Red Baron / Panzer Attack, Bally Professional Arcade, 1978
Bally's machine continues to thwart me at every turn. I opened a sealed, slightly smooshed copy of Bally game #2003, Red Baron / Panzer Attack and upon inserting the cartridge into the machine and turning it on, I was greeted with no change in the default menu of the Bally. My "sealed" cart is unfunctioning, still-born out of its factory-provided protective film. Broken it is, and broken it shall remain, given my dearth of electronics knowledge, until, quite possibly, the end of this world!
Trying to play games on the Bally Professional Videocade has been challenging, due to issues having nothing to do with the games themselves. A stern reminder that, these games are frackin' old. We must be careful around them, lest we might recklessly exhale and our very breath corrupt them into disrepair.
The ROM, the proverbial soul of this cart, does boot up in the MESS emulator, sans sound, which I imagine would have been pretty good. The games on this cart are Bally's version of Atari's Combat. In Red Baron, there are two player-controlled planes which fly around the screen and shoot at each other. There's a field from which they take off. There's a little airport in the center of the field. There's a cloud in the sky behind which they can hide, for a brief respite from the horrors of air-to-air combat. In this latest example of the recurring theme of two friends pretending to kill each other, the playfield is picturesque indeed, but the sky is the limit because the sky stops at the top of the screen. In other words, there's no up-down wrap-around, but there is right-left wrap-around. I imagine the gameplay would be similar to the plane part of Combat, except there are no variations on the play; no guided missiles, no difficulty level for either player - just go up, maneuver and shoot. Parts of it impress me but most of it doesn't. Then again, I'm not actually playing the game, so what the hell do I know?
The tank game sports multi-colored tanks. Another early example of multi-colored sprites on a console in a world that, in 1978, had yet to see multi-colored sprites anywhere else, even in the arcades. That is pretty cool, doncha think? Panzer Attack also supports up to four players. Awesome if you have the controllers for it. The tanks in this game, like Combat, can only move in the direction they're facing (compare to Desert Fox on the Fairchild machine which let them strafe for the love of Pete.). The game is pretty much a "last tank running" type of game. One shot and you're out, your killer gets the point. When there's only one tank left, the other three are resurrected and the positions are reset. Unfortunately, I can't give an account of what it was like to play this cart, due to its unfunctioning disposition. Fire it up yourself in the MESS emulator to get an idea of how it moved and how it looked. If you can get the sound to work, so much the better.
One more Bally game to go for 1978, Tornado Baseball and its cartridge co-inhabitants, Hockey, Tennis and Handball.