Air Raid

Air RaidThe Game: Players fly a fighter jet that can somehow maintain perfect altitude and lateral control despite constantly flying with its nose pointed straight up. Oncoming invaders, resembling UFOs, upside-down houses, upside-down stick figures (presumably the residents of the upside-down houses) and other airplanes appear; the player can either shoot them down, let them pass (with no apparent damage to the structures that the player’s jet is apparently protecting) or be blown to bits. (Men-A-Vision, 1983)

Memories: This game is not renowned for its compelling, must-hit-the-reset-switch-and-do-it-all-again game play. It’s not memorable for its searingly colorful graphics or amazing, how-did-they-get-that-sound-out-of-that-chip audio. Air Raid has none of these things. What Air Raid does have, however, is the dubious distinction of being the rarest commercially released game made for the Atari VCS, while simultaneously being one of the worst.

Air RaidThe only thing that makes Air Raid desirable is either bragging rights, or the money to be made from flipping it. To date, the highest price the game has yet commanded on eBay is a whopping $31,600 for a complete, boxed copy. Without either box or instructions, a loose cartridge can – and has – still fetch over $3,500 at auction. A ratty-looking cartridge would probably still snag a grand.

Which would be okay if Air Raid was an impressive, challenging game.

But it’s not.

The graphics hearken back to the earliest eras of VCS releases, barely adequate to depict their subject matter. Controls aren’t as smooth as they should be (really, this was at least two years after Air RaidSpace Invaders – how could it still be that hard to get it right?), resulting in the player’s plane ending up in harm’s way far too easily.

The only thing Air Raid has going for it is its resale value. It’s the only game known to have been releases by Men-A-Vision (a company name which itself sounds like a punch line), and it’s yet another specimen of the cynical fad-bandwagon-jumping overpopulation of the 2600 library which brought the U.S. video game industry to its knees.

1 quarter - OUCH!Perhaps the biggest punch line to be found here is that an individual with a pristine boxed copy of an awful game can rake in enougn money to go buy a better-than-average new car with cash, whereas the quality of Air Raid and the apparent scarcity of its distribution make it seem unlikely that the game’s original publishers ever had such luck.