Monday, October 25, 2010

Game of the Week: Asteroids

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the golden age of video games, it sometimes felt like every arcade game was about shooting alien invaders out of the sky. Blame Space Invaders.

But one 1979 game from Atari was a bit different. That game was Asteroids. Sure, the player still controlled a spaceship, but the game was different from many others at the time in several ways.

For one thing, Asteroids had vector graphics, which wasn't all that common at the time and never really did become common.

For another thing, in Asteroids the player could fly their ship all over the screen, which was different from a lot of the science fiction shooting games of the day in which the player's ship just moved across the bottom of the screen shooting at things across the top of the screen.

Then there was the fact that in Asteroids the player's man goal wasn't to take out enemy spaceships, though an enemy craft did show up from time to time. No, the main goal of asteroids was basic survival, to blow up asteroids floating around your ship before they could slam into you and blow you up.

With thrust controls as well as a firing button, Asteroids was a little more complicated than most other video games from 1979, but it was also a lot of fun.

Asteroids was so popular that it was ported to many home video games systems, including the Atari 2600 and pretty much every Atari home video game system ever made. Asteroids is still popular today, and versions of it can be found for modern home gaming systems, modern computing systems and often free versions are online. There were even sequel arcade games such as Space Duel and Asteroids Deluxe.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Atari 2600 Label Maker

Would you like to be able to create your own Atari 2600 labels? Well, now you can, for all kinds of purposes.

Just go to the website Atari 2600 Label Maker, and put in the title you want, an image you might want, and whatever else you think is needed.

These can be loads of fun!

Below are just a few examples of Atari labels I've made.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Game of the Week: Missile Command

When the arcade game explosion hit in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were a ton of video games in which the player controlled a spaceship or some-such that shot down alien spaceships in the sky. Space Invaders is the grandfather of this genre, but there were plenty of other games along similar lines, such asGalaga.

But then in 1980 along came Missile Command, which at that time was quite the unique game. First off, Missile Command did not have a joystick, but had a controller ball instead, and that was many players' first experience using a controller ball.

And then there was the unique gameplay. Instead of shooting down alien attackers from the sky, the player had to use missile bases to protect cities while shooting down incoming enemy missiles. One a wave of enemy missiles was defeated, then the player went on to the next round of attacks. It might not sound that different from those alien-shoot-em-up games, but the gameplay actually is quite a bit different.

It was also a lot of fun. For me, I never could catch the knack of mastering Missile Command, but I still had loads of fun with the first screen or two that I could get to. I think it was the controller ball that threw me off, because thirty years later I still can't seem to master controller balls and prefer a mouse or joystick for my gaming.

Missile Command is an iconic game from the golden age of gaming, and it has proven so popular the game has been ported to many different home, computer and handheld gaming systems. Missile Command even pops up in new, graphically enhanced versions from time to time on modern home video game systems. But why shouldn't it? It's an awesome game.

Related links
What was the very first video game?
Star Castle nearly forgotten, but great arcade game
Classic Video Gamers, a blog for old school gamers

Monday, October 11, 2010

Game of the Week: Frogger


This week I'm taking a look back at the 1980s arcade video game Frogger.

The early 1980s was an awesome time for arcade fans, with new games coming out all the time and the arcades themselves filled to capacity, people waiting in lines to play Pac-Man or Space Invaders or whatever. Then, in 1981 Sega/Gremlin released the game Frogger onto the market.

Frogger instantly became a fan favorite, but it was a bit unusual in that it didn't quite have the splash, the pizazz!, that many other games seemed to have. Frogger had quality colors, but it didn't seem to scream to the players, "Play me!"

Perhaps it was the simplistic controls, or very fact the player was controlling an onscreen frog instead of a space ship or monster or something.

Maybe it was the seemingly simple gameplay. The player controlled a frog that had to make its way across a busy highway without being run over by a vehicle, then the frog had to jump across the backs of turtles and onto logs before hopping into their "home" to end that round. As the game progressed, it became more and more difficult with more and more challenges thrown at the player. The cars on the freeway sped up. The turtles began to dive under water. Eventually crocodiles, snakes and even otters would show up to attack the frog.

It sounds kind of silly when you think about it, but it was a fun game. For me personally, Frogger brings me fond memories because it was the only video game my dad ever liked, to the point he and I used to play the home version on my Atari 2600.

And that's another thing. Frogger has been so popular over the years, it was ported to just about every home video game system and computer system one can think of. Frogger has also had tons of sequel arcade and home games, and every so often now a new game based upon Frogger will appear.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Game of the Week: Zaxxon for Atari 2600

ZaxxonArcade enthusiasts were blown away in 1982 when the game Zaxxon was released. Zaxxon was the first arcade game to feature isometric projection, which is basically a fancy way of saying the game appeared to be three-dimensional.

No, the game's graphics didn't pop out from the screen at you, but they did appear in three dimensions. Before Zaxxon, video games appeared flat, in only two dimensions.

Zaxxon was a hit game at the arcades, and since the Atari 2600 was the top selling home video game system at the time, fans couldn't wait for Zaxxon to be ported to the Atari.

Well, as history shows, the Coleco version of Zaxxon that made its way to the Atari 2600 didn't look anything like the arcade version of Zaxxon.

The graphics were flat, two dimensional. For that matter, there didn't seem to be that many graphics to look at. There were relatively few items on the screen at any given time.

Looking back, that should have been expected. It wasn't like the Atari 2600 was known for great graphics. Still, Zaxxon fans were mostly disappointed.

That being said, Zaxxon for the Atari 2600 was still fun to play. Similar to the arcade game, the player controls a space ship flying over an enemy alien base while shooting down enemy ships, satellite dishes and fuel tanks. Of course the Atari version of this game took some getting used to, mainly because of the not-so-great graphics, but once your eye was familiar with everything, you really could play a pretty good game.

No, it wasn't real Zaxxon, but Zaxxon for the Atari 2600 was fun enough that it can stand on its own.