Issue #67 - March 20th 2003
In what looks to be
one of the coolest things at Phillyclassic, Alan Hewston has created
something to literally put you into a classic game. For the low price
of free (much like this newsletter), you can go over to Alan's booth at
the Phillyclassic and put your head into a video game mural. He has
created one for Pacman that will allow you to put your head in and take
a picture as the ghosts come after you or Pacman gets ready to chomp
down on you! The real ingenious part is that the mural has removable
pieces, so you can set Pacman and the ghosts where you want, making each
picture unique. He showed me an early look at it and I came away very
impressed. So you may want to bring a camera to Phillyclassic as this
will be a Kodak moment and a nice souvenir of the show.
Click below to see
an early preview of the Pacman mural. With any luck, he will have the
Dig Dug one done in time for the show! Now if we can get him to do a
Crazy Climber (my personal favorite arcade game) for next year's show,
then I can have a photo of myself climbing a building and getting bopped
on the head by a flower pot.
It was Twenty Years ago today . . .
1983 was a very good year for newly
released video games at both the arcade as well as for original games on
home systems. Listed below are 40 of the better video games released
year. I hope that I did not miss any of your favorites, if so, let me
know. I'd like your choice for which 10 you enjoy playing the most, on
platform in any era - take your pick. Don’t make it too hard on yourself
ranking them, just keep them in alphabetical order or whatever order is
easiest for you. If you only like a few, then just vote for those.
Vote ASAP and I’ll compile the list for next month. I’ll also post a
message on RGVC and get votes that way as well. So click and scroll
the list below and grab a copy of them, then click on "email here to
and paste the list in an email. Then just delete those you do not like
until you get to 10 or fewer. Thanks
Here they are:
Arabian, Archon, Beamrider, Boulder Dash, Congo Bongo, Crossbow,
Castles, Decathalon, Discs of Tron, Domino Man, Donkey Kong 3, Dragons
Lair, Elevator Action, Evolution, Food Fight, Frogger II: Threeedeep,
Gateway to Apshai, Gyruss, Journey, Jumpman, Junior Pac-Man, Keystone
Kapers, Major Havoc, Mario Bros, Montezuma's Revenge, Mr. Do's Castle,
Munch Mobile, Oil's Well, One-on-One Erving vs. Bird, Pit Stop, Pole
Position II, Q*bert's Qubes, Roc'n Rope, Space Shuttle: A Journey Into
Space, Spy Hunter, Star Wars: Arcade, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Star Battle, Tapper, Track 'n Field, Up 'n Down.
Email Here to Vote
Alan Hewston can be reached at email@example.com and hopes to hear
from you as this list will influence the games reviewed in the Many
of Articles of the RetrogamingTimes.
Well I have been
waiting….and waiting….and waiting….and still I wait. For what you may
ask? Well, and stick with me here, I have been waiting for a decent
Now I can hear the
gasps of disbelief and horror, and feel the shaking heads. But before
you write me off as a complete nutter, let me just raise a few points.
Way back when I were
a lad (Yes, its going to be one of those articles), There was a humble
and exciting machine called the Commodore 64. And what a marvel it was.
Able to play some outstanding games, capable of a fair whack of business
type functions, all in one, no upgrades, simple and classic. No
screwdrivers, no new motherboards every five seconds, no wanky graphic
cards, no extra RAM every week, (64k was it). One seemed to be in every
second house. There were Commodore’s in library’s, homes, schools and
Of course having a
limited amount of RAM was neither a good nor a bad thing, it simply WAS.
This of course caused programmers of the day (Hey to you all…and thank
you for some of the best memories of my childhood) to do their absolute
best to push the limits of this little machine. Simply check out a game
from early in the Commodore’s lifetime, such as Bounty Bob Strikes back
from 1985 (great game), to Impossible Mission from 1988 (one of the best
produced on the 64) to Mayhem in Monsterland from 1993, late in the life
of this machine. Notice the improvement in graphics and in sound. This
was the SAME MACHINE!!. No new CPU, no more RAM, no more nothing. This
improvement was simply caused by very clever programmers experimenting,
trying and learning new and better ways to program for the C64. And a
very good job they did to.
Now compare two PC
type games, such as Castle Wolfenstein and Medal of Honour , from the
late 80’s and 2002 respectively. Ok yes, I grant you the graphics have
improved amazingly between the two games. But check the minimum
requirements on these games. They have gone from a fairly simple 386 &
VGA graphics card to the super systems required today. 700MHz P3 CPU’s,
32MB Graphics cards, Open GL Direct X 8.0, Stereo Sound Cards etc etc
etc. and that is MINIMUM Recommended equipment. I simply can not believe
that this explosion in hardware requirements is necessary. I am POSITIVE
that some one, somewhere could have programmed MOH to run on a much
slower machine, but the whole mentality of the PC game world seems to be
“write it sloppy, and if its too slow, simply raise the hardware
requirements and let the consumer worry about it”. I know personally
over the last few years, it became necessary to “upgrade” my PC every
six months or so to simply be able to continue to play games. NONE of
these upgrades were necessary for any other function of my PC. It was
still able to word process, surf the web, play music etc etc etc, this
was all about games. I finally had enough of this mindless march and
called a time out.
But what about the
games consoles I hear you ask? PS1, PS2, Dreamcast, X BOX, Gamecube etc?
Well they are simply the “ATARI 2600’s” of the modern era. When I was
younger, We had the ATARI, the ColecoVision, the Nintendo Entertainment
System (NES) and fine machines they all were. But they are not “Home
Computers” and should not be thought of as such. We had our Atari’s…But
we also had our Commodore 64’s.
There is also the
social aspect to consider. I can remember large amounts of people
getting together to write demos, work on games, create music, and yes it
must be said, engaging in a bit of software piracy, all on the Commodore
64, and later on the Amiga & Atari ST. These were fairly large
gatherings in my little hometown of Perth, Western Australia, so there
must have been much bigger ones in the large cities of the world. There
was clubs, groups, both official and friendly. There was BBS’, home
newsletters, friends, foes, music, pictures, games and CREATIVITY. And
now it is all gone.
Simply put, I
believe it is time for a revival. It is time for another true “Home
Computer”. One that is capable of approximately PS1 type graphics &
sound for games. One that is capable of the most common home
requirements i.e. word processing, web surfing etc etc. One that is
relatively simple to program, so that people can again LEARN how to do
so. One that is relatively cheap (I would imagine in the 500-900 dollar
range), uses the current peripherals (Mouse, printer etc etc) and most
importantly is an ALL IN ONE UNIT just like the Commodore 64, Amiga,
Atari ST and the like. I want a machine that I can be proud of. I want a
machine that I can buy and not have it turn into a doorstop or a boat
anchor overnight. I want a machine that is supported and programmed for
and tweaked and learnt, and yes, god damn it, even loved for a long,
long time. I want a machine that I can again be proud of, not a beige
box in the corner that I kick every so often.
That is what I am
(Words & thoughts by Mark
Scott, a 33yo gamer with far, far too many Commodore 64's, Amiga's,
Atari 2600’s and time. Written whilst I played Syndicate on my Amiga
1200, in Perth, Western Australia. During the day I was a mild mannered
Telecommunications Technician, but at night, I collect and enjoy C64,
Amiga, Atari 2600, ST, NES, SNES, Coleco, basically just about anything
involved with old style gaming. I can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org (yes THAT Gene Simmons)
Club/Jaguar Community United (AVC/JCU) is honored to be hosting
the first two US stops on the Jagfest 2003 tour (AKA Jagfest 2003
the Jungle "). First we return to the site of Jagfest 2001, Milwaukee,
be part of Goat Store's second annual Midwest Classic gaming event on
2003, then we return to the site of Jagfest 1997, Chicago, IL (actually
Lombard, IL) as we present The Video Game Summit video game trade show
12th, 2003. We will have a special Jagfest section at this show as well.
AVC/JCU chairperson, Daniel Iacovelli has stated: "That he is exited
AVC/JCU is hosting the first two US stops of the tour", He also added:
has been involved with Jagfest since 1997 in one way or another, either
attending the event it self as we did in 1997,1999,2001 and 2002, or by
producing the yearly Jagfest issue of the Atari Zone Fanzine" (AVC was
one of the organiziners in 1997,2001 and 2002)
Jagfest 2003 "Thriving in the Jungle" will demonstrate the Jaguar is
alive and kicking with numerous hobby game efforts underway nearly a
after the Jaguar's first release. Each event will feature demos of lost
upcoming games, as well as one or more tournaments with prizes for some
best Jaguar games out there.
AVC/JCU is need of your help to make these first two US tour stops to be
successful.If you would like to help out with Jagfest @ MWC or VGS (or
Please e-mail us at AtariVideoClub@yahoo.com Use the subject: Jagfest
in your e-mail please state which location (or both) you are interested
helping, or you can join the Jagfest mailing list which can be done at
Jagfest website (or either at the Jagfest at MWC site or VGS site).
For information on Midwest Classic visit:
For information on Jagfest at MWC visit: http://avc.atari-users.net/Events/FestMWC.html
For information on Video Game Summit visit:
Visit the official Jagfest website at
While most people think that Pacman lives on energizers alone and Donkey
Kong is always chucking barrels at Mario, this is not the case. Video
game characters have real lives outside the monitor. And like most
people, they like snacks when they are watching videos or hanging out
with friends. So we decided to ask some of the classic game characters
what type of munchies they like to eat. Here are their responses:
Pacman -"I am quite fond of round
items, so I tend to gravitate toward cheese balls."
Donkey Kong -"<translated from
Gorilla>I like dried fruit, especially bananas and pineapples. Donkey
Kong like healthy food."
Q*Bert -"Not having hands, it makes
it tough for me to grab handfuls of snacks, so I need something easy to
get ahold of. I like to chow down on a big watermelon. Then I spit the
seeds at Coiley. Makes him so mad."
Sinistar -"When I am not devouring
puny ships, I like something with a serious crunch. With my highly
developed jaws, I crave a strong snack. Peanut brittle is my choice.
Beware brittle, I hunger!"
Frogger -"Bet you thought it would
be flies, right? Even a frog cannot live on bugs alone. I love jelly
beans, especially all the wild flavors they make now. Think they will
ever come up with fly flavored jelly beans?"
Pitfall Harry -"A real man needs a
real snack. Something that will give me energy, but not bog me down
while I am swinging over crocodiles and dodging snakes. I like a good
hunk of jerky to chew on as I face my countless obstacles."
Anyone who's checked out my site knows that I only review console
games. Trying to collect and review games for classic and new consoles
keeps me busy enough, so I try to avoid the worlds of computer and
portable games at all costs. However, I've always have a soft spot for
the Atari 8-bit computers. See, an Atari 1200XL was the first computer I
ever owned, and it was my first step towards a career as a software
engineer. I got so much use out of that thing. I would be up all night
programming games on it. I did my homework on it, ran a BBS on it, and
of course, played countless excellent video games on it. I really didn't
think I'd ever get to relive those old days, until a friend pointed out
a console system that was MISSING from my collection: The Atari XE Game
System. Yes, I know, the Atari XEGS is really nothing more than a
repackaged 8-bit computer, but technically it was still a game
console (you can rationalize anything). Now that I have an Atari XEGS,
I'm reliving those golden days of the early/mid 80s. The XEGS was
ill-fated, but being able to run any of the those old Atari 8-bit games
gives it an unbeatable library of titles. It's amazing how well most of
these have held up. Here are a few reviews from my site:
Castle Wolfenstein (Muse 1983) B+
Most video game players are familiar with Wolfenstein 3D –
the precursor to Doom. But how many can say they’ve played the original
Wolfenstein? This 8-bit computer classic is admittedly weak in the
graphics department, but excels in terms of pure gameplay. You assume
the role of an Allied soldier trying to infiltrate a Nazi fortress. At
first glance, the game looks terribly sloppy. The rooms are simple
mazes, and the soldiers are poorly rendered in only 4 colors. Some of
them actually look like clowns! The animation is choppy and when you run
into a wall, it appears as if you’re getting electrocuted. But the
gameplay is no joke. You can stick up guards a take their belongings.
You can search chests for ammunition and supplies, and you’ll often
stumble upon German food and drink. Just don’t drink the alcohol because
it will screw up your aim. One thing I hate is how it takes real time to
open a chest, although shooting the lock expedites the process. In
addition to bullets, you can also find grenades and bulletproof vests.
And once you find a Nazi uniform, the dynamics of the game change
completely, as you can now walk around freely. Castle Wolfenstein
requires a great deal of stealth and technique. German soldiers “shout”
when they see something suspicious. Despite the 1983 technology, the
game makes an admirable attempt at voice synthesis. The control scheme
uses both a joystick and keyboard, which is awkward to say the least.
You’re better off with a second player manning the keyboard. Despite its
primitive nature, Wolfenstein’s attention to detail is commendable. For
example, if you steal a guard’s bullets, he can chase you - but can’t
shoot. And I appreciate how when you kill guards, they remain dead even
when you re-enter the same room. But when really impressed me was the
ability to save my place. Even using the 20-year-old 5 ¼ inch floppy, my
game saved without a hitch. Castle Wolfenstein is a landmark video game,
and if you can stomach the minimal graphics and awkward control, you’re
in for a good time.
Centipede (Atari 1982) C
Usually the 8-bit versions of Atari’s games are fairly
comparable to their arcade counterparts, but this one really falls
short. Perhaps because it was programmed earlier than other versions, it
really doesn’t compare to the Atari 5200 or Colecovision editions. The
graphics are plain, with solid-colored mushrooms. The centipede moves in
a somewhat choppy manner, and the sad-looking spider isn’t nearly as
aggressive as he should be. In general, the game seems too slow and
easy. I was able to rack up scores that far exceeded anything I could do
in the arcade (over 37K!). Using the Atari 2600 track ball makes the
game feel more arcade-like, but it’s also more work on your arm. There’s
only one skill level. Despite the problems, this is still Centipede, one
of the best video games of all time. But there are better, more
challenging versions out there.
Karateka (Broderbund 1985) A-
Before the NES unleashed a deluge of ninja games on us, there
was Katateka, a stylish title that treated martial arts with the
reverence it deserves. I remember watching the kids in high school play
this on the Apple II in the computer lab and not letting me have a
chance (may those heartless bastards burn in hell!). With mind-blowing
graphics and a cinematic flair, Karateka was far ahead of its time.
There’s an opening text crawl, an elaborate introduction, and several
cut-scenes intertwined with the action. In the epic story, you must
rescue princess Mariko who is being held in the palace of the evil
Akuma. In order to infiltrate the palace, you’ll have to defeat a series
of guards, one by one, before eventually facing Akuma himself. The
fighters are large and fluidly animated, although admittedly slow by
today’s standards. Each guard has his own unique headgear and fighting
style, and in general they get tougher as you progress. The keyboard
controls let you punch or kick high, medium, and low. You can run but be
sure to stop before you reach a guard or he’ll knock you out with one
punch. The keyboard control could be more responsive – your fighter lags
behind your commands somewhat. The fights require patience and skill,
and can be lengthy because fighters recover health as time passes. While
Karateka is basically just a series of one-on-one battles, there a few
surprises thrown in, such as Akuma’s attacking hawk. And the ending(s)
are truly classic. All in all, Karateka is a stellar achievement that
stands as a showcase game for the Atari 8-bit system.
One on One Basketball (Atari 1987) B+
It’s been a long time since I’ve played this one, and I’m
happy to say One On One has held up quite well over the years. The
characters are a little slow by today’s standards, but since you’re only
playing on half a court, it’s not a big deal. You can be Dr. J or Larry
Bird, and each player has his own strengths and weaknesses. The graphics
are great. The players have large heads but are nicely animated. It’s
surprising how well the game controls with only one button, considering
the latest basketball games use about ten. Tapping the button lets you
spin 180 degrees, keeping the ball away from your opponent. Holding the
button shoots, and releasing it at the right time is key to nailing
shots (a convention used in most basketball games ever since). You can
perform some nice turn-around jumpers, fade-aways, or 360 degree jams.
Not too many basketball games let you dunk when this game was originally
released by Electronic Arts in 1983! The defensive player can steal the
ball and block shots. It’s great fun and very competitive, especially
with two players. A referee who looks like Mario calls penalties like
traveling, charging, hacking, and “reaching in” (a little outdated
there). Extra features include automatic instant replays and the ability
to shatter the backboard. That’s right, and when the backboard is
broken, a robot with a broom shows up and screams profanity at the
players (I'm exaggerating a bit). Another thing I love about One on One
is its extensive options menu. You can select between four skill levels
and set various rules. This game was, and is still, all that!
1 or 2 players
Frogger (Parker Bros. 1983) A-
Given the fact that this is basically the same game as the
Atari 5200 version, why did this one score so much higher? Because you
can actually control your friggin’ frog, that’s why! I still have
painful flashbacks of trying to play Frogger with a Atari 5200
controller, despite trying to block it out of my mind. Fortunately on an
Atari 8-bit system you can just grab your favorite Atari 2600 joystick
and have a grand old time. The arcade-style graphics won me over in a
big way, especially those big, crazy looking cars. Too bad the in-game
melody of the original game is missing or this would have been the
ultimate Frogger. There are two difficulty settings, and the fast one is
a worthy challenge that kept me coming back for continual punishment.
The turtles dive quickly, and the game is rather unforgiving when you
try to jump onto the very edge of the a log. But thanks to its simple
yet engrossing gameplay, Frogger remains a timeless classic.
1 or 2 players
Flight Simulator II (Atari/SubLogic 1987) D-
Originally released for the Atari 8-bit computers by SubLogic
in 1984, this was one of the three pack-in games for the Atari XE game
system. It’s understandable why Flight Simulator II (FS2) was selected;
it utilized the keyboard and made the package look more sophisticated as
a whole. When first released in 1984, this program was certainly
impressive. The physics and aircraft control are extremely realistic,
and you can fly over four real areas of the United States. Taking off is
easier than one would expect. You basically just set your flaps and
apply throttle, and the plane takes off automatically. But once you
reach the proper altitude, you begin to notice just how incredibly
boring this whole affair is. There’s really not much to see besides a
few lines on the ground. If you’re lucky, you’ll fly over some wireframe
buildings, but there aren’t many of these. There’s not a whole lot to do
either. While there’s an impressive array of gauges and controls, you
won’t even need most of them. Besides using most of the keyboard, FS2
uses the joystick which is terribly unresponsive. The plane’s movements
lag far beyond your joystick commands, making you prone to oversteering.
FS2 comes with two 90-page highly technical manuals. The Operations
Manual contains plenty of good information but is poorly organized. The
second book contains all kinds of crazy flight physics information and
diagrams which you’ll never need to know. Certain games do not age well,
and I think flight simulators fall into that category. I bet few people
who bought the XE game system ever completed an entire flight. Even the
WWI flying ace variation is sleep inducing.
Want to read more? I have over 1700 reviews on my site! Check it
Bring me your
questions, your comments, your insight and I will do my best to answer
them. Time once again to dig into the mailbag and read a few letters.
I really like horror games like Resident Evil, but are there any cool
horror games on the old systems?
If the classic
systems are considered old, then I must be old since I was around when
they were first introduced. Sigh...what a terrible way to find out that
you are old. Anyway, there are a handful of horror games on classic
systems, but none even come close to today's games. A game like Haunted
House for the Atari 2600 or Dracula for the Intellivision would seem
pretty tame compared to today's games. About the only games with any
real horror would be "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Halloween" for the
Atari 2600 and even these are very tame next to Resident Evil or Silent
Hill. The only other classic game would be the classic for the
Commodore 64, "Forbidden Forest". With the gory deaths (like the spider
chewing on your head and the blood draining down) and dramatic music, it
may give you some excitement.
There seems to be alot of interest in retrogaming now, but how long do
you think it will last? Is it a fad like Beanie Babies or what?
Depends on how you
want to look at it. If you are looking from an investment standpoint,
then I think video games, at least the classic ones (meaning before
Nintendo) have pretty much peaked. The prices have leveled off and some
have even come down. With the exception of the ultra rare games, most
the rest have leveled. But the interest from a fan's perspective is
just really taking off. Look at the increased attendance at the two big
shows (CGE and Phillyclassic). Look at the amount of people doing
homebrew games. There is a big demand for classic games and I think
that will remain for quite some time. But there will come a day when
the interest does wane, especially as systems and carts become next to
impossible to find. But classic games are not a fad. They are a vital
part of the history and the lore of the video game industry as a whole
and preserving them is a good way for future generations to see the
roots of the industry.
Greetings, gamers and welcome to a
special edition of the Vault. Last issue Tom reviewed Activison
Anthology for the PlayStation 2. Let me add that is is a must-have disc
for all retrogamers. One of the neat things is that you can unlock old
Activision television ads. This month I'm presenting three of those ads,
as well as how to discover them.
Our first ad is for River Raid,
one of my favorite 2600 games. For this spot we're trated to some guys
in a warroom guiding the player down the
"We have no choice, he can't turn back."
"River Raid, target 039er."
"Fuel critical, sir."
"Choppers at 3 o'clock."
"Roger. I copy."
"Fighters closing. Should I direct, sir?"
"No, he'll decide that."
"Fuel critical, sir."
"HE KNOWS THAT!"
"He's almost to the East Canyon."
"NEGATIVE! It'S A TRAP! RIVER RAID, CAN YOU MAKE IT!"
Finally the announcer comes on, saying, "It's
only a game. River Raid, for the Atari Video Computer System, Designed
by Carol Shaw for Activision."
"Watch me steer this plane up the river."
All this over a simple shooter?
"Sir what if he fails to complete the mission?"
"Don't worry; he still has two planes left."
To unlock the commercial, you need to score 8,000 points on Game 1. Also
Alan Hewston covered the Many Faces of River Raid in Issue 40.
This ad, for Stampede,
features two cowboy brothers arguing over who
can handle playing the Stampede video game. I
should mention they're play their VCS outdoors.
"I've been driving cattle most of my natural
life and you're tellin' me I can't handle a Stampede?"
"Not this one, Buck."
"Stampede, by Activision, for your Atari Game
System. One of the toughest game around, Stampede is more than expert
ropin' and ridin'. It's a test of strategy and skill."
The brothers continue playing, until their mother calls them inside.
"Luke, Buck, you boys come in now."
"Stampede, by Activision."
"Betcha I'm a better virtual cowboy."
"Don't be a backseat wrangler."
Shouldn't they be playing that inside the cabin?
"Aww, do we have to come in now?"
To unlock this commercial, you need 1,000 points on Game 3.
Our last ad is for Kaboom. Here
we find a guy on a rooftop, dressed in stripes and threatening to throw
bombs off the roof. I'm guessing he's supposed the be the Mad Bomber.
"So ya think yer fast enough to be the Mad Bomber? I don't think so."
"Kaboom! By Activision. Plug this cartridge
into your Atari Video Game System, and get ready to handle high
explosives. Don't sneeze, don't even blink, 'cause
the faster you get, the faster he gets."
"And if you miss.."
"KABOOM! By Activision!"
I'M supposed to be afraid of <I>this</I> guy?
"You caught my bombs. Dang!"
remember me by?
To unlock this ad, score at least 150 points.
That's it for now, but now I want to address something. Last month I
mention the possibility of producing a CD-Rom
compilation of all the television ads. I have
gotten some feedback on that, but I would like
more before I decide anything. If you're interested in a Commercial
Vault CD, contact me at
Hal_3000@rocketmail.com and let me know you want it. Until next
month, keep gaming!
“Why I in my day, we
had Combat. That was all the tank fightin’ we need by gum! And we liked
it ! Silly young-uns…” The old man’s voice trailed off as he faded back
Grandpa must have
caught a glimpse of one of the newest tank games.
In the beginning,
there was Combat. Target shooting against a moving opponent. They could
have just as easily used space ships or gunslingers. (Wait a second !
They did !) But really, it didn’t matter what it was. It was 2 things
trying to shoot each other.
Artillery Duel, et al had the 2 dimensional aspect to the game. You were
moving up and down, left and right or lofting things vertically, but
never all at the same time.
shooters began to offer us a world where we could move in 3D. Not at
first mind you, but the games eventually opened up the “up and down”
aspect of the game to go with left/right and forward/backward.
But even then, there
was something missing. We were running around in tanks or with rifles
and we were still using a control pad or keyboard or mouse. Action just
wasn’t natural. Just as you couldn’t really operate a tank with a
joystick and a single button (ala Combat), you couldn’t do it with a PS2
Racing games have
their steering wheels. Gun games have their guns. Even some baseball
games can use a bat controller. There are even train controllers modeled
after real passenger train controllers for driving trains. Why hasn’t
there ever been a controller for driving a tank ?
There wasn’t. Until
this came along…
The Steel Battalion
Steel Battalion is
an XBox game where you drive a tank. What is referred to in the game as
a “Vertical Tank” (or VT). Two joysticks, a speed lever, a dial, 40
buttons and 3 foot pedals. This is a controller that would closely model
a real Mech controller, if such a thing existed.
I do not intend to
review the game here. Suffice it to say it is pretty good.
Ahh, but the
When you activate
the game, and make your selection, you start in a hanger. There is a
button to close your hatch, another to link in fuel, some switches to
start the fuel and other necessities flowing. And a “Start” button. Not
the start the game, but to start your tank. As you do, the on-screen,
heads up display goes through a boot-up routine. All the lights on the
controller flash as your tank gets ready to go. That’s right. The
buttons flash. Usually when you need to use them. There are buttons for
communication as well as a dial to change the frequency. There is a
button for activating the windshield wipers. How cool is that ! And,
what may be the most important button of all, the “Eject” button. Placed
under a cover so you do not accidentally activate it in the upper right
hand position of the controller, the eject button is critical to your
game. If your VT is severely damaged and you do not eject and your
character dies, it is game over. Your save file to that point is cleared
and you must start over from the beginning if the game. Yikes.
Sure. Some of the
buttons are not that important. But it is still cool to have them.
What will make this
even better is a rumored on-line version of the game coming out next.
Imagine the concept of 10 VTs per side marching their way through an
urban landscape. You’re teammates maybe be from around the world, but
they are communicating with you just as they would in the tank right
next to you.
No wonder grandpa
was complaining. He’s jealous.
has been playing games for over 25 years and actively collecting them
for almost 15. The 2500 + (he thinks) games that he has takes up most of
his home office and living room. He lives in Denver, PA with his
understanding wife Jennie, his 7 year-old, Smash Brothers Melee-playing
son, Max and his 3 year-old, 4th player. If anyone has some extra time
for sale, he’s interested. He can be contacted at
As a tribute to the crews and the families of both the
STS-107, Columbia mission, and STS 51-L, Challenger mission, we bring
you Steve Kitchen’s Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space, by Activision.
Several months ago I made plans to review this game early in 2003 as a
20th anniversary tribute for this 1983 game. As a member of
the NASA team for 16 years, there was no way that I was going to skip
over or postpone this title. I am proud to work for the US space
program, despite many failures and some tragedy and hope that my
personal perspective will make this review a little better. I’ve worked
with and met several astronauts over the years and hope that this review
will both give you a good reason to try (again) this most excellent
simulation, and help you to appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that
the astronauts, and cosmonauts too, make for the “Benefit of all
Mankind”. I’ve actually been inside of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s
cargo bay, while atop pad 39 B, just a few months prior to the Sept.1993
launch of the STS 51 (not 51-L) mission. The primary cargo for STS 51
was the satellite that I worked with then, the Advanced Communications
Technology Satellite, which was successfully delivered into a stable
parking orbit. The TOS upper stage booster energized ACTS into a much
higher, geosynchronous transfer orbit. An apogee kick motor then nearly
circularized the 24 hour orbit, where it lasted for the duration of its
3 year experimentation mission, and several years thereafter. I hope
that none of our readers are offended by this selection, given the
recent tragedy. Now onto the review.
If you crave playing shoot ‘em up video games and getting
high scores, then this simulation is not for you. Here, you rise above
all of that violence and shooting and come to peace with the Earth - in
fact you rise above indeed, up into space, above everyone on Earth. As
the commander of the Space Transportation System (STS) 101, your mission
is to recover an errant Earth-orbiting satellite. Actually, you perform
the combined tasks of the pilot and mission commander. There are no
mission specialists and no experiments performed as part of the
simulation, only those dynamic phases common to all space shuttle
missions. But the highlight of the mission is possibly the most
exciting and challenging of all shuttle tasks, that of a satellite
rendezvous. You take control of the vehicle and several of its
controls, but most importantly you wield the most prized of all
joysticks - that of the Orbiter. Use your eyes, ears and the computers
displays to size up the situation and properly control the vehicle.
Counteract and maneuver through all disturbances during Launch (&
ascent), Stabilizing Orbit (& orbital rendezvous), Docking, De-orbit
Burn, Re-entry, Final Approach (& landing). I dare-say that this highly
sophisticated simulation was the ultimate for the Atari 2600 programming
and probably marked the peak of the classic, “joystick era”. “Space
Shuttle” literally pushed the envelope of how much data and simulation
parameters can be crammed into one program and still be challenging and
fun at the same time. So throttle that engine to 100 percent and then
“press (on) to MECO” and see what this baby can do. Sure, you may
become frustrated at first, but you’ll definitely get an appreciation of
how complex a machine the Space Shuttle was and still is, not to mention
you’ll experience in a small way how demanding the training, reflexes
and skills are required for our astronaut heroes. They are truly the
cream of the crop and we salute them!
Arcade: None, first on Atari 2600 (’83 Steve Kitchen)
Home versions: all by Activison
Atari 8 bit & 5200 (’84 Bob Henderson & Steve Kitchen),
Commodore 64 (‘84) & Apple II (’85 Tim Wilson).
Doesn’t count: (‘92, ST/AMI, Virgin) by Ian Martin, with
Andy Craven & James Fisher.
Home Version Similarities - all versions have: three game
options to play out the mission 1) with unlimited fuel & almost no way
to abort the mission – much like a demo, 2) unlimited fuel, but any
severe deviation from the plan and the mission will abort, and finally,
3) you are in complete control every step of the way and must match the
mission profile very closely. Each version came packaged with a quick
reference card and an extensive flight manual; the on-screen displays
show most parameters, save a few that are combined into one display and
must be toggled through; when any thruster or engine is fired, your
combined display will immediately show the parameter affected by this
activity; the cockpit windows show the Florida clouds prior to launch,
flashes of color when engine activity changes, the stars through varying
thickness of atmosphere, the edge of the Earth scrolling along and at
times, the satellite that you are trying to rendezvous with, the
darkness and data dropouts upon re-entry, the mountains of the
California desert during the approach, and the runway at Edward’s Air
Force base. The flight manual is very detailed and provides stat codes
telling what the errant condition is, and solutions to overcoming most
Additional home version elements, with those Missing In
Action (MIA) <listed here>: the extremely useful pause feature <2600>
allows one to get a grasp on the situation, search the manuals for the
error code, or plan what to do next; an overlay to place on the keypad
and/or console <AP2, 8 bit & C64 not sure if these all had overlays>;
all non-joystick commands and toggling the combined display are executed
by a distinct keypad or keystroke or display toggle <2600 uses all
console switches - some are combined>, finally, a chance to earn one of
two Space Shuttle Activision patches <APII & C64 manuals don’t mention
<These are among the most deserved patches Activision
ever offered us>
Have Nots: Atari 2600 (39)
My first reaction was the challenge of three axis control during ascent
is awesome. The programming challenge to write such a simulation on a
2600 was nearly mind-boggling and the research, and play-testing hours
must have been astounding, probably the most ever for a 2600 game. The
Gameplay really show it and is awesome on all versions (10). There is a
toggle switch for every control function needed (albeit a few are
shared). The three game options are great for slowly learning the game
and minimize the frustration. The transitions from one mission stage to
another are flawless. The physics are applied through a full 6-DOF (6
Degrees of Freedom – ie 3 axes of translation & rotation) dynamic model,
thus providing a complete orbit and attitude control simulation. This
is both highly effective and the action occurs fast, if not
instantaneously! The duration of each phase is well timed (condensed,
not in real-time) to keep it realistic, without being boring. The
addictiveness is average (5), hurt by the significant complexity of the
simulation, time needed to learn how to play and tedious nature of the
multitude of tasks and sometimes simultaneous tasks at hand. There is
no pause button – which unfortunately would help an awful lot. All the
others versions have a pause and because of its value, I consider it
worth 2 points.
I expect that most folks either love or hate the
simulation due to its complexity and possibly never give it a second
look (not just the 2600, but any version). So having a pause feature to
stop and re-read the manual is critical. In fact, you will not get very
far unless you study the manual and practice playing. If this doesn’t
sound like your type of pastime, then play game 1 once and then put it
to rest n your collection.
There are several events, controls and displays that
require interpretation and familiarity with, in order for you to have
any success. A possible suggestion is to play another version first,
that has a pause. I’m pretty sure that you will enjoy this version more
once you have learned the basics. Graphics are superb (9) with the
visual effects of the launch vibration very realistic. Now where is
that Atari 2600 rumble controller? Sound is respectable (6), for a
simulation, but there is no motivational music and few aesthetically
pleasing audio effects. The Controls are great (9) and the joysticks
are responsive on all versions. The use of the controllers to perform
the simultaneous 3-axis orbit/attitude control, left/right up/down and
fire button on/off are brilliant. Of course I started my career as an
Attitude Control Engineer, so go figure I’d be impressed. Using the 2600
switches for multiple tasks and switches is a little harder to do on
this version. The chance of powering off, or upsetting the system is
increased, but then there are fewer switches to worry about as well.
The biggest limitation which I did not penalize was that it takes longer
to toggle through the all the combined display parameters than on the
computer versions. The cart is semi-rare and the manual and overlays
even harder to find. Fortunately all of the manuals and pictures of the
overlays can be found and re-printed, thanks to sites such as
Atariage.com. It will also help significantly for you to look at the
screen shots while you are reading (heh heh studying) the manual to
become a pilot.
Have Nots: Apple II (39)
My first reaction was the Sound bytes - it is weak (4), primarily due to
the AP2 internal speakers. But the sound is not that great on any
version. Gameplay, however, is awesome on all versions (10). The
Addictiveness is very good (7) helped by the pause <esc> button. The
Graphics are outstanding (9), but has a little less detail than the
medal winners, and too much red. The Controls are well done (9), but,
as is the case for all versions – using the stick and several buttons at
nearly the same time is awkward. The AP2 has additional keyboard
controls to toggle between joystick and all-keyboard maneuvers and some
keystrokes that will change the polarity of the joystick control axes.
This game is only found on diskette. The computer controls are: <L> to
start the Launch clock, <E> for Engines, <Space Bar> to cycle through
the displays, <C> for Cargo bay doors, <G> for landing Gear, <T> for
Translational thrusters, and <R> for Rotational thrusters.
Apple II disk and manual.
Bronze Medal: Atari 5200 (41)
My first reaction is “Who’d want to fly the Space Shuttle with a 5200
controller?”. Gameplay is awesome on all versions (10). The
Addictiveness is very good (7) helped by the pause <pause> button.
Graphics are a work of art (10). Sound is good (6). The Controls are
impressive (8), but make sure to locate and print out a copy of the 5200
overlay. All functions are combined onto the keypad, making it more
organized and easier to access than the computer keyboards, but the
buttons are very small. When using all the buttons, which this game
does, it is a little easier to make mistakes. The only real drawback is
those darn 5200 analog sticks, making it difficult to get precise
control. Going ONLY 1 direction at a time is not easy and leads to an
increased amount of thruster firings than needed – wasting more fuel and
time. I did try the track ball, the Wico sticks and my new Masterplay
Interface, but having 2 controllers, one of which must be the small 5200
keypads, is still worse than the computer keyboard with a separate 2600
standard joystick. So everything I tried seemed just a little worse
than the other versions. 5200 fans who can manipulate those tiny keypad
buttons error-free, and handle the analog stick should have no problem
giving the 5200 the gold medal, or at least a share.
Medal: Atari 8 bit & Commodore 64 (42)
Another tie this month, and the 5200 is just barely third.
My first reaction was that yes, this is exactly the same version as the
5200, so nearly every score will apply as is mentioned above. The only
difference is the keyboard and the joystick for controls. The Controls
are well-done (9) and there’s no need to put off this version, like the
5200 - unless your keyboard is bad. This version is somewhat hard to
find on cart, but is also on disk. The pause is the <esc> key.
My first reaction, having played this version first (years ago) – “was
this is the simulator they did on the 2600?”. How could they possibly
make it any good there? But Activision did! The Gameplay is awesome
(10) on all versions. Addictiveness is very good (7) with a pause
<Commodore key> aka <C=>. The Graphics are a work of art (10) perhaps
better than the Atari 8 bit/5200. Sound is decent (6). The Controls
are well done (9) – same comments as all others. This version is
probably the most common, found on both cart and disk. Oddly enough, I
could not find the manual online, but it matches most of the Atari 8 bit
& AP2 controls/commands, but use <F3> = main engine toggle, <F5> = cargo
bay door. <F7> = landing gear toggle. I recommend this version only
because the systems are more plentiful to find.
Unfortunately, PC4 preparation and projects have cut
short my PT (playing time) for this review. I don’t think that I missed
anything significant - but usually have become more skillful on all
versions of these reviews. Pitfall Harry hopes to see you at PC4 - stop
by my table and say hello, and take a picture in the game of “Pac-Man”.
Special thanks go to Tom McLaren who let me borrow his original Apple II
diskette & manual - check out Tom’s Apple stuff at:
http://www.digitaldinos.com/ Also thanks to our editor,
Tom who saved and traded me the Space Shuttle 5200 cart, manual and
reference card a few years ago.
Come back next month for more 20th anniv. tributes of
game(s) from 1983 with the Many Faces of “Oil’s Well” (CV, C64, Atari 8
bit & Apple II) & if I can find the time, “Keystone Kapers” (2600, 5200,
Atari 8 bit & CV). Alan Hewston is an Aerospace Engineer who works for
the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center and when not working for the
International Space Station - microgravity control and disturbance
predictions can be contacted at:
SD7800 is back after
a one month hiatus. Well thus far we've covered classic arcade games,
modern arcade games, computer ports and sports titles. You're probably
wondering "That's all well and good, but aren't there any ORIGINAL games
on the ProSystem?" Believe it or not there were several titles made
specifically for the 7800. Let's take a look, shall we?
We first start out with this platform title, which was later
ported over to the Lynx. Nintendo had Super Mario Bros, Sega had Alex
Kidd, and Atari has - a funny looking guy with a huge nose!
Specifically, Louie, the owner of the junkyard. One day he comes back
from lunch and finds his faithful dog, Scraps,
is missing. He then receives a call from the dognappers, demanding the
deed to Louie's junkyard, or else. Instead of backing down, Louie
decides to get his pooch back the only way he knows how: by going
through the city and finding the dognappers. This came has six levels,
with the first five having three stages each. Louie has a certain amount
of time to reach the end of each level, but standing in his way is an
assortment of enemies and obstacles, including rats, tires, basketballs,
and bombarding birds. Louie can battle them by flinging cans or by
jumping on them. He starts with a shield that can absorb one hit, but if
Louie is caught without a shield, he's done for. Each level also has
several shops. There Louie can recycle cans for cash, and can use the
cash to buy weapons and shields.
The graphics are decent, with okay backgrounds
and decent characters. The sounds have good effects, but the music gets
a little too cartoonish. The controls work fine, though it can be hard
to determine what you can or can't land on. The gameplay is challenging,
but many parts do get frustrating, especially with all the obstacles
flying through the air. Still this game is addicting, and provides a
decent platformer for the 7800. Overall, this game isn't the greatest,
but it's not totally down in the dumps.
Now we move on to a vertical shooter, which is said to be the
prequel to Alien Brigade. Once again aliens are attacking the Earth, and
guess who gets to go out and battle them. Yep, you, the guy piloting the
lone ship against an army of Planet Smashers through seven levels of
space shooting action. When you start out, your ship is pretty much
weak, but shooting several enemies yields you capsules that power up
your weapons, shields, and even gives you a cloaking device, making your
ship temporarily invisible. However if you let any enemies slip by you
they take a chunk out of the Earth's shield. You can also gather three
warp gems. Once you have all three you zoom to the boss of the level.
The game is over when you lose all your lives or if the Earth completely
looses it's shield.
As far as vertical shooters go, this one isn't too different from what
we've seen before, though it still provides some enjoyment. The graphics
are decent, with a scrolling starfield and okay enemies. The sounds are
just bleah, with no music except for the opening theme, and only three
sound effects. The sad thing is the box said there was amazing sound
effects. The controls work pretty well, letting you move along easily.
Planet Smashers does bring some unique things to the genre, namely the
cloaking ability, the warp gems, and the Earth Shield, tha keep it from
being just another shooter. Overall, not the greatest, but still a
fairly decent title.
We finish up with an exploration game. It's pretty obvious
this cart was heavily inspired by Gauntlet. You (and a friend) play a
treasure hunter, who's searching for gems in
26 levels (from A to Z). The object of each level is to make it to the
ladder at the end, grabbing any treasures or items along the way. As you
may have guessed, ghouls and creatures are out to hunt you. You cam
shoot them, which will cause them to change into weaker monsters.
One things' for sure: this game is NO Gauntlet. The graphics consist of
small sprites and hardly any variety in the mazes. There's no music and
weak sound effects. The worst part is this game is just boring. You
hardly run into more than twelve guys at once, and they're easily
dispatched, so there's no suspense. There's also alot of tedious
backtracking, and lastly, if you do get past level Z, you just start
over at a higher difficulty level. A good cure for insomnia,
but otherwise stay out of this dungeon. One of the worst on the 7800.
So we could say that the Atari of the late 80s didn't have the magic of
the early 80s, based on what I've reviewed this month. Maybe if Atari
put out better original stuff, they could have competed with Nintendo
and Sega (Gee I sure say that a lot).
We search high, we search low, we look everywhere to find the sites that
you want to see. This month offers two more fun sites to enjoy. Stop
by and see what they offer and let them know that you saw them in
Sure there are only a handful up, but they are fun to view
and the price is right, free! Who knows, you may even see Adam do these
in an upcoming issue. Click below to check these out:
Handheld Games Museum
Not sure if I mention this site before or not (after 60+
issues, the brain is a bit fuzzy and I am too lazy to look back), but it
is well worth mentioning again. This site has a ton and I do mean a ton
of information on just about every handheld ever created. From the
Coleco ones to the Mattel ones to the obscure ones. If you want more
information about a handheld, then this site is for you. Click below to
check it out:
What do you know, I actually put an issue out on time! Raise your hands
and cheer! Hopefully it will be the start of a new streak or it could
be a mirage in the desert. You may notice some ads in the newsletter.
Yes, it is my way to raise a bit of money towards legal fees. My prior
attempt was not very successful, though I would like to take the time to
personally thank the handful of people who did contribute, the money has
been used for the ongoing battle (though thankfully it is on hiatus
right now as the school system tries to put together a plan). Will this
be more successful? Who knows, but a man must try.
Back to video games, if you are headed to Phillyclassic, stop by my
stand and say hello. I will be selling a ton of stuff. And stay for
all three days as I think it will be worth your while. I will end with
hope that the war ends quickly and some peace returns to the world.
(This issue done while listening to Oasis, Carly Simon, David Bowie and
(Favorite game of the moment is Everblue 2, a very different and fun
game for the Playstation 2. If you are looking for something different,
it is worth the bargain price of $29.99).