The Daily Awesome: the Model G1 from Rabbit Engineering

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The Model G1 from Rabbit Engineering

Today’s Daily Awesome is the Model G1 from Rabbit Engineering. It is an arcade unit that allows you to play almost any NES cartridge. What’s cool is the styling’s which was made to order and features arcade-style inputs and its own screen and the classic wooden finish is pretty sweet.

 

Model G1 from Rabbit Engineering

Now this rig is a bit pricy at $199, but for retro enthusiast it’s a must have!

P.S. In the video above is the G2 which features an Atari 2600!

Check out the specs and details here – Rabbit Engineering Model G1

Black 4 In One

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There is a certain cute factor to Mr Postman (you are a teddy bear after all) yet its quickly forgotten by the sheer brutality of that constantly shitting and spitting bird. ~Joseph Tobin

Black 4 In One

Manufactured by a German company (from what little I can find out online about it) named Bit Corp. (which sounds like a really cool chiptune artist name if you ask me) is the Black 4 In One cartridge. Why I refer to it as the Black 4 In One cartridge is because years after acquiring that one (I’ve had it since I was about 10 or 12) I managed to acquire an orange one with a different mix of games on it and the same name (which I may review later).

Black-4-in-one-cartridge-for-the-atari-2600

Anyway the cartridge has 4 games on it and it uses 2 switches to determine which game will play when you turn on the Atari console with it plugged in. This weird as I’ve never seen the same switch system used on any other Atari cartridges yet its very effective.

Something of interest is this cartridge was only released in PAL territories so they are considered pretty rare in USA.

As you can see my personal copy had taken a bit of damage thanks to my kids. Somehow it still works – further proof of how durable these old Atari carts really are (even the cheap third party ones).

Anyway these are the games that are on Black 4 In One –

  1. Space Tunnel (right/right)
  2. Phantom Tank (right/left)
  3. Bobby Is going Home (left/right)
  4. Mr Postman (left/left)

Now for the games themselves…

Space Tunnel

Space Tunnel reminds me a lot of Vanguard except you move up and down instead of scrolling left and right. Alien ships at varying speeds and sizes come at you in squadrons of one, two or three at a time. What makes this a challenge is the bullets they fire ricochet off the walls and they tend to be as fast as the ship that fires them. slow ship – slow bullets. Fast ship – oh my god how do I dodge this thing?!? Its usual Atari fare of an endless amount of waves and trying to survive as long as you can whilst scoring as high as possible.

Space Tunnel

This game is pretty fun – the controls are responsive and the adrenaline shoots up when the fast ships are firing bouncing bullets at you. When you die (by touching a wall, an alien ship or a bullet) your ship becomes a twisted piece of wreckage and there is a loud bang sound. When its game over you can still move your wreckage left and right, further rubbing in the fact your ship is screwed. Whether intentional or not I like that.

Phantom Tank

In Phantom tank you drive a tank in a maze trying to kill phantom tanks which are attacking your base at the bottom of the screen. What is really cool is this is one game where flickering graphics are actually a good thing because they make the phantom tanks look very ethereal. So you navigate your way around, shoot 20 tanks and on to the next level.

Phantom Tank

While the first level or two aren’t too tough the third level is an absolute bitch. You are fighting in mostly open terrain with a small barrier to protect the top. Where this sucks is you can only have one bullet on screen at a time and only the screen walls or the moving tanks to stop it. Not to mention if you sneak up the top a single stray enemy bullet can drift down and kill your base. When your base goes it doesn’t matter how many lives you have – GAME OVER!

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In spite of this Phantom Tank has remained one of my favorite all-time Atari games.

So the first two games are pretty straight forward. Not a lot to say about them – they are what they are and are pretty fun. The next two is where it starts to get weird…

Bobby Is Going Home

Warning – this game is cute. I’m talking obnoxiously cute here. How a bunch of Germans came up with this game is beyond me – Germany is known for industrial efficiency, hard electronic music and good beer – NOT FOR CUTE! Don’t believe me – take a look at this screenshot!

Anyway you are Bobby (who is supposed to be a little boy but looks more like an elf on his way to a funeral) and you are trying to get home. In this brightly coloured world you have to traverse such obstacles as fences, ponds, retracting bridges, chickens, bats, butterflies, rolling stones and so on. Controls are pretty good although the high jumping can get you killed sometimes.

Bobby Is Going Home atari 2600

Throughout the game an obnoxiously cute tune plays to make this German kawaii nightmare complete. That happy tune will get stuck in your head. Anyway you go from left to right through various screens dodging obstacles. When you jump it plays a little tune which plays instead of the background music’s bass line (yes the game music has treble and bass parts – something that Atari doesn’t have often).

If you hit an enemy Bobby farts when he dies. If you fall into a pond you sink ito it and drown with a bubbly drowny-type sound. As you near your house the music slows down – I guess Bobby is starting to get tired by this point. The final screen is a snow storm with you going into your house and you are treated to a happy ‘there’s no place like home’ type tune. Then it all starts again except a little harder.

Bobby Is Going Home

This game most certainly has camp value and is very fun to play in spite of the cuteness blasting from every pixel on the screen made even worse by that tune you will find yourself playing in your head for years to come. For what it is this game is very well made – lots of colour, great looking backgrounds, butterflies that look like butterflies, house that looks like a house and so on. However those black things they call rolling stones look pretty weird.

Mr Postman

This is a game most reviewers can the crap out of mostly because they can’t get past the first screen so they dismiss it as being a bad game. Personally I think these reviewers are just being AVGN wannabees and are deliberately looking for stuff to trash in games in an attempt to be funny. A bad game is a bad game but Mr Postman is a lot better than many other Atari 2600 titles.

There are three screens in all and I can make it through all of them. But it took a hell of a lot of practice to do it.

Mr Postman

In this game you are a postman represented by a teddy bear. The aim is to traverse the three screens and deliver your letter to a house in the ‘City of Silence’. Why I know this and most reviewers don’t? I used to have the scrap of paper that came with this cartridge they laughingly called the instruction manual.

The first screen is very hard, the hardest part of the game in fact. You have to run across the bottom of the screen, climb the tree jump onto the swinging rope, jump off the rope and land on the bird.

Jumping onto the bird is hard enough but many people don’t even get that far as the bird is constantly shitting while spitting at the tree. So you risk being shit on by the bird (which of course kills you). If you make it that far you risk being spat on as you climb the tree (which also kills you). Timing your jump to catch the rope is the easiest part of this screen (again, if you miss the rope or bird it kills you). As the bird is moving a lot its hard to time the jump onto it. But it can be done and when you do a triumphant tune plays and you can fly around on the bird for a bit. Yay.

The second screen you are flying around in a hailstorm. If you touch the trees at the bottom you die. If hailstones hit you (which you have to shoot) you die, if the lightning bolt hits you (kind of like a faster moving missile like in Missile Command) you die. Plus you have to shoot the birds at the top of the screen through the gaps in the clouds. Surprisingly its not as hard as it looks. Anyway you kill all the birds and the hail you make it to the third and final screen.

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Congratulations Mr Postman you’ve made it to the City of Silence – now to make your way to the house and deliver that letter. But its not so simple as there are some tight squeezes to slowly inch your way through else you die by touching the walls. As long as you take it slow its not so hard but a couple of those spaces are pretty tight. Ironically there is a simple tune playing in the background as you roam the City of Silence.

There is a certain cute factor to Mr Postman (you are a teddy bear after all) yet its quickly forgotten by the sheer brutality of that constantly shitting and spitting bird. The hailstorm is chaotic and keeps you on your toes. Crawling through the City of Silence can be nerve-wracking navigating those tight corners. You really feel like you’ve accomplished something when you deliver that letter. But wait… it doesn’t end there. Thats right, this is Atari – you go back to the beginning to do it all over again!!!

So there you have it – all four games and for the most part four fairly entertaining ones. All games have excellent responsive yet precise controls so you can’t blame those if you suck at the game. I like the varying difficulty between the games as it caters to gamers of all skill and patience tolerance levels. A rarity for a small third party company as they are generally known for bad games.

Our Rating

  • Space Tunnel – 7/10 – Its fun, action packed space shooting in a confined space. The changes in speed keep the challenge going and the richochets keep you on your toes.
  • Phantom Tank – 8/10 – Great game even if the third screen is nigh impossible to beat
  • Bobby Is Going Home – 7/10 – Fun but gets repetitive once you know the patterns. Has some replay value as its the sort of game you just have to show to people and laugh when they can’t make it home even once (then you proceed to breeze through it). I can imagine people on drugs having a lot of fun with this one.
  • Mr Postman – 5/10 – The sheer brutality of the first screen will turn many people off playing it. Yet there are those who will be determined to beat it if only once.

Overall an excellent cartridge to pick up if you can find a copy.

6 Great Flappy Bird Clones

6 Great Flappy Bird Clones

Flappy Bird was the King of mobile gaming, but now the king is dead. Here are some Flappy Bird inspired Games that will fill that void in your life.

Maverick Bird (Web)

This Flash game was written by Terry Cavanagh the Indie Game legend behind VVVVVV, Don’t Look Back and Super Hexagon. It has great music and visual and is like Super Hexagon it’s super difficult.

maverickbird

 

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Link: http://terrycavanaghgames.com/maverickbird/

FLAPTHULHU (iOS/Windows)

This is a bit of a cheat as it isn’t out yet, but it looks amazing and is by Paul ‘madgarden’ Pridham. He has previously worked on Punch Quest, Sword of Fargoal (iOS) and forthcoming Death Road to Canada.

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Link: Coming Soon

Flappy Doge (Web)

flappy-dog

If there one Internet meme even bigger (and possibly more annoying) than Flappy Bird, it’s Doge. Such Game, wow.

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Link: http://www.dogetek.co/game/

Quack (ZX81)

quack!

If you require any proof of Flappy Bird simple gameplay, how about this conversation which is available for the 30 years old Sinclair ZX81 which boasts a whopping 1k memory.

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Link: http://www.bobs-stuff.co.uk/quack.html 

Flappo Bird (Atari 2600)

Flappo Bird (Atari 2600)

If the ZX81 is too British and Obscure for you, how about this flipscreen version for the Atari 2600 instead.

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Link: http://tacsgames.itch.io/flappo-bird

CrappyFly (Windows)

crappy fly

Finally there is this. I’ve only added the Windows only game because I made it for FlappyJam, which is a Game Jam for creating even more Flappy Bird clones to support game developer Dong Nguyen. They are now over 150 games and the jam doesn’t finish until February 24th

 

Link: http://glenmcnamee.itch.io/crappyfly

You can find even more clones at the FlappyJam.

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 23,297 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, SG-1000, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, TI-99/4A, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari XE, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, Intellivision
Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

It may have taken a few years but it still wasn’t long before the first few licensed video games started to appear. One of the first such games to grace an amusement arcade was this example, by my beloved Sega no less, and was based on the (mis)adventures of Captain Rogers. Well, I say ‘based’ but this is a game that, name aside, has pretty much nothing to do with the source material – something that would become a familiar story in the years to come – but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily make it a sucky game, just an unfaithful one. Planet of Zoom, for example, takes the form of an into-the-screen shooter. Nothing unusual there for a 70’s sci-fi show, I’ll grant you – plenty of shooting done in most of those. However, as long as it might have been since I’ve immersed myself in the gallant exploits of Buck, Wilma, and Twiki, nothing else from the game seems familiar.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t even be sure that we’re playing the game as Buck! Oh well, whoever may be at the controls, it’s your job to guide their ship through a tonne of dangerous stuff, and the best means of doing this is by blasting the crap out of it all. To this end, the ship offers unlimited use of its cannon, and you can also move it around the screen freely and increase or decrease its speed as you see fit. Each round is divided into eight stages (or sectors) of which there are three types – trench (as seen in the screenshot to the right), open space (next shot down), and planet (bottom shot) – but the object of each is the same; namely, to either fulfill an enemy quota or to finish within the time limit. If you can take down the required number of enemies before the time expires, you’ll move on to the next stage with any remaining time awarded as bonus points. If the timer runs down before you do this, you’ll still progress but with no bonus.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Most of the stages merely pit you against various kinds of oncoming enemies which include many flying saucers, hopping ground-based buffoons, red/purple versions of your own ship (almost), fast winged vessels, and angry-looking grey/red craft. As well as being mighty dangerous by themselves, most of them can also fire missiles and stuff at you, and there are also a few other hazards too. One of the trench stages features a series of barriers with gaps on the left, right, or middle, one of the planetary stages has a load of weird slalom-style gates (which offer only your continued existence as a reward for passing though them), and there is also a stage featuring a much larger boss ship which, for some reason, attacks with its back to you allowing you to simply blast all four of its engines to see it off. Defeating this befuddled clot isn’t too hard and each time you do it’s on to the next round where the stages are in a different order.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

This process goes on forever as far as I can tell, which means things could potentially get more than a little repetitive. Fortunately, the action is fast and involving enough to keep this from setting in too much. The stages all look the same each time they’re repeated but they work well – the scrolling is pretty fast and the enemies move quickly via some superb scaling. The colouring is also impressive with lovely pixelly explosions, nice shaded skies, and even some occasional eye-melting psychedelic effects on some spacey stages. The sound is a little more basic, consisting only of a constant blooping sound (the ship’s engine?), as well as shooting and explosion effects. They’re loud though, and do contribute to the enjoyment of Buck’s adventure which is a pretty decent one. I think it’s clear Sega’s inspiration for Space Harrier lies here, and the later game is understandably the one that’s more fondly remembered, but I was pleasantly surprised by its spiritual predecessor which is more playable in some ways as well as being slightly easier. Buck and friends may have a pretty limited involvement but they can still be fairly proud of this.

RKS Score: 7/10

The Obsolete Gamer Show #36

William Watterson - Jim Peyton

This week on the Obsolete Gamer show we got to talk with actor, William Watterson. Not only is he a talented voice and screen actor, but he is voicing the main character, Jim Peyton in the upcoming game, Lost Planet 3.

Check out his gamer profile which includes the Lost Planet 3 trailer and his reel.

This was a great interview. William started out in a band and then made his way to screen acting and then voice acting working on L.A. Noir. He has worked on a number of screen projects and was even a body double for Nic Cage. Not only is he a gamer, but he even invented a drinking game for the Atari 2600 classic game Warlords.

William was also a comic book collector so we not only talk about that and the collection on my wall, but also the new of Ben Affleck getting the role of Batman. Check out the clip below.

Overall a great interview so check it out on our podcast page where you can watch the video or download the audio podcast for ITunes or listen to it via Stitcher Radio.

Gamer Profile: William Watterson

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4-player Warlords tournaments are the most fun you can have with any gaming system. That grinding sound effect and flashing screen when you toast someone? Brutal. Empowering. Priceless. Unforgettable. Just don’t get stuck being the purple king, you’ll never dig your way out of last place. ~William Watterson

William Watterson

Favorite Classic Game: Warlords for the Atari 2600

Here is a trailer from William’s latest video game role voicing the main protagonist Jim Peyton in Lost Planet 3.

William ‘Bill’ Watterson Dramatic Reel from Bill Watterson on Vimeo.

Our interview with William Watterson on The Obsolete Gamer Show

Be sure to check out our other celebrity gamer profiles.

Crash Dive

Crash Drive

Format- Atari 2600

Genre- Side on shooter

There’s only so many things you can say about a lot of Atari 2600 games without stating the obvious.

The graphics are basic. The gameplay is confusing. What is that shape actually supposed to represent? Yes, if you’re not trained in the ways of ye olde Atari, most of the console’s games are more trouble than they’re worth.

Judging Crash Dive purely on adjusted standards though, it isn’t too bad. Sure, it’s pretty aimless and outdated, but what do you expect?

You play as the white ship (see pic) that is always fixed on the left hand side of the screen. Enemies such as fish, battleships and lizards all come at you, and it’s your duty to blast them away. That’s your lot.

Crash Drive

Added intrigue does comes about however, with how the screen is unevenly split between air, sea and underground. Your craft can dive underwater (which involves a cute – for the Atari – splash effect) and burrow underground, but for all extents and purposes the ship’s handling remains the same.

You have a few lives, with the only aim seemingly to stay alive. You’ll play this for a few minutes and that’s probably it. This is a solid entry into the 2600 pantheon, and the sounds are as retro-cool as ever, but i’m struggling to say any more.

Developed by 20th Century Fox, i’m not sure whether the game is the studio attempting a very late interactive version of the 1943 film of the same name. I don’t think the film would be worth seeing if the game’s ‘plot’ is anything to go by though.

Fracuum

fracuum
Like a psychedelic version of the Atari 2600 Adventure on steroids, Fracuum is a brilliantly designed and utterly mind-bending maze game. It has you navigating a complex and expertly designed labyrinth that feels quite a bit like a zoomable fractal, while avoiding baddies and collecting points and power-ups. Play it and have your mind messed with.

Weird Games: X-Man

X-Man Adult game

I don’t think Charles Xavier had this in mind when he created his school for gifted mutants, but then again, I guess if you can run naked through a maze avoiding teeth and scissors that could be considered at least, a special ability. In a nutshell (pun intended) that is what X-Man for the Atari 2600 is all about.

X-Man Adult game

Released by Gamex in 1983, in this adult game, you play a naked guy with a non-Viagra induced hard on, who has to navigate a maze while avoiding all the dangers that keep our manhood not up at night. These dangers include the dreaded teeth, crabs and scissors. When you finally make it to the room you enter a bonus round where you earn points by having as much sex with the woman as you can in the time allowed.

This is about as close to a summary of what young men are in game form as we will ever get. Seriously, even the cover is perfect.

Castlevania for the Atari 2600

castlevania 2600

Castlevania for the Atari 2600

Ever hear of the game Roc N Rope for the Atari 2600? It was not that popular or well received when it was first released in 1984 based on the Konami arcade game. However, thanks to this game we now can play Castlevania on our Atari 2600 emulator.

Here is the description from its creator:

New Castlevania 2600

This is a graphical hack of Roc ‘N Rope – You are William Belmont who is traveling through Dracula’s bizarre castle. He has too use his whip not only too whip his enemies, but also scale the castle. How far will you make it?

Here is gameplay footage from Roc N Rope for the Atari 2600:

Looks pretty cool and you can download it from Atari Age.

Pooyan

Pooyan was a Stern/Konami collaboration for arcade release in 1982. It’s considered a classic among the old-school gamers, although it seems most people I’ve spoken to have never heard of it or played it. It was ported to the Atari 2600 and just about every computer in the ’80′s, but I remember the arcade version well.

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

The gameplay is simple, as you are a mama pig trying to defend her piglets (pooyan) from jerk-ass wolves who (as we learned from kid’s tales) love nothing more than to eat some sweet pork. Normally, she would just hide behind the brick walls of her house, but it seems the Masons are on strike and can’t build her a house quickly enough. She then takes what she learned from the Porky Pig/Robin Hood cartoon and fashions herself a bow and unlimited arrows.

The game repeats two screens, but as in the case of most older arcade games, the levels get faster and more difficult as you move along. The first screen has the wolves on top of a cliff and they’ve mastered the use of the helium balloon. They will ride them down off the cliff’s edge and if they reach the bottom, will climb a ladder on your side and eat you and the piggies.

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

You have two weapons: The arrows, which are dull as shit, as they can’t pierce the wolves’ fur but can pop the balloons and (SPLATTER ALERT!) will send them to their deaths. Or, you can toss huge pieces of meat at them, which are heavy enough to bring everything down to Earth. Where does she get the supply of meat? No one’s talking, but I don’t see any of Mama’s red-headed stepchildren present. The second screen has the wolves riding up the cliff via balloon, and you will take the same defensive actions. The only difference is if enough wolves reach the top they will push a huge boulder on top of you, basically tenderizing their dinner. There are a bonus screens where you do similar actions for points, but just toss the meat.

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

The graphics are fine, nothing special. Very colorful, and you can tell what everything is. The music is very cute, with some classic tunes being heard during gameplay…some music you will recognize.
A simple, but eventually hectic game, with just the one joystick and one button. Easy to pick up and play on MAME if you get the chance. Very unique and quirky gameplay, and I think you’ll find yourself addicted. Highly recommended, and you don’t have to put a lot of time into it, as most games will probably last you 5-10 minutes.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ByIl9QQmeM[/youtube]

Overall 9/10

Activision Classic Anthology available now for mobile devices

Retro gamers that like your classic gaming using your smart phone now have more choices for your gaming pleasure thanks to Activision Anthology. Check out the official press release:

Experience the best retro classic games from the 2600 era with the all-new Activision Anthology App for tablets and smartphones! Available for the first time on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices, gamers can play the original games that started it all. Activision Anthology gives gamers KABOOM!™  for FREE and access to 45 Activision and Imagic games including: PITFALL!™, RIVER RAID™, THE ACTIVISION® DECATHLON, BARNSTORMING™, STAMPEDE™, PITFALL II, ENDURO™, DEMON ATTACK, and many more!

activision anthology

Activision Anthology features multiple control schemes so gamers can choose a play style that suits them. Activision Anthology has Game Center and Facebook integration including leaderboards and achievements to share and compete with friends!  Players can also earn digital versions of the renowned Activision game patches offered in the 1980’s. Original cartridge and box art, game manuals, tips and strategies from the original game designers are also included.

Download some Activision nostalgia now!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma4qQBQWZDU[/youtube]

Activision Anthology is available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices for free (includes Kaboom!). Players can purchase four additional bundle packs with 11 games each at $2.99 or collect all 45 games for a special limited-time introductory price of only $6.99.

Activision Classic Anthology

App Store Link: goo.gl/JFnNB

Google Play Link: goo.gl/pTRL4

Hard Driving

Hard Driving

With a plethora of terrible games out there, I thought the decision would be quite easy. Little did I realise, I found myself struggling to come up with one bad game that truly grated my retro gaming nerves. I could write about how terrible ET was for the Atari 2600, but I thought that everyone already knew that. Then, a light bulb went off in my head ! Why not write about a game that promised so much and delivered so little – Hard Drivin’ on the C64. Get your vomit bag out and read on……

Hard Driving - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Format: Commodore 64
Year: 1989
Publisher: Tengen
Developer: Domark

Don’t be fooled by the “C+VG HIT” on the cover of this game. This game was more of a miss than a hit. Originally released in the arcades in 1988 by Atari Games, Hard Drivin’ was a revolutionary coin-op. It was touted as the world’s first authentic driving simulation. The game featured state-of-the-art polygon graphics and realistic force feedback controls, all designed to offer gamers a sense of what it might be like to sit behind the wheel of a high-performance car. So how do you convert this sense of driving, to an 8-bit system and still make it playable ?

Hard Driving - Gameplay Screenshot

Well, in hindsight, you can’t. This conversion was an absolute catastrophe on the trusty C64. It featured hideous monochrome graphics, and the control system was a joke – any slight pressure on the joystick, and your car would instantly veer out of control.

The other frustrating aspect of the game was the sense of speed, or lack thereof. Driving at 140mph felt like my grandmother could walk faster with her walking frame. Perhaps the speedometer was measuring speed in hours-per-mile.

Hard Driving - Gameplay Screenshot

Did I mention the graphics ! It is absolutely laughable when seeing oncoming traffic – it looks like a flying double bed coming at you at a snail’s pace. Embarrassing as this game is, it was never released as a standalone game, nor at full price ! Perhaps the publisher knew it was a pile of stinking poo.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYwgMy3ckkw[/youtube]

In a nutshell, this C64 conversion offered the gamer to drive a painfully slow and uncontrollable vehicle around a bland and ugly looking world. This title easily wins the award for the worst C64 arcade racer ever, period !

GraphicsAs close to hideous as possible. Prepare your visual cortex for an ugly onslaught

9%

SoundYour ears will be begging you to stuff plugs in them

9%

PlayabilityNo sensation of speed, bland and utter ugly track design. You will stop playing it after a few seconds

1%

LastabilityYou will turn off this game faster than you can say “This is crap!”

0%

OverallHard Drivin’ on the C64 wins the turd ribbon for being exactly that, a stinking turd

4%

Superman: Atari 2600

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot

Growing up a video game and comic book lover, you can imagine how I felt when my two passions merged, and at the age of 9, had a chance to play the Superman cart for my Atari. It was everything I could ever want; Superman flying around, Luthor trying to kill Supes with Kryptonite, Lois needing more saving, etc… Fantastic!
Now, here is how I feel at age 41…
The game starts with Clark leaving one of those old-time phone booths, and as he walks to the next screen, the bridge blows up. The object of the game is to capture Lex Luthor, 6 unnamed criminals, and find/reassemble the 3 pieces of the bridge. Superman has the power of flight, strength, and x-ray vision to help you accomplish this.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
The first part that bothers me (and there’s a big list), is there’s actually no proof that Luthor had anything to do with The Great Metropolis Bridge Explosion of 1978. Whatever reason, I felt Superman was just picking on him a bit. All Luthor does is fly around the entire game with a propeller coming out of his head, and for some reason, wearing Aquaman’s Underoos. As embarrassing as that is, I’m guessing he committed no crime. Also, why these random 6 criminals? Only reason I see is they’re carrying these huge tommy-guns (what year is this anyway?), but they never actually use them.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
The characters are very blocky, but they’re colorful enough to figure out who is whom, although Supes has no hair. Lois wears a pill-box hat (again, what year is this?) and seems to find herself in trouble, get in the way, etc….so, she’s easy to locate.
The sound effects couldn’t be more annoying, with the flying sound (90% of the game) bringing back horrible flashbacks of 2AM TV static. The flickering when multiple characters are on screen leaves me to believe this should have been the first game to come with the “epileptic seizure” warning. The “maze” of Metropolis is beyond frustrating. You could actually be on the jail screen, fly down 1, then fly back up 1, only to find you’re not at the jail, but somewhere else. Insane.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
There are kryptonite satelittes flying around, and if one hits you, Lois magically appears for you to “kiss” to get your powers back. That makes 2 cases in Superman canon where a magic kiss was used, and that’s 2 times too many.
Finally, there’s a helicopter flying around that serves as the same purpose as the bat in Adventure….to piss you off. It just flies around picking up your bridge pieces and making them harder to find, and occasionally carrying Lois around by her hat.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
Friday, I talked about one of my favorite co-op adventures in The Wizard of Wor, but this one of the worst. Yes, they made Superman a co-op game. One person can control him flying up and down, where player 2 can jump on the right joystick and control him flying left and right………….seriously.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7U2TFIayos[/youtube]
In conclusion, some games just don’t age well, and this is one. I recommend keeping your fond memories intact, and don’t actually ruin them with reality.

Overall 3/10

Mobile Reboot of Pitfall coming soon

It looks as if Activision Leeds is working on a reboot of the Atari 2600 classic Pitfall. In the original game, your goal was to guide Pitfall Harry through a jungle filled with dangerous hazards such as crocodiles, scorpions and even the deadly barrel.

pitfall-atari-2600

“We’ve been working on Pitfall since earlier in the year when we set up and it has been really good to revisit that and bring it to a modern audience,” Martyn Brown director of Activision communications said.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhXMYw1lXY0[/youtube]

Pitfall celebrates its 30th anniversary this year so it makes sense to see a reboot in the works and what better place than a smartphone. A release date has not been established yet, but look for it to be available before the end of the year.

Mythbusting six common video game trivia mistakes

Mythbusting six common video game trivia mistakes

Welcome to the return of Know Your History, a feature column that aims to cover proper video game history. Normally, an edition of Know Your History would compare past history to current headlines in an effort to put current topics into proper perspective. This week, however, the aim is to correct a number of video game history facts that I either seen often or have recently run across.

With that said, let us get started with one of the longest running mistakes I’ve seen.

– Pong was NOT the first coin-operated video game.

know your history

A lot of people think and commonly publish that Pong was the first arcade video game. This mistake is incredibly common and with good reason, as I’ve found this mistake printed in video game publications as far back as the late 1970s. While the first successful coin-operated arcade video game, Pongwas not the first, nor was Computer Space, Nolan Bushnell’s first attempt at bringing one to market.

Galaxy Game actually gets the title of being the first coin-operated arcade video game. This space battle game appeared on the campus of Stanford University in 1971, at least two months before Computer Space and almost a full year before Pong.

– The Pac-Man ghosts only have one name each, not two.

know your history

Another long-running mistake is the misconception that the monsters in the original Pac-Man have two names each, such as Character: Shadow, Nickname: Blinky. This is incorrect.

The term of “Character” on these screens is not attempting to list a name but to describe the personality traits of that monster. As top Pac-Man players know, each of the four monsters has a different AI than the others. The “two names” on the title screen are attempting to point that out with one word each, probably losing something in translation.

The original Japanese listings under “Character” paint the picture a little better, with the red ghost described as Oikake (“to pursue”), the pink ghost as Machibuse (“to ambush”), the blue ghost as Kimagure (“moody”) and the orange ghost as Otoboke (“pretending ignorance”).

Compare those “Character” listings to the American versions and they make a little more sense. The character term of “Pokey” (Clyde) is describing him as “a little slow in the head” or something similar.

Make no mistake, the monsters have only one name each: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

– Mario was NOT named Jumpman during production of Donkey Kong.

know your history

Another very common error, despite being easy to disprove with a quick Google search. I’ve heard people tell me that “Jumpman” was the name for Mario in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, with some going so far as to tell me he wasn’t even named Mario until Donkey Kong Junior or even the original Mario Bros.

None of this is quite correct. While it is true that Mario’s working name was Jumpman, and that the instructions on the original arcade version do call him that, the name of Mario came along before Nintendo was even pushing Donkey Kong machines out the door. The original advertising flyer, released at the time the game was released, refers to the character as Mario numerous times.

While Jumpman was almost the character’s name at this time, he was referred to as Mario far earlier than most websites claim and throughout all the merchandising released for the game.

– Sega Channel was NOT the first online console gaming.

know your history

Sega might have claimed this at the time of their short-lived online console service, but to do so would mean ignoring GameLine for the Atari 2600 and PlayCable for the Intellivision console, both from the early 1980s.

– Wolfenstein 3D was NOT the first of the first-person shooters.

know your history

Saw this error listed a lot during Wolfenstein 3D‘s recent anniversary. Numerous mainstream media reports called the classic the first-ever first person shooter, a fact that is nowhere near accurate, as there were numerous others that came before it.

The first is often credited to 1974’s Maze War, which is shown in the slideshow for this column.

– Oh, Guinness Book, how could you make this error?

know your history

I like the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition books, and not just because I’m listed in them every year. I enjoy the great cross-section of gaming that is covered inside.

However, the 2012 edition lists a pretty harsh error on page 202, calling WWF WrestleMania for the NES the “first wrestling video game” in the bottom left corner. How this was not fact checked is a huge mystery, as this 1988 title wasn’t even the first pro wrestling game on the Nintendo console, nor was it the first WWF title to market, either, which would be Micro-League Wrestling.

Numerous popular pro wrestling games came out going as far back as 1983, including Tag Team Wrestling, Mat Mania and Mania Challenge in the arcades and Pro Wrestling on the NES. How did this error make the book?

Then again, this isn’t the only error I noted in the book this year. Page 47 attributes a quote and some information about Galaga champion Andrew Laidlaw as coming from “local newspapers” when, in fact, that quote and information was obtained and first written by me, the person who broke the story to the mainstream media. Click here and see for yourself.

These are just a handful of the common video game history errors out there, but some of the most common. Hopefully this article can go a long way toward helping fix these misconceptions.

Atari’s XE Game System

A lot of notable anniversaries in video game history will take place during the course of the year.  Others may not be as notable, as we’ll learn about today.

Atari XEGS

The Atari XE Game System (XEGS) turns 25 years old this year, a date that most industry experts might not notice.  Thanks to the efforts of Nintendo and a series of new hits in the arcades the video game industry had come roaring back in 1987.  Former industry king Atari wanted a piece of it, and tried in several different ways.

After re-releasing the original Atari 2600 as a value priced system and shipping the previously cancelled Atari 7800 product from warehouses, Atari introduced the XEGS in 1987.  Little more than a redressed Atari 8-bit personal computer, the XEGS aimed directly at Nintendo in television commercials, touting it’s own lightgun and items such as keyboard, disc drive and joystick.

The XEGS also boasted of a huge library of games available for play due to backward compatibility with previous Atari products.  While technically true, the game library was deeply aged by the time the XEGS hit store shelves.  Most of the XE branded games in stores were simply repackaged Atari computer game titles while others were translations of other home computer licenses as Nintendo had exclusive deals signed for almost every other arcade hit.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZ2xuoSkv2Q[/youtube]

The Nintendo Entertainment System had gained more than 90 percent of the market by 1988, leaving the XEGS in the dust along with Atari’s other product.  It wasn’t the last time Atari took aim at Nintendo, however.  Years later Atari would introduce it’s own handheld system, the Lynx, to compete with Nintendo’s GameBoy.  In 1993 they also introduced the 64-bit Jaguar, the last new console released by the legendary Atari.

Despite a short run, the XEGS and games can be found on eBay and other online sites fairly easily today.

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

xbox 360, playstation 3, nintendo wii

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

The Nintendo Entertainment System defied the odds as the 1980s came to a close.  Released in a video game market that American retailers had written off as a fad, the NES not only revived the gaming entertainment industry but set sales figures that blew away the earlier console generation and the previous king, the Atari 2600.

The NES lifetime sales figure of  61.91 million consoles became the biggest prize for anything released after it.  Going into the current crop of gaming consoles, only two consoles ever topped the lofty mark set by the NES:  the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2.

Now, according to sales-tracking website VGChartz.com the PlayStation 3 has now also topped the lofty NES numbers.  Not only does this put all three PlayStation consoles into the top five best-selling consoles of all-time, but it also means the PS3 joins the Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 in that short list.  All three modern consoles have now topped the NES lifetime sales figures, a first for any console generation in history. (Author’s note: All three consoles have also topped the NES software sales figures, according to the same website.)

“It was just a matter of time before gaming became so popular that the modern big three topped the original console that revitalized the gaming industry,” said Eric Cummings, founder of the group Gaming World Wide.  “I’m happy about it.  It means that the industry has really arrived.”

Another gamer who remains an NES player to this day provided similar thoughts.

“I feel this is proof that gaming is more than just people who play games,” said Eric Perez, host of The 8-Bit Eric Show.  “It is part of a worldwide culture.  The fact that three separate consoles have outsold what I feel was the pioneer of revitalizing gaming shows that the industry is in great shape.  The Nintendo Entertainment System will forever hold it’s place in history, but this is also history in the making.  The next generation of consoles will be something to watch.”

The Top Ten Selling Game Consoles of All-Time (source: combined data from VGChartz.com and Wikipedia listings.  Excludes handheld gaming devices.  All stats are as of date of this article’s publishing.)

1.  PlayStation 2 (Sony, 2000) – 153.68 million units

2.  PlayStation (Sony, 1994) – 104.25 million units

3.  Wii (Nintendo, 2006) – 95.25 million units

4.  XBox 360 (Microsoft, 2005) – 65.80 million units

5.  PlayStation 3 (Sony, 2006) – 62.11 million units

6.  Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1983, 1985) – 61.91 million units

7.  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1990) – 49.10 million units

8.  Mega Drive / Genesis (Sega, 1988, 1989) – 39 million units

9.  Nintendo 64 (Nintendo, 1996) – 32.93 million units

10. Atari 2600 / VCS (Atari, 1977, 1985) – 30 million units

 

Haunted House

 

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot

The other day I was chatting with one of the neighbor kids. Not in a “creepy old man” way, more of a “I wonder if his parents taught him the value of a dollar? Because I want to talk him into raking all my leaves…for a dollar” way. It seems little Johnny was smarter than I thought. After all, he’s a PS3/Xbox gamer, and he realizes games are in the $60 range. He’s into Halo, Call of Duty, and the Left 4 Dead series. These games are favorites of mine, as well, so we actually had something in common. Anyway, after a little zombie-talk, I was flooded with memories of scary games from my younger years. Two of these stuck out, so I thought it was time to replay them to see how they stand up to today’s standards. So, I enter my game room with a leaf-covered yard and one dollar still in my pocket.

 

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot
First game I thought of was Haunted House by Atari, for the Atari 2600. I remember playing the hell out of this game. It was one of my favorites…let’s see if I still enjoy it. Speed-reading the instructions, here’s all you need to know:

Old guy died and his ghost is still “haunting” the house. There are other creepy-crawlies in there as well. Four floors to the house with six rooms on each floor, stairs seperating the floors. Some doors are locked, so finding the master key is “key”. There’s a magic scepter which will keep away the creepies, but not the ghost. OBJECTIVE: Find the three pieces of an urn and return to the front door. Seems simple, but there is a catch. You can only carry one item at a time. So, if you are keeping the monsters away with a scepter, you can’t use the key to open doors. If you’re carrying the urn, you can’t…you get the idea.

 

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot
Game start. Everything is pitch black, which is cool, except for two eyeballs, which is you. The controller’s red button does one thing. When you press it, you’re circled by a flickering light, which is supposed to represent a lit match. That’s the only way you can see the items to pick up. Nice touch. The match will last for a little time, then go out. Hit the button again, and we have light. The amount of matches you use combined with how many times you’re “killed” (you have 9 lives) is your score for the game.

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot

There’s no true “walkthrough” because every game has items randomly placed…which is good. Here were some highlights/lowlights:

I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, for a max score of 10.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbjVffUGjxA[/youtube]

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
The eyeballs will ‘look” the direction you’re moving. Flying bats and spiders look like bats and spiders. The ghost chasing you looks cool. Flickering lightning!

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
This was an important part of the game. A distinct sound when you go up or down stairs, and when you are bumping into walls. Footsteps. A cool “wind” sound when a monster enters the same room you’re in (it blows out your match).

CONTROLS:2
Your eyes move fluidly, and you bump into a lot of things (because it’s dark). Done well.

FUN-(FRIGHT)-FACTOR:1
It’s okay. I enjoyed it more as a kid. But, you run like hell when you see the monsters coming at you. A little-girl scream might have come out of my mouth on occasion.

REPLAY VALUE:1
It does have scoring and different difficulty levels, but I probably wouldn’t play it again…at least until next Halloween.

OVERALL: 8/10
A very well-done game for an old console

Old Game Reviewer reviews classic and retro games, you can check out more of his great work on his blog here – Old Game reviewer.

Ten Questions: Matt Barton

Matt Barton is one of the smartest and most interesting people you can find online discussing, loving and showing off old & new games. Now, although you should preferably get to know him via his work on Matt Chat, the Amrchair Arcade and some rather impressive books, reading the following interview should be both enlightening and considered as an appetizer.
dungeons and desktops dragon-1
1. Matt, care to introduce yourself to the merry retro loving lot that are the Gnomeslair.com & Obsolete Gamer readers?

I’m Matt Barton, host of Matt Chat, a weekly YouTube show dedicated to classic games. I’m also co-founder of Armchair Arcade and author of Dungeons & Desktops and Vintage Games (co-authored with my friend and colleague Bill Loguidice). I’m also an assistant (soon to be associate) professor of English at St. Cloud State University, where I teach classes in writing, rhetoric, and new media.

2. And what would you say some of your favourite games are? Any particular love for a genre or a gaming machine?

My favorite genres are adventure games, role-playing games, and strategy games. Some of my favorites include Baldur’s Gate, Pool of Radiance, World of Warcraft, Civilization, and the Nancy Drew series of adventure games. I have many consoles, but my favorite gaming device is the PC. Going further back, I will always be an Amiga and Commodore fan at heart.

3. So, Armchair Arcade, how would you describe the site and what’s the story behind it?

We were friends on a forum dedicated to Shane R. Monroe’s Retrogaming Radio show. We talked about putting together an online magazine, and eventually set it up. For awhile we focused on “issues” and tried to make it look like a retromag. We were amazed by how much attention it got, frequently mentioned on Slashdot and many other sites (even Slate and the Discovery Channel). Eventually, though, we morphed into a blog format and started selling our features to other sites (especially Gamasutra). Now we use AA as our home base for communicating to fans and fellow retrogamers, talking about our latest projects, and so on.

4. Same question on the incredibly well produced Matt Chat episodes… How did you decide to start a video show on retro games, and what would you say is this little something that makes Matt Chat unique (for, believe me, it is unique)? By the way, love that gaming wall you got in the background.

Matt Chat has come a long, long way in a short time. When I first started, it was just me and a webcam trying to hawk my books. The production quality was terrible! But I wanted to learn more about videos because Bill and I are producing a feature documentary for Lux Digital Pictures (Gameplay: The Story of the Videogame Revolution). I figured I needed more experience with videos to really handle a project like that, so I kept learning and experimenting, trying to refine my techniques. If you notice, I usually try to put in one more technique or one more refinement per episode, so I’m always learning something new.

I don’t think Matt Chat is unique. There are many, many other YouTubers out there doing similar shows. For instance, ianwilson1978 does great work on the Sega Genesis and Marlin Lee covers a variety of games. I guess one thing that makes my show special is that I feature games from all platforms, especially covering PC and computer titles that the others miss. Most other shows are dedicated to consoles, especially Nintendo classics. I figure those games already get enough love, so I try to cover ground that is not covered by the other shows–such as Dungeons of Daggorath for the Tandy CoCo, Tunnels of Doom for the TI-99/4A, or even the PLATO platform. I also feature interviews with classic developers, such as John Romero and Al Lowe. I’ll soon release my interview with Chris Avellone.

5. Really, is it tough producing something of this quality on a weekly basis?

It can be. Sometimes my editing program (Sony Vegas Platinum) crashes so much during rendering that I’m tempted to just give up. I would really love a better setup! The other big problem is capturing footage from games, especially old Windows games. Even with fraps, virtualdub, and the rest, it can be a nightmare sometimes capturing decent footage.

Other than these purely technical problems, though, it’s not hard at all. I can easily come up with things to say, and I like researching the games anyway. I also enjoy inserting inside jokes and humor, and interacting with the fans is a real joy.

6. How about your books? They are two on games and one on Wikis, correct? Do you feel gamers actually bother reading?

I think most gamers are highly intelligent; at least the ones I talk to. I know plenty of professors and graduate students who are serious gamers. But, of course, there are many who never pick up a book. That is sad, of course, since I couldn’t imagine living life without good books to read. It’s really important to read good books, not just newspapers and such. You can always tell when you’re talking to an avid reader, because he or she will be more knowledgeable on a broader range of topics–plus, I think it makes you more articulate and, frankly, intelligent. I had a friend who read War and Peace just for fun, but he told me later he felt more intelligent after reading it. Some people laugh at comics and graphic novels, but they are actually much more sophisticated now than they used to be. You could certainly learn a thing or two from Moore‘s work.

There’s really no excuse for being ignorant. So read!

7. Now, let’s focus a bit on the rather epic Dungeons and Desktops. Why CRPGs? Could you briefly describe the book? Has it sold to your expectations? Did you enjoy writing it?

It’s pretty much what it says; the history of computer role-playing games. I tried to talk about every important or even remotely influential game in the book, describing what makes them fun and how they fit into the grand history of the genre. I tried to show connections across eras and styles, so you could get a sense of the diversity. Someone may have heard of Baldur’s Gate, for instance, but be unaware of Planescape: Torment, Pool of Radiance, or Eye of the Beholder. I meet people who may know all about Zelda and Final Fantasy, but have never heard of Ultima or Lord British. That bothered me, so I thought it was time to write a book on the topic.

The book has sold well. Of course, something like this won’t be a bestseller. But I wrote this book for people like us, not the mainstream. By “us,” of course, I’m talking about people who love games like Wizardry and Fallout and enjoy nothing more than talking and thinking about them.

8. Should we expect more books from you? Maybe even a new project or collaboration?

Almost certainly, though it’s very hard to find publishers interested in game books. I have been dying to write a book on adventure games similar to D&D, but no takers so far. Bill and I have been talking about a book on the Atari 2600, and I’ve got one on virtual worlds that needs development. We will probably also write a book based on our documentary.

9. And now for something that interests me quite a bit on a personal level. How did you really manage to -effortlessly, it seems- combine an academic career with all this quality work on computer and video games?

In a sense gaming is my job. A professor is expected to research as well as teach, and game studies is an important part of new media. I’m presenting on aspects of gaming at two national conferences later this year (Computers and Writing, Rhetoric Society of America). People tend to think of “English” strictly as literature and grammar, but it’s far more than that! There are many of us studying games as well as other technologies like wikis and social networking. All of these things involve communication and rhetoric.

10. Finally, have you thought about actually creating a game yourself?

I have, though I’m not satisfied with the results! But a few years ago I taught myself C++ out of some books and made a simple adventure game, which I entered into the Interactive Fiction contest. I was shocked that it was 28th in the 12th annual interactive fiction competition. At any rate, it was fun learning C++, and I’d love to try something more ambitious one day.

Keystone Kapers

Keystone Kapers, designed by Garry Kitchen (ACTIVISION).

keystone_kapers_cover
The object of the game is for the player, who controls a keystone cop (equipped with a billy club), to catch a convict (dressed in b&w stripes). You’re in a 4-story department store, starting in the bottom right corner, and the convict has a bit of a head start. He will try to reach the roof, and if this happens he gets away. You have 50 seconds to reach him, and there are escalators and elevators to help. Also, there are many obstacles in the way that you will have to either jump over or duck under. This includes radios, bouncing balls, and toy planes. A hit from a plane takes away a life (you get 3), and other obstacles take off 9 seconds. If the timer reaches 0, you lose a life. The game potentially could last forever, because there is no true end to the game. But, the pace gets rather fast and hectic.

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

You can earn a “Billy Club” patch with 35,000 points. Back in the day, you were able to take a photograph of your TV screen, send it toActivision, and they would send you an “achievement” patch for a job well done. Points are earned by time left on the clock after capture, and the occasional bag of money picked up while running.

Overall, a very fun game. The officer and convict look cool, and the animation of him running with the billy club is funny.

Controls work well, although sometimes I have problems lining up with the elevator.

Not too much audio or sound effects, just some footsteps and a sound when you jump or run into something.

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is very repetitive, but the pace picks up after a few rounds. I find myself not even blinking after a couple of minutes of game play, worried about what is in the next “room”.
It’s a game that makes me want to get right back into it to improve my score.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeY1ML0d3CI[/youtube]

Overall 8/10

Yars Revenge

Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600
Backstory on Yar’s:
It’s a simple game, really. A Yar is this giant, flying insect. Its enemy is the Qotile, who hangs out on the right side of the screen. It’s protected by a shield, which can be shot or eaten by the Yar. Once there’s a “hole” in the shield, you can use the Zorlon Cannon, which appears on the left side of the screen, to kill it. There’s also a small, slow-moving missile that can kill you. It follows you relentlessly, like the Terminator. There’s a “neutral zone” in the middle of the screen, which will save you from the missile, but not the Qotile’s main weapon..the deadly “swirl”. The swirl is like a can of Raid. Kills Bugs Dead. At certain intervals, the Qotile will turn different colors and periodically shoot out toward the Yar. A really cool feature (and one you will NEED to use) is that Yar can fly through the top of the screen and “pop” out of the bottom, or vice-versa. The missile or swirl cannot do this.

OBJECTIVE: To reach 1,000,000 points, turning the score back to zero, and getting the revenge for the Yars.

I fire it up, and it still has that cool background music. Sounds a bit like an old refrigerator droning on and on before it dies.
Yar moves around very quick and smoothly, controls are nice.
You get more points for eating the shield than shooting, so I’m going to get in close as much as possible.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 40 G- COOL HAND
(Eat 50 pieces of shield)

After there’s a hole in the shield, you have a couple of options: You can continue eating the shield for more points, or get right to the BIG points. It’s 1000 to shoot the Qotile while he’s sitting there; 2000 to wait until he turns into the swirl; or 6000 points to shoot him while he’s shooting toward you. The risk/reward of shooting him in mid-air is the way I like to go for a big reason: This is the only way to get a “free man”. You will max out with 9 lives, but you’ll need them.
Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600

I’m out of practice a bit, but I opt to eat a little shield, head back towards the left side of the screen, then wait for the swirl to turn red. After the color change, he’ll “swirl” in place for a second or two (2000 points), then attack. I have to time the Zorlon Cannon just right, then move out of the way so I’m not hit by it (Yes, you can kill yourself with your weapon)….AARRRGGHH!!!!! Got me! I am a little out of practice.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 30 G- MAN IN BLACK
(Go Down in a Burning Ring of Fire)

After I get the hang of it, and the timing down, I hit my first flying swirl for 6000 points!

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 50 G- JUST LIKE SHOOTING WOMP RATS
(Get your first moving kill)

There’s a lot of repeating until you reach 70,000 points. This is when the shield will turn from orange to blue. Now, the swirl will come at you 3 times more frequently. The missile will continually get faster and more relentless throughout the game, so now you have to use some skill.
I get on a roll and start knocking them out.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 50 G- KESSEL RUNNER
(Destroy 2 swirls in less than 12 seconds)

This continues until I reach 150,000 points. The shield turns gray. The good part about this milestone is the swirl will go back to shooting at you at its normal frequency. The bad news…it now acts as a guiding missile, taking a 90 degree turn toward you.
The strategy here takes quite a bit of skill and hand/eye coordination. I mentioned before about using the top-to-bottom “gateway”. You’ll have to now or you’ll never survive. The idea is to be at the top when swirl shoots, then go through to the bottom. When the swirl turns straight down towards you, fire your cannon to time a direct hit. Don’t forget to move right quickly to avoid the 3-way collision. After I get the pattern down, it becomes fairly easy.
Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 100 G- MAVERICK, YOU HAVE THE NEED FOR SPEED
(Reach the quickest level of gameplay)

At the 230,000 point mark, the guiding swirl remains, but the frequency is back up the 3 times normal. It’ll stay that way for the duration of the game.
It feels like I’m going to break my joystick, but I zig and zag this way for a while.
I lose a life on occasion, but after about an hour or so of game time, I finally turn it over.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 200-G YOU ARE THE LAST STARFIGHTER
(Singlehandedly wipeout the entire Qotile fleet)

Nice to see I’ve still got it.

I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, with a max score of 10.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvjajVf3BEc[/youtube]

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
Pretty fantastic, with bright colors and a cool-looking, flying Yar. The explosion after a Qotile hit is a full-screen death-rainbow.

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
Background sounds are ominous. Unique sounds for Yar eating, swirl shooting, and explosions.

CONTROLS:2
Yar moves fluidly and easily with just a simple joystick. 1-button to fire.

FUN FACTOR:2
Off the charts for me personally. Insect vs. alien combat for universe supremacy.

REPLAY VALUE:2
I could pop this game in for a while every day. Even after you’re good enough to turn over the score, the fun factor makes this one of the best 2600 games ever produced.

E3 2011: Classic Gaming Museum

Classic Gaming Museum - E3 2011

My eyes lit up like a LED screen when I came across this section at E3 2011. Normally, there would be a small section with a few games, but this place was huge. On the back wall were a ton of classic video games from Dig Dug to Killer Instinct and a few even broke down so you know they were authentic.

Classic Gaming Museum - E3 2011

They had what I called a 80’s living room complete with a couch, a radiation level 6 television and an Atari 2600 and best of all you could sit down and play. Now, while I was still just a baby when the 2600 launched I remember setups that looked exactly like this.

Classic Gaming Museum - E3 2011

There were a ton of classic game systems, add-ons and games spread out for display. I recognized many of the systems, but there were a number I did not recognize. I was totally shocked by how huge the cartridge was for Metal Slug. We met a couple of guys from SNK there and they were totally cool so watch for some articles about them coming soon.

Classic Gaming Museum - E3 2011

Not only did they have the boxes and items to view there were many classic game systems setup that you could play for yourself including an Atari 2600, N64, Sega Master System and Intelivision and more.

What classic gaming museum exhibit would complete without music. There were two different bands there that played classic music. We were able to record a bit from 8-bit weapon, a duo that plays classic music from Commodore 64, Gameboy and more.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM1bmLk5zLI[/youtube]

All in all it was great to see classic gaming displayed in such a way at E3 2011 and we hope we will see more in the future.

Check out all our E3 pictures on our Facebook page.

 

Atari Flashback

Atari Flashback console system

We all know that Atari no longer actually is Atari. It is just another game publishing brand name. But what happens when the executives running such a company decide to tap into its legendary hardware fame? Atari Flashback. That’’s what.

Atari Flashback is (theoretically) a retro gamer’’s wet dream. An Atari 7800 styled console (only smaller, without a cartridge slot and with a cheaper build), that runs on a normal AC adapter, includes 20 built-in Atari 2600 and 7800 games, and costs less than a contemporary pc game (and much less than a XBOX 360 one). You even get two 7800 styled joysticks thrown in the bargain.

Among the included games, some gems of the early video gaming history are to be found: Adventure, Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Revenge, Food Fight, Haunted House, Asteroids, Centipede, Warlords. You’’ll also get the dubious pleasure of experiencing the previously unreleased Atari version of the famous Saboteur. Just don’’t expect all those games to run as smoothly as they used to on the old machines. Atari Flashback is definitely not a true 7800 and it shows. Most of the games are emulated and a lot of them have serious gameplay, music or graphic glitches (Food Fight for example is a prime offender).

So… Should you buy this small retro-gadget? Depends. Atari Flashback is great value for the average (casual some might call him) gamer. The hardcore retro fan, on the other hand, will spot the various problems and the emulation inconsistencies, and might just have to wait for the Atari Flashback 2.0.


Commercial Wars: Atari in the 80’s

Commercial Wars: Atari in the 80’s

You did not have to be born in the 80’s to appreciate some of the insane commercials that were produced and released during that time.  In the 80’s we had a mix of commercials still influenced by the 70’s combined with the emerging technology of the 80’s with directors and writers trying everything to get you to buy their products.

Atari-Computer-System

Since console gaming was brand new and even arcade gaming itself was not wide spread to the TV watching audience the challenge was presenting their ad in a way that would interest the consumer. In addition, since the graphics of the day were not that exciting the fear was showing simpler graphics on a television screen where you can watch shows that have a higher production value could turn parents off to buying their kids the system. As a result the creativity level for the commercials was, unique.

Joust

My question is why would you want to highlight a home being destroyed over playing a video game? See, the bird knew what was coming and the kid just stood back and watched it happen. What was that thing at the end with him turning into a bird? Oh, I forgot, LSD was still popular back then.

Dig Dug

Know I understand how the war in Iraq came about it was Dig Dug. I really hope our department of defense is not this stupid. However, I think I discovered how Independence Day was made, with the cuts to different locations including “lovers lane” and the dirt moving from under peoples feet. Perhaps it was more like the movie, Tremors.  We jump into crises mode at the White House while dancers shake their butts on screen. You have to love the 80’s.

Come on! Do the Dig Dug Dance!

Asteroids

You know alien’s visited our planet back in the day. What you did not know was they were looking for video games. These people look like a mix between the Andorians from Star Trek and Night Elves from World of Warcraft. The main person looks like Data and they talk like Mork from Mork and Mindy. The good news is they will be too busy playing to enslave us. The bad news is they have the technology to travel to earth, but think Atari graphics are awesome.

Berzerk

So we start off here with an old lady almost nailing a kid in the balls. Old people, they think you can only play Berzerk in the arcades, but now you can play it at home. I think there were millions of bands back in the 80’s whose sole purpose was to sing jingles for commercials. At least we got the “Have you played your Atari today” line.

Solar Fox

This was before Wing Commander and women’s lib, we have the dashing and bored Soul Fox and the bubbling blond eating popcorn while their spaceship flies toward what looks like a 3D chess board. Poor Soul Fox is so annoyed that his busty companion wants to navigate his loins and he only wants to navigate the space field. I know the feeling, wait, no I don’t.

One thing of note, I did not even know of CBS Electronics.

Back to the Future

There you have it, five commercials from Atari made in the 80’s in a style only Puff the Magic Dragon could understand. Now you vote, which was the best.

Commercial Wars: War of the Sword and Shield

zelda sword and shield
zelda sword and shield

In the age of World of Warcraft the sword and shield still dominates when it comes to roleplaying. Even when you look at a game like Final Fantasy that takes advantage of both modern technology and magic, the sword and shield are still present in one form or another. From my old pen and paper D&D days to playing games like Neverwinter Nights and Dungeon Siege there is something about those type of games that keeps the fans playing.

As anyone knows there are tons of video games that feature not only the sword and shield, but magic, the bow and arrow and a medieval theme that makes us want to load up Lord of the Rings for a 15-hour marathon session. Let’s take a look at some commercials that try to capture that theme to draw you into the game world and hopefully make a sale.

Crystalis: Nintendo

This is classic adventure production at its finest.  You can breakdown the commercial and see how it was done using the technology they had at the time. First you have the hero which you want to look right as far as the costume and weapons. Second you have a basic forest-like landscape, but you blur the backgrounds to give it some mystery and pipe in some shots of what the hero is after. Then you add the destination in the far distance and a shot of the hero approaching the enemy.

Sure, the monster looks cheesy now, but at the time that was pretty good. The special effects were very nice for the time and overall made for a good commercial.

Zelda: Gameboy Color

This is animated but it is done very well for a short spot starting with the pan around and then into the Gameboy screen with the snow falling into the background leading to a shot of Link rushing in on his horse. Believe me, thirty second spots are hard because you have a little less than that to capture the audience and let them know what you are offering.

In this case you kind of expect people to know of Zelda, but still the challenge is there. You get a scene of what the game deals with. Link is searching for something and there will be challenges along the way. This may be simple compared to what we see today, but it was well put together and executed into a fun to watch commercial.

Golden Axe 2: Japanese

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Short and sweet, what is cooler than a Japanese guy dressed in armor wielding a giant sword? Well, alright, ninja’s and pirates, but still this was pretty cool. Honestly, the costume looks good, the sword looked real and we saw just enough before the in-game video to appreciate it without going overboard.

We get to see some cool shots from the actual game and then boom we have our warrior cleaving us in two with that sword again before the Sega logo.

Dragonfire: Atari 2600


Okay, so he does not have a sword or a shield, but when you have a talking dragon (especially with a voice like his) you have to profile it. Now while I do not understand why a medieval dragon is in some futuristic looking room caressing a game cartridge, I do think it is funny that the prince sneaks in like a thief to snatch it.

Not only does the costume of the dragon look plastic, but even the prince looks like he is wearing the princesses sleep suit. You do have to give them credit for zooming in on the stickman graphic of the game though.

Time for Ale

Alight, so we got a look at a few video game commercials featuring the sword and shield. Now you vote which did it best.

[poll id=”14″]

Commercial Wars: Best use of Spider-Man

obama and spiderman
obama and spiderman

Spider-man, Spider-man, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Ah, the wall crawler has been a fan favorite for generations and our web slinging hero has been in a ton of video games across pretty much every console system, hand held and computer.

In some instances we just get the game footage and maybe a little music as the name should sell itself. However, some of the commercials for Spider-Man games were just classic for the good and for the bad. Let’s take a look at three different Spider-Man video game commercials and decide which company used him best.

Atari 2600 – Spider-Man

You have to love the eighties. I mean just look at these costumes they are just incredible. Funny thing is Spider-Man’s costume still looks better than Superman’s latest live action version. I love the enthusiasm the Green Goblin has. I mean I know he is crazy, but damn.

Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro

Another live action commercial this time featuring Electro and I must say it looks pretty good regardless of how silly Electro’s costume is. The special effects look good from the electricity to even Spider-Man’s web. Unfortunately, I am left without jokes to make because everything comes together well considering and even the game was fun.

Spider-Man Vote

Alright, you got me. This is not a video game, but you have to admit this is pretty awesome. If you thought ACORN had issues just imagine filling out your voter registration as Spider-Man and you know he votes Democrat so the tea party would be all over him.

My Spider sense is broken

You guys make the call which was the best use of Spider-man?

[poll id=”12″]

Commercial Wars: Best use of Phil Hartman

Phil Hartman
Phil Hartman

Using celebrities to sell products is as old as commercials themselves. One thing many people don’t know is that very famous stars still do commercials, just not in America where they would be seen. On the other hand some celebrities did commercials while they were trying to make it. Finally, some just do it because they really like the product.

For those that don’t know, Phil Hartman he was a great and funny actor that stared in a bunch of movies and television shows. Most people would know Phil from his work on Saturday Night Live, News Radio and by his voicing of the Simpsons characters Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure.

What many people may not know is that Phil Hartman appeared in a number of commercials for video game companies. So let’s see which company made best use of Phil.

Atari 2600: Crazy for Ice Hockey

The first thing that struck me was that ol’ Phil looked like he was creeping up to the adult section in the video store. The man behind the counter looked at Phil as if he was going to rent “Chicks with Sticks”. From there the old man did what you had to with graphics of the time, hype the hell out of it verbally. How Phil reacts is how Wii players need to act to pretend they didn’t just waste their money.

CD-I: Multiple personality

This is SNL Phil displaying his ability to act as difference characters. You have to love the cool calm voice in the beginning as if you called a phone sex line for depressed people. We see Phil take on a number of roles, to bad one of them wasn’t a lawyer warning us of how bad the CD-I was.

CD-I: Awesome

This is pretty much a part two of the first video, but it is another chance to see Phil go from cool hand luke to SNL character skit master in thirty seconds. Is it just me or does Phil love dressing in drag and sadly he didn’t look half bad. Wait; strike that from the record please.

We miss you Phil

Sadly Phil Hartman was taken from us all way before his time. All we can do is look back on his old work and enjoy his natural comedic abilities. As seen here Phil overshadowed all the products he was selling, but the question for you is, which company best used Phil Hartman?

[poll id=”10″]

Commercial Wars: Best use of a Rap

parappa the rapper
parappa the rapper

Rap is universal, sure it may be dominated by African American artists, but rap is for everyone. Well, everyone except video game companies. Don’t get me wrong, you have to do what you can to grab a younger generation but most of these were just really bad commercials. Also I have yet to find an old video game commercial using rap that has actual African American kids. Oh well, on to the voting!

Atari 2600: The Fun is Back

The fun is back oh yes er re it’s the 2600 from Atari. Oh my lord you know that guy went on to make millions in the music industry.  When Atari packaged its system for a new low price of just $50 you know it was time to make a rap about it.

Nintendo: Zelda Rap

Oh Lord where to start. Okay first, does anyone else get the vibe that the kids are looking at an adult magazine and not Nintendo Power? I mean besides the “”Nice Graphics” quote it sounds like something I would have said while checking out Playboy.

Next is the “rap” I have to guess this is a parody of rap because even Solider Boy isn’t that bad. Not only is the beat box out of something you’d see on rapping granny, but the “lyrics” sound like they were pieced together from a fortune cookie.

Finally and again the way they talk about the game toward the end, “Ya go Link ya, get some.” Is that not a line from every Ron Jeremy movie? I just think these children need more parental supervision and a kick in the ass.

Sega Genesis: Toe Jam & Earl

I can’t hate on this one too much because it does fit the style of rap at the time and the game was to have a “hip hop” vibe. Does this rap not sound like the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme? I know when I saw this commercial the first thing I did was call my home boys for some two player action. Err…wow that just doesn’t read right.

This Ain’t American Idol

However, we need your vote. Which rap best fit the theme and style of the commercial?

[poll id=”9″]

Combat (Atari)

Atari Combat
Atari Combat

There is just something grand about opening up a brand new video game console and finding it packed full of everything you need including a game so you can start playing right away. With my Atari 2600 when I received it the system came with 27 games!

Combat shipped with the Atari 2600 in the fall of 1977 and was based off of black and white coin-op games, Tank and Anti-Aircraft II. The game had what could be called “Pong” like graphics, but did feature a variety of colors. More importantly it was the ultimate two player game at the time as the game was about fighting against your opponent in tanks, jets and biplanes.

Atari Combat
Atari Combat

Tank Game

The Tank game featured two tanks you could move around the “field” and fire at each other, the side with the most points would win, but there were various conditions you could play under. In some instances the board dynamic would change giving you different hiding spots and an invisible mode. There were also different ways to fire at your opponent including your normal straight firing missiles, your guided missiles and missiles that could bounce off walls.

Atari Combat
Atari Combat

Biplanes & Jets

In the flying levels you could control either biplanes, jets or a bomber. In most instances you would face of in one-on-one, two-on-two or three-on-three battles, but you could also have miss-matched battles and one where three biplanes would face a bomber. Most of the levels were the same, either it would be a clear “sky” or have two clouds which you could hide within. The firing modes were also slightly different offering a normal missile, machine gun and guided missile.

I personally played Combat for hours against my sister who was extremely good at tank pong. What made the game so fun was the two player aspect and even though to today’s eyes one may think the game was simple it took on a whole new dynamic just by switching levels. Even when we got Pac-Man as a present a few weeks later we always came back to Combat because of the fun factor.

Atari Combat cartridge
Atari Combat cartridge

Releases

Combat was not always shipped with the VCS (2600) however other versions were sold most notably for the Sears console. Tank Plus was the name released under Sears Telegames. Frontline was the name Combat was released under in Canadian by Zellers. The game was released as just Tank by CCE in South America for the 2600. Dynacom and JVP released the game under the name Combat for Brazil.

Atari Combat game card
Atari Combat game card

Atari Combat box art
Atari Combat box art

Erik Reynolds: Atari

Atari logo

Name: Erik Reynolds

Company: Atari

Profession: Sr. Director of PR

Favorite Classic Game: Star Raiders (Atari 2600)

Quote: Star Raiders was one of the first 1st person space flight sims and I’m sure influenced a generation of space flight combat games since. The game was brilliant in its presentation at the time because if felt so ahead graphically than anything else available on the console.


What impact did gaming have on your career path?

Career Path Drive
Career Path Drive

Often something during the growing up stage is what leads people to what they will do later in life. It can be an experience where you saved someone’s life and go down the path of helping others or that you were exposed to a situation that led to a field you want to work in. Although many of us will change our minds on what we what to become many times before we reach working age there are some jobs where the people doing them can easily trace it back to a time when they were young.

For me personally I always loved video games from my Atari 2600 to my first computer, the Texas Instruments TI-99. Even before that I loved to take apart electronics just to see the parts inside. I also loved to make up and tell stories so playing a video game took on another dynamic because I would visualize storylines even for games that had them like Yars Revenge.

When I moved to Miami in 97’ the first thing I wanted to do was get back into computers and meet like-minded people and that led to my time at Alienware where my love for gaming flourished. It was then that I took my love of storytelling and turned it into a writing career.

If I was not exposed to computers and video games at such a young age I am sure I would not have developed a love for them in a way that would lead me to work in the computer and gaming field. In addition, my mother always supported my love for gaming even when dragging her all across Chicago looking for a Nintendo.

For this week’s insider discussion we asked our panel what impact did gaming have on their career path.

Jason Shankel from Stupid Fun Club wrote:

I first got the idea to go into game development in Middle School after seeing _WarGames_ and _Tron_.  I remember being especially impressed with _WarGames_.  I wanted to create my own Joshua.  Later on in high school, I read _Goedel, Escher, Bach_.  I became fascinated with machine thought, particularly how it differs from human thought.

As a game developer, I’ve always been more oriented toward using games to help people understand how computer systems work, what their capabilities and limitations are.  Games make machines more relatable, infuse them with some personality and engage human emotions.

If I had to break it down to one moment, though, it’s the first time I saw the end of _WarGames_, when David asks if there’s anything that can be done to make the machine learn faster and Professor Falken says “yes, number of players: zero.”

Of course, since then, I’ve always hoped to have a somewhat larger market than that 🙂

Corey Dangel from Detonator Games wrote:

When I was in college words like “desktop publishing” and “WYSIWYG” were new and exotic sounding. The notion of pursuing a career as a game artist, at that time, was inconceivable. So upon graduating from college I hit the pavement with the dream of being a graphic designer. I experimented briefly as a post production artist for video but ultimately started my own tiny graphic design studio to create album covers for Seattle area musicians. It was the late 80s/early 90s and the music scene was really taking off. Turns out getting the work wasn’t nearly as difficult as getting PAID for the work…

After scrapping for a few years I got an opportunity (thanks to a good friend) to contract at Microsoft. I was employed to create the “coffee table books of the future”…remember multi-media? My friend and I worked our butts off in the multimedia group and were eventually offered full-time positions. MSFT didn’t make games at the time but they had publishing agreements for Flight Sim and a Golf game. I soon discovered that the business unit in charge of these publishing contracts was preparing to grow so I made it my mission to get them to hire me.

You see, I had been a gamer since the first day I played Parcheesi with my grandmother and a fanatical gamer since first playing Dungeons & Dragons in 1980. Thanks to D&D I discovered that making games is as much fun for me as playing them (possibly more fun). I’d never considered that I could do anything but create games as a hobby…which I had for years. I’d written programs on the TRS-80 coco, the Atari 800XL, and made my own games (creating story, game design, and art) both digitally and traditionally.

Once presented with the possibility of working on games for a living I pursued the dream I didn’t know was possible like a ravenous cheetah chasing a meat wagon. And somehow I caught it!

Fifteen years later I’m still amazed that I get to do what I do for a living.

Juan Gril from JoJu Games wrote:

In my case, a few hours with a friend’s Atari 2600 made me realize that I wanted to make games for the rest of my life.

Aaron Hunter from Playtechtonics Inc wrote:

Gaming was everything in my career path. I started developing as a child, also playing them at the same time. Richard Garriott was already a millionaire from PC games by the time I started high school. Making games appealed to my self-motivational tendencies and preference to learn at my own pace.

So what about you, has gaming steered you toward your career or do you feel it will?

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Episode 7

PVP vs non-pvp PVE
PVP vs non-pvp PVE

Player versus Player and Player versus Environment was the topic for this week’s show. We were happy to have our good friend Edwin in the studio with us and had a great conversation via Skype with longtime Obsolete Gamer fan, Liz Poisonkiss.

We started off with a recap of last week’s show which featured MMO’s and then moved into our Facebook fanpage question of the week which asked which our fans preferred to play PVE or PVP type games. From there we talked about our Insider Discussion question of the week which asked our panel which had a bigger impact on PC gaming RTS or FPS games.

From there we dove right into the main topic discussing the differences between a FPS mindset playing games such as Quake 2 and the strategy side of RTS games such as the original Warcraft game. Edwin also talked about his online Street Fighter games and said that he preferred to play again a human which we all agreed.

We premiered a new feature on OGS called Skype with a fan where we talk with people who have participated on our Facebook page and Forums and our first guest was longtime fan Liz. Who shared her thoughts on being a gamer girl, fps versus rts and pvp versus pve.

In our final segment Ignacio, Edwin and I discussed our various experiences in PVP from MMO’s to X-box live to arcades. Overall we had a good discussion about an important subject in the world of gaming. So give us a listen and we will be back next week with a brand new show.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Episode 7

Gamer Profile: Alex Aguila

Alex Aguila

There are those who play video games, those who immerse themselves in the video game culture and then those for who gaming is really a part of them. There are millions of fans, but when you truly have a love for all things gaming it sets us apart from the rest. I was honored to spend a few hours with one such person for whom gaming had touched at an early age and stayed with him throughout his life.

Alex Aguila’s love of all things electronic gaming led him to co-founding Alienware, but his love of gaming began long before.  From a very early age he became fascinated with video games, so much so, that after seeing the Atari 2600 in action he saved up money  From there he began collecting games from Colecovision to the Commodore 64. Even before the success of Alienware, Alex had an impressive gaming collection that has continued to grow over the years.

I was able to personally view his collection and it was awe inspiring. It was much more than the sheer volume, but the care he took in preserving them and the joy he had in talking about them. Many older games were still wrapped in their original plastic. Others though opened were in pristine condition and we talked about how classic games had a collectors feel long before expensive over bloated collectors’ editions of games became the norm.

What made me smile like a child in Electronics Boutique was that I could hear in his voice that he truly cared about the gaming industry. There was excitement in his voice when we talked about the past and how in the 90’s a golden age of gaming began when there was so much choice in gaming in arcades, home console systems and the emerging PC gaming market.

Simply put when you convert a shower into a display case for your collection of console systems you know you have a true gamer before you. Besides the normal Sega Genesis and Nintendo Entertainment System, Alex also had systems I was not aware of like the Vectrex which is an all in one video game system that used vector graphics. Alex then showed me an Atari that was unopened and joked about how he posted on Atari Age that he was considering opening it so he could play. He told me many people offered to send him opened Atari systems just so he would keep his sealed.

In addition to console systems Alex also had an impressive collection of handheld videos games. Long before the Gameboy, these simple but addictive games ruled the market. Then I took a look at his clone’s collection. Clones are systems made by third parties that can play games from systems such as the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Some, like the FC twin allow you to play both Super and classic Nintendo games on the game console. Another cool device was the Retro Mini portable, a device that used the original NES cartridges, but allows you to take it on the go.

Alex is a complete fan of all things electronic gaming meaning that he can enjoy playing the original Atari 2600 using the original cartridge as well as utilizing modern equipment and technology such as emulators. He stressed the importance of those in the community who work to not only preserve classic gaming, but allow new fans to enjoy games of the past. Using programs such as DOSBox allows many gamers to play classic PC games that just won’t run correctly on today’s operating systems.

When I walked into Alex’s arcade room I almost fainted. It was like something out of my childhood dreams except for the large Dallas Cowboys star on the wall. Right away what caught my eye was the M.A.M.E. arcade cabinet next to the air hockey machine. However, something else that caught my eye was the collection of pinball machines. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between pinball fans and video game fans and it was good to see that Alex enjoyed both.

On the back wall were several classic arcade cabinets including Defender, Joust and Robotron. The systems were all from Retrocade and Alex explained that originally he wanted to keep the classic original cabinets, but it is truly a lot of work dangerous even to care and maintain due to the circuit boards and electronics used in those older systems.

Alienware-Logo-Wallpaper

After my tour I sat down with Alex and we talked about his own gaming history from his first console to meeting game designers and developers with Michael Dell. I was even able to instigate a challenge between Alex and Arthur Lewis, Alienware’s general manager.

This began during my coverage at E3 where I was able to talk to Arthur over at the Alienware booth. In addition to telling me about his own love of gaming he mentioned getting together with Alex to play Tecmo Bowl and that they were scheduled to have a game soon.

Arthur Lewis @ E3

Alex tells a story about a classic gaming of Tecmo Bowl against Arthur where the loser would have to walk around the hotel halls in their underwear. Alex lost and believed the underwear thing was just a joke, unfortunately it was not. Alex said that it has been a while since they had played and that if a rematch did come about Arthur would find himself on the losing end. Of course, I plan to press this to see if a rematch will happen though I doubt the loser will have to do anything too embarrassing.

Alex Aguila Interview

PlayPlay

Saying goodbye I felt slightly sad to be honest. Being there and seeing someone love video gaming as much as I do reminded me of my summer days of spending hours doing nothing but gaming. On the other hand it is truly nice to find people who continue doing something they love even as they mature and their lives change. My day with a true gamer, Alex Aguila is not one I will soon forget.

Are we better gamers?

Pro Gamer shirt
Pro Gamer shirt

If you play MMO’s you will hear a lot of people talk about the experience of being old school. Take for instance a game like World of Warcraft, there are many players who feel if you did not play when the game was brand new you just don’t have the knowledge and experience to be one of the elite. Some go as far as to say that if you did not play an even older game, Everquest for example, then you don’t understand what it is like to play a really hardcore MMO. Since I played both I can understand that going through things in Everquest such as losing experience when you die, losing all your stuff because you could not retrieve your body and never getting to see that endgame boss because another guild was just better than you is something you most likely won’t experience in World of Wacraft.

It got me thinking about gaming in general. For those of us who grew up playing Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and the NES many of the games for those systems offered a very harsh learning curve. Take the first Ninja Gaiden, it was one of those games that could seriously raise your blood pressure. You had to perfectly time your jumps while slashing enemies that would re-spawn if you fell backwards. If you died you would start far away from where you were and you only had a limited amount of continues. Many of the games today you can continue almost exactly where you died and you can continue as many times as you like.

However, the case can be made that there were simpler patterns to games of the past and once you learned them they were just as easy. In Everquest many of the early enemies were defeated in the exact same way so once you knew the pattern it was not too hard to defeat. Today the AI offered can be tweeked to offer more of a challenge and even randomness to the encounters you face. In the end the question is are we only talking about learning a pattern that only takes time to master or are games today actually harder because there are more things to learn overall.

It could be said that if you learned jumping and moving on the fly in Super Mario Bros you could then apply that to Ninja Gaiden. If you were good at one vertical side-scrolling shooter then you could beat them all. Can the same be applied to an adventure game? If you were good at Resident Evil then would you naturally be good at Silent Hill?

Overall our experiences with games in the past be it twenty years ago or one year ago will affect how we play the next game. If your hand eye coordination is high then that alone will give you an advantage on the next new game. I can say from experience that learning to play Quake 2 with the hook and using only the rail gun made me a better player in Counter Strike so it is obvious that the more games you play the better you will become.

An x-factor could be age. If you were ten years old when playing NES games and are now in your thirties then going back and playing them might be a bit more difficult. This could be for many reasons from lowered hand eye coordination to a change in interest to that type of game. Today most gamers would not want to sit in a single room waiting to kill one monster that may not spawn and if it does may not drop the reward you want, that was how it was in Everquest. If that happened in World of Warcraft there would be a revolt. We all have changed over time and in addition new types of games have come on the scene. Women gamers and people over the age of fifty playing games are at an all time high and games have to adapt to the changing demographics.

My verdict is that because of the wide array of games available in the late eighties and early nineties that to be a true well rounded gamer took much more time and skill. There may have been your standard hack and slash games, but there were also many unique and challenging games especially on early computer systems. If you were one to try out every game you could get your hand on you quickly found out how hard some of these games really were and if you were able to beat them you were a much better gamer.

Want to test this out yourself? Load up a game like Battletoads. If there is one game that can test the frustration level of a gamer it is Battletoads. Next try and find a new game that matches that level. Honestly if you can beat Battletoads without flipping out and kicking your dog then you are pretty pro.

The Commodore 64

Commodore 64 box
Commodore 64 box

The Commodore 64

Who can forget the awesome and sometimes just plain strange commercials of the 80’s and 90’s for computer and console products? Obsolete Gamer is searching the globe to find some of the classics from the Sears version of the Atari 2600 to the Commodore 64.

Commodore 64 Fact #16About 10,000 software titles were made for the C64.

Don’t forget to visit the Obsolete Gamer YouTube page for more videos.

Bump N Jump

Sometimes there are games out there that you play just because it’s a little different than the norm, for me Bump ‘n’ Jump was that game, released by Data East in 1982 this action racing game mixed Mario bros. style jumps with Spy Hunter-style driving.

Bump N Jump cover

Now I did not know this at the time but there is actually a reason you are racing down a sometimes horribly shaped highway knocking cars off the road and jumping over broken bridges. The drivers girlfriend was kidnapped by a group called the Black Army Corps. (No relation to Black Water)

Again we have another case of a simple goal that is not so simple to execute. Your mission is to get from one level to another by racing down the highway to hell playing extreme bumper cars with everyone on the road. To add to the fun the road looks to have been constructed by my three year-old self because the road is only sometimes straight. Most of the time the road resembles mountain tops with peaks and jagged edges sticking out and if you run into these you are dead.

Bump-n-jump-gameplay-screenshot

Luckily your car is equipped with the mother of all hydraulics that would make Snoop Dog go Snig-a-de-dig-a-de. Your car is able to take to the skies with a super jump and come crashing down on your enemies.

The game has a top down or “bird’s eyes” view so as you race you encounter a variety of enemy cars and trucks. These cars you can bump off the road to take them out, the trucks you cannot and sometimes the trucks will drops boulders or other items in your path that if you crash into will kill you.

Jumping does not just crush cars and trucks it is also to jump over the numerous broken bridges in the game. (I told you the stimulus package was necessary) It is also a good way to get out of a sticky situation. For instance when you bump into a enemy car it will give a little push back and if you are coming up fast on one of the out-sticking jagged edges on the road you can use your jump to safely navigate back to the middle of the road where you mainly want to be.

Bump-n-jump-gameplay-screenshot-1

Bump ‘n’ Jump was simply designed but the gameplay was what made it fun. It had a Spy Hunter feel to the road design using simple colors and shapes and since it was also published by Bally Midway it makes sense where the 1983 Spy Hunter got its level design from.

As you go through the levels you are also going through the season. (How long did it take this guy to get his girl back anyway?) The changes in level design are small mostly consisting of color changes. The exception was the winter stage which sported a snow covered design and slippery icy roads.

Unfortunately Bump ‘n’ Jump was another game I wasn’t very good at. Sometimes when that yellow exclamation point would begin flashing on screen and making that beeping noise I would become traumatized and crash. Like Spy Hunter I only made it to the winter level once. (I notice a pattern here)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uaql2YDZCPU[/youtube]

BNJ was ported to a number of console and computer systems such as the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64 and the NES and has been released under different names such as Burnin Rubber and Buggy Popper.Simple design and fun gameplay was the theme of the 80’s and that is why games like Bump ‘n’ Jump are still played today. Like many games of the 80’s you can find flash versions of them on websites or there is of course M.A.M.E, but I have no idea what that is. =)

Atari Box Art

New series, The Obsolete Gamer can be many things, you could have been a Commodore 64 player or a classic console gamer and of course the DOS gamer. There are many different types of gamers and we all went through different experiences growing up in the gaming revolution. This new series will cover many of them from the mainstream to the obscure.

Today gamers have a wealth of information, at a click of a mouse they can learn almost everything about a game before they buy it and can even rent it to make sure they really want to own it.

Let’s turn back the clock to the Atari 2600 days where you had little information on what was coming out. I am sure there were some publications out there, but for many of us we just went into the store looked at the box and made our decision right there.

The Atari 2600 did have commercials and some did show game footage, but many were simply “By it because” commercials like the one below.

Yes, you buy it because your kid wants it and to be honest I did not know one child who didn’t like their Atari 2600, but let’s move on to the box art.

Art is truly the correct term to use because that’s what they were art, not screenshots. I do not think this was done to mislead the customer, but let’s be honest the artwork and the game almost never matched up. True we should not expect to have seen a game that looked exactly like the box, but let’s face it we were children.

Here’s is the box from the game YARS’ Revenge:

ATARI Yars' Revenge box
ATARI Yars' Revenge box

Pretty sweet, the cool looking alien thing, the simple space background and awesome explosions. Now let’s look at the commercial.

Wow, that’s almost subliminal. You have the family playing, the weird out of place music, a splash of gameplay and the Atari logo saying “Have you played Atari today” what else do you need. This commercial would have sold me as a kid and most likely when I got to the store and saw the box art I would have really been excited.

As kids we did not have such a high expectation of graphics, as long as it was fun we loved it so in the end the box art versus in-game graphics did not matter. Still, there was a higher leap of faith when buying games which had a pretty high price tag even in the 80’s.

Looking back I really liked the work and design they put into the box art which is one reason Atari 2600 boxes are worth a lot in good condition today. Sure, as gamers we did not get too much from the box, but for the most part the game we ended up with became a classic. The same can’t be said for many of the NES titles.

So, gamers from the past, what was some of your favorite Atari 2600 box art and how did it influence your purchase?

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A group of us decided to get together to create a website that would have honest, down-to-earth no-nonsense reviews on new and old games for PC and all other systems.Read More