Monday, November 29, 2010

Game of the Week: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons for Intellivision

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Intellivision)Back in the early 1980s, during the golden age of video games and possibly of tabletop roleplaying games, it seemed a natural for there to be a Dungeons & Dragons video game. So, when Mattel came along with such a game for its Intellivision home video game system, fans of both type games were more than thrilled.

And the game didn't let anyone down. For the time, the graphics were actually quite good, though the Intellivision always had pretty solid graphics for the early '80s. The sound was also good, and played an important role in the game experience itself.

Also, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game for the Intellivision was different and somewhat complex compared to other games of the time. There was no score. Instead, the player had a goal to reach, a crown to find. But before finding that crown, the player had to find a boat, a hatchet and a key to be able to travel through the land in which the game took place.

Basically, you travel around a map and enter caves to search for the needed items. Your only weapon is a bow and a limited amount of arrows. Fortunately, you could find more arrows laying about in the cave systems, which was good because you had plenty of monsters to face such as bats, spiders, rats, blobs, demons and yes, dragons.

Once you found the crown, you won the game.

It wasn't exactly true roleplaying, but it was one of the closest video game experiences players could find at the time.

And yes, of course, by today's standards the graphics and sound and gameplay don't compare, but they were very good for the early 1980s.

Eventually this game was renamed Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain because a sequel game was released, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin, which was a fine game in its own right.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Game of the Week: Major League Baseball for Intellivision

Baseball. Is there anything for American than this sport? It's even been dubbed America's favorite pastime. It's such a great game, early on it made its way into video games.

One of the best early baseball video games was Major League Baseball for the Intellivision home video game system made by Mattel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

What made this such a great baseball game? In part, it was the graphics. Of course by today's standards those graphics are pretty lame, but when this game first was available in 1980, it had the best graphics around for a home baseball video game.

Also, the colors were solid, the sounds decent and the gameplay quite strong. The one big drawback? This was a two-player only game. That's right, you couldn't play by yourself. If you wanted to play Major League Baseball on your Intellivision, you had to have a friend or someone play with you. No single player! Which seems almost barbaric by today's gaming standards.

However, the gameplay was pretty realistic. You could steal bases, hit home runs, go for intentional walks, control the batter, control the pitcher, control the fielders ... stuff that's pretty standard nowadays but back then was rare for a baseball game.

This game was so popular, more than a million of them were sold, which makes it the most popular video game ever for the Intellivision system. Of course, it didn't hurt those numbers that this game actually came packaged with the Intellivision.

The popularity of this game was so strong that Mattel actual made a version for the Atari 2600 under it's M-Network titles. You can even find this game available on Intellivision Lives, a modern compilation of Intellivision games.

And just in case you go looking for this game and there's some confusion, it was also released under the title Big League Baseball and, simply, Baseball.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Game of the Week: Ms. Pac-Man

Following the huge success of Pac-Man in the arcades in 1980, the producer of the game in the U.S., Midway, just had to come up with a sequel game that would be fun for players but also remain true to the original game.

What Midway came up with was Ms. Pac-Man, and it followed through on everything a Pac-Man fan could want. The basic gameplay was still there, as were the bright colors and fun sounds, but there were also new characters, new graphics and, most importantly, new mazes for gobbling up pills and monster ghosts.

Basically, Ms. Pac-Man did the impossible. It improved upon Pac-Man, perhaps the most popular video game of all time. There were more mazes than just the one that Pac-Man had, and each maze came in different color schemes.

Ms. Pac-Man proved so popular, it was ported to many of the home video game systems of the time, including the Atari 2600 and the NES. The game still shows up today in ports to computer systems and modern video gaming systems, and there's even been several handheld versions of Ms. Pac-Man as well as small, tabletop versions.

If you're a fan of classic arcade games, you just about have to love Ms. Pac-Man. It's such a simple game, sending a yellow Pac-Man with a red ribbon around to munch on dots, that you just have to love it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

10 classic video games for Atari 2600

The most classic Atari 2600 game there ever was that wasn't also an arcade game. Yars' Revenge was what this home gaming system was all about, hours and hours of flying a metal bug around a screen while it eats at an electro force field.
Everyone hated Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 because it was nothing like the arcade game. But looking back all these years later, I think that's a little unfair. Yes, it was not the arcade game, but it still wasn't a bad game in and of itself.
River Raid
You're flying a fighter jet along a river while blowing up any planes, helicopters, ships and more! River Raid byActivision was just about as much fun as you could have with an Atari 2600.
This is another game that is disappointing when compared to the arcade version, but it was still a pretty decent game, sort of like a science fiction version of River Raid with not-so-great graphics.
Donkey Kong
A classic arcade game for a classic home video game system. It wasn't the same as the arcade version, but they never are. Still, it had solid gameplay, decent colors and graphics, and decent sound.
With action quite similar to the arcade version of this game, it's no wonder Frogger for the Atari 2600 is still common among collectors and fans of the system. Decent graphics and strong sounds, as well.
This game made video game history on multiple levels. It was the first action adventure game. It was the first sort-of RPG game (thought not really). And, most importantly, it was the first video game ever to feature an easter egg. But I'm not telling what it is!
With the exception of some color changes, the Atari home version of Asteroids played pretty much like the arcade version, thus securing it as a favorite of 2600 fans.
Activision was such an innovative company when it came to work on the Atari 2600, and their huge hit game Pitfall! is evidence why. This game was one of the first to have truly smooth and great graphics for the 2600, showing that the system actually could have quality graphics and games.
Space Jockey
Not one of the more popular games for the Atari 2600, but Space Jockey had good graphics and colors. If you were in the mood to veg out without a lot of thinking, this was the game for you.
Related links

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Game of the Week: Space Jockey for Atari 2600

Atari Space JockeyThe Atari 2600 was such a popular home video game system in the early 1980s, there were plenty of companies which tried to cash in on the Atari craze of the time by making games for the system. A number of these games were not all that good, and many fans blame the 1983 crumble of the video game market on the fact there were so many awful games available.

There's probably some truth to that, but the big video game crash had plenty of other factors, including a few not-so-great games by Atari itself.

Regardless, in 1982 along came US Games, a video game company put together by the Quaker Oats Company (yes, you read that correctly). US Games put out 14 games for the Atari 2600, and nearly all of them have been forgotten over the years.

However, one particular game, Space Jockey, has a soft spot in my heart.

I was only 13 or 14 during the time Space Jockey hit the retail stores. Despite mowing lots of yards for cash, I didn't have a lot of money back in those days. Still, I made enough money that I could afford to buy a new Atari 2600 game every so often.

One day I was walking through a K-Mart when I stumble upon a discount bin of Atari game cartridges. And what should I find but Space Jockey! I think it cost me something like $5, so I had to snag it up.

When I got home, I plugged Space Jockey into my Atari 2600 and got to playing. I quickly found out the gameplay for Space Jockey was sort of like an overly simplified versions of the Defender game, so simplified a three-year-old could play it.

Basically, you control a spaceship up and down on the left side of the screen while shooting at tanks, houses, trees, airplanes and balloons coming at you from the right side of the screen. The tanks and airplanes could should back, but still, this was a very easy game to play.

If you were searching for a challenging Atari 2600 game, Space Jockey wasn't it, mainly because it was so easy to play you could keep playing forever and ever without hardly ever getting your spaceship killed. But Space Jockey did have a certain appeal because of it's very monotony. How so? Well, if you were just wanting to veg out some without having to put a lot of thought into the game you were playing, Space Jockey was perfect for that.

Also, Space Jockey did have some positive qualities. The colors and graphics were quite good for the Atari 2600, and though the sounds were simple, they weren't awful by any means.

Retro gamers today can still find used, and sometimes new, cartridges of Space Jockey available for sale in various places online. I've seen prices as low as $2 to as high as $45. I'd go with the $2 price, unless the cartridge is in awful condition and doesn't include the original box and gaming manual.

Anyway, there were far worse games for the Atari 2600 than Space Jockey. This wasn't exactly an awful game, but it wasn't for everyone and it wasn't an awesome game.

Still, I have fond memories of it and enjoyed playing it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

10 Classic games for Mattel's Intellivision

Click the game titles for articles about each game.
Perhaps my favorite Intellivision game. You make giant burgers while avoiding evil hot dogs, pickles and eggs. Simple, but tons of fun.
One of the first ever, if not the first ever, video games having to do with health-related issues. I realize that sounds boring, but it wasn't. Microsurgeon was an awesome game.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Back in the day, this was the only way to play a D&D video game. And it had decent graphics, good sound and fantastic gameplay.
Lock 'N' Chase
In my opinion, this game on the Intellivision is as good as any version of any maze video game I've ever played including Pac-Man. You play a robber who goes around picking up coins (dots) while avoid the long arm of the law.
Kind of a mix between Space Invaders and Asteroids, Astrosmash was one of the grooviest games around. You could play it for hours and hours. Literally, you could play it for hours and hours. How? Because as you got better at the game, the game got harder, but if you were having a tough time with it, the game got easier.
Night Stalker
That spooky heartbeat sound always in the background made this one of the creepiest games ever from the golden age of video games. And it was awesome! I spent hours upon hours playing this one.
Space Hawk
Seemingly a lot like the hit Atari arcade game Asteroids, Space Hawk offered enough differences to make it a unique game in its own right. And it was a ton of fun to play, too!
Star Strike
Back in the day there were no games actually based upon Star Wars, but Star Strike was pretty darn close. With all that flying and shooting along the trench of a space station, it seemed a heck of a lot like you were flying an X-wing fighter along the Death Star
Tron Deadly Discs
Remember the movie Tron? If you do, then you might also remember there were a bunch of video games based upon this movie about being trapped in a video game. Awesome, awesome game, this one. One of my favorites for the Intellivision. I could play this sucker forever, even after it got pretty tough to play.
Major League Baseball
Great graphics and a lot of fun to play, but the big drawback was you had to have two players. Still, when you could get that other player, this was the best baseball video game in the world back in the day.
Related links

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Game of the Week: Centipede

Okay, I admit right up front, Centipede was never my favorite arcade game. I didn't hate it, but I never found it all that fun to play.

Released to the arcades by Atari in 1980, the player uses a roller ball to control a little head-shaped figure at the bottom of the screen while shooting away at mushrooms, centipedes, spiders and more further up the screen.

Like I said, I never enjoy the game all that much, but tons of people did. Centipede was a hugely popular game in the arcades back in the 1980s, so much so that it had a sequel game in Millipede and was ported to nearly every home video game and computing system at the time. There have also been several handheld versions of Centipede, versions to cell phones, even modern versions for home gaming systems. Heck, Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 even has Centipede and Millipede available.

So, obviously, I must be one of the ones who didn't get it. I never hated Centipede or anything like that, because I've definitely played worse games. The graphics were a bit simplistic, in my opinion, but they were bright and equal to most other games in 1980.

I guess I'm saying there were just other games I found more interesting. Still, I've put more than a few dollars worth of quarters into a Centipede game machine over the years, and I wouldn't ask for any of them back.

Whether my favorite game or not, Centipede has more than earned its place among other classic games from the golden era of video games.