Back in the day, we all knew that home ports of the most impressive arcade games were never going to match up to playing on original hardware. But we took what we could get.
Such was the case with Argonaut Software’s port of Sega’s After Burner to Atari ST. It, of course, pales in comparison to the arcade version — but when you didn’t have ready access to that arcade version, I can attest that you would absolutely find a way to be happy with this!
Whew, that’s a title and a half, eh? Good job it’s memorable, because it’s attached to probably one of the best racers on the Atari 8-bit.
The Great American Cross-Country Road Race is, in some ways, a spiritual successor to Enduro on the Atari 2600, but it’s also a considerably more complex game. It was one of the first racers to incorporate some distinctly sim-like elements — and a game that made me cry on more than one occasion when I was a kid because I didn’t understand how cars worked.
First-person shooters came about with Wolfenstein 3-D, right? Wrong! Not only did they not come about with Wolfenstein 3-D’s spiritual precursors in the Catacomb series, they date right back to the ’80s and Lucasfilm’s incredible work on Atari 8-bit.
The Eidolon uses the same fractal landscape engine as the company’s classic Rescue on Fractalus, but here it’s used to create labyrinthine cave systems filled with terrifying monsters. Can you make it out alive, or will you become a dragon’s dinner? Only one way to find out!
Zenji for Atari 8-bit is an early Activision game I’d never heard of — I’m surprised, since I thought I’d stumbled across all of their work from the early days of video gaming at one point or another.
I’m doubly surprised, since Zenji is a really good game! It’s a fun puzzler where certain elements will feel familiar to fans of Pipe Mania and its numerous imitators, but with its own distinctive twist that makes it stand out as something truly original.
River Raid is probably my favourite game on the Atari 8-bit. The Atari 2600 version is arguably more well-known, but the Atari 2600 version — which also appeared on the ill-fated Atari 5200 — is superior in pretty much every way.
For the unfamiliar, River Raid is one of the original vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups, and made use of some clever programming techniques to squeeze the entire game into a tiny amount of space. It’s one of Activision’s finest games of the 8-bit era, and a game I still enjoy on a regular basis today.
One of Activision’s most fondly regarded games from the Atari 2600 library is Kaboom! — a simple affair that gratuitously rips off Atari’s own Avalanche, because apparently Atari had very little interest in porting that themselves.
Kaboom! also got a port to Atari 8-bit, and it’s a good ‘un. The enhancements over the original 2600 version may be fairly subtle, but they all add to the experience, making for a straightforward but enormously addictive little game that you’ll find yourself spending a surprising amount of time with if you let it get its claws in.
Check it out in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more.
Activision may be a company that a lot of gamers like to steer well clear of these days thanks to issues like predatory DLC and microtransactions, but back in the days of the 8-bit micros, they were one of the finest companies out there.
They credited their programmers and designers, they put out games that pushed the boundaries of underpowered hardware such as the Atari 2600… and they just made great games, full stop.
One fantastic example is MegaMania, a thoroughly weird but extremely enjoyable fixed shooter that will get you bobbing and weaving between waves of hamburgers, engagement rings, bow ties and steam irons. No symbolism there, no sir.
Back in the early days of home computing, you couldn’t rely on arcade game companies to provide official ports of their own games.
Nope; they tended to be farmed out to other publishers and developers who had more experience with working on the 8- and 16-bit platforms of the era. One such example of this was the relationship between Sega and Activision; this resulted in a number of Sega arcade classics getting ported to systems like the Atari ST.
Here’s Enduro Racer, one of several products of this partnership. Can the humble ST stand up to the might of this Super Scaler classic?
“Sam, you’re a dead man.” And how; Activision’s Borrowed Time, an “illustrated text adventure” from 1985, really, really, really wants you dead.
An early game from Interplay with involvement from Brian “Wasteland” Fargo, Borrowed Time is an early attempt to break out of the pure text format of adventure games with a graphical, mouse-driven interface. It’s not quite a full-on point and click adventure just yet, but it’s a first step in that direction.
It’s also a monstrously difficult game, fond of murdering its protagonist at regular intervals right from the very outset. You’re doing well if you manage to survive just leaving your office for the day…