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Activision Prototypes Released!

Activision

Thanks to our friends at Activision, Thomas Jentzsch, and Matt Reichert, we are proud to make available the binaries for several unreleased Activision games and demos. The Venetian Blinds Demo is a graphics technology demo, Bloody Human Freeway is a version of Freeway that was never released, and then the two Unknown prototypes are original games that were never released, with little known about them. Matt Reichert of AtariProtos.com has written up a brief description of each prototype below, and links are provided to the full review of each game on his site. Thanks to Thomas Jentzsch, who converted each of the NTSC prototypes to PAL, you can choose to download either NTSC or PAL versions of these prototypes.

Venetian Blinds Demo
 
Venetian Blinds DemoAs the name implies the Venetian Blinds demo isn't a game, but a demo that simulates a pair of Venetian blinds! The joystick can be used to raise and lower the blinds by pushing up or down. When the blinds are raised a nicely done sunset is visible out the window.

The story behind the Venetian Blind demo is rather interesting. As most people know, Activision was founded by several ex-Atari employees who had left due to Atari's policies on programmer recognition (or the lack thereof). One of these employees was Bob Whitehead, creator of the "Venetian Blinds" technique, which was first used in Atari's Video Chess to display eight objects in a row instead of the normal six. Even though Activision had never used the Venetian Blinds technique in any of their games, that didn't stop Atari from threatening to sue Activision for "stealing" the technique along with other various proprietary information.

Since Activision knew that they hadn't stolen anything from Atari, they decided to play a little joke on Atari. According to David Crane, when the Atari's lawyers questioned them about the "stolen" Venetian Blinds technique David showed them this demo and said "Is this what you guys are referring to?". Apparently Atari wasn't in a laughing mood, and they went through with the lawsuit. In the end Atari ended up losing the case and Activision went on to become the most successful of the 2600 third party companies.

Although Activision never made a game out of this demo it didn't go completely to waste. The sunset was later used in the background of Barnstorming.

Download:

Full Review: Venetian Blinds Demo @ AtariProtos.com

 
Bloody Human Freeway
 
Bloody Human FreewayWhy did the chicken cross the road? So Activision could make a game about it of course! Even though Freeway looks a bit like Frogger at first glance, the two games are actually very different. According to David Crane, he got the idea for Freeway from watching a man trying to cross Lake Shore Drive during rush-hour traffic while attending Chicago's Consumer Electronic Show.

Freeway originally featured people crossing the road instead of chickens since that was the scenario that inspired David Crane. However some people at Activision complained that they didn't like the idea of people being struck by cars, so chickens were substituted for people before the game was released.

Download:

Full Review: Bloody Human Freeway @ AtariProtos.com

 
Unknown Game #1
 
Unknown Game #1Found in a salvage yard in 1998, the identity of this mysterious Activision prototype has eluded collectors for years. This prototype plays like a cross between a Rubik's Cube and the old sliding tile puzzle game. The goal of the game is to line up all the colors in each row from light to dark. If you've done it correctly the board should look like the start-up screen with the colors descending from red to purple. However lining up all the colors is easier said than done due to the unique way the squares move across the board.

When you move your square up or down a row or column, the last square in that row will move behind your square's new position. For instance if your square is the light green one (center of the row), and you move it left it will result in the last square in the row (the light blue one) moving behind it. If you move right instead, the last square on the right (the dark blue one) would move behind your square. Mastering how the squares move is essential to solving the puzzle. If you forget what order the squares should go in, pressing the fire button will cause all the squares in the correct positions to turn black. While this is helpful for positioning the shades of color in each row, it won't help you remember what color is supposed to go in each row.

Download:

Full Review: Unknown Activision Game #1 @ AtariProtos.com

 
Unknown Game #2
 
Unknown Game #2Along with Unknown Activision Game #1, this mysterious prototype was found in a salvage yard in 1998. Since the label that once existed for this game has long since fallen off, we have no idea what the identity of this game might be.

In this game you control a little alien who must use the blocks at the bottom of the screen to build a tower and escape. As the blocks come rolling down the conveyer belt, you must jump up and bump them so they land somewhere on the screen. Once you have constructed a nice little tower, you must carefully jump on the conveyer belt and then climb the tower to the next screen.

The graphics and sounds for this game are top notch; it's obvious that a lot of work went into this game. Everything from the smooth animation of your character to the cute "Can-Can" sequence at the start of the game (yes, you read that right) screams quality. So why was this game never released? Unfortunately, no one but the programmer knows the answer to this. One possibility is that he or she may have left Activision before the game was completed.

Download:

Full Review: Unknown Activision Game #2 @ AtariProtos.com

To discuss these Activision prototypes with other AtariAge visitors, please visit our Atari 2600 Forum.