First, last entry's business.
According to an extremely scientific poll conducted in DP's forums, aprroximately 2 out of 7 people have not played Combat. (20 havn't, 49 have) There are significantly more people who haven't played Combat than I suspected. As such, they shall all be punished. Horribly. Since reaching them individually will be difficult to me, I shall punish them by continuing to send Hurricanes to Florida over the next five years. (Hmm, a game for the Atari 2600 called Hurricane. Quick, someone start homebrewing it!)
Indy 500 (Atari VCS, 1977)
Okay, on to the business of 1977. First an entertaining photograph: (not sure how to post these inline... just look at the bottom of the entry.)
That's me on the left. That's my little brother holding the evidence. A photo of a new mint in box Indy 500 game for the Atari VCS with Driving Controllers!
Sadly, that was roughly 23 years ago (and counting) and neither the box, manual, cartridge or controllers remained in my posession. In fact, it was all probably thrown out due to a lack of distinction between "trash" and "treasure" on someone's part.
I do have a copy of the cart, a 2600 and the driving controllers and have been privileged enough to play it again today.
Firstly, the Atari VCS becomes the first system to sell special controllers for its console by including them with Indy 500.
Secondly, they brought home the spirit of many arcade racing games, none of which I can name at the moment. Wait, this is silly, I'm connected to the internet at this very second, I'll go and find out at least two of them . . . Okay, Indy 500's closest living relative at the time of its birth would've been "Indy 4" and "Sprint 4". Look them up yourselves.
Indy 500 has three different game types, with each having a 1 and 2 player variation or at the very least two track variations. The steering controller is like a paddle, except it doesn't have a "spin limit". You can just keep spining it around in one direction. The button gives your car gas and the steering controller orients your car. The longer you hold down the button the faster your car gets (to a limit of course). Moving the difficulty switch to "A" allows your car to travel at High Speed and makes it more difficult to control due to the speed.
The racing games have four different tracks: Grand Prix, Devil's Elbow, Ice Sprint and Ice Rally. The ice tracks seem to make road's friction negligible and this makes steering around either of the ice coated tracks a good deal more challenging. The one-player version of each racing game is a time-trial that gives you a minute to lap the track as many times as you can.
Another game variant is Crash and Score. A white square appears and the players have to race their cars to it as fast as possible. It takes some quick reflexes, but only if you're playing against someone who also has quick reflexes. There are two playing fields for this game. The one-player version just counts how many times you can crash into the white square in a minute, similar to the racing time trials.
Tag is fun in the same way that Tag on the RCA Studio II wasn't at all.
Who hasn't wanted to play "Car Tag" in real life? If it wasn't for roads, other cars, pedestrians, traffic laws and risk of spine shattering injuries, I'm sure each of us would be out there playing it at least one weekend a month.
If your car is not blinking, you're "it" and you have to go run over your buddy's blinking car. Then he becomes "it" and has to run over you. The whole "run you over" metaphor goes a long way with kids, too. ("Mommy, I ran Daddy over! Hahahah!"). There is no one-player version of this game, because, well, you can't play tag with yourself unless you have an extraordinarily short memory.
There are sound effects for the motors, collisions and for scoring. They work just fine. In fact, they're great sound effects and their contributions to this title would be appreciated by anyone who'd ever played a home videogame before 1977 immensely.
All-in-all what makes this game work is the control. Just like when you play Pong, it's very easy to get into it because you feel you have precise control over your in-game avatar. It does everything you tell it to do, even if you tell it to turn too quickly and crash into a wall. You can't blame it on the controller, it's your steering that's the trouble. Speaking of Pong:
Next Entry: What if we had Olympics for Pong?