Millipede

MillipedeBuy this gameThe Game: Once more unto the breach, your garden of mushrooms is now under attack by a millipede, and the big bug’s even nastier insect entourage has come along too. The spiders, scorpions and fleas are now joined by mosquitoes and inchworms, among others. The only advantage you have? Occasional containers of DDT (can you tell this was the 80’s?) will allow you to wipe out all targets within a given radius…but use them wisely! (Atari, 1984)

Memories: Though the graphics aren’t markedly different from those of the Atari 2600 version of Centipede, the elements of the game are a great deal more challenging. In a way, Millipede isn’t quite so well-suited to the trakball controller…it’s just too fast. Continue reading

Ballblazer

BallblazerThe Game: Pong just got a lot more difficult. The table-tennis-inspired sport is now played at blow-your-hair-back speeds on a 3-D field, with vehicles called rotofoils serving as the paddles. Up to four players can compete, or you can humiliate yourself by trying to fight computer-controlled opponents. (Atari/Lucasfilm Games, 1984)

Memories: The announcement was simple, and ominous, and got a lot of press. “Lucasfilm is entering the video game industry.” It made big waves, and why wouldn’t it? The thought of someone with the tremendous creative resources of George Lucas getting in on the action was enough to excite many gamers – particularly those who, around 1984, were deluged in the kind of mediocre titles which brought the video game business to its knees. Continue reading

Beamrider

BeamriderBuy this gameThe Game: Alien ships are sliding toward you on a gridwork of energy; as the pilot of the Beamrider, your job is to destroy them before they get too close to home (i.e. the bottom of the screen). They can fire back, though, and while in some cases you can return fire and intercept their shots, it depends on what kind of weaponry they’re using. When you run out of Beamriders, the aliens take over. (Activision, 1984)

See the videoMemories: With the abandoned 2600 prototype of Tempest being the closest thing to an exception, Beamrider was the only attempt to the bring that arcade game’s style of action to the 2600. And in the end, Beamrider more closely resembles the one-line idea that led to Tempest: “First Person Space Invaders“. Continue reading

Beamrider

BeamriderThe Game: Alien ships are sliding toward you on a gridwork of energy; as the pilot of the Beamrider, your job is to destroy them before they get too close to home (i.e. the bottom of the screen). They can fire back, though, and while in some cases you can return fire and intercept their shots, it depends on what kind of weaponry they’re using. When you run out of Beamriders, the aliens take over. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: The Colecovision port of Activision‘s answer to Tempest, Beamrider is – perhaps not surprisingly – a lot smoother than it is on the Atari 2600. But somehow it manages to take its sweet time getting faster. Continue reading

Buraco Negro! (“Black Hole!”)

Buraco Negro!The Game: This is a tale of a futuristic society advanced almost beyond belief. A black hole has been trapped behind a force field, where its gravity won’t snag the chains of space outposts lining the top and bottom of the screen. That gravity will, however, attract stray asteroids, which naturally can do a number on the space stations. This is where you come in: as the captain of an interplanetary street-sweeper, it’s your job to grab the asteroids and deposit them in the maw of the black hole. It’s tricky, business: letting go of an asteroid too far away from the black hole will allow it to drift toward the space stations, but putting your own ship too close to the black hole will put you in harm’s way (and may still let the asteroid escape). The more asteroids you put in the black hole, the bigger and more powerful it becomes (did anyone really think through this method of disposing of the trash?), which will attract more asteroids and cause them to move faster. You can also shoot asteroids, but this will add no points to your score, and stray missiles could destroy space stations. If your ship plummets into the event horizon, or too many space stations are destroyed, there’s suddenly a vacancy for the most dangerous garbage disposal job in the universe. (GST Video, 1984)

Memories: As a rule, I try not to be too critical of a game’s programmer, but this rare title – initially released only in South America, and then later dressed up with a spacey background and released in Europe for the Videopac G7400+ under the incorrectly-translated name Neutron Star – offers so little reward for so much effort that one can only assume its designer was a masochist. Continue reading

Bump ‘n’ Jump

Bump 'n' JumpThe Game: The race is on, and no moves are off-limits – bump your competitors off the road (and into apparently highly volatile vegetation that causes them to explode), or jump over them and any other obstacles that get in your way, including See the videoareas of water that cover the road. If you survive the race, you live on to the next round – at least until you run out of cars. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: Another Sega arcade sleeper-hit snagged for the Colecovision under an overall contract between the two game companies, Bump ‘N’ Jump is fun on four wheels, and this console version drives it home perfectly. 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 long as See the videopossible. Obligatory robot wisecracks and utterances of “beedy-beedy-beedy” not included. (Coleco [under license from Sega], 1984)

Memories: Far and away the most faithful home console version of Sega’s arcade sleeper hit, Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom is a blast on the ColecoVision. Continue reading

Cosmic Commuter

Cosmic CommuterThe Game: Sometimes it’s not all about saving the whole freakin’ world. Sometimes it’s about just being a cabbie. Picking people up, zipping through traffic, and trying to get them to where they’re going without them – or yourself – killed in the process. Substitute traffic for alien ships and space debris, and you’ve got Cosmic Buy this gameCommuter. Make sure your taxi pod is loaded up on fuel, avoid everything except for the passengers, and don’t forget to dock safely with your launch/landing module when you’ve picked everyone up. You can shoot obstacles out of your way in a tight squeeze, but be careful – you could also shoot your next refueling station out of the sky too. Three collisions or crash landings due to an empty gas tank, and you’re out of the taxi business. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: Cosmic Commuter is a very cool scrolling game with a neat premise, something that I can identify with a lot better than being a fighter jock. This is also an extremely colorful game with a heap of animated graphics, and not one second of sprite flicker. Continue reading

Crazy Climber

Crazy ClimberThe Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of a building, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large stork with (apparently flaming) droppings can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below, and even minor things such as annoyed building tenants dropping potted plants at you from above can have the same disastrous effect. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Atari, 1984 – fan club exclusive)

Memories: Crazy Climber for the 2600 is one of the rarest cartridges manufactured by Atari, having been released only through the company’s Atari Age fan club newsletter rather than at retail. On the basis of its scarcity alone, the Crazy Climber cartridge auctions for – appropriately – crazy amounts of money. Continue reading

Crystal Castles

Crystal CastlesThe Game: You are Bentley the Bear, cuddly defender of a vaguely 3-D fairy tale realm just loaded with ruby-like crystals. While this would seem like an idyllic existence for many sentient stuffed animals, it is, of course, not that easy. Berthilda the Witch has sent her evil minions to seize the crystals for her. Walking trees, Buy this gameupright centipedes, and animated skeletons prowl the geometric vistas to keep Bentley from claiming the crystals. Finding the wizard hat will briefly give Bentley the power to dispose of Berthilda if and when she makes an appearance. Bentley also has a weakness for the pot of honey that appears on each level – and if he grabs the honey, a swarm of bees suddenly has a problem with him. Clearing each screen of crystals advances to the next level. Keep in mind that the enemies can also consume crystals, so they may actually clear the level – Bentley gets a bonus if he’s the one who nabs the last gem on the screen. (Atari, 1984)

Memories: This game is a tough nut to crack. It’s something I’d file under “games I can’t believe anyone tried to port to the Atari 2600,” the same category where I’d put Coleco’s disastrous port of Zaxxon. Surprisingly though, while the graphics are a bit of a mess, enough of the game play is intact to make this version of Crystal Castles surprisingly effective. Continue reading

Defender II / Stargate

Defender II / StargateThe Game: Once again, you’re piloting a sleek spacecraft, patrolling the airspace over a populated planet whose inhabitants are being harvested by alien Landers to create berzerker Mutants. If you shoot down a Lander in mid-air and its abductee falls toward the ground, you must catch the helpless kidnap victim and lower him to the ground safely. Other menaces await you in the sky, along with Stargates, which instantaneously transport you to other locations around the planet. (Atari, 1984)

Memories: I like to refer to this game as Defender: The Apology. In much the same way that Atari made good on gamers’ disappointment in their original Pac-Man cartridge with its Ms. Pac-Man translation, the Stargate cartridge plays much more like “real” Defender than the original cartridge version of that game. The sounds and graphics are pretty much dead-on, if not quite as fine as those of the original arcade machine. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugThe Game: Who said landscaping was easy? 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 a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Atari, 1984)

Memories: Still clinging tenaciously to a licensing agreement that gave it the right to publish Dig Dug in the U.S., Atari dug in its heels and released Dig Dug for the Atari 7800. Fortunately – for Atari, that is – Namco opted not to issue the same game in that territory, leaving it an exclusive for owners of the Famicom, Japan’s equivalent to the NES. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: You’re another treasure-hunting glory seeker who’s about to meet more than his match. If you can survive crossing the drawbridge into the castle – a task made incredibly difficult by the glowing fireballs of dragon breath being hurled toward you – you’ve got an even more hazardous obstacle ahead: the dragon himself is guarding a huge stash of treasure. Even if he can’t stop you from pocketing every shiny thing in the castle, chances are you won’t make it out alive. (Imagic, 1984)

Memories: A nicely dolled-up version of a game that was already a lot of fun on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, Dragonfire is one of Imagic‘s few Colecovision entries. The game is still fun, but now it looks simply incredible too. Continue reading

Front Line

Front LineThe Game: 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. 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. 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… (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: At one time, this was one of my all-time favorite Atari 2600 games – well, it still is, actually – even though it really pales in comparison to the coin-op it’s based on. Even the version released for the ColecoVision, which used the roller wheel on the Super Action Controller to stand in for the arcade game’s aiming knob, wasn’t quite the same. Still, at the time, this did just fine: you fired your gun in whatever direction you were facing. 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 deadly. 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. (Coleco, 1984)

Memories: It’s a bit of a rarity for an arcade manufacturer to license a sequel game to a different company than licensed the original, yet it happened in a handful of cases. Atari had licensed the arcade hit Berzerk and turned it into a near-perfect cartridge for the VCS, but when it came time to license the diabolically difficult follow-up for home video game play, it was Coleco who nabbed the rights. Continue reading

Ghostbusters

GhostbustersThe Game: The only video game in history that turns you into Bill Murray, Ghostbusters gives you a taste of the lucrative franchising opportunity that is supernatural paranormal investigation and elimination. You start the game out with a supply screen and – naturally – a limited budget. Pick up all the ghostbusting gear you can afford and get to work. Much of the game is played out on a map of several city blocks of the Big Apple, where haunted buildings will flash red. You respond to each call by going there, which takes you to a brief “driving” game in which you can vacuum up free-roaming ghosts (if you’ve installed a ghost-vac on your car). Once you arrive, set the trap and position your two busters carefully (so as not to cross the streams), and snag the ghost before it simply leaves or slimes you. Trapping ghosts will net the big bucks, which you need to continue your franchise. Letting the paranormal activity in New Your City continue unabated will result in the unleashing of the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, who’ll stomp entire city blocks (and earn you a hefty fine). If the city’s PK (psychokinetic) activity meter reaches 10,000, the game is over. (Activision, 1984)

Memories: An addictive little game, this, and probably one of the best movie-to-video-game licenses ever brought to life. Ghostbusters on the big screen was big money when this game was released, and Activision had to deliver a decent game. Continue reading

Gyruss

GyrussThe Game: The aliens are taking their complaints to the home office! As the pilot of an agile space fighter, you have to blast your way through the alien forces from Pluto all the way back to Earth. Occasionally you can boost your ship’s firepower, but that’s the only help you’re going to get. The rest is up to your speed, your strategy, and your ability to nail those suckers in mid-dive. (Parker Brothers, 1984)

Memories: A valiant attempt by Parker Bros. to translate Konami’s smash hit shooter to the 2600, Gyruss wins points for effort and attention to detail, but still manages to lose something in the translation. Continue reading

H.E.R.O.

H.E.R.O.Buy this gameThe Game: As an airborne rescuer with a helicopter backpack and plenty of explosives, your job is to fly (and run) through a series of sinister caverns, retrieving hostages and doing away with such deadly dangers as poisonous spiders. (In short, you’re venturing into places that would have Pitfall Harry making a tar pit in his pants.) Oh, and make sure you don’t shoot out the lights handily installed in nearly every cavern, or you won’t be able to see the danger until you put your foot in it – and then even your helicopter backpack won’t help you. (Activision, 1984)

See the videoMemories: One of Activision’s most celebrated originals, H.E.R.O. is a fast-paced game with enough exploration and enough hair-trigger excitement to keep all kinds of gamers happy. In some respects it’s very similar to Pitfall II, only this time you get to blow obstacles away instead of just having to avoid them. Continue reading

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