Sunday, December 26, 2010

Game of the Week: Tron Deadly Discs for Atari 2600

If you are a fan of the Intellivision home video game system from the early 1980s, you've almost had to have heard of the game Tron Deadly Discs. It was an awesome game, pitting the onscreen character against computerized warriors and a giant robot known as the RECOGNIZER.

But did you also know there was a Tron Deadly Discs game for the famous Atari 2600 home video game system of the day? Not only that, but there was even a version of the game for the Aquarius Home Computer system, but that sense because the Aquarius was made by Mattel, the same company that made the Intellivision.

Mattel also made the Tron Deadly Discs game for the Atari 2600, but under its M Network titles, basically Mattel's title for games it made that could be played on the Atari 2600.

As could be expected, the graphics for the Atari version of the game weren't quite as strong as those for the Intellivision, but the Intellivision was generally known to have superior graphics in the very early 1980s. And the gameplay wasn't quite the same, though it was pretty close.

But does that mean Tron Deadly Discs for the Atari 2600 isn't worth playing? Not at all.

Tron: Deadly Discs (Atari 2600)There was still plenty of great action as you controlled a character running around a huge arena avoiding enemies and the throwing discs from the enemies. The onscreen character even had a throwing disc of his own and could use it to take out the warrior enemies. Unfortunately, the RECOGNIZER robot doesn't appear in the Atari 2600 version of the game.

Also, to help with strategy, the character can throw discs into doors that appear along the top and bottom and sides of the arena on screen. Once a disc hits a door, the door changes color, and if there's another door opposite that door in the arena, then the character can run through the door and come out on the other side of the arena, sort of like when Pac-Man travels through the tunnel on the left and right sides of the screen to come out the other side.

The graphics here are fair, at least standard for the Atari 2600. And the gameplay is decent, but unfortunately once you've gotten halfway decent at this game it tends to lose a lot of its luster because there are no new elements to add flavor. Of course, that could be argued for a lot of video games from the time period.
If you've got an Atari 2600 sitting around and you like to collect games for the system, check out some places online and do a search for Tron Deadly Discs under the M Network title.

Video game links

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How many Tron video games have there been?

In 1982, Walt Disney Productions released a movie known as Tron, starring Jeff Bridges. The film enjoyed modest success at the box office, but over the years has gained a huge following. And why not? Released during the height of the arcade video game crazy, Tron was about a programmer who is pulled into a world where video games are reality.
Now Disney has released a sequel, Tron: Legacy, also with Jeff Bridges as one of the stars. Considering it has been almost 30 years since the first Tron movie, will Tron: Legacy still be able to find an audience? So far the critics are mixed, but with all the fanfare the film has built, and the awesome graphics its trailers portray, Tron: Legacymight be the start of a new film and video game franchise.
But over the years, there has to some extent already been a Tron video game franchise. There have been a number of official Tron video games going all the way back to the early 1980s and up to today. Just how many Tron games have there been?
Let's count and take a look back.
Tron (1982)
Bally Midway released this arcade game in 1982 right before the release of the Tronmovie by Disney. This one set the stage for many future Tron games in that it the gameplay actually includes more than one different sub-game within the overall game, and one of those sub-games here is a light cycle game, and light cycle games have been somewhat popular ever since. Besides the light cycle mini game, there is also a sub-game in which the player has to shoot out colored blocks in a rotating tower, a game in which the player takes on enemy tanks in a maze, and a game in which the player takes on electronic spiders. The player can choose in which order he or she wants to tackle each of the mini games.
Tron: Deadly Discs (1982)
In 1982, at the height of the home video game market, the toy company Mattel was lucky enough to land the Tron franchise for home video games. Unfortunately, the movie wasn't a huge blockbuster at the time (despite its later huge following), so this didn't help game sales. Still, Mattel put out some great games based upon Tron. This is my personal favorite, originally made for the Intellivision home video game system by Mattel, though shortly thereafter Mattell released a version for the Atari 2600 under its M Network titles. As far as gameplay, basically you control a character who runs around an arena while zapping enemies with your throwing disc. Your character can also use the disc as a shield to block discs thrown by the enemies.
Tron: Solar Sailer (1982)
This was another home video game released by Mattel for the Intellivision system, and it was one of only four games that utilized the Intellivoice module for the Intellivision, basically an external component that added voice sounds to the game. This was never a very popular game, and if you ever play it you'll see why; it seems kind of fruitless as you travel through grids while avoiding spiders and tanks, and then when you get to the end of the grid you just go on to another grid.
Tron: Maze-A-Tron (1982)
This was the third and final Tron home video game Mattel made for its Intellivision system. Basically, you run through a maze while trying to avoid enemies who are after you. Not a great game, but not awful. It had fairly decent graphics for the time, but then the Intellivision system was known for its graphics back in the day.
Adventures of Tron (1982)
Mattel also made this game, but not exactly for its Intellivision home video game system, but for the Atari 2600 home video game system. How did this happen? Well, this game was supposed to be a version of Maze-A-Tron for the Atari 2600, but once this game was finished it was totally different from Maze-A-Tron. What to do? Mattel released it anyway, even though there technically wasn't a version of this game for their own home video game system. This is kind of a climbing game in which the character moves up and down levels while collecting items flying at you.
Tomytronic Tron (1982)
To my knowledge, this is the only handheld or tabletop video game every made for the Tron franchise. The company Tomy released this game in 1982. This was another Tron game that was more than a single game, but several games in one. Here, there were tree games, a light cycle game, a disc combat game, and then a game where you take on the master computer.
Discs of Tron (1983)
This one was another arcade game, and my favorite of the arcade Tron games. Bally Midway released it. The play would seem fairly simple, you playing a character who jumps around on screen while throwing discs at an enemy while avoiding discs he throws at you, and play is simple for the first couple of screens. But then things begin to change. Walls pop up. Your enemy starts throwing grenades. Some of those grenades actually begin following you around on screen. And much, much more. An awesome game.
BeamWars (1992 - unofficial)
Polaris Software released this game initially as shareware for Macintosh computers. It's a pretty simplistic (by today's standards) light cycle game. It is now available as an app for some cell phones. This game, or other ones very, very similar to it, has been introduced under other names, including Beamtron, but it's basically the same game.
Ricochet (2000 - unofficial)
Ricochet is actually a multi-player mod for the first person shooter video game Half-Life. It's actually an official mod, and it's obviously based upon the world of Tron. How so? It's a death-match style game visually, and even somewhat in gameplay, similar to Tron and some of the Tron video games. Characters jump around on platforms while trying to take one another out with throwing discs. The colors and graphical styles of the game are also quite reminiscent of Tron.
Tron 2.0 (2003)
Tron 2.0 is meant to be a sequel of sorts to the original Tron movie. It is basically a first person shooter game, initially available for PCs from Buena Vista Games, though later MacPlay released a Macintosh version. Also, a version of this game was ported to the Xbox and the Game Boy Advance under the name Tron 2.0 Killer App.
GLtron - 0.70 (2003 - unofficial)
0.70 is the most recent version of this game, though there were some earlier versions. As is obvious from the graphics, this game is based upon the light cycle duels of the Tron universe. GLtron is on open source computer game available for PCs as well as Macintoshes. If you think you've got the right stuff, go check out the official websiteand join in the fun.
Armegatron Advanced (2004 - unofficial)
This is the most recent version of a computer game originally known only as Armegatron. What is it? Yet another light cycle game based upon Tron; apparently the light cycles are popular, what with all this different games based upon that sequence in the original movie. This game is available for a bunch of different kinds of computers, from PCs to Linux to Macs to more, so if you are interested, you can check it out right here. This is a multi-player game, and it's available for free.
Space Paranoids (2009)
In the original Tron movie, there was a video game called Space Paranoids. And now, all these years later (and probably because of the new Tron: Legacy movie that's out), this game actually exists as an arcade game, plus you can play it online, too. It's a first person shooter game, and you would likely recognize many of the graphical elements because they are based upon enemies in the Tron movies.
Tron: Evolution (2010)
Just in time for the new Tron: Legacy movie, Propaganda Games has released Tron: Evolution for the Xbox 360,Playstation 3, PSP and for Windows. This is a third-person game with some combat and RPG elements. There is disc combat to be found here as well as light cycle gaming. Online gaming is available, as is general multi-playing, and downloadables are expected in the near future.
Tron: Evolution - Battle Grids (2010)
This game is pretty much the Tron: Evolution game, but then some. It has been released only for the Wii and Nintendo DS systems, at least so far. I've not checked this game out yet, but from what I here there's more of a sandbox element in which the player can explore the Tron world by traveling on a light cycle or even in a tank.
In conclusion
So, how many Tron video games have there been? It's difficult to say. I counted 15 total, with four of them being unofficial games. Also, there's often more than one version of a Tron game available for computers or as an app, so how does one count those? And then there were also portions of the game Kingdom Hearts andVirtual Magic Kingdom that were based upon the Tron franchise. Do you count those?
I don't know. I suppose it's possible there are a hundred different Tron games if you take into account the different versions of games for different home video game systems and computers and online, etc. But I'll stick with the number 15, because any other games at the least seem to be based upon one of those 15.
Video game links

Monday, December 13, 2010

Game of the Week: Asteroids for the Atari 2600

Asteroids (Atari 2600)In 1979, Atari introduced a video game called Asteroids to arcades.

And the world has never been the same since.

Asteroids was so popular, it seemed everyone wanted to play. And especially because it was an Atari game, it only made sense for the company to create a version of Asteroids for its hugely popular home video game system, the Atari 2600.

For those who might not know, what is the object of this game? Simple. You fly a little spaceship around a screen while avoid getting blown to smithereens by tons and tons of asteroids floating around. To help out, you can shoot at the asteroids, which makes smaller asteroids. Then you have to blow away the smaller asteroids to clear the screen and go on to the next screen, where you do it all over again. Every once in a while an alien spaceship will fly by and take a shot at you, but you can blow those up as well.

Sounds simple, and simplistic. It's not, on both counts.

Asteroids was a ton of fun to play, and it was addictive.

When the game was introduced to the Atari 2600, some fans were concerned that it wouldn't be the same. The arcade version of Asteroids was a vector based game, in layman's terms meaning there weren't a lot of filled-in graphics because everything sort of looked as if it had been drawn to be stick figures. Yes, it sounds stupid, but it was what is was (and it worked and was still a great game). The Atari home system didn't allow for vector graphics, so how would the company pull it off?

Simple. They just filled in the spaces with color. Sure, it looked a little different, but the gameplay was the same and the colored asteroids didn't hurt anything.

The arcade version of Asteroids was popular enough to spawn a few sequels, and it was ported to a few other home video game systems, including modern systems.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Game of the Week: Star Strike for the Intellivision

Star Strike (Intellivision)In the early 1980s, a lot of kids were fans of Star Wars. A lot of kids were also fans of video games. So what would be better than to bring the two together, Star Wars and video games?

Well, early on there weren't any actual Star Wars video games. What did we do? We played Star Strike on the Intellivision home video game system.

In Star Strike, you controlled a ship flying along a trench of a giant space station. Sounds kind of like the space battle scenes in Star Wars, right? That was intentional, I'm sure. While flying your craft, you also got to shoot an enemy alien spaceships while avoiding being blown to bits by them. There was sort of a timer to this game because you had to defeat all the enemy ships before the space station lined up with your planet and blew it to smithereens. Again, very Death Star sounding.

It was also a lot of fun.

The graphics were pretty solid for the time, but then the Intellivision was considered superior in graphics to the king of home video games of the day, the Atari 2600. The gameplay was pretty solid too; some players gripe about the Intellivision controls, a keypad with a direction disc, but I always found it easy to use. The sounds were fair, but keep in mind this was still relatively early on in the development of video games and sound often wasn't utilized to its full potential; and often that full potential was actually pretty low considering the restraints of the systems back then.

Star Strike has always been one of my favorite Intellivision games, being quite addictive for me. I spent hours and hours playing it, and likely will again someday.

And hey, since the Christmas shopping season is upon us, don't forget an Intellivision and maybe the Star Strike game for your favorite retro gaming pal.