. Every so often, however, a Recognizer will enter the arena, send out a force field to attempt to hold Tron immobile, and will close off those exits to restore the odds in favor of the house. If the Recognizer crushes Tron, that’ll end the game as quickly as letting the video warriors blast him repeatedly. (Mattel, 1982)

Print new overlaysMemories: Easily the most playable of the three Intellivision games based on Tron, Deadly Discs was also later ported to the Atari 2600, and despite the nice graphical bells and whistles bestowed upon this edition, it’s the 2600 version of the game which is most playable. Continue reading

Turmoil

TurmoilThe Game: Players pilot a ship trapped in a maze of vertically stacked level, teeming with aliens who are all deadly to the touch. The good news is that the ship has an inexhaustible supply of ammo. The not-so-good news is that the bad guys have an inexhaustible supply of bad guys. Players have to keep the ship from colliding with the enemy, while shooting at the enemy and watching out for split-second opportunities to grab any bonus items that may make a fleeting appearance. Just one word of caution: the prizes turn into smart bombs if you wait too long to go pick them up. (20th Century Fox, 1982)

Memories: Similar in execution to other “vertical shooters” like Ram It!, Turmoil has speed on its side, along with the cruel twist of forcing the player to retrieve bonuses that may blow up in his face. Continue reading

Type & Tell

Type & TellThe Game: You type! It talks! And occasionally you have to throw the damnedest misspellings at it to get it to say the simplest words. And despite the back of the box claiming that it “plays fun games,” it’s much more likely that it’ll just make some fun (and weird) sounds. (Magnavox, 1982)

Memories: A pack-in cartridge included with the Voice of Odyssey 2, Type & Tell is actually a barely-glorified Odyssey version of Speak ‘n’ Spell, except everything it says is in a monotone robotic voice which one of the video game magazines of the time once described as “Darth Vader on quaaludes.” (One of these days, remind me to tell you about my mother’s reaction when I asked her, after reading that review, what quaaludes were.) Continue reading

Turbo

TurboThe Game: It’s pretty straightforward…you’re zipping along in your Formula One race car, trying to avoid other drivers and obstacles along the way while hauling a sufficient quantity of butt to win the race. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1982)

Memories: One of the seminal first-person racing games of the 80s, Turbo was one of several Sega coin-ops that caught the eye of Coleco. The one hurdle in bringing it to the ColecoVision? Having to invent a whole new controller that would be similar enough to Turbo‘s arcade control scheme without being so specific as to rule out using the driving controller for other games in the future. And thus was born Expansion Module #2, a steering wheel controller with a detachable “gas pedal.” Continue reading

Taipan!

Taipan!The Game: The coast of 19th century China could be a dangerous place – pirates lay in wait for passing (and relatively defenseless) ships, and that’s just the obvious danger. The buyer’s and seller’s markets in dry goods, weapons, silk and opium could pose just as much of a hazard to an independent trader’s finances. And then See the videothere’s Li Yuen’s protection racket… (Avalanche Productions [designed by Art Canfil], 1982)

Memories: One of the first trading strategy games I ever encountered, Taipan! has been a favorite of mine for something like 20 years. When I played it as just one of many games in an all-day weekend screen grab-o-rama, I found myself playing the thing for hours. Continue reading

Telengard

TelengardThe Game: Using primitive text-based graphics, Telengard books for you a no-expenses-paid vacation through dungeons and hallways full of orcs and other nasties. If you can map the twisty passages, you might just make it back to the Adventurers’ Inn to claim your newfound experience points and heal from your many battles…and if you get lost? There are other inns out there – and many painful ends as well. (Avalon Hill, 1982)

Memories: Telengard was my introduction to computer-based adventure RPGs. I was already one foot into the Dungeons & Dragons world at the time, though truthfully some of the people I played those pencil-and-paper-and-dice RPGs with scared me. Some of them – not all of them, by any means, but a few – tackled these games with enough intensity to make a kid nervous. Continue reading

Tron

TronThe Game: Up to two players control light cycles that leave a solid light trail in their wake. The object of the game is to trap the other player by surrounding them with a light trail that they can’t avoid crashing into – or forcing them to run into their own trail. Coming into contact with a light trail, either yours or the other player’s, collapses your own trail and ends your turn. The player still standing at the end of the round wins. (“Ivan”, circa 1982)

Memories: The Apple II software library is as huge as it is because of games like this. It’s a safe bet that “Ivan” didn’t charge for his simple tribute to Tron‘s light cycle scenes; if anyone did charge for it, “Ivan” – whoever he was – probably didn’t see a dime of that. (And even if “Ivan” did try to sell his game, it was probably on such a local basis that Disney never heard of it.) Tron is a homebrew, from an age when nearly every Apple user’s library had at least a few homebrews in it. Continue reading

Tunnels Of Doom

Tunnels Of DoomThe Game: A party of up to four adventurers descends into the depths of a dungeon to recover their kidnapped king and find his magical orb. Along the way, the band of intrepid adventurers will have to fight off everything from See the videopacks of wild dogs to evil creatures determined to bring the quest to an early end. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: I remember seeing this game at a friend’s house right after it came out, and feeling the whole world changing around me. Up until now, I’d been playing the same games on computers that I’d been playing on my consoles, except they looked and sometimes even sounded better. But Tunnels Of Doom, with its obvious nods to Dungeons & Dragons, was a whole dfferent animal. Here was a game that the consoles couldn’t handle. Here was a real live Computer Game. 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

Tapper

TapperSee the videoThe Game: As a beleaguered bartender, you have to serve drinks to an endless onslaught of bar patrons, never allowing them to reach the end of the bar. You must also pick up empty glasses as they slide back toward you, and you can also grab a tip whenever one briefly appears. Clearing the screen of all pixellated hardened drinkers takes you to the next screen, and other scenarios, including outdoor sporting events. (Bally/Midway, 1983)

Memories: Tapper was easily one of the most controversial games of its time. Originally conceived as a game which would be sold only to bars, it was also one of the first video game product placements for something other than a movie (i.e. Atari’s Star Wars and Bally/Midway’s own wildly successful Tron). Midway’s marketing department approached Budweiser about the possibility of sponsoring the game, in exchange for which the Bud logo would be ubiquitous on the game’s artwork and in its on-screen graphics. Continue reading

Tropical Angel

Tropical AngelThe Game: You’re a water-skiing bikini babe who’s trying to stay above water; the problem is that the water’s full of rocks that can cause you to take a painful tumble if you hit them, and the even bigger problem is that the guy driving the boat that’s pulling you along seems to have it in for you! The boat seems to be deliberately See the videotrying to pull you into harm’s way, and only fast joystick work and a sharp eye will keep you from winding up on the rocks. (IREM, 1983)

Memories: Man, whoever’s pulling that boat is just a misanthropic jerk. If you imagine that there’s a Tron-like world beyond the screen, I can only hope that the bathing-suited honey in this game finds herself a better boat driver after the game’s over. Continue reading

Track & Field

Track & FieldBuy this gameThe Game: It’s time for the 1984 Olympics! Qualify and compete in such events as the 100-meter dash, the long jump, javelin throw, and the shot-put. (Konami, 1983)

Memories: Though the above summary of Track & Field may seem unjustly short, that really summed up the game, which was actually quite fun, especially if you could get a second player to compete against you at the same time. Very rarely have I given a sports game the time of day unless it was a good one (such as Atari’s Pole Position) or a game so goofy that it transcended its genre (i.e. the hilarious Odyssey2 Computer Golf! cartridge). Track & Field was a true rarity – a decent sports game. Continue reading

Tac-Scan

Tac-ScanThe Game: Commanding a fleet of ships, you use their combined firepower to wipe out an onslaught of alien ships (which, perhaps not at all surprisingly, are firing back at you). It only takes one hit to lose one of your own fleet, and when your fleet is completely wiped out, the game is over. Until then, do as much damage to the enemy armada as you can. (Sega, 1983)

Memories: I always had a certain fascination for the arcade game that inspired this somewhat hard-to-find 2600 cartridge, but it seems to have lost something in the translation…oh yes, the split-second control required to play the bloody thing, that’s it. Somewhere in the definition of “frustration” must be “playing Tac-Scan on the Atari 2600.” Continue reading

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