Not every retro game has stood the test of time quite as well as others. But one I think we can all agree remains just as fresh today as it was back in the day is Centipede.
Developed as a specific attempt to appeal to a broader audience than just the stereotype of young male gamers, Centipede’s bright colours, energetic gameplay, trackball controller and relatable concept made it a big hit with male and female players, both young and old.
This game was a favourite of my whole family growing up… and my mother was nigh-unbeatable at both this and its sequel Millipede!
That’s a title and a half, isn’t it? Even thirty-five years after its original launch, “Attack of the Mutant Camels” is still a delightful piece of titling prowess that just rolls off the tongue.
Attack of the Mutant Camels is one of the most well-known games put out in the 8-bit era by the hairiest man in games, Jeff Minter. Based quite obviously on the Atari 2600 adaptation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a real showcase game for what the humble Atari 8-bit could achieve in the hands of a master.
Combining Minter’s love of underappreciated animals, sci-fi, prog rock and psychedelia, Attack of the Mutant Camels may be simplistic in structure and mechanics, but it remains a beloved part of many Atari 8-bit collections with very good reason.
Time after time in gaming, we’ve seen that the simplest concepts can be some of the most effective and addictive.
Atari’s Canyon Bomber, originally released to arcades in 1977, is a prime example of this. You only need one button to play, and that button drops bombs. The concept is so simple anyone — even someone not at all familiar with video games — can understand and enjoy it. Drop bombs, hit things, score points. Whoever scores most points, wins.
And one of the best things about this game when compared to some of its contemporaries is that the simplistic concept means that it was very straightforward to implement a “computer-controlled” opponent to compete against if you didn’t happen to have a friend handy. So even those of us with no friends can still enjoy this game… and end up playing it a lot longer than you might expect!
This one was a new one on me until quite recently. I present to you Vanguard, an unusual shoot ’em up originally released by SNK in the arcades.
Vanguard is unusual because it’s not just being one thing, unlike a lot of shoot ’em ups at the time. Instead, it shifts between horizontal, vertical and diagonal scrolling at various points in the levels, and even has some rudimentary boss fights. It’s also quite unusual to find a game of this era with a proper “continue” system, particularly in its home incarnations.
While its visuals may not look like much these days, it’s a great shoot ’em up that is still worth revisiting today — and there’s an Atari 2600 version too, for those who prefer to console it up.
How do you make Asteroids better? Add the word “Deluxe” to its name, obviously.
Okay, 1980’s Asteroids Deluxe adds a bit more to the basic Asteroids formula than that, but it’s still very much recognisable. The whole experience is a bit smoother than the original, the presentation is sharper and cleaner (and blue!) and there are some additional enemies to deal with. But you’re still rotating and firing and dodging. And dying. Dying a lot.
I’m still no good at Asteroids, Deluxe or otherwise, but I actually enjoy it a lot more today than I did back when it was “current”. It’s a game that’s held up extremely well, and it’s a pleasure to revisit both of its most famous incarnations in the Atari Flashback Classics collection for Switch.
“Digging games” were a bit of a mainstay of the games industry in the ’80s.
Some tried their best to ape the formulae of successful arcade titles such as Namco’s Dig Dug and Universal’s Mr Do! — we’ve already seen one example of the latter here on Atari A to Z in the form of Adam “Elektra Glide” Billyard’s quick-and-dirty cash grab of a game, Henri.
Others, like DataSoft’s O’Riley’s Mine, did something a little bit different by eschewing the usual “falling boulder” hazards in favour of other ways to meet your maker beneath the earth. Better keep one step ahead of that rushing water…
This week on Atari A to Z, it’s another game by Arti Haroutunian and Tronix that… pays homage to a popular arcade game.
Much as last week’s Juice! was clearly inspired by Q*Bert, so too is Kid Grid more than a little bit like Amidar. That’s no bad thing, though; both Amidar and Kid Grid are a good time. If a bit difficult.
Okay, quite a lot difficult. But don’t judge me too harshly; I couldn’t even beat the first level of this when I was a kid!
It was pretty common in the Atari 8-Bit era for games to offer a bit of a new twist on established formulae. You had to make your games stand out, after all!
In Juice!, a game developed by Arti Haroutunian and published by Tronix, you take on the role of “Edison, the kinetic android” who is essentially a mechanised electrician. It’s up to you to connect all the wires on the board to get things up and running again while avoiding the unwanted attention of various electrical-themed enemies.
If you watch the video, it probably won’t take you long to notice that the game bears an uncanny resemblance to Q*Bert in some ways — but there’s enough different here to keep things interesting, and this remains a great, highly playable game for Atari 8-bit computers.
When is a Space Invaders rip-off not a Space Invaders rip-off? When it also rips off Galaxian and Gyruss!
No, that’s unfair to poor old Gorf, an arcade game by Bally Midway that was ported to Atari 8-Bit by Roklan Software. Gorf is an entertaining and enjoyable game in its own right that most certainly has its own identity — albeit perhaps not what was originally intended.
This began life as an adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, of all things, but was presumably adapted into what it eventually became after someone at Bally Midway figured that a game involving a 20-minute sequence slowly panning around a spaceship with nothing happening probably wouldn’t be that much fun. The end product was rather good… and bastard hard.
Today, Nintendo is primarily known for its excellent first-party games that it produces for its unique consoles and handhelds. But there was a time when Nintendo games were a lot more platform-agnostic than they are now.
That time was the early ’80s — specifically, the years before the release of the Famicom in 1983, and its Western incarnation, the Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1985. During this time, Nintendo was making arcade games. And there was a great hunger for ports of these arcade games to home-based systems of the time.
Nintendo’s 1981 classic Donkey Kong was a game that got ported to pretty much every platform imaginable at the time. And the 1983 version for Atari home computers was one of the best.
Continue reading Donkey Kong