It’s always interesting to look at a very old game and see the earliest glimmer of a subgenre that became well-established much later.
Mattel’s Dark Cavern, actually an Atari 2600 port of their Intellivision title Night Stalker, is a good example. On paper, it’s a simple maze game, but in practice, you can see just a hint of what would become stealth and survival horror gameplay in there.
We’ve got a fragile protagonist; we’ve got an emphasis on outwitting enemies; we’ve got limited resources. How long can Your Man survive in the Dark Cavern?
Electronic Arts has become a bit of a dirty word these days, gaining notoriety for, among other things, predatory microtransactions and taking over beloved studios, only to shutter them shortly afterwards.
But there was a time when EA was a label that stood for high-quality, unusual and interesting software — a time when it really did feel like they were pursuing electronic art. One great example of a title like this that they released in the 16-bit era was Zany Golf, a fun and highly creative physics puzzler masquerading as a golf game.
You’ll never look at hamburgers the same way again…
These days, we tend to expect multi-format releases to have if not complete parity, then certainly as close an experience as possible to one another.
That wasn’t always the case, though, and I can think of few better examples of this that Adventure International’s The Eliminator, which somehow became an entirely different game between its original TRS-80 incarnation and its Atari 8-bit “port” by Steve Coleman.
It’s a fun little blast ’em up, though, so I’m not mad or anything; I just thought it was interesting!
Today’s title from Atari Flashback Classics is one of the few genuine exclusives for the Atari 5200: it’s Countermeasure!
Countermeasure is an interesting strategic shooter in which you navigate a “supertank” through a perilous environment in an attempt to destroy a selection of missile silos. Yes, it’s another “Cold War paranoia” sort of game, but this one has some interesting twists.
Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty strong example of how the emulation of the Atari 5200’s POKEY chip is a bit dodgy in Atari Flashback Classics, which is a bit of a shame — especially considering the fact the emulation of the arcade titles that use it is spot on! Ah well.
Before we had “3D” we had the illusion of 3D, typically created through the use of an isometric or oblique perspective.
Various types of game experimented with this “diagonal” format to varying degrees of success, but Blue Max for Atari 8-bit is widely regarded as one of the best, successfully transplanting the shoot ’em up formula into a whole new dimension. Kind of.
Regardless of your feelings on the “realism” of the presentation, Blue Max remains a solid, challenging game — and believed by many to be one of the best games the dear old Atari had to offer. So let’s play!
We made it to Z once again, folks, and it’s time for an all-time classic shoot ’em up for the Atari 8-bit: it’s Zybex, from Zeppelin Games.
Zeppelin began their life as a company specialising in budget-priced titles on cassette; the first time I came across them was when they released today’s game Zybex and motorcycle racer Speed Ace for £2.99 each. Speed Ace was fairly decent, from what I recall — though at the time of writing it’s not one we’ve revisited as yet — but Zybex was something truly special.
Featuring frantic shoot ’em up action for one or two players, Zybex truly brought the arcade-style scrolling shoot ’em up home in style — and it still holds up pretty well today.
Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.
Happy Sunday evening everyone! One of the worst parts of the week, when you know Monday is just around the corner, thereby meaning that you can’t really justify staying up all night playing video games or something.
Still, if you want something to take your mind off the impending drudgery of the working week, I’ve got you covered as always. There’s been some really great stuff this week that I’ve been delighted and excited to cover, so I hope you enjoy them.
So, then, without further ado, let’s review! That rhymes.
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