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Human Cannonball (Atari VCS, 1979)

Mezrabad

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Human Cannonball aka Cannonball Man (Atari VCS, 1979) :|

 

You're given a cannon, a crazy fool inside the cannon and a water tower, which we affectionately refer to as "the bucket". There are three variables: speed, cannon angle and distance from the cannon to the water tower. In the first game, a speed is randomly generated, representing the speed at which the Cannonball Man will be shot from the cannon. You must try to select the cannon's angle which will allow Projectile Man to land in "the bucket". The bucket is maneuverable, which we actually did not know at first. Let me tell you, the first game isn't too hard without knowledge that the bucket can move, but with that knowledge it becomes much easier. The directions for these old games continue to have useful information and we need to remember to read them.

 

Your game objective is to get Mr. Ballistic into the bucket seven times before you turn him into circus pizza seven times.

 

There are eight game variations, each with a one and two player version. The game variations increase the difficulty. Game 1 is as I described, given the speed of Mortar Man and a fixed position cannon, select the angle of expulsion. Game 2 pretty much the same as game 1, but the cannon is further away from the bucket. Game 3 gives you a random cannon location and you must choose the angle and speed. Game 4 lets you choose the position of the cannon, but the angle and speed are randomly generated.

 

Game's 5 through 8 are pretty much the same as games 1 through 4 except for two very important differences. First difference: the water tower is no longer movable -- there's no fudging your numbers; you either get the variables right or your man is a greasy spot on the midway. Second difference: the other twist adds a "window" through which your little ballistic friend must travel. The window is a gap in a barrier which continuously moves down the screen between your cannon and the bucket. (Reference: Instruction Manual Page 3) If you don't time your shot just right, Missile Dude hits the barrier and becomes cannon fodder, um, of a sort.

 

This is another game that, like Sky Diver, awards a consolation prize for failure. When your flying fool misses the tower completely or hits it from the side he will subsequently hit the ground with a nice splat sound. The word "Ouch" appears over his formerly ballistic body.

 

The pre-window games are fun enough. The challenge is mostly just recalling what speed and angle combination work best at what distances. A well-considered guess can feel pretty good when you pull it off. If the repetitive gameplay doesn't scare you off, it is possible to get pretty proficient at the first four games. Just try to remember the distance, speed and angle combinations and be ready to move that water tower when needed.

 

The "window" games are harder and a bit frustrating. If you bother to get good at the first four games, so that you know the angles, distance and speeds very well, then you may be able to do well enough at the window games so that they are challenging and not frustrating.

 

The problem I have with the gameplay is that it is fun, but only up to a certain point; that point being when it starts getting too damn hard. There's nothing about the game that keeps us coming back for the real challenge (frustration) of the window levels other than the continuous abuse/death of a humanlike figure, which doesn't have as much draw for us as one might think.

 

What's difficult to tell is whether or not we would've gotten "into" this game back in the day, when games were expensive and purchases were few and far between. If this were the only Atari VCS game we owned, I think we would've enjoyed it to the point where we might have tried to get good at the harder levels. Since we now have access to way too many games, it just isn't a good enough thrill on which to blow a lot of time and effort. We'd much rather play Sky Diver than Human Cannonball.

 

I don't know what game is next; probably Casino. 7352



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I like this game, but only for the few cheap laughs it brings. I have more fun shooting him into the side of the bucket, than trying to land him safely. (Also fun is shooting him up high off the top of the screen, and waiting for him to plummet back to earth.)

 

That reminds me... I need to pick up FlatOut 2 for the PS2.

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I like this game, but only for the few cheap laughs it brings. I have more fun shooting him into the side of the bucket, than trying to land him safely. (Also fun is shooting him up high off the top of the screen, and waiting for him to plummet back to earth.)

 

That reminds me... I need to pick up FlatOut 2 for the PS2.

 

Yeah, we enjoyed the cheap laughs ourselves, but it seemed that's all their was after the "window" levels started.

 

Hey, I can't believe I just noticed this, but this game is like an Artillery Duel without the Duel. I wonder which came first? Was this an attempt to have an Artillery Duel type of game without the war theme or was Artillery Duel a way of improving on the Human Cannonball theme. I would imagine it's the former, but I don't know. Time to check over at KLOV I guess.

 

---A brief search a KLOV didn't reveal anything. For some reason, it would bug me if H.Cannonball actually predated any instance of an Artillery Duel-style videogame. I don't know why, it just would.

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I think there were artillery style games before there were computers with graphics. Certainly many of the original big iron tube computers were used to calculate actual artillery tables.

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I think there were artillery style games before there were computers with graphics. Certainly many of the original big iron tube computers were used to calculate actual artillery tables.

 

Oh, sure, my grandfather used to tell me stories about sitting around the 'ol ENIAC and calculating artillery tables! In fact, he said he wished there were a way he could do it in the privacy of his own home in front of the television without all those uptight University of Pennsylvania professors around. :)

 

Is there an example of an Artillery Duel style game in the home (pc or console) or the arcade prior to Human Cannonball? Surely there must be something on the TRS-80, the PET or the Apple ][, maybe even the Altair? I agree with you Eric, there certainly should be something, but I can't find an example of it outside of the example you mentioned (which wasn't exactly publicly accessible).

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Wikipedia has an entry for Artillery which references a BASIC (text) version in 1976 Creative Computing. See also the references in that article.

 

Wow, so Human Cannonball pre-dates all commercially packaged releases of Artillery games, unless we count the text-only version Artillery or the 143-line BASIC program published in 1977 as War 3. Thanks for pointing me to wiki and the really informative article over at Armchair Arcade.

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I made a graphical hack of the Mac version of Artillery back in '89 called "Spit into the wind", with two caricatures of my college profs hocking loogies at each other. Now that would make a good 2600 game. :)

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I made a graphical hack of the Mac version of Artillery back in '89 called "Spit into the wind", with two caricatures of my college profs hocking loogies at each other. Now that would make a good 2600 game. :)

 

That's a great title and concept. Did you alter the terrain to look vaguely like a college environment or were they out in the same mountains that the tanks would've been? Either would be pretty funny, I'm just curious.

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OMG THE BUCKET MOVES???

 

I also played this game a few months ago (another one listed as from 1978 in MobyGames) and I remember that it was very frustrating and overall uninteresting. But now I've played it again knowing that the bucket moves and the experience really improved. Curiously though, my very first shot was straight into the bucket, without moving it!

 

I don't recall playing any games similar to this prior to 1979. I played most, if not all, of the PET, TRS-80, and Apple ][ games I could find up to 1978. There was, however, a 1979 PET game called Artillery: http://www.mobygames.com/game/pet/artillery.

 

I guess Human Cannonball isn't that bad if one considers it was one of the first of its kind.

 

@Nathan, that was a great idea! :D

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