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.

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