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. (Ocean Software, 1986)

Memories: Three years after the release of AtariSoft’s Commodore 64 Donkey Kong port, European software developer Ocean Software decided it was time for another Donkey Kong remake and accepted the challenge.

It goes without saying that the more familiar programmers become with a particular platform, the more advanced their games will look and play. This is generally why games released later in a platform’s lifespan often seem more advanced than earlier titles. Such is the case with Ocean’s version of Donkey Kong. With an additional three years of familiarity with the Commodore behind them, Ocean was really able to crank one great looking port. Continue reading

Tetris

TetrisThe Game: Various shapes consisting of four blocks each fall from the top of the screen, giving the player a short time to rotate, move (left or right only), and ultimately drop each piece into place. The goal is to put complementary shapes together, forming a solid line (or several solid lines) and leaving no gaps. Completed horizontal lines disappear from the screen, and the remaining pieces drop to the bottom. Bonus points are awarded for using the tallest piece – four blocks tall – to eliminate four lines at once. Allowing the shapes to pile up until they reach the top of the screen ends the game. (freeware, 1986)

Memories: Created in 1984 while the programming trio of Alexey Pajitnov, Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov were working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Tetris was first programmed on a mainframe computer and its commercial potential was immediately recognized. Since it was designed and coded “on the clock” in Soviet government facilities, the government automatically had ownership of the program. The Soviet technology and software export bureau, Elektronorgtechnica (ELORG for short), had never dealt with a computer game, and dropped the ball. The programmers shrugged it off; Gerasimov’s MS-DOS PC port was released into the wild in 1986 with no expectation that anyone involved would ever profit from it, and that was that. Continue reading

Topper

TopperThe Game: As Topper the top-hat-wearing turtle, your job is to jump from platform to platform until every platform on the screen is the same color, all without jumping into the empty space beyond the platforms. But as easy as this task See the videomay sound, it’s not that easy: rambunctious rabbits are ready to pounce on you, or at the very least keep you from reaching all of the platforms. Random explosives appear on some platforms and you have to avoid that platform until the danger has passed – and not even all of the platforms stay in one place. (Navarone Software, 1986)

Memories: The TI 99/4a version of Q*Bert is a decent port of Q*Bert, but on this computer, I much prefer Topper. With tense seconds ticking by as Topper stares down the slow approach of the evil rabbits (who actually look more like evil guys in evil rabbit suits, to be honest), there’s an element of patience and strategy that brings an almost chess-like dimension to what could easily have been just another Q*Bert clone. Continue reading

Ultima IV: Quest Of The Avatar

Ultima IV: Quest Of The AvatarThe Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Britannia, and Lord British calls for your service again. You start out alone, accumulating traveling (and fighting) companions along your journey, striving to live by the Eight Virtues that govern conduct in the kingdom. Along the way, numerous creatures, both evil and simply pesky, challenge you. As you go forth on the quest, you must also collect the mantras of each Virtue, travel to the corresponding Shrines, and meditate there until you reach enlightenment. With enlightenment and experience come the strength to rid Britannia of evil – but, to quote a little pointy-eared green guy, beware the dark side… (Origin Systems, 1986)

Memories: Richard Garriott’s fourth classic role-playing installment was one of the most addictive games I ever played on the Apple II computer. I kid you not, I spent hours playing Ultima IV. Then, and I’m sure you know this story, I moved a few times, lost track of my original floppies, and missed the game terribly the next time it crossed my mind to play it. I shall now spend hours waxing rhapsodic about why this is still my favorite computer RPG of all time. Continue reading

Uridium

UridiumThe Game: Destroy massive motherships while fighting waves of enemies and avoiding obstacles at breakneck speeds in this groundbreaking horizontal SHMUP. There’ll be time to rest when you’re dead. (Hewson, 1986)

Memories: Uridium is one of the fastest games I’ve ever played. At top speed, things whiz by you so quickly that your reflexes simply aren’t fast enough. You’ll have to memorize the levels to fly at that speed – too bad you can’t memorize where the next wave fleet of enemies will be coming from. Continue reading

The Halley Project

The Halley ProjectThe Game: Your sleek spacecraft is launched from a base installation on Halley’s Comet (!). Your mission is to scout various bodies in the solar system – both planets and moons – which meet strictly defined criteria as dispensed by the computer. In some cases you must land, in others you must simply achieve orbit. You must learn to navigate the solar system using the constellations of the Zodiac, and learn to judge distance so you won’t overshoot your target (and therefore exceed your allotted mission time) with brief bursts of your faster-than- light drive. You climb in the ranks as you complete more missions. (Interscope, 1986)

Memories: As a life-long space buff, I adored this game. I was always a big fan of such interplanetary missions as the Vikings, Voyagers, Pioneers and Mariners launched by NASA (and, for the most part, overseen by JPL, though to give credit where it’s due, the Pioneers were an Ames project). This game put me into the role of a surrogate space probe, navigating planets and their moons and generally exploring the solar system. Continue reading

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