Tag Archives: arcade conversion

Atari A to Z Flashback: Dominos

Dominos, another black and white title from Atari’s early days, surprised me by not at all being what I expected.

I was anticipating a fairly faithful adaptation of the tabletop game Dominoes — which wouldn’t have been altogether difficult to put together even with the rudimentary technology of the time — but instead I got a rather enjoyable, addictive two-player game in the vein of what we now know as the Snake genre.

While most people are familiar with Snake from its late-’90s Nokia phone incarnation, the idea of one or more players moving around a field and leaving an impassable trail behind them has been around since the earliest days of video games. Dominos was a very early example, following the genre progenitor Blockade by just a year. As such, it’s very simple in execution… but that doesn’t stop it being fun, particularly alongside a friend.

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

Atari A to Z Flashback: Centipede

Not every retro game has stood the test of time quite as well as others. But one I think we can all agree remains just as fresh today as it was back in the day is Centipede.

Developed as a specific attempt to appeal to a broader audience than just the stereotype of young male gamers, Centipede’s bright colours, energetic gameplay, trackball controller and relatable concept made it a big hit with male and female players, both young and old.

This game was a favourite of my whole family growing up… and my mother was nigh-unbeatable at both this and its sequel Millipede!

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

Atari A to Z Flashback: Canyon Bomber

Time after time in gaming, we’ve seen that the simplest concepts can be some of the most effective and addictive.

Atari’s Canyon Bomber, originally released to arcades in 1977, is a prime example of this. You only need one button to play, and that button drops bombs. The concept is so simple anyone — even someone not at all familiar with video games — can understand and enjoy it. Drop bombs, hit things, score points. Whoever scores most points, wins.

And one of the best things about this game when compared to some of its contemporaries is that the simplistic concept means that it was very straightforward to implement a “computer-controlled” opponent to compete against if you didn’t happen to have a friend handy. So even those of us with no friends can still enjoy this game… and end up playing it a lot longer than you might expect!

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

Atari ST A to Z: U.N. Squadron

If you thought games journalists wringing their hands over “problematic” subject matter in games was a new phenomenon… well, I got news for you, my dear reader.

U.S. Gold’s home computer conversion of Capcom’s arcade title U.N. Squadron (originally known in Japan as Area 88, after the manga it was originally based on) drew criticism from UK computer magazine ST Format in December of 1990 for being “self-righteous”, “crass” and even “propaganda”. Why? Because you shoot enemies in an obviously Middle Eastern-inspired setting — at least in the first level, anyway — and in 1990 the Gulf War had just broken out in full force.

Of course, Area 88 first came out in 1979, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good bit of outrage, shall we? Sigh. Some things never change. Anyway, this is a reasonably solid shoot ’em up, though unsurprisingly not a patch on the awesome SNES version…

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

Atari A to Z: Xevious

“Are you devious enough to play Xevious”? Well yes, yes, I am, particularly if it’s an apparently unreleased prototype of indeterminate origin for my favourite 8-bit home computer system.

Namco’s Xevious is a defining influence in the shoot ’em up genre, so of course there were plenty of home ports for a variety of systems. One that never quite made it to market, however, was the Atari 5200 version, which was subsequently ported by some helpful soul to play on standard Atari 8-bit computers. (This was not a huge leap, really, because the 5200 was basically an Atari 8-bit with a horrible controller and no keyboard.)

While questionable as to whether or not it’s “finished”, it’s certainly a competent enough port that I had a good time with, so take a look!

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Atari A to Z Flashback: Atari Baseball

I don’t… really play sports games. I don’t generally like them, I don’t generally understand them and I am certainly not good at them.

However, I have discovered over the course of the last few years or so that late ’70s/early ’80s sports games are about on a level I can understand for the most part, since the games simply weren’t capable of playing host to complicated mechanics or rules that you’d have to understand the actual sport to be able to fathom.

My time with Atari Baseball may have ended in crushing defeat, but I didn’t hate the experience. In fact, I can see this being quite fun in its original double-sided incarnation, facing off against a fellow player across the top of the cabinet. I suspect I’d still suck, though.

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Atari A to Z Flashback: Avalanche

1978 arcade title Avalanche is a game I’d not heard of prior to encountering it on Atari Flashback Classics for Nintendo Switch, and it’s entirely possible you might not have come across it either.

The reason for this is that its official home port (developed by the creator of the arcade game, Dennis Koble) only came to Atari 8-bit computers rather than the popular 2600, and even then only through Atari’s “Atari Program Exchange” system, whereby community-developed games and software would be published by Atari.

Meanwhile, Activision, seeing a good concept that wasn’t being leveraged as much as it could be for the home market, decided to release Kaboom! for the Atari 2600 in 1981, and as a result, the idea of paddle-controlled platforms catching falling things at an increasingly unreasonable tempo tends to be credited to them rather than Atari.

You now know the truth! Shout it from the rooftops!

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