The Game: You’ve got a mobile paddle and – well, frankly, balls. But you don’t have a lot of balls at your disposal (am I the only one becoming a little bit uncomfortable discussing this?), so you have to make the best use of them that you can to knock down the rows of colorful bricks overhead. In some games, there may be other, free-floating balls trapped in “cavities” in the bricks, and setting them loose will mean you’ll have several balls – and not all of them necessarily yours, disturbingly enough – to handle. Missing one of your balls – and we all know how painful that can be – forces you to call another ball into play. Losing all of your balls, as you’ve probably guessed by now, ends the game. So, in essence, Super Breakout is a metaphor for life from the masculine perspective. (Atari, 1982)
Memories: So let’s see here. Atari had this great new console which sported, essentially, the guts of their Atari 400 computer, quite a bit of processing power (for its day) for a game-playing machine. Capable of detailed, colorful graphics and excellent sound effects, the Atari 5200 would, of course, need a fantastic pack-in title at launch, something which would showcase its amazing abilities. And that’s all fine and well, but what the poor 5200 wound up with was Super Breakout.
Now, it’s a nice port of the arcade game to be sure, with much more detailed graphics than the somewhat chunky version already released for the VCS, but it was hardly the launch title needed to guarantee the system any kind of success – especially when one considers that Coleco had already beaten Atari to the punch with its ColecoVision console, which included nothing less than a stellar port of Donkey Kong, only the second-hottest game in the arcades at that point.
Super Breakout is, like many early 5200 titles, almost exactly as it appeared on the Atari 400 and Atari 800 computers. Players use the joystick to maneuver a paddle at the bottom of the screen; the object of the game is to smash as many bricks as possible with the ball (or, in some variations, several projectiles), without allowing the ball to slip past the paddle. When a certain number of balls are missed, the game ends, and many a player will then lament, “Damn, but I miss my balls!”
Later in the 5200’s life – too late, some critics might say, to save the console which had by now been trounced by the Colecovision and several early home computers – Atari switched the pack-in title to Pac-Man.