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Spy’s Demise (Apple II)

Spy's DemiseThe Game: Players control a spy sneaking through a building looking for secret information. High-speed elevators zoom up and down their cables throughout each See the videofloor at random intervals, making it difficult to accomplish the goal of crossing to the other side of the screen (the only way to ascend to the next floor). It takes skill, timing and nerves of steel to keep one’s spies from their demise. (Penguin Software, 1982)

Memories: An addictively fun and frustrating early entry on the Apple II computer, Alan Zeldin’s Spy’s Demise gave players some real elevator action. Continue reading

Jawbreaker II

Jawbreaker IIThe Game: Ever had a sweet tooth? Now you are the sweet tooth – or teeth, as the case may be. You guide a set of clattering teeth around a mazelike screen of horizontal rows; an opening in each row travels down the wall See the videoseparating it from the next row. Your job is to eat the tasty treats lining each row until you’ve cleared the screen. Naturally, it’s not just going to be that easy. There are nasty hard candies out to stop you, and they’ll silence those teeth of yours if they catch you – and that just bites. Periodically, a treat appears in the middle of the screen allowing you to turn the tables on them for a brief interval. Sierra On-Line, 1982

Memories: Faced with the threat of imminent legal action from Atari, Sierra – known by its original name, On-Line Systems – yanked the very Pac-Man-like Jawbreaker off the market, replacing it with a new version that was less obviously attempting to copy the game mechanics of Pac-Man. Those familiar with the Atari 2600 edition of Jawbreaker will find this game familiar: the maze is out, and the horizontal rows of dots with “sliding doors” are in. Though there are still elements similar to Pac-Man – at this point, really just the power pellet-like energizers in the four corners of the screen – the whole thing is different. Continue reading

Munch Man

Munch ManThe Game: You control a round creature consisting of a mouth and little else. When the game begins, you’re given about two seconds’ head start to venture into the maze before blobby monsters are released from their cages and begin pursuing you. As you move, Munch See the videoMan leaves a trail in his wake; you advance to the next level of the game by “painting” the entire maze with that trail. (Texas Instruments, 1982)

Memories: A nifty Pac-Man clone done with simple character graphics and a few game play twists designed to make it lawsuit-proof, Munch Man miraculously seemed to be spared being on the receiving end of Atari’s litigious wrath – surprising since Atari was suing Bally, Magnavox, and just about everyone else trying to put a Pac-Man-like game on a home console at the time. 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

Rocky’s Boots

Rocky's BootsThe Game: Rocky is trying to build machines to kick stuff. He provides players with a number of connectors and components, and shows them how they can be used to achieve See the video!different tasks. (The Learning Company, 1982)

Memories: Fresh from leaving Atari and then taking a vacation, game designer and programmer Warren Robinett was ready to get back into the game, literally. But he had languished in anonymity at Atari as one of the last holdouts at a time when many of the company’s original pool of programming talent was defecting to Activision and Imagic; when Robinett returned to game making, he’d do it on his own terms. Continue reading

Satan’s Hollow

Satan's HollowThe Game: Hellish flying demons try to formation-dive your well-armed, devil-fryin’ vehicle at the bottom of the screen. Each time you knock one of this gargoylesque beasties out of the sky, they drop a piece of a bridge you must drag over See the videoto the appropriate spot on the screen. When you’re close to completing the bridge, the Prince of Darkness sends in some heavier artillery – a spooky floating demon head who spits fire at your cannon – to do away with you. Once you’ve toasted the flying meanies out of the sky and cross the bridge, it’s time to do battle with Satan himself. (CBS Video Games, 1982)

Memories: CBS’ home video game division was focused on releasing a library consisting largely of arcade games licensed from Bally/Midway on cartridge for the Atari 2600. But CBS wasn’t content to limit itself to a single platform (unlike quite a few third-party software houses that appeared in the wake of the stellar success of Activision and Imagic). They also had the Atari computers in their sight, which also put them in a good position to release games for the Atari 5200, which was based on the same processor. 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

Ultima II: Revenge Of The Enchantress

Ultima IIThe Game: Not happy with her consort’s defeat at your hands (assuming, of course, that you won Ultima I, the enchantress Minax tracks you down to your home planet of Earth and begins the test anew, sending legions of See the videodaemons and other hellspawn to strike you down before you can gain enough power to challenge her. This time, you have intercontinental and even interplanetary travel at your disposal via the moongates, which appear and disappear based on the phases of the moon. Each destination has unique challenges that help to prepare you for the showdown with Minax herself. (Sierra On-Line, 1982)

Memories: The second in the seminal Ultima role-playing game series, Ultima II has always managed to elicit little excitement from me. Continue reading

Zork I: The Great Underground Empire

Zork I: The Great Underground EmpireThe Game: You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a mailbox here. (Infocom, 1982)

Memories: A direct descendant of the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired all-text mainframe adventure games of the 1970s, only with a parser that can pick what it needs out of a sentence typed in plain English. In truth, Zork‘s command structure still utilized the Tarzan-English structure of the 70s game (i.e. “get sword,” “fight monster”), but the parser was there to filter out all of the player’s extraneous parts of speech – anything that wasn’t a noun or a verb, the game had no use for. Many a player just went the “N” (north), “U” (up), “I” (inventory) route anyway. Continue reading

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