Apple Cider Spider

Apple Cider SpiderThe Game: You control a spider, wandering though a factory that makes cider, and to survive this trip you better be a good hider, for the spider can’t survive with any apples that might collide ‘er. The spider can become a rider on conveyor belts, but she can also fall off if the spider tries to jump over something wider than she can navigate. See the videoThe goal is to help your spider reach home despite all the perils that would divide ‘er. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A cute game requiring heaps of good timing, Ivan Strand’s Apple Cider Spider takes some staples of the platform/climbing genre, adds a few twists, and pours on the cute for good measure. It’s a delightful game that’s funny because nothing really violent can happen here, aside from stumbling into a few grisly ways to die here and there. (Well, grisly if you’re a spider.) Continue reading

Archon

ArchonThe Game: What if chess pieces were living creatures, each with its own unique abilities? And what if, every time to pieces met on the board, they had to fight amongst themselves to occupy the square in question? That’s Archon in a nutshell. (Electronic Arts, 1983)

Memories: Whoever came up with this game is a total genius. This is the sort of game that won lots of fans in the early days who may not have necessarily been computer or video game afficionados – a modern variation on the game of chess, with arcade-flavored action segments to determine control of contested territories. Continue reading

Cavern Creatures

Cavern CreaturesThe Game: Why do mountain climbers climb mountains? Because they’re there. Why are you flying a spacecraft into a vast complex of subterranean caverns? Because they’re there, and apparently because you want to blast the multitudes of critters who lurk there. The bad news: there are a lot more of them than there are of you. The good news? Your ship’s cannons fire in four directions simultaneously. Given that fact, and your ship’s maneuverability, you might just survive this little bit of aerial spelunking. (Datamost [designed by Paul Lowrance], 1983)

Memories: These days, the ‘net is loaded with tributes to video games past and present. But Cavern Creatures was one of the first tributes to classic games, and it’s an interesting tribute – it too is playable. Continue reading

Dig Dug (Apple II)

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, See the videowhich 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. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: With the license already in-house at Atari (as part of the distribution deal that saw Atari handling the game in the U.S.), Atarisoft began cranking out versions of Dig Dug for competing home computer platforms. As often as not, however, the Apple versions of the games for which Atari had the license were a mixed bag. Continue reading

Doctor Who: The First Adventure

Doctor Who: The First AdventureThe Game: You guide the Doctor, that wayward Time Lord, on a quest to retrieve the three segments of the Key to Time, recover See the videoyour companion from an alien prison, and escape aliens who are on your trail. The game appropriately takes place in four “episodes” (stages). Failing to complete a task will cost you time and a precious regeneration; running out of either one ends the game.

Memories: The first officially approved Doctor Who video game, The First Adventure isn’t a trendsetter or a great innovation in and of itself; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that this game for the BBC Micro would’ve been entirely un-noteworthy if not for the Doctor Who connection. Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: How high can you go? Help Jumpman (Mario) save Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches by climbing ladders and avoiding barrels. (AtariSoft, 1983)

Memories: In 1980, Space Invaders became the first arcade game to be officially licensed to a home videogame system. Sales of both the game and the Atari 2600 console itself skyrocketed, thus giving birth to a genre that still exists and sells strongly today: the arcade port. For two years, Atari released ports of arcade games for their competitors’ systems under the brand name AtariSoft. AtariSoft focused predominantly on the expanding home computer market, porting popular arcade games such as Centipede, Dig Dug and Pac-Man to the Apple II, TI-99/4A, IBM PC, and of course the best game-playing machine of the era, the Commodore 64. Continue reading

Frogger

FroggerThe Game: You are a frog. Your task is simple: hop across a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks, until you get the to the edge of a river, where you must keep yourself from drowning by crossing safely to your grotto at the top of the See the videoscreen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for snakes and alligators! (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: When I fired up Sierra’s rendition of Frogger for the Apple II for the first time in something like 25 years, old synapses that hadn’t fired in ages suddenly came to life once more. This was the very first game I got with my very first computer, back in the day – back when neither one was anywhere in the same neighborhood as “cheap.” So I have a great sentimental attachment to this version of Frogger. Continue reading

Gateway To Apshai

Gateway To ApshaiThe Game: The player controls a weary adventurer weaving his way through a dungeon populated by treasures and deadly danger. Starting out with the clothes on his back, a short sword in hand, and adding what he can along the way, the player’s adventurer progresses through twisty mazes, vanquishes an See the videoincreasingly dangerous rogues’ gallery of foes, and tries to gather a wealth of treasure… but even opening those treasure chests may reveal traps. (Epyx, 1983)

Memories: The Apshai computer RPGs form a kind of holy trinity of early adventure gaming along with the Ultima and Wizardry series of games. Gateway To Apshai is actually a prequel to the runaway hit Temple Of Apshai, which debuted on Tandy’s TRS-80 computer before cross-pollinating to every other platform under the sun. Gateway is missing Temple‘s famously wordy descriptions of its on-screen chambers, and as such feels completely different from the earlier game. But in hindsight, Gateway is an important step on the evolutionary road for the “action RPG” genre – paving the way for The Legend Of Zelda. Continue reading

Juice!

Juice!The Game: You’re the circuit maker, and they’re the circuit breakers. You hop around a maze-like structure, dropping circuitry patterns in your wake, as a variety of adversaries try to stop you from completing a circuit leading from the power source at your starting point to the receptacle across the maze from you. Colliding with See the videoany of them will cost you a life, but you can entice them to try to chase you off the maze and into oblivion while you escape safely. Completing the circuit advances you to the next maze – just on’t get too caught up in your power trip. (Tronix, 1983)

Memories: A neat combination of some well-worn game play elements, Juice is an eminently playable example of taking elements from different games and combining them into a new one. Bits of Pac-Man and Q*Bert, with a hint of Zaxxon‘s 3-D isometric perspective, combine to make Juice! unique and fun. Continue reading

Lode Runner

Lode RunnerThe Game: Cavernous rooms are loaded with gold, just ripe for the picking. But before you celebrate hitting the mother lode, look again – there are other gold-diggers homing in on the treasure. What do you have that they don’t? A drill gun that can blast a hole in the floors, into which your opponents will jump blindly. Eventually, the holes will reseal themselves, and that process will swallow your enemies (and you, if you happen to be clumsy enough to wander into the hole yourself). Grabbing all of the gold will reveal a passage to the next level of the game. (Broderbund, 1983)

Memories: Originally designed and programmed on the Apple II, Lode Runner impressed Broderbund enough that ports to other systems were a high priority. But a major difference in the control scheme for the Apple and Atari computers caused Lode Runner to lose something in translation. Continue reading

Lock ‘n’ Chase

Lock 'n' ChaseThe Game: You’re in charge of a getaway car loaded with crafty criminals. Your job is to sneak around the maze, avoid four colorful cops who are hot on your trail, and grab all the dough – and, of course, to escape so you can steal again another See the videoday. But the cops can trap you with a series of doors that can prevent you from getting away… (M Network [Mattel Electronics], 1983)

Memories: Released early in 1983, this version of Lock ‘N’ Chase further proves my “M Network theory,” which is as follows: somehow, no matter what hardware platform it’s on, an M Network game always winds up somehow looking like it’s a port of an Intellivision game. Not that this detracts from the fun factor of having a decent maze chase game on the Apple II, mind you. Continue reading

Lode Runner

Lode RunnerThe Game: Cavernous rooms are loaded with gold, just ripe for the picking. But before you celebrate hitting the mother lode, look again – there are other gold-diggers homing in on the treasure. What do you have that they don’t? A drill gun that can blast a hole in the floors, into which your opponents will jump blindly. Eventually, the See the videoholes will reseal themselves, and that process will swallow your enemies (and you, if you happen to be clumsy enough to wander into the hole yourself). Grabbing all of the gold will reveal a passage to the next level of the game. (Broderbund, 1983)

Memories: Surely one of the “killer app” games of the early home computer era – right up there with anything in the Wizardry, Ultima or Infocom series – Lode Runner rocked my world way back when. I have to limit myself on praising this game, or this page is never gonna finish loading: it buries the needle on the excellence meters in both the action and puzzle genres, makes some of the best use ever of the Apple II’s hi-res graphics mode, and it even sounds good on the Apple (which is no small feat). Continue reading

Meteor Belt

Meteor BeltThe Game: An evil force near the planet Jupiter has commandeered the asteroid belt between that giant planet and Mars as its personal defense shield. Your mission is simple: man a mobile weapons platform on the inner solar system’s side See the videoof the asteroid belt, exchange fire with the enemy (who can be the computer or another player), and try to knock out their defenses and destroy them. The battle will last only a brief time, and whoever has the best score – with a bonus given at the end for losing the least ships – wins. (Milton Bradley, 1983)

Memories: Milton Bradley is one of the few board game makers who didn’t at least try to make major in-roads into the video game arena. If anything, they tried to buy their way in, investing in and distributing the early models of the Vectrex stand-alone console, and later getting into Atari 2600 games with one-off specialty controllers that added to the games’ price without doing that much for game play. Continue reading

Mr. Cool

Mr. CoolThe Game: You’re Mr. Cool, an ice cube who chills out while hopping around a pyramid-shaped series of platforms. Fireballs streak across the pyramid from time to time, and they’ll melt you if they touch you. If you can stay cool long See the videoenough, you can advance through the game by changing the color of every platform to your target color by hopping onto each one – though in later levels it’ll take more than one hop, putting you in the path of more fireballs that could cause you to lose your cool. If you have one meltdown too many, the game is over. (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

Memories: A classic case of making the best of a system’s limitations (and missing out on the official license for a popular arcade game), Mr. Cool is an unlikely collision of the game mechanics of Q*Bert and Frogger. And yet it works. In the company’s early days, Sierra was great at producing “near beer” games such as Mr. Cool and Crossfire (which approximated the game play of arcade cult classics Targ and Spectar). Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-ManThe Game: As the bride of that most famous of single-celled omniphage life forms, your job is pretty simple – eat all the dots, gulp the large blinking dots in each corner of the screen and eat the monsters while See the videothey’re blue, and avoid the monsters the rest of the time. Occasionally various fruits and other foods will bounce through the maze, and you can gobble those for extra points. (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: Introduced at virtually the same time as Atarisoft‘s TI edition of Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man looks and sounds slick – and has the same odd issue with slightly sluggish controls that seem to lag a little bit behind what’s happening on the screen. Continue reading

Night Stalker

Night StalkerThe Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a See the videolimited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot the bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)

Memories: An adaptation of one of the Intellivision’s signature games, Night Stalker is actually one of the strongest titles in the tiny Aquarius game library. This isn’t to say that it’s a great port, just that it’s less bad than some of the other Aquarius games. 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 and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, See the videolarge flashing 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 cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: Having spent the better part of a year suing nearly every Pac-Man clone off the home video game market, Atari finally released its own version of the game for several consoles and home computer systems, including the TI 99/4a. TI had already released its own first-party take on the basic play mechanics of Pac-Man, Munch Man, which is generally considered one of the better arcade-style games released by TI itself. So did Atari’s “official” Pac-Man live up to its competition on the TI? Continue reading

Pac-Man

Pac-ManThe Game: As a round white creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, See the videolarge flashing dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period for an escalating score. 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… (Atarisoft, 1983)

Memories: Atari came by the code for its Apple II version of Pac-Man by the same means used by pirates of the high seas: they vanquished their foes and took their booty. Continue reading

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