The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackThe Game: Derived from an action scene in the second of a trilogy of little-known films about a budding Jedi Knight named Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back puts you in the cockpit of Luke’s snowspeeder in a desperate bid to beat back huge Imperial Walkers – also known as AT-ATs – from destroying the Rebel back on the ice planet of Hoth. The AT-ATs’ heavy artillery can seriously deplete your snowspeeder’s shielding with a single hit, though you must score numerous direct hits before you can even begin to have the same effect on the onslaught of Imperial Walkers, let alone destroy one. Occasionally, a weakness will be exposed in the “neck” region of the huge mechanical monsters, and you’ll have a few seconds in which you may take advantage of that and blow the machine away. And even less frequently, the triumphant strains of John Williams’ Star Wars theme – as squeaked out by the Atari 2600’s limited sound facility – will signal that the Force is with you, rendering you invincible for a short period of time. You’re going to need it. (Parker Brothers, 1982)

Memories: The Empire Strikes Back is just one in a series of excellent Star Wars-themed game cartridges released around this time by Parker Brothers (other titles included Star Wars: The Arcade Game, an excellent adaptation of the Atari vector arcade game, and the intriguing Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle). Read More

Star Wars: Jedi Arena

Star Wars: Jedi ArenaThe Game: You weren’t born with a lightsaber in your hands. Even a Jedi Knight must practice his skills. Two Jedi are safely tucked away behind deflector shields, while an automatic seeker ball roams the center of a large chamber. You can use the Force to influence the seeker to attack your opponent, and you can deflect the seeker’s laser bolts when your opponent does the same to you. And every once in a while, the seeker goes into berzerk mode, firing multiple bolts at both contestants, pummeling their shields until one or both are defenseless. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Easily the strangest of Parker Bros.Star Wars-inspired games for the 2600, I have to give Jedi Arena full marks for originality – instead of trying to ape a scene from any of the films in a convoluted game structure, Parker Brothers instead opted to create a completely new scenario, based only loosely on Luke’s training scene with the seeker ball in Star Wars. Read More