Sorry for the long absence. In setting up our Christmas living room my Bally Pro Arcade was trapped underneath a table. To get to it we would've had to move a large sofa bed and we just weren't up to it. Now the holidays are over . . . let the chronogaming continue!
Brickyard / Clowns - Bally Pro Arcade 1978
Brickyard is essentially Breakout. The only variation from Atari's Breakout is that there is some music and a stunningly good brick busting sound effect. I might have mentioned before that the sound on the Bally is pretty good and some of the lower pitched sound effects have a real punch to them. When you hit a brick in Brickyard it sounds like a nice "thump". Other than that, it's just Breakout with a different name.
Clowns, however, is something different. Clowns gives a bit of context to the Breakout/Brickyard gaming model. Instead of a featureless pong ball/square being hit with a paddle to destroy simple colored bricks, you now have to knock around wacky, dancing fun clowns that teeter-totter up to dizzying heights, popping an array of colorful balloons! See? Doesn't that just sound a lot more fun? Well, for the most part, it is.
The clown figures are animated. They have no clown-coloring to them, but they are definite representations of the human figure and they do things. Clown things. They kick, jump, do splits in mid air and hop around--just like real clowns!!! It's quite effective in providing just enough anima to give the little guys likeable characters, ahem, for clowns, that is.
The clowns propel themselves up along a quasi-ballistic path to pop the balloons marching across the top part of the screen, all with the help of their teeter-totter and a little bit of Newtonian magic! You move their teeter-totter with the controller knob to catch a clown jumping from a platform on either side of the screen. Catching him propels the clown on the other side of the teeter-totter into the air to pop more balloons. The twist from Breakout/Brickyard is that you must catch the clown on the part of the teeter-totter that's "up". If you catch him on the "down"side, well, I don't know how to say this, but you "lose" a clown.
Awww, poor clown!
Don't feel sad, though, the Bally plays a teasing tune and sends out the next clown! Yay! Another clown!
You can chose the number of clowns per game as well as have multiple-alternating players. (I only had one controller hooked up so we just took turns playing a one player game with 50 inevitably doomed clowns.)
Despite being genetically engineered to dislike clowns, my children were, in a word, delighted by this wholesome clown game. My wife even enjoyed it in the sense that she enjoyed watching the kids enjoy it.
The only problem I have with the game, is that the clowns move a little jerkily through the air. It's as though some unseen overmind calculates the locations of all the moving balloons before updating the location of the moving clown. Maybe it's just me.
As a side note, I should talk a little bit about my packaging experience with this title, not because I find packaging interesting, but because I only find it interesting because it is so uninteresting, and therefore something interesting to me.
The copy of Clowns that I managed to acquire was sealed, as in never touched by human hands (assuming it was packaged by robots or apes). I must note that this is the first time, during the six years of Chronogamer, that I've opened a sealed game (it won't be the last time, either. If you collect sealed games you may cringe a little). Upon opening it, I learned that the cover art of the gamebox, is actually the cover art of the manual showing through a window in the gamebox. The gamebox, as printed, is completely generic, identifiable with a particular game only by a sticker placed on the spine indicating the game's title. The cartridge is freed by opening up the backside of the box. I don't know the name of this type of packaging, but I think that the very earliest Atari games (like Combat and maybe some of the other '77s) used this same box style to hold the cartridge.
The cartridge, fresh out of a sealed package, had aged, despite its near airtight suspension in plastic. The glue affixing the label had soaked through to some extent during its 25+ years of sleep, giving it a stained, um, aged look. It works just fine, it just doesn't look "new" as the day it was sealed. Let this be a lesson to all of you here in 1978 that plan to freeze yourselves to see what videogames are like in the distant future year of 2000. I won't give anything away, but I will tell you that Smell-i-vision never catches on like we thought it would.
The manual, while having colorful cover art, is amazingly bland inside. It looks like reduced typewritten pages stapled together. If you've ever read a text file of a Bally manual, you're actually looking at a fancier version.
I honestly don't remember what's next in the line-up. For Christmas, I did a bit of a clean up and closeted most of my Chronogaming lineup, much to my wife's joy. Now, finding my stuff is a bit like rummaging through a storage unit. I think the next game is Seawolf, but I won't swear to that, especially if I can't find it.