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. 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