The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw MassacreThe Game: You’re Leatherface, the notorious killer, and your job is pretty simple: track down those meddling teenagers (a See the videoprerequisite for every horror flick) and slice ‘n’ dice them with your chainsaw. Simple enough, right? It would be if not for obstacles that block your path (some of which you can also dispose of with your chainsaw), and the fact that – get this – these kids scream and run away from you. The nerve! But you can sever that nerve, and all the others, with your chainsaw…at least until it runs out of fuel. (Wizard, 1983)

Memories: Wizard Games was a short-lived outfit that sprang up during that fleeting, fertile window of time when it seemed like anyone could make a mint doing Atari 2600 games – or at least everyone thought they could. With this and a similar game based on John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween (in which the player tried to escape from killer Michael Myers), Wizard put itself on the map instantly. Not with great games, mind you, but with pure controversy: at the time, these games were decried for gore and violence! Continue reading

Threshold

ThresholdThe Game: Players control a space fighter on patrol as alien attack fleets gather in deep space. Always keeping a wary eye on his ship’s fuel and laser temperature, would-be space heroes must blow away every alien ship on the screen before collecting the reward – See the videonamely, the privelege of blowing away another wave of alien attackers. (Sierra On-Liine, 1983)

Memories: Another of Sierra’s early forays into non-computer game software via its “Sierravision” imprint, Threshold admittedly fills a gap in the Colecovision library – that system somehow managed to avoid accumulating heaps of slide-and-shoot Space Invaders derivatives. But it doesn’t do it particularly well, as Threshold is simply a watered-down Colecovision edition of Astro Blaster. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was a time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through See the original TV addozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: As well-intentioned as Coleco’s translation of the Centuri-licensed Konami classic was, and even as powerful as the ColecoVision is, it wasn’t quite up to the challenge of Time Pilot. Continue reading

Time Pilot

Time PilotThe Game: You’re flying solo through the fourth dimension! In what must be the least subtle time-traveling intervention since the last time there was See the videoa time travel episode on Star Trek: Voyager, you’re blasting your way through dozens of aircraft from 1940 through 1982. From WWII-era prop planes, to Vietnam-era helicopters, to 1982, where you confront jet fighters with the same maneuverability as your plane, you’re in for quite a wild ride. Rescue parachutists and complete the level by destroying “boss” craft such as heavy planes and dirigibles. (Coleco, 1983)

Memories: Coleco‘s home version of Time Pilot for the Atari 2600 is one of the company’s better arcade ports for that machine, and yet so much of what made the arcade game such a memorable experience was left behind. I can accept the watering-down of the game’s graphics, especially when an effort was obviously made to keep them flicker-free – an impressive feat for this game. But some of what’s left out includes the game’s very objectives. Continue reading

Trans-American Rally

Trans-American RallyThe Game: The Videopac puts you in the driver’s seat for a cross-country race. Avoid other cars and obstacles and stay on the road; hitting too many oncoming vehicles causes you to forfeit the See the videorace. (Philips, 1983)

Memories: A surprising game on the Videopac G7400+ (the European equivalent of the cancelled Odyssey3 console), Trans-American Rally is an example of a game done almost entirely in the “extended” graphics set. The only hints of the original Odyssey2/Videopac fixed graphics set is the use of the old “triangle” elements to draw the road and to draw any unchanging areas of solid colors (such as the desert on either side of the road). The rest of the graphics are done entirely in the “plus” graphics, and the game looks surprisingly good for anything running on the Videopac platform: it’s on a par with many a TI 99/4a game. Continue reading

Turtles!

Turtles!The Game: As the mama turtle, you trundle around a simple maze, pursued by nasty bugs which are lethal to the touch. You can drop bombs in their path, which will reduce their speed (and this device really does beg all sorts of biological See the videodouble-entendrès, doesn’t it?). Your mission is to visit the isolated cul-de-sacs in the maze – which in itself can lead to your turtle getting trapped – to retrieve your eggs and take them to safe houses dotted around the maze. If you visit the wrong place at the wrong time, you’ll wind up with not an egg, but a new bug hot on your heels. Getting all your turtle eggs to safety takes you to the next level, and eventually everything winds up moving so fast, you haven’t got a chance. (North American Philips [under license from Stern], 1983)

Memories: This simple rendition of an extremely obscure Stern arcade game has to rank as one of the most addictive Odyssey 2 games ever made, and it quickly puts the lie to the common misconception that the Odyssey would have been useless for home versions of arcade games anyway. Continue reading

Tutankham

TutankhamThe Game: As an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer, you’re exploring King Tut’s catacombs, which are populated by a variety of killer bugs, birds, and other nasties. You’re capable of firing left and right, but not vertically – so any oncoming See the videothreats from above or below must be outrun or avoided. Warp portals will instantly whisk you away to other parts of the maze (though this doesn’t necessarily mean safer). Gathering all of the treasures and keys will allow you to open the vault at the end of each level…which leads to the next, and even more difficult level. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: If there was a better home version of this arcade sleeper hit to emerge during the 1980s, I haven’t seen it yet. Parker Brothers’ Colecovision edition of Tutankham does everything a good console port of a coin-op should do – it brings the game play, as well as the audiovisual elements, home – and this version does it in spades. It looks like it, it sounds like it, and it plays like it. Continue reading

Tutankham

TutankhamThe Game: As an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer, you’re exploring King Tut’s catacombs, which are populated by a variety of killer bugs, birds, and other nasties. You’re capable of firing left and right, but not vertically – so any oncoming threats from above or below must be outrun or avoided. Warp portals will instantly whisk you away to other parts of the maze (though this doesn’t necessarily mean safer). Gathering all of the treasures and keys will allow you to open the vault at the end of each level…which leads to the next, and even more difficult level. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

See the TV adMemories: Something is almost always lost in the translation from the arcade to the much simpler processor of the Atari VCS, and here, what got lost was the fine visual grain that differentiated Tutankham from other maze games in the first place. Once a sufficient number of enemies is on the screen at the same time, a nasty case of sprite flicker plagues the game, and it all just boils down to a kind of non-descript, more tightly-confined version of Berzerk. Which just isn’t that much fun. Continue reading

Tempest

TempestThe Game: As a strangely crablike creature, you scuttle along the rim of an abstract, hollow geometric tube, zapping red bow-tie-ish critters and purple diamond-shaped things which carry them. There are also swirly green things which See the videospin “spikes” like webs, and by the way, you should avoid spikes. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: The above description barely fits this game because it only exists in an unfinished form, with just a few bare essential elements of the game in place. You can shoot stuff and score points, but there isn’t much “game” there – the collision routines don’t exist that would determine whether or not your on-screen flipper “dies” by touching an approaching enemy, or an enemy’s incoming fire for that matter. Continue reading

Tempest

TempestThe Game: As a strangely crablike creature, you scuttle along the rim of an abstract, hollow geometric tube, zapping red bow-tie-ish critters and See the videopurple diamond-shaped things which carry them. There are also swirly green things (swirly thing alert!!) which spin “spikes” like webs, and by the way, you should avoid spikes. (Atari, 1983 – never released)

Memories: This version of Tempest never officially saw the light of day…but in looking at this attempt at a 2600 version of Atari’s own popular vector graphics game, one wonders if the game’s no-show wasn’t an attempt to prevent another turkey of Pac-proportions from marring Atari’s recently-repaired reputation. Continue reading

Tutankham

Tutankham for Odyssey2The Game: As an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer, you’re exploring King Tut’s catacombs, which are populated by a variety of killer bugs, birds, and other nasties. You’re capable of firing left and right, but not vertically – so any oncoming threats from above or below must be outrun or avoided. Warp portals will instantly whisk you away to other parts of the maze (though this doesn’t necessarily mean safer). Gathering all of the treasures and keys will allow you to open the vault at the end of each level…which leads to the next, and even more difficult level. It’s like The Mummy, only much more entertaining. (Parker Brothers, 1983 – unreleased prototype)

See the videoMemories: As far back as 1983, the year that it released four other titles for the Videopac (Europe’s equivalent to the Odyssey2), Parker Brothers had been mentioning other games in development for the system. The Videopac had a wider user base in Europe than the Odyssey2 had in North America, so the support was there. Spider-Man and Tutankham were announced as upcoming titles, and never surfaced as commercial releases. As it turns out, programming was relatively complete on both games, and the EPROM chips holding the work-in-progress versions of each game eventually fell in to the hands of collectors. Appropriately enough, Tutankham was an unearthed treasure. Continue reading

Timber

TimberThe Game: You’re a lumberjack and you’re okay. Your job is to chop down every tree that grows on the screen, without letting the trees fall on you. Birds are sometime dislodged from their nests as you chop down the trees, and they can be collected for additional points. Bears show up and throw beehives at you, which a lucky swing of the axe can destroy before they do any harm, but it’s altogether more likely that, unless dodged, a beehive will knock your lumberjack over and release a swarm of bees with their own sting operation in mind. You advance to the next level by clearing all of the trees in the time alotted; doing so with time to spare earns a bonus from the big boss; occasional bonus screens challenge you to keep your lumberjack from falling off a rolling log. (Midway, 1984)

Memories: One of those offbeat gems that emerged in the ’80s with Midway’s relatively powerful new MCR (Midway Cart Rack) architecture, Timber is a quirky little game that has the unusual advantage of being nothing like any game that preceded it. (It’s hard to think of another game like it that came afterward, for that matter.) Continue reading

Time Pilot ’84

Time Pilot '84The Game: You’re back in the hotseat as the Time Pilot, but this time an even more fearsome breed of ships from the future is after you. The good news is that you have a new weapon at your disposal – guided missiles – but the bad news is that the enemy has them too. Blast enough enemy planes out of the sky and lure their See the videocommand ship out of hiding; if you can survive long enough to blow the missile-spewing command ship to pieces, you’re off to the next level. (Konami, 1984)

Memories: Bearing the deliciously Engrish-esque subtitle “Further into unknown world,” Time Pilot ’84 is a re-interpretation of the original game, with a few more bells and whistles in both the audiovisual and game play departments. Those accustomed to just constantly blasting away with both barrels in the original Time Pilot have to adjust to the proper use of the missile guidance system (don’t waste a missile until your screen paints a viable target), but other than that, it’s the same game with a new coat of paint. Continue reading

Tube Panic

Tube PanicThe Game: You pilot a high-speed starfighter through both open space and narrowly-confined tubes bristling with obstacles and enemies, ranging from scarab-like tanks complete with pincers to tumbling, TIE-fighter-esque ships. Your job is See the videosimple: shoot everything, and don’t collide with anything. Periodically, if you survive long enough, you’ll get to dock with your mothership between stages and refuel, and then you plunge back into battle until all of your ships are lost. (Nichibutsu/Fujitek, 1984)

Memories: If you’re docking with a mothership, it’s gotta be Nichibutsu’s game (see also: Moon Cresta). An interesting and eminently playable coin-op from the makers of Crazy Climber, Tube Panic is a bit of a cousin of Tempest. In fact, Tempest designer Dave Theurer has said that originally, the knob in Tempest rotated the geometric playing field and not the player’s cannon. Tube Panic goes back to the “rotating playing field” concept a bit and, yeah, one can see where Atari might have wound up with some play-testers with motion sickness back in the day. But Tube Panic is its own game, and it’s a lot of fun. Continue reading

Tapper

TapperThe Game: As a beleaguered bartender, you have to serve drinks to an endless onslaught of bar patrons, never allowing them to reach the See the videoend 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 – erm, sorry, soft drinkers – takes you to the next screen, and other scenarios, including outdoor sporting events. (Bally/Midway-Sega, 1984)

Memories: When the U.S. video game industry fell on hard times, Sega sold off its American division to Bally/Midway. Having previously tried to maintain more direct control of home versions of its arcade games through an overall licensing deal with CBS Electronics‘ game division, Bally/Midway now had a more direct pipeline to the consumer market by using the home video game division that Sega had launched to exploit its own arcade titles (such as Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom and Congo Bongo). Continue reading

Track & Field

Track & FieldThe 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. (Atari, 1984)

See the videoMemories: In many cases, Atari faced a major obstacle in licensing major arcade games: the time and money required to secure the license (if it wasn’t already part of an overall deal), and the fact that by skipping the licensing process, Activision or Imagic would virtually always get there first with a more visually pleasing and playable product. But this time, Activision’s sheer speed helped Atari out: The Activision Decathlon practically did some of the R&D for Atari. Continue reading

Targ (Universal Chaos)

TargThe Game: You’re trapped in a symmetrical maze with a bevy of robotic target vehicles – “Targs” – which are programmed to do just one thing: collide with your vehicle. You have one advantage on these decidedly mean streets, however – you can fire missiles ahead of your car (but the Targs are capable of dodging your projectiles too, so don’t get too cocky). Every once in a while, one of the impregnable blocks in the maze will disgorge a new enemy which is just a little bit faster and deadlier than the rest. Clearing the screen of Targs advances you to a new level with faster enemies – and eventually they’ll put the brakes on your attempts to survive. (CBS Video Games, 1984)

Memories: Exidy‘s offbeat menagerie of arcade games was ripe for licensing in the early 1980s, and for the most part it was Coleco that jumped on that bandwagon, grabbing the rights for games such as Mouse Trap, Venture, Ladybug and Mr. Do, both for their own ColecoVision console and as a third-party title for competing platforms like the Intellivision and the Atari 2600. CBS‘ short-lived entry into the video game market saw them licensing games originating with Bally/Midway (Gorf, Omega Race, Blue Print, etc.), but at one point CBS won the rights to, and advertised, a cartridge version of Targ. The game was completely programmed and ready to go – and then the crash hit. Continue reading

Toggle

ToggleThe Game: Two players’ vehicles start in opposite corners of a confined grid; when moved, each vehicle leaves a light cycle-style trail of that player’s color (red or gold) in its wake. But here’s the twist: the players won’t be eliminated by running over the opponent’s “wake.” Instead, running over the other player’s wake once will knock that portion of it down; running over the resulting gap refills that space with your color See the videoinstead. The object of the game is to occupy as much of the grid as possible by the end of 45 seconds. (Each game consists of three 45-second rounds, and each successive round adds obstacles such as walls, or gaps through which players’ vehicles can fall, resulting in a delay while that vehicle is replaced.) The winner of the best two out of three rounds wins the game. (1985, Bally [under license from Sente Ltd.] – unreleased)

Memories: After being “put on the beach” by Atari’s new Warner Bros.-controlled management – a term meaning that he was out the door, but still receiving money from a bonus pool that, in Atari’s heyday, was quite substantial – founder Nolan Bushnell was left at a loose end in more ways than one. He began building his new empire, a chain of franchise restaurants called Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, which combined food service, robotic characters whose technology Atari had no interest in pursuing and therefore allowed him to retain, and arcade games. Bushnell was still eager to have something to do with the video game industry, but a non-compete clause literally took him out of that game for seven years. In 1985, that clause expired, and Bushnell was ready to get back in the game. Continue reading

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