Tag Archives: video games

Diamonds

I do enjoy a good “dirt and boulders” game. And Simon Hunt’s Diamonds, published by English Software in 1983, is certainly a good “dirt and boulders” game.

Casting players in the role of Digger Dan, part-time member of Blue Man group and long-time precious stones enthusiast, it’s up to you to gather the titular diamonds while avoiding the unwanted attentions of Brian the Blob, Philip the Filler, The Fireflies, The Eyes, Simon the Snake and The Demon. Brian also wants diamonds; the others just want you dead. Which isn’t very nice.

This is a longstanding personal favourite of mine from the Atari 8-bit era, and a game I still like returning to today quite often! Check it out when you get the opportunity.

Destroyer

As we’ve previously seen with Canyon Bomber, sometimes all you need to make an addictive, enjoyable game is a simple concept… and perhaps some gimmicky controls.

Such is the case with Destroyer, a game that featured some satisfyingly clunky physical controls on its original arcade release, which are obviously lost somewhat in this home translation. Interestingly, this never got a home port of its own prior to the release in Atari Flashback Classics; it was instead incorporated into the Atari 2600 port of Canyon Bomber, which was developed by David “Pitfall” Crane.

It’s a simple idea, but an effective one… and one that really does not like being captured at 30fps, so if you can’t see the depth charges for part of this video… uh, sorry! Such are the limitations of my hardware!

Xenon

The Bitmap Brothers were a force to be reckoned with in the 16-bit computer era.

Across a wide variety of different game styles, they demonstrated their absolute mastery over not only the technical aspects of programming for these popular home computers, but also how to make a thoroughly enjoyable game, too.

Although relatively straightforward by modern standards, the original Xenon remains a great time, and is absolutely worth checking out if you’re a fan of classic vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups.

Capture the Flag

Towards the end of our first cycle of Atari A to Z, we came across an interesting little first-person maze game called Way Out, developed by Paul Edelstein and published by Sirius Software.

That game got a sequel! And like all good sequels, it provides more of the same, but better. Specifically, it provides split-screen competitive two-player action (with an optional AI-controlled computer opponent) and an unconventional but nonetheless effective control scheme that provides us with one of the earliest ever examples of “strafing” in 3D.

It’s also a very early example of a game that George “The Fat Man” Sanger contributed to; his distinctive music was a mainstay of ’90s PC gaming and beyond, so it’s interesting to see where his “roots” lie!

Crystal Castles

Do you know what “trimetric projection” is? If not, take a good look at Atari’s Crystal Castles. That, dear reader, is trimetric projection at work.

This 3D perspective take on the Pac-Man formula is a popular game from Atari’s early days, and enjoyed numerous home ports over the years, particularly on Atari’s own platforms. It’s a fun — if challenging — game, and remains noteworthy from a historical perspective for being one of the first arcade games out there that it’s actually possible to “beat”. Although good luck with doing that.

Also, if you score first place on the high score table, you get to enjoy your initials presented in 3D trimetric projection for everyone to admire on the first level of each new playthrough!

Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood

Nostalgia is a funny old thing. Since starting this project, I’ve found myself really appreciating some of the games that, for one reason or another, had an impact on me growing up. Not necessarily the best games, but those which have some sort of meaning to me.

One of my favourite examples to date is today’s game: Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood, an early title from Sierra during their partnership with Disney. As well as being a game I loved playing with my family as a child and possibly one of the most charming, kid-friendly adventures of all time, it’s an interesting game from a historical perspective, too, since it’s one of the earliest titles Al Lowe put out.

Al Lowe, if you’re unfamiliar with your Sierra history, is the man who would later give us the Leisure Suit Larry series, a mainstay of Sierra’s portfolio alongside King’s Quest, Space Quest and Police Quest for many years… but a little different in subject matter to what we have here!

Baja Buggies

You know me, I love an arcade racer. And while the Atari 8-bit era was very much a time where this genre was just starting to define itself, there were still some fun, interesting games to enjoy.

Baja Buggies from Gamestar is a game from the early days of the system that I didn’t play that often back in the day, primarily because it was on cassette, and who has time to sit around waiting for those things when you have a US Doubler-equipped 1050 disk drive for high-speed floppy loading goodness? (Said drive died recently, please raise a glass in memoriam. Thank you.)

Anyway. It’s an interesting racer that eschews the Pole Position timers-and-checkpoints formula in favour of an endurance race format: pass 80 opponents before you wreck your buggy or cross the finish line. The desert awaits!

Centipede

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!

Attack of the Mutant Camels

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.

Canyon Bomber

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!