Wow. Painful Superbowl ads of yesteryear…
Posts Tagged ‘Atari’
No, ET! Get the hell out of my house with your crappy game! What have you done with Santa?
Wow, here’s an ad that really makes you want to get an Atari 5200 (the one with Pac-man games that didn’t cause horrible seizures)! Who knew Santa was so hi-tech?
In other news: There was a Wacky Wallwalkers cartoon? Why the hell was there a Wacky Wallwalkers cartoon? God damn it 1980s, is there anything you wouldn’t turn into a horrible cartoon?
Sorry I’ve been neglecting this site. There’s been some busy times. With video games…
But on that subject, let’s talk about some of the best games to have ever been available in the homes of young folks. I didn’t have a 2600 of my own, but was graced with the much cooler library of the off-beat Odyssey2 (but we’ll talk about that another time). Everyone else had a 2600 though, so I got to spend some serious time with the library. Most of the games don’t stand up well compared to what we’ve got now. Heck, most of them weren’t even that good for the time, but you weren’t about to get arcade quality in the home back then. Let’s take a look at some of the best of them. Games I can even play to this day (except Demon Attack, which isn’t on my Flashback 2.0).
Without further ado, here’s my Top 5:
1 – Demon Attack
Ok, I know I just made fun of the box, but this game was really classic. Atari never got a decent iteration of Galaga or Galaxians, but this took things to the next level. First of all the game was a lot more active than any competitors out there. The demons were fast, unpredictable, and mean. They might swoop for you in a kamikaze attack, or maybe shoot a beam that moved with them. Sometimes when you shot them, they just split into two smaller, harder to hit targets and fired the same big old beams at you. Sometimes they just made you throw the controller with rage. Well, me anyways.
It wasn’t just the enhanced difficulty and unique enemies that sold the game, though. It looked good, with a ton of color and some sharply defined sprites that you don’t see in a lot of old Atari games. And the sound was practically terrifying, with a heartbeat thump that was as terrifying as the Telltale Heart.
2 – Adventure
Ok, the hero of Adventure may not have as much personality as Dirk the Daring, but this was still the first epic fantasy adventure you could play at home. It had castles, dragons, horrible bats, and the deadly enchanted…arrow. Yeah. That’s supposed to be a sword, but it’s just not, man.
Still, the game manged to seem huge, with 29 screens of gameworld (plus one of the first easter egg screens) and multiple items that were needed to overcome the obstacles in your quest. Also the game could take forever because of that *&#$ bat, who would just take whatever you were holding and give you useless crap. Or an angry dragon. Yes. A bat carrying a dragon makes sense.
Still, as long as you had the wit and patience, you could always finish the game. Adventure was one of the first video games where you couldn’t die, but that didn’t necessarily make the harder levels feel any easier. Yet it was all worth it when you brought that grail back into your castle and witnessed the glorious victory palette-cycling.
3 – Pitfall
Oh yes. The first real home platformer. The first one that looked any good, anyways. Pitfall was a relentlessly hard game, but memorization could take you a long way. Sure all you did was run back and forth and jump over obstacles, but many would say that aside from a little vertical depth, that’s all you did in most platform games. And it certainly did a great job of skirting the line where it was hard enough to be rewarding, but not so impossible that you felt like it was deliberately crushing your hopes and dreams.
Like Demon Attack, Pitfall also showed us that a talented 3rd party developer could really make a pretty game. Solid colors and spites that didn’t look like splotches were pretty amazing. The 3-color Pitfall Harry probably had the most personality we’d see in a home videogame character until Super Mario Bros. hit the scene.
Pitfall II eventually did build a huge, open game world, but there’s something to be said for the simple challenge of just staying alive through screen after screen of jerkwad crocodiles and obnoxious scorpions. And amazingly passive snakes. Those were some damn lazy snakes.
4 – Combat
Before there was Street Fighter, true men resolved their differences over Combat. It’s still hard to believe that 2 dinky tank sprites could generate such visceral competition, but that game was a brutal test of skill. And concealed in the game modes were anything from hardcore skill-based ricochet tanks battles, to comical gage battles between a giant plane and and air force of smaller opponents (this was hideously unbalanced in favor of the smaller planes, but little kids always wanted to be the big, badass one).
Moreso than later games, Combat was a true test of skill vs. skill. No character balance, no random powerups. Only your feeble steering came between you and certain death.
5 – Yar’s Revenge
Coming late in the game from Atari, Yar’s Revenge showed something that wouldn’t be seen for a while in their console division: creativity. Not long after this, Atari would begin pushing out mediocre ports of their arcade games, and even more mediocre clones of industry standard formulas, some of which had horrible licenses attached.
Yar’s Revenge was a repeating boss fight, at least we would call it that these days. You had to coordinate the actions of your little robotic fly as you gradually ate away at the shields of a dealy super cannon with your puny laser. While doing this you were chased by space missiles and could potentially be shot by the super cannon. Only with the deadly cannon exposed could you retaliate with your own weapon of mass destruction. The overall experience was something a little different from the classic shooter of the time and really required you to divide your attention among multiple threats and stratgeies.
Also it came with a rockin’ comic book. Gotta love the comic books.
Well, some people may be enraged by my lack of River Raid, or that sweet Return of the Jedi game, but as far as I am concerned, these are the real classics. I still play all of these except Demon Attack on my Flashback 2.0 (and the lack of Demon Attack is sorely disappointing). I can’t say that about a lot of home retrogames.
Gamasutra has a nice article up on Atari from ‘78-’81, but it’s 20 pages, so be warned! Still this is a great period for computer and video game history buffs.
The VCS/2600 used to be the standard, the first big breakthrough console. And I never had one. I’m not bitter, my Odyssey2 was a classic in and of itself, but the 2600 was definitely the mainstream console. Now get to readin’!