The Many Faces of  . . .  Joust  and Turmoil

by Alan Hewston

 A double header this month.

 Many Faces of JOUST 

As one of your favorite (voted for) games from 1982, let’s extend our 20th anniversary tribute to review the many faces of Joust.  Joust often gets mentioned in classic VG discussions about how it begat this game or that, or spawned off clones or copies.  Perhaps one can argue that it started a new genre – the flying jousting or arena theme.  It’s a shame that Joust was not officially licensed on all home systems of the classic era, but with the help of games like Pegasis, Jouste, Dragon’s Den, Dragonrider’s of Pern, and Sir Lancelot, most systems had something close enough to the arcade. 

At the arcade, Joust was a great game for 2 player simultaneous action.  In some rounds you are rewarded for working together in others you could score points for unseating the other player.  Player one jousts upon an Ostrich, player 2 on a Stork.  The enemy knights ride on Buzzards and must all be unseated by bumping into them.  Upon impact, the lower rider got unseated (lost a life), if tied in altitude, they both bounced away.  Once unseated, the buzzard would release a giant egg which had to be collected before it turned into yet another rider, one level harder than the previous.  There are Bounders, who become Hunters, who become Shadow Lords, each a more skillful rider.  Other hazards are the almost indestructible Pterodactyl and the deadly lava pit – with flames spewing upwards and the grasp of the lava troll who could grab your mount and pull you under. 

<Not enough or as many faces classic as we’d all like to see>

 Arcade: Williams 1982

Home Versions ’83 by Atari or Atarisoft unless noted

Atari 2600, 5200, 8 bit, 7800 (’87), TI-99 (‘8?), Apple 2 (‘8?, Erid Parker, Eric Robinson) and Sinclair Spectrum (Softek, Andrew Glaister)

Unreleased: C64 (‘85 Joe Hellesen), CV (‘83 recently released by Digital Press)

Arcade Sequels: Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest by Williams (Warren Davis with Joe Hellesen and Christine Donofrio) – with an added button to transform into a Pegasis, having more power/skills. 

Home Version Similarities - all versions have: all waves (Pterodactyl, Survivor, Gladiator, and Egg); the upcoming wave is told in advance; a bonus life every 20 K; new lives show up on screen with a grace period before you become active;  but no version has lava flames.  Additional home version elements, with those Missing In Action (MIA) <listed here>: two player simultaneous action <AP2>; all 3 types of Knights <AP2>; the lava troll <2600>; 6+ enemies on screen <2600>; 2 or more difficulty levels <AP2, CV>; a demo <CV, AP2>; regeneration pads <2600>; individual display of all points as you earn them <AP2, 2600, 5200, 8 bit>; pause <2600>; good collision detection <AP2>; an audio warning when eggs are about to hatch <AP2, CV>; hatched eggs become a rider <2600, 8 bit, 5200> who must await a mount. 

Disqualified:  TI-99, C64 & Sinclair Spectrum
Here’s yet another not-too-hard-to-find TI-99 game that never shows up on ebay or in my hunting or trading grounds.  Haven given up, I’m sure to find one now.  As with most TI games made by Atarisoft, I expect that it would be a let down, but good enough to enjoy – probably matching the 2600.  The C64 version that I & most gamers probably have is actually called “Jouste”.  Apparently Atarisoft did at least start a version, we may never know how good could it have been?  The handful of Sinclair Spectrum arcade ports are reportedly good, so I’d expect the Sinclair Joust to have been fun. 

Have Nots:  Apple 2 (35)
My first reaction was the sound really bytes, so perhaps I don’t have the full version of this game.  But then there is a choice to toggle off/on the sound.  Maybe this is their admission that it was bad.  There is only one other choice - keyboard or joystick.  This is not unusual, but Atarisoft typically does a better job, so I hope an original version will prove me wrong and boost these scores.   Because this is only one player game, without any difficulty settings or demo, the Gameplay suffers, but is still decent (6).  Other MIAs also hurt and the platforms are bounced off of before you hit them (poor collision detection) making for even less on-screen maneuvering room.  Another point is lost as the action really slows with 4+ enemies on-screen.  Overall, the gameplay is in tact, and this is the only version that keeps track of the high score.  The Addictiveness is very fun (8), with a pause <esc>.  It could be improved with difficulty options, especially since the game is a bit difficult to play already.  The Graphics are the best feature, very colorful and outstanding (9), but the Sound is mediocre (5) - just enough there to keep you interested, as some sound effects are missing.  The Controls are effective (7) at best – with a major problem when flapping wings.  Neither the fire button nor the space bar appears to be properly set up, or in synch to work all the time.  This problem is amplified with increased number of objects, leading to a delay in, or even no response.  “Oh, did you want me to flap my wings?”  We need Tom, er uh Dr. N. Sane to interview the various Joust beasts of burden and find out.  As usual, this version is only on disk, and still worth playing – even if solo. 

Have Nots:  Colecovision (38)
My first reaction was how does one score a game without any audio?  Or should we DQ it, since it was not released.  Someone at Atarisoft should have been strung up, keeping such a gem of a game from being completed/released.  Maybe they were promoted as they insured that the 5200 could claim that Atari had the best version.  Gameplay is impressive (8), but only for skill level one – being the only one completed.  Skill level 2 is harder (as it should be) but you have an infinite number of lives, and skill level 3 begins but no enemies ever come out to joust.  So it looks like they were pretty far along in this game when it was canceled or shelved - finished and polished, it may have beaten the 7800.  Skill level 1 plays a bit harder than other versions, but not nearly as bad as CV arcade ports usually are.  Each new life you get about twice as much safe time (15 sec) on the regeneration pads as the other versions.  Provided you can get over having no sound, the Addictiveness is flawless (10) and you’ll enjoy this game and its replay value tremendously.  The pause is <#> and when a two player game is active, either controller’s <#> will toggle the pause.  This is great as it allows one player to have an Atari controller but not lose the pause feature.  While the Graphics are a work of art (10), Sound is literally non-existent (0).  This can make it a bit boring, but in this case, sound is not too critical to play Joust – so give it a try if you can.  The Controls are excellent (10) using an Atari stick, and score no lower than a (9) with any of the CV controller options.  This version released on cart by the Digital Press (good job guys!). 

Have Nots:  Atari 2600 (40)
My first reaction was why aren’t there more simultaneous 2 player games on the 2600?  Gameplay is very good (7) and contains all essential elements, just fewer enemies.  Besides the MIAs above, the eggs and egg waves are unique.  The eggs float in and around the screen until they are collected or they hatch.  Similarly, the eggs from unseated riders do not land, they remain afloat until collected, fall into the lava pit, or hatch.  There are only 2 difficulties.  The kids version is great, but will not have long-term value.  Fortunately, the regular difficulty is just right to keep you interested and gradually gets harder.  Addictiveness is outstanding (9) and could only be improved with a pause.  Graphics are effective (7), but contain simpler colors and few details.  Sound is very good (7), just a bit missing or odd compared to the others.  The Controls are excellent (10). 

Bronze Medal:  Atari 5200 (44)My first reaction was the sticks.  Just enough slop in there to drop the Controls score to great (9).  The Gameplay is well done (9) only missing a few MIAs but having 4 skill levels.  The Addictiveness is awesome (10) with the pause as <pause>.  The Graphics are sharp (8) and clearly better than the 2600, but not as much animation and color as is possible.  Sound is pleasant (8) with all the effects in place. 

Silver Medal:  Atari 8 bit (45)
My first reaction was there is no shame in finishing second place here.  All the 5200 scores apply as this is the same game.  The Controls are perfect (10) and no chance of error.  The game was released on cart and can be found on disk as well. 

Gold Medal:  Atari 7800 (47)
My first reaction was the graphics are awesome, and if bought for $.80 MIB, makes it one of the greatest bargains of all time.  Gameplay is complete with 4 skill levels and all elements are very well-done (9) – perhaps some day I’ll re-score it a “10”.  The Addictiveness is perfect (10) and this is pretty much as good as a game can get in the classic era.  The pause is <pause>.  The Graphics are truly awesome (10), just a wee bit better than the CV.  The Sound is pleasant (8), and the best of the lot.  An 8 is my max score for a game without a musical score or speech.  The Controls are perfect (10) using a 2600 controller. 

Many Faces of TURMOIL
Turmoil is a favorite of both Tom and myself we just had to review it - but I blew it, thinking that it came out in ’83.  So despite not having a chance for you to vote for it, we’ll still give a proper 20th anniversary salute to this most excellent 1982 shoot ‘em up game. 

“Get ready for fast action” are words that I’ll remember for a long time. They words were displayed while the C64 loaded up this game for me the first and every time since then.  It wasn’t long afterwards that I had severe hand cramps and blisters from playing great games like this over and over.  I used to tell others that I’ve got a game that they’ll lose all 5 lives in 10 seconds.  Yeah Right! Sure enough, put on level 9 and see “Game Over” faster than the blink of an eye – appearing immediately after the enemy collided with you.  The action then rudely freezes as well.  Not quite the taunting of “Gorf” or even better, the Ha ha ha ha of “Impossible Mission” but a slap in the face that certainly requires immediate response  - play it again!  We all know how much fast action is involved with classics like “Robotron 2084” and “Kaboom”.  But there’s never been a classic game before or since that has this much high speed action, combined with significant strategy, and all the while requires the discipline to NOT move or NOT fire at the wrong time/place.  You’d better have a perfect working controller for this “death from the sides” game. 

<Not very much fast action here – just the Faces of Turmoil> 

Arcade: None, first on Atari 2600

Home Versions: all by 20th Century Fox and/or Sirius.

Atari 2600 (’82 Mark Turmell), Atari 8 bit (1983), Commodore 64 (’83 Jay Jones) & Vic 20 (’83 Jeremy Jones).  The Jay & Jeremy Jones may be one in the same – my fault - not sure.

Rumor Mill: Colecovision version was at least planned.  Apple II: unconfirmed if one was planned. 

Home Version Similarities:  All versions have a demo that runs a bit faster than the actual game, but is specific to each of 9 levels of play; there are no difficulty choices, but you can start from any of the 9 levels of action; a pause button; 7 horizontal traffic lanes where the aliens arrive from either the left or the right edges of the screen; and you alone move up and down a center corridor; you can point and fire to your left or right or travel down the lanes to collect a prize randomly located at the edge of the screen;  prizes are worth bonus points but hurry before they turn into supersonic cannon balls;  arrows that if not shot before crossing the screen turn into tanks that can only be destroyed from behind; tanks when shot from the front bounce backward a bit, but keep coming; the maximum speed of the enemies (aliens) is faster with each level, up to 9; enemy speeds are mixed so those slow ones can be just as deadly; music to start and end each game; after completing 3 levels (4 on the C64 and Vic 20) or if you start at level  9, the next stage has invisible lanes, putting your observations skills to the full test; more of these invisible levels will follow about every 4 levels; the high score rolls over at 100K – which makes for a good goal to reach, but  then requires videotaping to verify the score of those who excel at this game; an indestructible ghost ship arrives in the lane you just collected a prize in or one that you sit in for too long (at least 10 seconds, or after one enemy has passed by); an extra ship is earned after completing each level, with a maximum of 6 spares; and there is a current and high score saved. 

Additional home version elements, except for those different or Missing In Action (MIA) <listed here>: upon losing a life, there’s a brief delay in the action accompanied by a death sound FX along with a reset in the action on screen - all prizes, cannonballs and tanks are reset & removed <C64 & Vic 20>;  a slight pause before the action returned <C64 Vic 20>; to un-pause hit the fire button <2600 & Vic>.  

Have Nots:  Vic 20 (40)
My first reaction was this is one awesome Vic 20 game.  The Gameplay is great (9), and there is a lot of action and essence to this game, on all home versions.  The Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) with the only drawbacks are that too many prizes, cannon balls and tanks can arrive within a short time frame.  ie like 5 in about 5 seconds, which is an overload (especially on early levels) and makes it harder to play.  Finally, factor in that these special aliens are not always cleared away (reset) after you lose a ship (life).  You can begin a new life and be killed very quickly from enemies that have not gone away – which is not fair, but fortunately, these are not an automatic double death (see below).  The pause <run/stop> is difficult to use – as there is not much of a chance to use it, save between levels.  The Graphics are pretty good (7) and are just a little less color, detail and smoothness from the others.  Fortunately, the action never slows, even with a full slate of enemies on-screen.  Sound is respectable (6), nothing really bad here, but the music and most effects are weaker than the original 2600.  The Controls are excellent (10).  Available on cart (a bit rare) and possibly as a bootleg on cassette or disk.  The Vic and C64 demos allow you to slow or pause the action and study the mechanics of gameplay – cool! 

Bronze Medal: Commodore 64 (44)
Although I had this version first, my first reaction (after playing the 2600) is the sound effects are not as good.  In fact initially, I wanted more sound, so I put on some fast music, like “Flight of the Bumble Bee” but then pause the action every now and then to rewind the tape.  The music helps to enter “The Zone” and get absorbed completely.  The Gameplay is great (9), pretty much everything is there for every version.  Addictiveness is (9) super.  The same drawback from the Vic 20 here (too many tanks & prizes too often) but an upgrade to the pause was made.  <run/stop> toggles the pause, but the fire button will also resume the action. Quite safe!  Quite cool!  Graphics are outstanding (9) just a tad off from a 10.  Sound is very good (7), but again the music is cheaper and some effects are odd, and one is missing.  Controls are excellent (10).  The game is only found on disk. 

Silver Medal: Atari 2600 (45)
My first reaction was this game is one of the best games people will never know exists!  The Gameplay is fantastic (9), for all home versions. There appears to be a limit on number of simultaneous tanks at 4 – probably so that you do not get randomly overwhelmed and cheated.  This version has one unique minor problem that has been corrected on the 8 bit – the double death.  Once understood, it can easily be avoided.  It happens only if you stay in the lane too long, then grab the prize and afterwards fumble the stick and/or do not make it out of the lane, and then to make matters worse, stay on the edge of the screen - trying to delay the inevitable death from the ghost ship.  If you do this, then as your next life is coming out, the next ghost ship (which comes out when you stay in the lane too long) comes out and gets you before you are able to move.  So, if you are stuck in a lane, it’s better to get killed ASAP – ie near the middle.  The 2600 & 8 bit a also share a similar glitch, or purposeful feature where if you shoot the cannon ball just as it appears, the ghost ship suddenly appears through that lane – weird.  Addictiveness is outstanding (9) but cannot score it a 10.  The pause toggles using <color/black white switch>.  Trying to get this toggled on such a fast action game is almost impossible to do successfully every time.  So, the pause is not very useful on this version.  Graphics are superb (9) & Sound is nice (8).  The music before each level is the coolest on the Atari version, and all effects are in place and audible. Controls are perfect (10). 

Gold Medal:  Atari 8 bit (46)
My first reaction was that although this looks/plays just like the 2600, it was slightly improved.

The Gameplay is wonderful (9) – see also comments on 2600.  The Addictiveness is awesome (10) with the pause as <option> and the improved continue feature – via using the fire button.  This helps considerably and at the same time the game is the same skill as the 2600 - not overloaded or unfair like the Commodore versions.  Graphics are great (9), and Sound is pleasant (8) – pretty much matches the 2600 and maybe a little more.  The Controls are perfect (10).  Released on cart and available on disk – which makes it easier to find.  Both Atari versions are highly recommended to enjoy this awesome “fast action”. 

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