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!
I don’t like spiders. I do, however, absolutely LOVE Black Widow, a delightful vector-based twin-stick shooter.
In Black Widow, you play a spider trying to defend their web from all manner of incoming creepy crawlies. And, unfortunately, it seems that they are sick and tired of you doing your spidery thing, and as such are more than capable of taking you out with a single, fatal touch.
Fortunately, you aren’t just any spider. You are the Black Widow, a laser-spitting spider of doom, the kind of thing that you really wouldn’t want to find under your toilet seat when you wake up in the middle of the night to go for a dump…
Basketball is another sport I know next to nothing about, but I know more about it than I do baseball, in that I understand how to win and what the players on the court are actually supposed to do. Therefore, I am much better equipped to comment on Atari Basketball than I was for Atari Baseball.
Atari Basketball is a simple one-on-one affair in which you and another player or the computer square off against one another and try to score more baskets than the other. That’s… pretty much it, really, but there’s something about this game that makes it surprisingly addictive.
I think it’s the controls — the original arcade machine made use of a trackball controller, which translates quite well to modern analogue devices. I can imagine a game against another human opponent getting rather frantic when standing up against the original machine — but it’s still fun here when played on the sofa with a wireless controller, or even on the go with the Switch in handheld mode.
I don’t… really play sports games. I don’t generally like them, I don’t generally understand them and I am certainly not good at them.
However, I have discovered over the course of the last few years or so that late ’70s/early ’80s sports games are about on a level I can understand for the most part, since the games simply weren’t capable of playing host to complicated mechanics or rules that you’d have to understand the actual sport to be able to fathom.
My time with Atari Baseball may have ended in crushing defeat, but I didn’t hate the experience. In fact, I can see this being quite fun in its original double-sided incarnation, facing off against a fellow player across the top of the cabinet. I suspect I’d still suck, though.