The Game: Two players take the twin steering wheels of a fire truck racing through obstacle-cluttered streets en route to a fire. The player in front steers the front of the truck, while the rear of the fire truck is steered independently by the player in back (one player sits and the other stands, affording both a clear view of the screen). If both players aren’t well-coordinated, the rear of the fire truck will smack into parked cars, trees and other obstacles that the front of the truck may have cleared successfully. (Atari, 1978)
Memories: A wickedly fun (and funny) cooperative game, Fire Truck isn’t so much a racing game as it is an avoid-everything game. It’s rather unforgiving in that it demands that both players be virtually joined in lockstep as to where the fire truck is pointed – anything less is begging for disaster.
I distinctly remember playing this game with my older brother in the 1970s. I don’t think we successfully put out any fires; in fact, I’m not sure we were even successful enough to get a kitten out of a tree: not the best firefighters in the world. But the game never seemed to be anything less than riotously fun; somewhat surprisingly, it was never ported to any home systems, and even in the day when the copyright sanctity of game concepts was dealt with in a way that could be most charitably described as “fast and loose”, it’s rather surprising that no one else copied the idea.
Fire Truck appears to share a significant amount of code with a Kee Games coin-op called Super Bug, which is essentially the same game for only one player, trading in the accident-prone fire engine for a drift-prone Volkswagen bug; Super Bug‘s street mazes, obstacles and basic play mechanics don’t differ significantly from Fire Truck‘s. Kee Games was a “secret” subsidiary of Atari which was actually overseen by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell as an eyebrow-raising way to skate around the exclusivity of the existing coin-op distribution system; the full story on Kee Games can be found in our entry covering Tank!.