Monday, June 27, 2011

Game of the week: Gremlins for Atari 5200

Steven Spielberg is known for his many hit movies, one of which was the 1984 film "Gremlins" about cute, furry critters that could be turned into scaly, nasty monsters if they eat food after midnight.

This film was so popular it just had to have a video game. Right?

Atari ended up getting the rights to make a "Gremlins" game, and the company did a good job, in 1986 releasing the game on the classic Atari 2600 system and on the newer Atari 5200.

Atari 5200 - Video Game Console (System)Unfortunately, by this time the video game craze had bottomed out and this "Gremlins" game never had the opportunity to become a hit. Still, "Gremlins" was a lot of fun to play and it had quality graphics on the Atari 5200.

Gameplay seems simple at first, but it can become quite frantic. The player's character is in a room with several of the cute, fuzzy Gremlins. About the room are pieces of food and puddles of water. If the cute Gremlins eat the food, they turn into the monster Gremlins. If any Gremlin touches the water, it splits into two Gremlins. The player's job is to gather up the good Gremlins and place them into a container, or to use a sword to kill the bad Gremlins. There is a timer of sorts. The player has to accomplish his or her tasks before six in the morning, or at least try to survive until then because the bad Gremlin monsters can kill you.

It's easier said than done, especially at higher levels when furniture and other items have randomly spawned about the room and get in the player's way.

Still, loads of fun can be found here, and with practice comes skill at the game.

The Atari 2600 did not have quality graphics, but that's not unusual for 2600 games. The Atari 5200 version of "Gremlins," on the other hand, had fantastic graphics equal to many arcade games of the day.

In years to come there would be other video games based upon the "Gremlins" movie and it's 1990 sequel, "Gremlins 2: The New Batch," but these early ones by Atari are still great to play.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Game of the week: Mechwarrior 2 for Macs

The year is 3057. You are a warrior for either Clan Jade Falcon or Clan Wolf. Ahead of you lies the Refusal War in which you must pilot a BattleMech against your enemies. The future of the galaxy depends upon you, soldier!

Yeah? Who cares?

Let's get to shooting and blowing up stuff! Because that's what the MechWarrior games are really all about.

And MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat won't let down fans of the BattleMech genre. There's tons of combat and explosive action to be found here.

I have to admit right up front that back in the early-to-mid 1990s, I preferred Apple's Macintosh computers for gaming because they had better graphics. PC play has caught up today, but back then, the Macs ruled.

Which was on reason I preferred to play MechWarrior 2 on a Macintosh. Better graphics.

Mechwarrior 2There is a complex background story to this game, and it does come up from time to time while playing, but for the most part you can just sit back and enjoy riding along in a gigantic bi-pedal tank that's sort of like a robot while you get to blow up stuff and shoot stuff.

At the start of Mechwarrior 2 you are given a choice of which of two clans to join, but either way you will face 16 missions ahead of you. The first mission or two are relatively straightforward and relatively easy, but the missions get tougher and tougher, as does the action!

This game will not bore you, I promise. Each mission is different and has different jobs needing done, and you'll have a variety of Mechs to drive as well as you'll face a variety of enemy Mechs, too.

The controls can get a little complicated because there are so many buttons to keep track of on your keyboard, and each one is important, but one of the cool things about this game is you can set up your own controls, and there's an option for quite simple controls, basically just pointing and shooting with a little movement.

The graphics are superb for the time period, perhaps the best 3D computer game graphics from the mid-1990s. And the sound is quite awesome as well; not only are the explosions and Mech noises quite believable but the musical soundtrack by Jeehun Hwang is excellent, quite militaristic in places.

So, if you're an old-school Mac gamer, you've got to get this game. You'll be doing yourself a favor.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Game of the week: 10-Yard Fight for NES

Most gamers back in the early 1980s were stuck with sub-par sports games for the most part. The few sports arcade games were awful. Even the giant of home gaming systems at the time, the Atari 2600, had sports games with blocky graphics and weak play. The best of the lot was probably provided by the Intellivision console, but the games for that systems weren't the strongest, either.

Then in 1983 the Japanese company Irem released the arcade game called 10-Yard Fight.

10-Yard Fight was not the greatest game of all time, not by any means. But it was one of the first arcade games in which the gameplay was actually somewhat like the real sport it was based upon, in this case being American football.

10-YARD FIGHT VIDEO GAME (NINTENDO NES 8-BIT VIDEO GAME CARTRIDGE VERSION) (10-YARD FIGHT VIDEO GAME (NINTENDO NES 8-BIT VIDEO GAME CARTRIDGE VERSION), 10-YARD FIGHT VIDEO GAME (NINTENDO NES 8-BIT VIDEO GAME CARTRIDGE VERSION))There was actually a time limit to the game. There were even halves. The player could play at different levels, from high school to college to pro to playoffs to Super Bowl levels. Also, the player got to control the offense. And while there weren't actually different plays to run, the player could control the quarterback by having him run the ball, pass the ball or toss off the ball.

I know, I know. It doesn't sound like much. But believe it or not, this was a giant step in sports games, especially football video games.

This game proved popular enough, however, that in 1985 it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). And the truth is, the NES version is actually better than the arcade version.

How is that possible?

10-Yard FightOne major change was that players could actually play the defense as well as the offense. This was a huge addition to the game. It also didn't hurt that the graphics for the NES 10-Yard Fight were as solid as those of the arcade game, and it included all the sounds and gameplay that came with the original.

So, for a game that was never a massive hit at the arcades or in home gaming, 10-Yard Fight had a lot going for it, and it holds its place in video game history. If you're a collector of retro games, especially NES games, you might want to give this one a try.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Game of the week: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for Atari 2600

Every Star Wars fan, whether young or old, remembers the battle scene on the ice planet Hoth in the film The Empire Strikes Back. There were rebels on the ground fighting against giant Imperial Walkers, commonly called AT-ATs, but there were also rebel pilots such as Luke Skywalker taking to the sky in snowspeeders to take the fight directly to the enemy.

It is an awesome scene. For its special effects and its drama.

When the film came out in 1980, the video game craze was just beginning to peak. So it only made sense that there would be a Star Wars video game. Right?

Of course it did.

And the very first Star Wars video game was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back for the Atari 2600 home video game system.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Atari 2600)Released by Parker Brothers in 1982, the game was a scrolling shooter in the tradition of the classic Defender arcade game. The player controlled a snowspeeder that flew around the sky over Hoth while shooting at approaching Imperial Walkers. The trick was to hit the body of the Walkers because shooting the legs did no good. Also, every once in a while a flashing spot would appear on a Walker, and if the snowspeeder could hit that spot it would destroy the Walker in one shot.

But the Walkers didn't just stand by and let the snowspeeder shoot at them, no no. The Walkers shot back. Generally it took more than one shot to down a snowspeeder, and the player could temporarily land a snowspeeder for repairs. Still, there often wasn't time to land because the Imperial Walkers were headed toward the rebel base, and if they reached that base the game was over and the player lost.

Atari 2600 Video Computer System ConsoleAs was common with many Atari 2600 games, there were lots of different difficulty levels for this game, some quite tough. This almost made Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back like having multiple games in one cartridge.

This game proved popular enough that in 1983 there was a version of it made for the Intellivision home video game console.