Some days it just feels like everything is out to get you, when all you want to do is go for a nice peaceful ride in your beautiful hot air balloon.
Of course, in Ringblack Software’s Up Up and Away, everything literally is out to get you, whether it’s punks on the ground throwing rocks at you, birds who have apparently been eating nothing but razor blades for the last week or even Mother Nature herself.
This “avoid ’em up” goes well beyond “NES Hard” into a whole new territory of difficulty. If you even clear the “training” level you’re doing well… but I suspect you’ll be plummeting towards the ground long before that happens.
Merry Christmas! And what better way to celebrate the festive season than with some fairground-style shooting action?
DataSoft’s Shooting Arcade from 1982 is not an especially complex game, but it has an enjoyably addictive quality to it, brought about through increasingly challenging mechanics and an emphasis on accuracy rather than fast action.
If you need a bit of time away from the family this Christmas, you could do far worse than blast away at a few pink elephants…
Electronic Arts are pretty widely disliked by much of the gaming community these days, so it’s easy to forget their somewhat humble and interesting roots.
As their name suggests, they favoured releasing titles that were highly interesting and creative — artistic, you might say — rather than just the same old thing we’d seen elsewhere. In many ways, they heralded in one of the earliest eras of the video game “auteur”.
One great example from the early ’80s was Mike Edwards’ Realm of Impossibility, an enhanced and expanded version of Edwards’ earlier game Zombies. This is a non-violent action adventure that tasks you with exploring a variety of isometric dungeons that get increasingly… peculiar in their geometry as the game progresses. Escher would be proud.
Dem bells, dem bells, dem… blue bells… wait, I think I’m confusing at least two unrelated things there, aren’t I?
Ahem. Anyway. This is Quasimodo by Synapse Software, brought West by U.S. Gold’s early imprint Synsoft. It’s an unusual platform-action game that involves flinging rocks at Bad People climbing ladders, swinging from bell-ropes, swearing at bats and collecting crystals.
And despite its hunchbacked hero, it most certainly is not a clone of the arcade game Hunchback. Give poor old Quasi the respect he deserves!
Pharaoh’s Curse is legitimately one of my favourite games on the Atari 8-bit, and one I frequently revisit to unironically enjoy every so often.
Developed by Steve Coleman, who we last saw at the helm of Mastertronic’s Ninja, Pharaoh’s Curse is an early example of an open-world 2D action adventure, allowing players to explore 16 screens arranged in a 4×4 grid in an attempt to recover all the awkwardly positioned treasures before escaping.
16 rooms doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, you clearly haven’t counted on the intervention of the mummy. And the pharaoh. And all the traps. And that stupid bastard absolute penis of a flying thing that always shows up at the worst possible moment. Not that I’m bitter at all, no no no.
“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…
Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind! Pushing diagonally backwards and up while holding the fire button to swing your sword, however? Somewhat less intuitive…
Enter Mastertronic’s Ninja from 1986. This was a game developed by Steve Coleman (who was previously responsible for Pharaoh’s Curse, which we’ll be coming to in a few weeks) that combines open-world 2D adventuring with a fusion of one-on-one fighting and beat ’em up mechanics to produce something altogether unique.
Ninja was a game of “firsts” for me growing up. It was the first time I saw a ninja and learned what it was. It was the first time I saw (and learned the name of) a lot of pieces of traditional Japanese architecture such as torii gates. And it was one of the first games I played where fighting mechanics were a little more complex than simply mashing the fire button to do a single type of attack. It’s still pretty fun, too… though it puts up a lot more of a fight than I remember!
“Platforms and ladders”. That’s what we used to call platformers before the more well-established, compact term we use today really took off.
Actually, there is a bit of a distinction; when one is referring specifically to a “platforms and ladders” game, one tends not to be referring to a side-scrolling title like a Super Mario Bros. game, but instead something that unfolds a single screen at a time, usually tasking the player with reaching a specific point or visiting every part of the level at least once.
Bill Hogue and Big Five Software’s Miner 2049’er is a great example of this format — and a game that remains one of the most enduringly popular titles in the Atari 8-bit’s library to this day.
Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.
Any kid who watched the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter longed to hear those words for real — to put the skills they’d learned in video games to the test with real conflict against invading forces!
Unfortunately, Atari’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the movie didn’t quite make it to market in time, instead finally seeing the light of day in 1986 as the hastily rebranded Star Raiders II. However, the original, fully playable prototype of the game in its original The Last Starfighter format has been well-preserved over the years… so it’s that we’ll be taking a look at today!
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!