Buggy Challenge

Buggy ChallengeThe Game: It’s a duel for dune buggy supremacy, and it won’t be easy. Drivers must contend not only with other drivers, but with dangerous terrain (sand hills that can launch a buggy into mid-air with little or no control over where it might land), killer obstacles including rocks and fence posts, and the amazing ease of losing all sense of direction. (Taito, 1984)

Memories: A fairly obscure first-person racer from Taito, Buggy Challenge is visually impressive, but in an era when it seemed like arcade game manufacturers were desperately trying to add complexity to control schemes – after all, a complex control scheme will probably get players “killed” more often, forcing more coin drop – Buggy Challenge most outstanding feature may be its blissful simplicity. There’s a gas pedal and a steering wheel. Try not to hit stuff that will cause the dune buggy to blow up. It really is that simple. Continue reading

Dig Dug II

Dig Dug IIBuy this gameThe Game: Dig Dug is back, and he’s still got a hoarde of Pookas and Fygars to exterminate – or else they’ll ruin his new island garden. Blowing the beasties up with Dig’s trusty pump will still work, but as a last resort, he can also drill into his island’s irrigation pipes and actually sink a part of the land into the sea, taking any enemies with it (and Dig too, if you’re not careful!). (Namco, 1985)

Memories: This sequel to one of the most beloved titles from the brief Namco/Atari licensing alliance is virtually unknown, primarily because Dig Dug II hit the arcades after the great video game industry crash of 1983. Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until MAME came along. Continue reading

Exed Exes (a.k.a. Savage Bees)

Exed ExesBuy this gameThe Game: Bees are attacking, but they have more than just the sting in their tail, to mix an insect metaphor. These are alien bees with energy weapons and some serious technology to back them up. And guess how many ships are going to fight these buzz-bombers off? You got it – just your ships, one at a time, flying in and blowing up everything in sight. While you’re limited to flying one ship at a time, remember that the bees are attacking in graceful and deadly waves. Occasionally, you’ll encounter “high point areas” where hitting a “pow” marker will transform bees or indestructible skull obstacles on the screen into a fruit that you can collect harmlessly for bonus points. But the bees have a backup plan, too – hive-shaped carriers that appear from time to time, offloading a whole fleet of enemies for you to contend with. (Capcom, 1985)

Memories: I love Exed Exes (released in the U.S. as Attack Of The Savage Bees). But there’s nothing especially original about it, you know? The game play reeks of Xevious, with elements of Mario Bros. (the “pow” power-up) and even Pac-Man (bonus fruit) thrown in for good measure. The enemies appear in waves very much like those of Galaga and Gaplus, even down to their sneaky trick of attacking you from behind at the bottom of the screen. Continue reading

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of DoomThe Game: As famed archaeologist / adventurer Indiana Jones, you enter a vast complex of caverns through one of three entrances (which one determines how hard the game will be). Your first task is to evade See the videoand/or whip the Thuggee guards into submission as you free caged children. You then make your escape in a runaway mine cart, which you have to keep on the tracks while also whipping anyone in a pursuing cart who gets too close. After getting the children to safety, you embark on far more dangerous adventures, but with greater risks come greater rewards… (Atari Games, 1985)

Memories: Now this is the kind of experience one expects from an Indiana Jones game – kicking butt, grabbing treasure, getting out alive, and avoiding snakes because you hate snakes. It’s by no means a perfect game, but when I need a pixellated Indiana Jones fix, this winds up being my go-to game. Continue reading

Motos

MotosBuy this gameThe Game: This contest places you in a vehicle on a grid suspended in space. Going over the edge of the grid is bad news, and yet that’s exactly where you must ram every other object on the screen. Be careful: Isaac Newton’s laws of motion apply here, and every action begets a reaction, namely your vehicle being bounced as far back as your target has been knocked ahead. And depending on the configuration of the playing field, which eventually evolves to include gaps in the middle of the screen which can only be jumped with the proper combination of “power parts” and “jump parts,” ramming an enemy can put you over the edge too. Later levels introduce more aggressive enemies which will leave you almost strictly on the defensive. (Good tip? Position yourself between two enemies and let the recoil from attacking one help you put another one out of the game as well.) Lingering too long on the playing field will cause whoever’s in charge of this genteel sporting event to hurl projectiles at the field, blasting holes out of the grid which must then be jumped or avoided – and even your own jumps can weaken or destroy other squares on the grid. (Namco, 1985)

Memories: Say what you like about Namco, but they’ve probably introduced more singularly addictive games to the arcades than any other company out there, and those games cover a more diverse palette than today’s never-ending smorgasboard of fighting and sports titles. Continue reading

Rush’N Attack

Rush'N AttackBuy this gameThe Game: You’re a lone soldier behind enemy lines, but this is no Front Line. Armed with a knife and some serious kickboxing skills, you weave your way through an enemy installation, doing away with soldiers who are trying to block your way. Occasionally, you can pick up a weapon from a downed enemy, including flame-throwers, machine guns and rocket launchers. (Konami, 1985)

Memories: I remember encountering only one Rush’N Attack machine, which was one of the last arcade games I ever became hooked on. There’s actually something addictive, in a bloodthirsty sort of way, about this little war game. 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

Burgertime

BurgertimeThe 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… (Namco, 1985 [Japan] / Data East, 1987 [US])

Memories: A little bit of an oddity – a Data East-originated arcade game ported to the Famicom by arcade competitor Namco (and then sold in the US by Data East itself) – this version serves up a happy meal worth of authentic Burgertime action on the NES. Continue reading

Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1985)

Memories: Almost a dead ringer for its arcade inspiration graphically, the NES edition of Elevator Action actually loses a few points for having lousy sound – something I rarely count off points for, truth be told. But by the time of the NES, the means were there to replicate the arcade sound – take a listen to Super Mario Bros. for proof. 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 (10 points) and evading four colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots (50 points) enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters Buy this gamefor a brief period for an escalating score (200, 400, 800 and 1600 points). 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… (Tengen, 1985)

Memories: You’ve gotta hand it to Atari – back in the day, they were the experts at exploiting a license until just about every possible option was exhausted. They were also quite adept at staying on the map – up to a point. Where this title might have been released by Atarisoft only a year or two earlier, Atari set up a new imprint – Tengen – to create and market games for the NES. By virtue of Atari’s existing license with Namco, Tengen threrefore produced the first NES port of Pac-Man, and Namco later released its own. (It’s worth noting that the Namco-Atari connection – forged in the late 70s when Namco distributed Atari arcade games in Japan – wasn’t history just yet; Atari later handled the American release of Namco’s Pac-Mania coin-op.) Continue reading

Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt

Super Mario Bros. / Duck HuntThe Game: Intrepid plumbers Mario and Luigi have fallen back on Mario’s original mandate – rescuing the damsel – as they journey through the kingdom, battling Koopas and braving falls from dizzying heights, all to Buy this gamerescue the princess (who, as always, seems to be in another castle). In Duck Hunt things are a bit more normal – you’re just trying to nail some ducks in the wild, with the help and encouragement (and, if you let one get away, derisive laughter) from your trusty huntin’ dawg. (Nintendo, 1985)

Memories: Right up there with Atari 2600 Pac-Man in ubiquity, and almost universally loved (think about that for a moment – how many video games reach quite that level of popularity?), Super Mario Bros. was the ticket the NES needed to break into the U.S. market. Continue reading

Wrecking Crew

Wrecking CrewThe Game: Mario toils away on a construction site when his tools turn against him and start acting like, well, tools. Now Mario has to outfox his own tools and demolish the platforms around them – maybe taking the tools out in the process. He has his trusty hammer, and strategically placed bombs help to speed the process as well (but can be dangerous if Mario hangs around too close). Great care must be taken to demolish the structures in the correct order so access isn’t cut off to areas needed to finish the level. (Nintendo, 1985)

Memories: Possibly the most obscure of Mario’s career detours, this game at least depicts Mario in the same job he was pursuing before Donkey Kong came along: as a construction worker of some kind, rather than a plumber. At its heart, though, Wrecking Crew is about blowing stuff up – in the right order – rather than building anything. It’s a neat puzzle game disguised as a platformer. 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, 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 See the videoyour tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (Namco, 1985)

Memories: For some reason that I have a hard time trying to fathom, this game was released for the Famicom only – the Japanese console which was re-engineered as the NES for the English-speaking market. The reason I can’t fathom that is that this is a perfectly playable port of Dig Dug. Did Namco really think that this cute classic was past its sell-by date in the States? Continue reading

Adventure Construction Set

The Game: Digital dungeon masters never had it so good. From the design of tiles and characters to the basic rules governing the player’s interactions with his world, it’s all up for grabs. Items can be placed, their abilities defined, and enemies can be generated. Let the games begin…but is it more fun to create them or play them? (Electronic Arts, 1985)

Memories: Offering everything from pre-built elements to user-defined items and characters from scratch, Adventure Construction Set was a revelation. Where Garry Kitchen‘s Game Maker from Activision allowed budding game designers to create their own arcade-style games, EA‘s Adventure Construction Set gave them control of a top-down, tile-based 2-D adventure game. Those familiar with the Ultima series or Questron would instantly be within their element. Continue reading

Create With Garfield!

Create With Garfield!The Game: Using a simple drag-and-drop system (controlled by keyboard, mouse or joystick), put the elements of an original Garfield comic into place, including everyone’s favorite big orange cat, Odie, Jon, Nermal and all the fixtures and fittings of home (including a big burger and some lasagna). Then position speech balloons in the appropriate place, containing either signature Garfield catchphrases or your own words. Print and/or save to disk, repeat ad nauseum, and avoid Jim Davis’s lawyers thereafter! (Developmental Learning Materials, 1985)

Memories: This nifty bit of creative software used to keep me entertained for hours on end. With a bit of advanced option tweaking, it was even possible to import standard hi-res images to use as the background for a scene, so it wasn’t impossible to, say, drop Odie into the middle of a saved image of an Ultima IV meleè. Not that I’d do such a thing, of course. Continue reading

Doctor Who and the Warlord

Doctor Who and the WarlordThe Game: You are the Doctor’s companion, separated from the Time Lord during an attempt to save the Doctor’s old friend, King Varangar. When you come to, the Doctor is nowhere around, you’re unarmed, and you’re surrounded by deadly swamps, war zones, and hostile alien soldiers. Your life expectancy away from the TARDIS isn’t looking terribly good – and even if you can reunite with the Doctor, escaping from planet Quantain won’t be easy. (BBC Software, 1985)

Memories: The second official Doctor Who computer game, released during the show’s mid-1980s merchandising heyday, Doctor Who And The Warlord is a decisive step away from the somewhat derivative arcade-inspired game play of Doctor Who: The First Adventure… and a step toward another well-worn style of game: the text adventure. Continue reading

Friday The 13th

Friday The 13thThe Game: Find Jason Voorhees and destroy him before he slaughters your friends in this game based on the popular horror movie franchise. People will definitely die; the only questions are who, when, and by whom. (Dormark, 1985)

Memories: I can still remember the night I got Friday The 13th for my Commodore 64. My friends and I were big fans of all the big ’80s horror icons such as Jason (Friday The 13th), Freddy (Nightmare On Elm Street), and Michael Myers (Halloween). The thought of playing a videogame based off of one of those movies at that time was both exciting and a little scary for us young’uns. Fortunately for our young minds, the scariest thing about Friday The 13th for the Commodore 64 was the actual gameplay. Continue reading

Garry Kitchen’s Game Maker

The Game: You decide what the game’s going to be. From creating your own characters, animating them, building their world (and the physical rules that govern it) and setting up the conflicts and limits, you have a powerful game-making tool at your disposal. Use it wisely, make something fun, and learn a little bit about how video games are conceived and programmed. (Activision, 1985)

Memories: Almost a transcendental work of genius, Game Maker is one of those programs that, if you were around (and of a certain age) when it was released, you remember it vividly. This is one of those things that probably changed a few lives. Continue reading

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