War Of The Worlds

War Of The WorldsThe Game: The Martians are coming! And they’re coming in colorful vector graphics! The tripod-like Martian War Machines land, extend their legs, and begin marching inexorably toward your cannon, pausing momentarily to sweep the bottom of the screen with their deadly heat rays, or hurling spirals of energy your way to slow down See the videoyour cannon. You have a shield that can offer you mere moments of protection, but if it wears out or you find yourself in the Martians’ sights, your spiky-headed cannon operator is fried, and the cannon is promptly manned by another spiky-headed gunner. When your spiky-headed infantry is exhausted, the Martian invasion continues… (Cinematronics, 1981)

Memories: An entertaining variation on the basic game concept of Space Invaders, War Of The Worlds is quite a tricky game. From a visual standpoint, for line art, the Martian War Machines are menacing foes, and it could be that this is their best moving-image representation, possibly even better than Pal or Spielberg managed. (The rotating “Cylon eye” effect adds a lot of frisson, especially when the heat ray unexpectedly shoots out of it and blasts you!) Continue reading

Amidar

AmidarThe Game: I’ll try to explain this as best I can. You’re a paintroller (recent escapee from Make Trax?) beseiged by pigs. Or a gorilla pursued by natives. Or something like that. It depends on which level you’re playing. You must try to enclose as many of the spaces in the game area as possible, in a zig-zagging pattern. This, the attract mode wisely advises us, is “Amidar movement.” You have one way to avoid an imminent See the videohead-on collision – you can hit the jump button, which doesn’t make you jump, but forces everything else on the board to jump. Enclosing all of the available spaces advances you to the next level, with different animal enemies. (Stern [under license from Konami], 1982)

Memories: My God. Who programmed this game, and what were they smoking? I mean, okay, the enclosing-of-spaces thing is nothing new – look at Qix. But paintrollers versus pigs? Gorillas versus nasty natives? Oh well. I suppose it makes about as much sense as Exidy’s very similar Pepper II, of which more another time. Continue reading

The Amazing Adventures Of Mr. F. Lea

Amazing Adventures Of Mr. F. LeaThe Game: Help Mr. F. Lea get to the top in this dog-eat-dog world. Cross a treacherous yard full of lawn-mowers (and helpfully slow-moving dogs), swing from tail to tail until you’ve jumped on every dog on the screen, scale the See the videobig dog’s back and jump over his spots, and climb to the top of Dog Hollow while avoiding the dog toys and bones being thrown at you from the top of the screen. You’d better be itching to win. (Pacific Novelty, 1982)

Memories: An oddball specimen from the dawn of the age of video game litigation, Mr. F. Lea would appear to have slipped through the cracks without attracting the wrath of the legal beagles. How that happened, we can’t even guess, for the game’s four stages strongly resemble Frogger, Donkey Kong and elements of Jungle Hunt. It’s like the hottest games in the average 1982 arcade…as played by a quirky cover band. Continue reading

Bagman

BagmanThe Game: You’re a thief trying to make away with all the loot buried in a complex maze of interconnected mines and shafts, and you’d get away with it if it weren’t for some pesky cops who are hot on your trail. You can drop bags of money See the videoon them from a level above, or temporarily brain them with a pick, and they’ll occasionally also bumble into open mine shafts of their own accord. In any of these events, they vanish for a little while to recover before reappearing. But any of these things will do you in too! (Stern/Seeburg [under license from Valadon Automation], 1982)

Memories: Bagman was a very addictive and fun variation on the ladder-climing format that had become familiar in the space of just one year. Despite putting the player in the role of a crook, the worst behavior this game could possibly encourage would be slapstick, Keystone Kops-type violence (wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of comically clumsy cops, and wouldn’t it be great if they brought beer – really good beer?). It’s a very cute and playable game. Continue reading

Blue Print

Blue PrintThe Game: You are the intrepid, barbershop-quartet-suited J.J. (hey, it’s better than being O.J.!), out to save a damsel in distress from a pursuing monster. How does a guy in a little striped suit do this? By building a mobile, tennis-ball-launching contraption to dispatch said dastardly monster, naturally. The catch? The eight pieces of your mechanical creation are hidden somewhere among ten little houses in a maze – See the videoand those houses that don’t contain parts of your machine contain a bomb that must be dumped into the bomb pit immediately (else they’ll explode and kill J.J.). Critters also roam the maze to annoy you, including one pesky monster who will prematurely jump on the “start” button, rattling your still-unfinished machine to bits. If you don’t build your Rube Goldberg gizmo in time, the monster catches the damsel and you lose a life. (Bally/Midway, 1982)

Memories: Fun little game, this Blue Print. Perhaps somewhat like the rodent protagonist of Mappy, J.J. seemed to be primed for some kind of merchandising that never happened. Continue reading

Black Widow

Black WidowBuy this gameThe Game: You’re a spider whose web seems to be a popular hangout for any number of flies who seem to have an aversion to getting caught there. So you’re left with the only option nature leaves open to a spider in this scenario: you shoot your prey down and eat the yummy grubsteak that’s left behind! Some bugs will have the whaudacity to lay their eggs in your web, which you can either push off the edge (a risky trick depending on how “developed” some of the eggs are) or wait to hatch into more bugs that you See the videocan shoot down. Beware of “grenade bugs” which destroy everything within a certain radius around them when you shoot them; they may take out other adversaries as they go, or destroy you if you’re too close. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: Black Widow is a fun number which smacks of an attempt to do Robotron: 2084 in vector graphics. It’s also one of the handful of Atari arcade games sporting the color vector monitor, which was prone to numerous technical glitches (not the least of which was overheating to the point that capacitors melted off the board). What vector graphics had over traditional raster displays, however, was fast action, and Black Widow is a beauty in that respect. Within only a few levels, the action is almost too much for the average player to handle. Continue reading

BurgerTime

BurgerTimeBuy this gameThe Game: As Chef Peter Pepper, you climb around a multi-level factory whose sole function is to make some really big burgers. We’re talking about some BIG burgers here. But your ingredients aren’t exactly cooperating with you. Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Egg and Mr. Pickle are doing their best to keep you from making those big See the videoburgers, but you can turn the tables on them and put them in your edible creations! You have a limited supply of pepper which you can use to stun your tasty stalkers (and keep in mind, this was years before Mace). Or you can simply lead them across one of the yummy ingredients, and they’ll become part of the burger. (Which is a rather disturbing thought when it comes to to hot dogs and eggs in a hamburger.) Also, you can walk across a bun or a slab of meat on the level above them, and the falling ingredients will squash them on the way down. (Bally/Midway [under license from Data East], 1982)

Memories: BurgerTime was a cool twist on the climbing genre, but it had one main problem – oh, boy, was it ever slow! I t took forever to climb ladders, and on those later levels where there were huge, dangerous stretches of ladders, this slowed the game down to an annoyingly slow pace. Other than this, though, it was a nifty little game, and just playing it and writing about it has made me hungry for something from Burger King… Continue reading

Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet Of ZoomThe Game: Zoom being the operative word here, your mission – as space hero Buck Rogers – is to fly in close quarters with all kinds of enemy ships, landers and structures, fending off their attacks, and generally staying alive as See the videolong as possible. Obligatory robot wisecracks and utterances of “beedy-beedy-beedy” not included. (Sega, 1982)

Memories: Debuting in arcades a mere two years after the exit of the popular but troubled Buck Rogers TV series, Sega’s coin-op had no real connection with it. If anything, the enemy ships and architecture in Planet Of Zoom are a bit more art deco, suggesting the comic book roots of Buck Rogers. Sega later ported the game to a few home consoles, and while the player’s ship in those games seemed to hearken back to the sleek fighters of the TV series, it was more likely a case of simplifying the arcade game’s fancy rocketship. Continue reading

Changes

ChangesThe Game: Players guide a caterpillar around a maze of twigs and branches, snatching up nourishment and the occasional treat, and avoiding other insect life; some parts of the branches can be turned. Some of the See video of this gametreats will allow the caterpillar to consume other insects for a brief time. Portions of the maze can be rotated, which can work against the player (cutting off the best or only escape route) or can work to the player’s advantage (effectively shutting a door in pursuers’ faces, or even smashing them if they’re in the wrong place at the right time). Clearing the maze allows the caterpillar to turn into a butterfly and escape (who needs a pupal stage anyway?); the player advances to the next level, where a new caterpillar needs help navigating a new maze. (Orca, 1982)

Memories: Just like Hollywood blockbusters, there’s development turnaround time for video games, both then and now. That may explain why this Pac-Man knockoff didn’t show up in arcades until long after the Pac-saga itself had moved on to such titles as Ms. Pac-Man and Super Pac-Man. Continue reading

Disco No. 1

Disco No. 1You’re on the dance floor, they’ve dimmed the lights, the feeling is right, and you’re gonna boogie tonight. Leaving temporary, light-cycle-style tracers behind you, you have to impress all the lovely ladies by literally skating circles around them. When you accomplish this, you claim a bit of territory on the dance floor. (Data East, 1982)

See the videoAnd here you thought Xanadu was the only pop culture celebration of roller disco – not so! This bizarre little coin-op number brings roller boogie back from the brink of extinction (being the voracious second-hand consumers of American pop culture that they were, God bless ’em, the Japanese apparently missed the memo that disco was “dead” by this point). Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if Buy this gamea Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. Who said landscaping was easy? (Atari [under license from Namco], 1982)

Memories: Dig Dug, with its animè-inspired cutesy characters and exceedingly simple game play, was a wonderfully easy game to learn, and it didn’t take much effort to reach a high score. (Dig Dug II, on the other hand, relied on a strange pseudo-3D, slightly-but-not-quite-overhead perspective which added to the difficulty, creating problems similar to playing Zaxxon or Congo Bongo.) With its simplicity and cuteness, Dig Dug was big with the younger set. Continue reading

Domino Man

Domino ManThe Game: The town square or the local golf course seems like a reasonable place to set up a huge row of dominoes, doesn’t it? Well, your on-screen protagonist sure seems to think so, and your job is to help him set up his dominoes without allowing any of a number of on-screen “enemies” – such as absent-minded shoppers pushing carts, bees, or a bemuscled bonehead – to knock the dominoes over. (Bally/Midway, 1982)

Memories: Another incredibly fun and offbeat coin-op from the gang at Bally/Midway, Domino Man was a whimsical little number which set all of its action to the music of ragtime maestro Scott Joplin. If only for that reason, this was one of the few arcade games that my mother used to get a kick out of (not that she tried it herself, of course – she just kept chuckin’ quarters at me, bless her heart). Continue reading

Donkey Kong Junior

Donkey Kong JuniorThe Game: Mario, in his second-ever videogame appearance, has Donkey Kong in captivity, and it’s up to Donkey Kong Jr. to rescue his dad by scaling vines and chains, avoiding nasty-toothed traps and pesky birds, and reaching the key to free the great ape from Mario’s clutches. (Nintendo, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Donkey Kong Junior was a really cool game, because it added new ideas to the same general concept as Donkey Kong, resulting in a game that those proficient at the original game wouldn’t find difficult to learn. It was also unique in that the character that you played in Donkey Kong – the hero – was suddenly the villain in this game, and you were out to defeat him. Continue reading

Eyes

EyesThe Game: The eyes have it, and you apparently want it. You’re also an eye – that’s right, a perfectly normal disembodied eye, wearing a little Oktoberfest hat, wandering through a maze, and shooting at stuff. You’re basically trying to shoot everything on sight. You see, the maze is filled with tiny objects, and you must shoot them all (running over them won’t cut it). The maze is also filled with a number of equally disembodied-and-yet-armed eyes who are out to get you. Clearing the maze of objects advances you to the next level, but you may only get a brief look at it since the eyes are even faster and more aggressive. Rock-Ola [under license from Digitrex Techstar], 1982

See the videoMemories: A bizarre little game among the glut of Pac-Man imitators, Eyes is an obscure little number that falls between the cracks of video game history by being neither particularly outstanding or awful…just strange. In a world where a game about a mobile yellow mouth is king, I don’t think anyone was looking for anything that they could take literally, but Eyes was simply odd. Continue reading

Eagle

EagleThe Game: As commander of the three-stage fighter rocket Eagle, your job is to ward off endless varieties of evasively weaving space attackers. Every time you knock out two consecutive screens of assailants, you’ll have an opportunity to dock your ship to another one of Eagle’s three stages, until all three portions of the ship are combined to create one bad-ass weapons platform. But you can also lose stages very quickly, See the videoending your game – a bigger ship makes a bigger and easier target. (Centuri [under license from Nichibutsu], 1982)

Memories: Don’t ask me what happened here. I distinctly remember playing both Eagle and Moon Cresta in the arcades and thinking how similar they were. Much later, with the benefit of emulation, I could play both back-to-back and realized what I’d always suspected: they’re the same game! Continue reading

The Electric Yo-Yo

The Electric Yo-YoThe Game: Don’t take this personally, but you’re a yo-yo in The Electric Yo-Yo, trying to clear all the dots from the screen and trying just as hard to avoid the bug-eyed monsters and other enemies who seem to be natural predators of toys on strings. You must plan your movement around the screen carefully – the further you can move in a straight line to eliminate the most dots, the faster you’ll move. See the videoBuy this gameGetting stuck in limbo with no targets in the same horizontal or vertical space means you have to take painfully slow baby steps around the screen, making you a sitting duck (or a sitting yo-yo) for your adversaries. You can occasionally grab a flashing dot to give you the power to knock the bug-eyed monster out of the way momentarily. If you clear the screen of dots, a new pattern of dots appears, each one more difficult to complete than the last. (Taito, 1982)

Memories: Even two years after Pac-Man hit it big, just about everyone was trying to carve out a slice of the dot-gobbling pie with games that, if they weren’t outright ripoffs, were at least conceptually similar. Taito, normally associated with such trail-blazingly original games as Qix and Jungle Hunt, was no exception, but at least The Electric Yo-Yo is far more original than the vast majority of Pac-Man-inspired arcade games. Continue reading

Frenzy

FrenzyThe Game: You’re back in the maze, but this time, the stakes are increased, the danger is increased, and your strategic options are only slightly increased. Touching the walls, the robots, the robots’ laser blasts, or even your own ricocheted lasers are deadly. And of course, the inevitable appearance by Evil Otto is also See the videodeadly. However, you can temporarily repel the smiley little bugger by blasting him until his grin turns into the frown – but he will reappear mere seconds later, moving much faster every time he must retreat and reappear – so you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you enter a generator room, you can halt all the robots in their tracks by penetrating the walls surrounding the generator and blasting it. “Beaded” walls can be eaten away, bit by bit, by laser fire from anyone who shoots it, while solid walls will ricochet lasers around until they hit something – which could mean a death trap for you. (Stern, 1982)

Memories: I can’t even begin to estimate how many orders of magnitude harder Frenzy is than its inspiration, Stern’s mega-hit Berzerk. There are many times when you have approximately a second – before the characters on the screen begin moving – to assess your strategic situation, which usually isn’t too promising, often placing you in a triangulation of crossfire from three or four different robots that you haven’t even begun to figure out how to reach. Continue reading

Front Line

Front LineThe Game: In a very genteel and almost inappropriately cute game about armored combat, you’re a lone footsoldier fighting your way through a platoon of enemy troops, trying to take out as many of them as you can until you find your way to a handy empty tank. (Nice of the enemy to allow your government to plant friendly tanks behind their borders, isn’t it?) But once you man your own tank, enemy tanks surround you. If one of them hits your tank, you have mere seconds to bail out before your tank blows, and you have to dodge cannon fire until you can find another friendly tank to commandeer. Finally, after crossing hazardous stretches of desert and fighting off entire battallions of enemy tanks, you’re en route to the final confrontation, a showdown with the enemy’s armored headquarters… (Taito, 1982)

Memories: Front Line was a really fun and addictive game to play, and was always one of my favorites. I didn’t ever give a thought, at the time, that this game really keeps the player’s vision of warfare from delving into the bloody or the unpleasant, and all the characters – even those octagonal, roly-poly little tanks – are really cute. Continue reading

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