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Real-world Lynx fun

I recently added a Lynx to Artie the Atari. The reasons were twofold:

  1. I've had a Post-It note on my computer for well over a year that says, "Atari Lynx whose battery always dies by fourth panel".
  2. I've had a list of Lynx games I've been meaning to buy from B&C Computervisions for even longer than that. Much, much longer.

I'm not a completist, by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some games I've always wanted to pick up for the system (I own a Lynx II).


Nearly 22 years ago (hard to believe it's been that long), I bought my Lynx from a local video game store. They carried all of the latest systems (of the day) and also rented games. Since I was a broke college student, I tended to rent. I rarely bought games, except for a select handful: Block Out, Checkered Flag, Klax, Qix, RoadBlasters and Toki. Of the games I played back in the day, these were the ones I wanted to play the most, and all I could afford. They weren't cheap, either - I still have price stickers on several of them for $39.95. Ouch.


But I did rent others, and borrowed some from a friend of mine who owned a first-gen Lynx. So I had a good idea of what was available, and what I liked. Some I probably rented enough times to afford to buy. But having $40 all at one time, and having $40 incrementally are two entirely different things when you're broke. ;)


Within a couple of years, the Lynx was relegated to the dustbin of videogame history. I was still broke though, and although I meant to pick up some more games, I never did. A few years later, the store went out of business. I didn't even notice, since I'd stopped going there. I knew there were no new games coming out for the Lynx, and I had no other current systems to buy games for. It was like the Atari 7800 all over again. Promising start, quick death, small game library. Had I known they were going under, maybe I would've tried to pick up some games before they closed. The sad truth is, I don't even recall the name of the store anymore.


Some years later, I found B&C's Lynx game list, and from that, made a list of "must-buy-these-someday" games. But I never bought them. Some were still too expensive, and after playing some of them in Handy, I came to realize I needed to trim down my list some more.


A couple years ago (okay, I just looked, and it was actually 2008!), the AtariAge store had a good-sized stock of dirt-cheap Lynx games, and Albert hooked me up with Chip's Challenge, Crystal Mines II, Kung Food, Steel Talons, Tournament Cyberball and Xybots, effectively doubling my Lynx's library. However, none of those games were what I'd classify as a "must buy" (which is probably why they were dirt cheap in the first place). Xybots, Crystal Mines II and Chip's Challenge were good games, but the rest... shelf filler. My comment to him regarding Kung Food at the time was, "This belongs in the landfill under E.T."


But this past week, as I was finally adding a Lynx to Artie the Atari, I decided, "Hey... I'm not broke at the moment. I've got some empty shelf space in my Lynx section. Why not dig out that list again, and go for it?" So I did. I whittled my list down to seven keepers, five of which only cost $10 each. All new-in-box, still factory shrink-wrapped.


And Thursday afternoon - they showed up, along with a couple of vintage Lynx catalogs as a nice bonus (or as packing material... but either way, it was a nice surprise):




Six of the games came in an original Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure shipping box. It was good way to protect them, and also a neat artifact from the era:




So with that, I dug out my AC adapter (despite what I might have written elsewhere), opened the shrink-wrap (ruining their value for all eternity) and fired them up. Here's a rundown of the games:


Awesome Golf - I rented this quite a lot back-in-the-day, but it was always one of the more expensive games (and still was, from this batch) so I hadn't bought it. But it's a really good golf game - three 18 hole courses, good controls, nice scaling effects, and a decent number of options. That said, the sound effects leave something to be desired. An annoying gopher with an irritating voice will comment on your shots, and the distinctive sound a ball should make when hitting the bottom of the cup is poorly done and rather unsatisfying. But those are minor complaints. Awesome? Perhaps not. But "Very Good Golf" probably didn't have the marketing potential they were looking for.


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - An RPG based on characters from the best time-travel movie of all time (and yes, I can back that statement up). Typically, you walk around looking for objects and solving puzzles, but where this adds a unique twist is that you have to travel through time as well. So you may have to pick up an object in the future, travel back in time to leave it somewhere, then travel back to another point in the future so the object is waiting there when you need it. Clever stuff.


Hydra - A port of an obscure arcade game, it's basically RoadBlasters on water. And like RoadBlasters on the Lynx, the lack of analog controls causes the game to suffer. You can't precisely steer or aim. The graphics are good, and there is an added element in that you can periodically fly to avoid obstacles and capture objects. But besides the lack of analog control, I'm also not fond of the inverted joypad layout (press down to accelerate, up to decelerate) because it really gets uncomfortable after awhile on the Lynx's joypad. An option to flip it would have been most welcomed.


Paperboy - This surprised me a lot. I liked the original arcade Paperboy game, but it never worked well in emulation because of the arcade game's unique handlebar controller. Somehow though, they made it work on the Lynx. Part of this has to do with the fact that you're always (and only) aiming straight to your left. All you really have to do is steer and control your speed, and, unlike Hydra, they figured out how to dial in the controls just right. An excellent port.


Rampart - I never played the original arcade game. In fact, I never knew the game existed prior to the Lynx, but this became one of my favorite Lynx titles. It's incredibly well-suited to being a portable game, and would make a great iPhone game (along with Quantum). You build up walls around your castle using Tetris-like pieces, place your cannons, then defend your territory in a brief battle sequence. Between battles you repair your castle, but it's not as easy as it sounds. You can't build over debris, and you aren't always given pieces that fit where you need them. It's a combat, strategy and puzzle game all in one, and a bargain at $10 for one of the Lynx's best games.


S.T.U.N. Runner - Another surprising arcade port. Atari attempted to port Hard Drivin' to the Lynx with catastrophically bad results. It looked terrible, the controls were bad, and the frame rate was unbearably slow. So I expected S.T.U.N. Runner to be just as bad, if not worse. But they cranked out a great version of a very advanced arcade game for its day. The controls, graphics, gameplay - everything works, and really shows off the Lynx's power. There's a nice depth to the gameplay, and the difficultly ramps up very well, adding new elements as you progress through the levels. Well worth having.


Zarlor Mercenary - It's a vertical shoot-'em up. A bit overpriced relative to the other games, but still good fun. There's a good variety of enemies and power-ups, although my gripe with games of this genre is that they throw more enemies at you than you could ever possibly shoot. They expect you to die repeatedly, or pick up ridiculous power-ups to wipe out the enemies en masse. While it looks impressive with all of those explosions going off everywhere, it makes me wish Xevious (which required more skill than firepower) had been ported to the Lynx instead.


So there you are - my Lynx has some new life breathed into it again. And even after all that... I still have enough room on my shelf for two more games. ;)


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