Nintendo’s Game & Watch series of LCD gaming handhelds might not be the first things you’d think needed converting to other platforms — but on the occasions when we have seen adaptations of them, they’ve always been a lot of fun.
It helps that their simple gameplay remains somewhat timeless and thus easy to update with slightly fancier presentation without having to make significant changes to the mechanics. So that’s exactly what a group of Polish developers did on 2011: they took on the second of the “Wide Screen” Game & Watch releases, and converted it to Atari 8-bit.
The result is a simple but immaculately presented and enormously addictive little game. I give you Octopus.
Dot-eating maze games were a staple of both early ’80s arcades and home computers from the same era, as we’ve seen a fair few times on this series already.
Nibbler, originally released into arcades by Rock-Ola, became somewhat notorious for being the first game to allow players to score more than a billion points. There’s even a documentary about various attempts to pursue this milestone over the years.
The Atari 8-bit version was actually a pretty solid conversion of the arcade game. I have no idea if you can score over a billion points in it because I’m not that good… but at least we can have a look at the basics!
Activision may be a company that a lot of gamers like to steer well clear of these days thanks to issues like predatory DLC and microtransactions, but back in the days of the 8-bit micros, they were one of the finest companies out there.
They credited their programmers and designers, they put out games that pushed the boundaries of underpowered hardware such as the Atari 2600… and they just made great games, full stop.
One fantastic example is MegaMania, a thoroughly weird but extremely enjoyable fixed shooter that will get you bobbing and weaving between waves of hamburgers, engagement rings, bow ties and steam irons. No symbolism there, no sir.
Ah, golf. A good way to ruin a perfectly good walk, or something. Unless you’re playing it on your Atari 8-bit home computer, of course, in which case you don’t even have to get out of your chair!
Leader Board from Access Software wasn’t the first computerised golf game, nor was it the inventor of the power and accuracy meter system that many golf games continue to use to this day. But it did help to popularise the genre among home computer users, as well as cement a lot of conventions that have very much stood the test of time.
If you can play Everybody’s Golf, you can play Leader Board… in theory, at least. I can definitely do the former, so let’s see if the latter is true, shall we?
You probably have no idea what to expect from a game with a title like “Knicker Bockers”. I didn’t really know either.
What we actually get is a surprisingly fun, if challenging, maze game that combines elements of Lock ‘n’ Chase, Pengo and a teeny tiny bit of Drelbs. It’s a good time!
Well, okay, the narrative setup for the game — which features a guy named Knick playing in a door factory while being pursued by the local toughs — perhaps needs some work… but it was the 8-bit era and no-one cared about narrative if the game was enjoyable!
Pac-Man didn’t make it to Atari 8-bit computers until 1982, but that doesn’t mean that people were short of some dot-eating maze-based funtimes until then.
Nope; we had John Harris’ Jawbreaker, an excellent Pac-Man clone that was extremely well-received at the time of its 1981 release — and which was so uncomfortably close to Pac-Man that Atari ended up suing publisher On-Line Systems.
Atari’s suit was ultimately unsuccessful, but Harris chose to play it safe and follow up the original Jawbreaker with a successor that was less obviously based on the Namco classic. But that’s a story for another day!
Ever since the early days of computing, programmers have been finding ways to develop educational software for a variety of purposes.
One such programmer was Douglas Crockford, who was a particular fan of experimenting with the Atari 8-bit’s sound capabilities. One such experiment led to the creation of Interval, a piece of software designed to help you train your aural skills — whether you’re a musician, a teacher or simply someone with an interest in musical theory.
This is actually a really solid program that can still be of use to music teachers in the 21st Century — though quite how many still have an Atari 8-bit in their teaching space I have no idea…