It’s Pong! The grandaddy of them all. Well, okay, not the absolute first ever computer game ever EVER, but it was certainly the first widely successful one.
If you have the slightest familiarity with gaming, surely Pong needs little to no introduction, but you might be surprised to know that it actually still holds up rather well today. It’s gaming stripped down to its bare essentials, both in terms of graphics and mechanics — and it still works wonderfully as a competitive game.
Fortunately, with how well-known it is and how easy it is to program a convincing clone (even I could probably do it if I tried hard enough!) there’s no shortage of ways to play it these days… but if you really want the true experience, you gotta go Atari.
Well, here’s… a thing.
Onslaught, apparently also known as Klystron Raider, is a game that appears mostly shrouded in mystery. And, having spent far longer with it than it probably deserved, I feel it should probably remain shrouded in mystery.
But I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment, so here it is for your enjoyment regardless.
Say the words “racing game” to someone these days and they’ll typically think of a game with at least a passing impression of a 3D perspective.
Prior to titles like Namco’s Pole Position and Sega’s Out Run popularising this viewpoint, however, Atari was happily churning out top-down racers that were a lot of fun to play, beginning with Super Bug before moving on to the unusual cooperative two-player title Fire Truck — which we’ve previously seen on this series — and finally, the full-colour, multi-track Monte Carlo, which saw players racing against actual opponents as well as the course itself.
Like Atari’s other early racers, it’s a game that’s actually still a lot of fun to play today once you get used to how the control scheme maps to modern controllers — and, for me, one of the many highlights in the Atari Flashback Classics collection.
SNK had some top-notch arcade hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and many of them came home in one form or another.
One great example was Ikari Warriors, which saw several different home ports over the years. The one we’re concerned with today is Elite’s Atari ST version, which remains surprisingly true to the arcade original despite lacking SNK’s iconic “loop lever” control scheme.
It’s a solid top-down run-and-gun that still holds its own well today, and back then it demonstrated that the ST was more than capable of providing a convincing “arcade at home” experience!
Dave Theuer’s Missile Command is an absolute classic of the “golden age” of arcade games, and still puts up a formidable challenge today!
Embodying the paranoia many people were feeling towards the Cold War and potential nuclear conflict in the early ’80s, Missile Command is a relentless, frantic affair. Despite that, it’s more important than anything to stay calm and take careful, strategic shots rather than just blasting away in a mad panic.
I am bad at Missile Command, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy playing it! So let’s get on and do just that, shall we?
I absolutely loved MB and Games Workshop’s HeroQuest as a kid, but I rarely got the opportunity to play it on the tabletop with real people.
Imagine my delight, then, when Gremlin announced that they were developing a computerised adaptation of the board game I’d come to love so much. And imagine my even greater delight when it turned out to be a very good game indeed — although arguably perhaps a little too true to the original board game for a computer version!
This is a game that still holds up pretty well today in both its tabletop and electronic formats. Gather a party of friends — or go it alone — and see how far you can get in the substantial campaign!
Once upon a time, Activision was not the bloated mess of a money-hungry corporate behemoth it is now. Well, it was slightly less of one, anyway.
The key difference between the Activision of now and the Activision of then is that the latter was much more willing to take significant risks on games that were as much a work of art as they were a piece of interactive entertainment.
One of the best examples of this practice — and one of Activision’s best games, full stop — is Master of the Lamps, one of the earliest ever music games and a spectacular example of what the Atari 8-bit was capable of in the hands of talented programmers.
Legend has it that in the Davison household, the usually entirely justified righteous fury of our matriarchal figure towards yet another example of silly men and boys doing silly men and boys’ things could only be quelled by one thing: Millipede.
And for sure, Millipede makes for a great stress-reliever, with its frantic, non-stop blasting action not really leaving you any time to be annoyed about who dribbled wee on the floor, didn’t load the dishwasher or failed to tidy their room when requested.
Of course, if you’re not already stressed, its defining characteristics are also a pretty good means of elevating your own anxiety levels somewhat, too… so please bear in mind that this is not in any way intended to be clinical advice!
Horizontally scrolling shooters are perhaps most commonly associated with the 16-bit Japanese consoles, but there were some great ones on offer on earlier home computers.
One such example was Laser Hawk from Red Rat Software, developed by Kiwi programmer Andrew Bradfield with graphics by Harvey Kong Tin. This was an enjoyable, speedy, helicopter-based horizontal scroller with a cheeky line in fanboy-baiting — the structures you had to destroy at the end of each level all bore an uncanny resemblance to rival, non-Atari computer manufacturers’ logos!
It’s a game that I greatly enjoyed revisiting, and was very pleasantly surprised to discover still plays rather well today. Give it a shot!
This one’s a cool addition to the Atari Flashback Classics collection: a “lost” game from the Atari archives.
Maze Invaders sadly never saw an official release either as an arcade machine or a home port, languishing in the archives until recently. The International Centre for the History of Electronic Games managed to acquire a whole bunch of old Atari goodies back in 2014, and part of that heap of fun times was Maze Invaders.
It’s kind of surprising this never got an official release for one reason or another; it’s a really interesting, unusual and highly addictive game with a ton of personality to it!