Tag Archives: Activision

Atari ST A to Z: Borrowed Time

“Sam, you’re a dead man.” And how; Activision’s Borrowed Time, an “illustrated text adventure” from 1985, really, really, really wants you dead.

An early game from Interplay with involvement from Brian “Wasteland” Fargo, Borrowed Time is an early attempt to break out of the pure text format of adventure games with a graphical, mouse-driven interface. It’s not quite a full-on point and click adventure just yet, but it’s a first step in that direction.

It’s also a monstrously difficult game, fond of murdering its protagonist at regular intervals right from the very outset. You’re doing well if you manage to survive just leaving your office for the day…

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z Flashback: 3D Tic-Tac-Toe

One of my favourite things about working on this series is how I come across interesting bits of trivia during my research.

Did you know, for example, that today’s game, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, was the work of Carol Shaw, an immensely talented programmer perhaps best known for one of my favourite games of all time: River Raid?

It’s not really all that surprising that someone who is good at programming worked on more than one thing in their career, I guess, but, hey, found it interesting. And 3D Tic-Tac-Toe is a lot harder than it looks!

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z: Zone Ranger

We’ve made it to Z again, folks! And today’s a real stonker of a game that I used to really love playing back in the day. And still do today, in fact.

Zone Ranger was released in 1984 by Activision, back when they still made good games, and was the work of one Dan Thompson. Drawing loose inspiration from Asteroids and Sinistar, two favourite games of Thompson, Zone Ranger tasks you with shooting down a bunch of space junk because… why not?

It’s the quintessential mid-’80s arcade blaster in many ways: easy to learn, hard to master and very, very addictive.

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z: Pastfinder

Ah, Activision. What a wonderfully creative variety of games you put out in the 8-bit era. What a hollow shell of yourself you are today.

Ahem, sorry, got a bit nostalgic there for a moment. Anyway, here’s Pastfinder, one of my favourite shoot ’em ups on Atari 8-bit, and one of the most peculiarly interesting ones to boot. You take on control of a little jumping bug of a spacecraft as you attempt to track down alien antiquities.

Better be careful, though; the whole planet is irradiated, so time is of the essence if you want to keep all your hair and/or internal organs intact to enjoy your loot.

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z: Master of the Lamps

Once upon a time, Activision was not the bloated mess of a money-hungry corporate behemoth it is now. Well, it was slightly less of one, anyway.

The key difference between the Activision of now and the Activision of then is that the latter was much more willing to take significant risks on games that were as much a work of art as they were a piece of interactive entertainment.

One of the best examples of this practice — and one of Activision’s best games, full stop — is Master of the Lamps, one of the earliest ever music games and a spectacular example of what the Atari 8-bit was capable of in the hands of talented programmers.

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari A to Z: Keystone Kapers

Today it’s time for one of my favourite early Activision titles, and a great game from designer Garry Kitchen. Kitchen, if you’re unfamiliar, was responsible for the Atari 2600 version of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, and also the wonderful Pressure Cooker, the spiritual precursor to popular indie title Overcooked.

Keystone Kapers kasts you in the role of Keystone Kelly, a kopper who is keen to katch his kriminal nemesis, Hooligan Harry. Harry, it seems, likes hanging out in department stores, and thus begins an increasingly ridiculous series of chase scenes up to the rooftop of the store, with Kelly being forced to dodge all manner of mundane yet perilous obstacles that put his mission at risk.

Loosely inspired by the old Keystone Kops movies, Keystone Kapers is simple to learn but tough to master — and a near-perfect example of what early ’80s Activision was all about.

Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.

Atari ST A to Z: Shanghai

Any time you undertake a project like this, you have to accept that some elements of it are just going to be less of a “spectator sport” than others.

Such is the case with today’s Atari ST game, the not-much-to-look-at-but-fun-to-play Shanghai by Activision, an adaptation of Mahjong Solitaire that makes use of the ST’s built-in graphical user interface GEM as the foundation of its aesthetic. This was not at all an unusual approach back in the day, and is akin to more modern PC games running on Windows 95 and beyond making use of a windowed interface and standardised Windows controls. Not the most beautiful look, no, but perfectly functional — and a lot more intuitive to those who perhaps don’t play a lot of games.

Compared to more recent adaptations of Mahjong Solitaire, Shanghai is fairly limited, but it nonetheless remains a pleasingly relaxing, Zen sort of experience. Once you figure out how to read the screen properly, that is…

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