Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Video game of the week: Venture for Atari 2600

In 1981 the arcades were full of maze games and shooting games. Little yellow fellows zoomed around a screen eating dots and alien menaces died by the millions. There were a lot of arcade games, and after a while many of them started to look the same, like clones of other games.

Of course there were some games which were different from many of the others. Venture is one such game.

Released in 1981 by the Exidy Company, Venture grew to some success in the arcades, though it never quite had the legendary status of such games as Donkey Kong or Space Invaders and the like. The player controls a small dot on the screen known as Winky, and Winky's goal is to travel around a dungeon and collect treasure while avoiding or slaying monsters. It's a fairly simple process, and the first dungeon (of three) is pretty easy for most players, but there was still fun to be found here.

In each of the three dungeons there are four rooms that Winky must enter. Those rooms contain the treasure. Out in the dungeon are giant monsters roaming around, and Winky isn't able to kill them. But in each of the rooms are monsters Winky can kill with his trusty bow and arrows; even after slaying a foe, however, Winky has to be on his toes because touching the body of a dead enemy can still kill Winky. And if Winky takes too long in any of the rooms, one of the giant monsters from the dungeon will pop into the room and make a beeline for Winky.

It wasn't soon after Venture became known in the arcades that Coleco made a home version available for the Atari 2600 and just about every other major home gaming console of the day.

One could call Venture a minimalist game, and to some extent that is true. The sound is very basic, almost monotonous, and the graphics are pretty bland, even by standards of 1981. However, perhaps it is only nostalgia, but there was plenty of fun to be had having Winky traverse around the dungeon slaying monsters and stealing treasures. Perhaps we just didn't know better back then because we were all thrilled with every new game that came along, but I, for one, always appreciated the simplicity of Venture and the fun that came along with the game, despite that once you've master this game it does not have much replay value.