As we’ve seen a number of times on this series, the late ’70s and early ’80s were a period of experimentation, where developers were trying to figure out exactly what a video game really was.
One angle of attack some people took was to recreate well-known physical games in the digital realm. To that end, we saw virtual adaptations of popular board and card games — and we had Holey Moley, an Atari 2600 take on the classic fairground Whack-A-Mole game.
Holey Moley never saw an actual release back in the day, but now we can enjoy it on modern platforms thanks to Atari Flashback Classics. So enjoy the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
It’s time to once again enter the world of survival horror with one of the earliest examples of the genre: Atari’s Haunted House.
Haunted House can be seen as an evolution of the Adventure formula in that it involves navigating a preset map, manipulating objects and avoiding enemies. The twist this time around is that you’re in a spooky old mansion full of locked doors, tarantulas and a rather annoyed old ghost. Oh, and it’s dark. Very dark. Except on the first difficulty level, but only babies play Game 1 on Haunted House.
Check out the action in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
The early days of the 2600 consisted of developers trying to figure out what a “video game” really was.
A significant part of this experimental period consisted of adaptations of simple board, card and parlour games. Some proved to work well in the digital format; others less so.
Hangman? I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
FOOTBALL! It’s time to play some FOOTBALL! YEAH!
Those of you who have been following this series for a while will be all to familiar with my general lack of experience with sports games — particularly those focusing on American sports. Despite my wife once referring to American football on camera as “shit rugby”, I hope I have at least given the impression that I am giving these games a chance!
If anything, I find the simpler, vaguer digital interpretations of sports — such as seen here in this very early American football game for Atari 2600 — a lot more palatable and understandable than the more realistic simulations we’ve had since the 16-bit era or so. So you know what? I didn’t have a terrible time playing this.
Flag Capture is one of those games that looks laughably simple today, but there’s still some good, honest fun to be had — especially with two players.
The concept couldn’t really be much simpler — there’s a flag somewhere in a grid, and you have to find it using both directional and numerical clues. The interesting stuff this game does comes from how this simple concept is twisted in a few different ways — do you find the flag against the clock? Against another player with simultaneous movement? Against another player moving one at a time?
It’s probably not a game you’ll want to spend a lot of time with today, no, but it’s definitely worth a look for a quick bit of fun with a friend!
Wouldn’t you know it? A comet has hit the Earth, bathing the entire planet in deadly radiation that, apparently, we will have developed a “vaccine” against by the late 21st century.
Naturally, rather than attempting to organise some sort of large-scale relief effort to distribute this life-saving vaccine to the world’s population, the only possible solution to this disastrous situation is to send one dude in a machine gun-equipped car across the world and hope he knows how to assemble a rocket at the far end of his journey.
Oh, did I not mention the rocket? There’s a rocket to assemble, too. And launch codes to discover. But mostly a lot of driving and blasting anything unfortunate enough to get in your way on the road…
I don’t “get” sports games at the best of times, but throw in the need to select “plays” before you can do anything and my comprehension of what is going on goes right out the window.
Enter Double Dunk, then; one of the latest games to be officially released for the Atari 2600, and a game which takes the “playbook” approach to two-on-two basketball.
I do not fare well with this game. I do not fare well at all. But I try, very hard!
The dot-eating maze game formula is most readily associated with Namco’s Pac-Man — but the genre had actually been around for a while already by the time our hungry hero had made his first appearance!
Atari’s Dodge ‘Em released for Atari 2600 in 1980, providing a peculiar combination of racing, dodging and dot-eating — but this wasn’t the first one, either! Dodge ‘Em was actually a clone of a 1979 Sega arcade title called Head On.
The reasons for the Sega game’s title will become apparent very, very quickly…
A lot of early Atari 2600 games (or, sorry, “Atari Video Computer System”, as it was called back then) were adaptations of games that could be played on the tabletop.
The convenience of playing them on the television was, of course, that you didn’t have to worry about physical components getting scattered all over the place, setup time and the like — if you just wanted a quick game of something with someone, all you had to do was slap in the cartridge, pick up a controller and you were away.
One example of this early brand of tabletop adaptation comes in the form of Concentration; perhaps not the most interesting game to play today, but kind of fun for two players, a good showcase of the Keyboard Controllers and a game with a certain amount of educational value, too.
One of the coolest things about the Atari Flashback devices and compilations that have been released over the course of the last few years is the number of prototypes included.
In many cases, these prototypes were complete games that just didn’t get released for one reason or another; such is the case with Combat Two, a game originally set to come out in 1984, but which was a victim of the great crash of ’83.
Fortunately, we can play it today — and it’s an interesting twist on the tank battle formula of the original Combat, offering a very different competitive experience for two players to enjoy.