Sunday, September 26, 2010

Game of the Week: Zaxxon

Everyone who was around back in the day remembers the arcade game Zaxxon. It's the game in which the player controls a spaceship flying across a larger spaceship or space fortress of some sort, all while facing enemy craft, missiles and other things. Bumping into objects would also kill the player's craft.

But what everyone really noticed was the three-dimensional effects. See, Zaxxon was the first arcade to feature such, and it looked awesome by the standards of the day. You had great, bright colors, and it all came in isometric projection. You didn't get that in arcade games of the time, at least not until Zaxxon.

If one didn't think about it too much, one might think Zaxxon was just another space shoot-em-up game similar to Space Invaders or Galaga. And there's some truth to that. But the graphic effects weren't the only thing different about this game.

There was great gameplay. If there can be a comparison, Zaxxon is more similar to the arcade favorite Defender, in that the player controlled their spaceship and took the fight to the alien attackers instead of waiting for those alien attackers to come to you, as was often the case in such popular games as Galaxian and the like.

Zaxxon proved not only popular in the arcades, having been followed up by several sequel arcade games, but was also popular for home video game entertainment having been ported to all kinds of computers and home systems, including the Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Commodore 64 and much, much more.

For basic arcade fun with kicking graphics, Zaxxon had to be one of the best.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Game of the Week: Wizard of Wor

You're stuck in a maze with a laser guns. Monsters are roaming all over the place. You have to shoot them before they can eat you or spit lasers or fire from their mouths to kill you. And once you kill them all, you move onto the next maze. Every so often, an evil wizard will show up to do you in. If you survive long enough, eventually the walls of the maze disappear altogether and it's just you against the monsters in a great big open room.

This was Wizard of Wor, a 1980 arcade game from Midway. You could play it alone, or with a partner.

This video game started off relatively easy, but the longer you played on your quarter (remember when arcade games only cost 25 cents?), the tougher things got. The monsters got faster, and sometimes moved in unpredictable manners. That bad wizard showed up.

It was all great fun, even though the graphics and sounds weren't all that great, even by 1980 standards. The gameplay could be a little stiff, and sometimes it seemed the monsters shouldn't have killed your character when they did, but overall the control system wasn't too bad.

I don't remember seeing a lot of Wizard of Wor arcade games, but one would pop up every now and then. Still, the game has been remembered. It was originally ported for a bunch of early home consoles and computers, such as the Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64. But more recently Wizard of Wor was released on the Midway Arcade Treasures 2 game for the Playstation 2.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Game of the Week: Pac-Man

Has there ever been a more popular video game than Pac-Man? The original arcade game has had plenty of sequels, literally hundreds of ports to home systems or computers or handheld devices or whatever. Pac-Man has become an icon, probably the most recognizable video game icon of all time. It even had it's own hit song, Pac-Man Fever, which rose high on the charts in 1982.

When it first hit the arcades in 1980s, Pac-Man took the world by storm, and the video gaming world has never been the same since.

Before Pac-Man, video games were just beginning to hit big. Space Invaders had been the big hit game then, though a few other games had their share of fans. Still, it was when Pac-Man was released that arcade games really took off, becoming a gigantic industry for the next decade or so which still has its influence even today.

But what was so great about Pac-Man? By today's gaming standards, Pac-Man seems pretty simplistic. The player controls a little yellow munching ball that goes around a maze eating dots while trying to avoid being killed by ghosts.

Simple, right? Yep, but also lots of fun!

Pac-Man had a lot of things going for it, including bright colors at a time when color screens were just beginning to make waves in arcades, and quality sound. But most importantly, Pac-Man had addictive gameplay.

And it wasn't an easy game. Those pesky ghosts got faster and faster as the game progressed and the player finished one maze and moved on to the next one. Some gamers worked out patterns for the game's maze, patterns that would allow the player to reach some pretty high scores, but eventually even those patterns became just about useless.

Today, when Pac-Man is now more than 30 years old, the game is still fun to play. And with its availability all over the Web, including free play at some sites, it's no wonder Pac-Man continues to draw in fans.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Game of the Week: Galaga

Everyone knows how Space Invaders was a huge hit video game in the late 1970s. Then in 1979 Namco and Midway released to the arcades a game called Galaxian, which had some similarities to Space Invaders but included better graphics, color and generally better action play.

Galaxian, too, turned out to be an arcade favorite, so to continue their success, Namco and Midway came up with a sequel game.

That arcade wonder would be Galaga, released in 1981.

The gameplay will sound familiar. The player controls a ship at the bottom of the screen while shooting at attacking alien spacecraft at the top of the screen. From there, the action changes slightly. Unlike Space Invaders, in Galaga the enemies can actually fly down to attack (and sometimes crash into) the player's ship, all while dropping bombs. Also, to add to the fun, "boss" alien enemy ships at the top of the screen can fly down and attempt to use a tractor beam to capture the player's craft; this sounds like a bad thing, and can be, but it can turn into awesome gameplay if the player can then shoot the "boss" ship and gets their captured ship returned. But not only is the captured ship returned, but it is attached to the player's current ship and allows for double firing. Awesome, right?

Galaga also had a few extras when compared to earlier space shooting games. For instance, the player's ship can fire a lot of bullets at once whereas in most earlier games the player could only fire off one shot at a time. Also, in my opinion, the graphics for Galaga were topnotch for the time period, with brighter colors (and even better sounds) than other similar games.

If you like the old-fashioned space shooters, you've got to love Galaga. It was a great game for its time.