Jeez, just when I thought I had it all working I go and break a controller.
I've been really excited about playing the Bally Professional Arcade because it has a four player option on some of its games and they've got a true joystick/paddle/trigger controller combo thing going on with their interface, PLUS a 24 key-keypad. Bally spent money on their interfaces, at least that's the way it looks to me.
I do have FOUR Bally controllers. Unfortunately, I only have one which works.
So, today, I attempted to "re-furbish" one, so I could play Gunfight with my son on the real deal. I managed to get it apart and figured out what's wrong with it: one of the diaphragms in the joystick portion seems to be worn out, because it won't register a right directional move. I don't know how to fix that. When I was putting it back together, I pulled a wire off of a trigger contact, so now I've got to re-solder that back to where it goes so that at least the trigger works. (the potentiometer works fine, so paddle games will work, unless they need the trigger.)
So, we played the emulated versions of Gunfight and Checkmate today, using Playstation controllers while I also tested out the Real Thing using a Real Interface that worked.
There are four built in games. Gunfight, Checkmate, Calculator and Scribble. The last two aren't games. I won't even address Calculator, but Scribble was some fun for my children for a little while. On to the actual games . . .
Checkmate, Bally Professional Arcade, 1978
Does anyone remember this game from the arcades? I don't, but the Franklin Institute used to have one in its basement in the hallway across from the printing exhibit on the way to the McDonald's. I'm almost certain it isn't there now, but I'm pleased to remember it.
This home version Checkmate is even better than the arcade version because it is in color! Whoo-wee!
Checkmate is a lot like the Atari VCS game, Surround, (out of chronology comment: it's like Tron light cycles.) but it allows for four players instead of Atari's meager two player version. Unlike Atari's cartridge which has a bunch of variations on the theme, there's only one game here, though you can choose to play it with one, two or three opponents.
An interesting thing to notice with Checkmate and several games on the other console, the Fairchild Channel F, is the way they handle one or multiplayer play.
With Checkmate, if you start a four player game, you control your player and the other three are computer controlled. However, during the course of the game if another player wants to jump in, he need only pick up a controller to take over for the computer. It's pretty seamless and I don't' think it's a bad thing. The computer doesn't play at a significantly high level, so it's not like someone would want to cheat by just pretending to play and letting the computer do all the work.
The control was a little awkward. There is way to much "play" in the joystick function of the knob, and it isn't always clear what direction you're moving it in. Yes, it supposedly self-centers, but that didn't seem to be very reliable either. It may just be that my one working controller is a sucky working controller.
Gunfight, Bally Professional Arcade, 1978
This is another game I played in an arcade (Wynwood Bowling Alley, 7th grade? 1979-80) This is a good port. The controller has a trigger style fire button, which is perfect for a gun game. The joystick moves your gunfighter and the paddle knob moves his gun arm up and down which fine tunes the aim.
This Gunfight actually kicks the butt of Atari's Outlaw/Gunslinger offering, from everything from quality of graphics to sound effects. The gunshot effects, to me, have a good deal more "depth" to them. Maybe it's my expensive TV (maybe I should turn off the simulated surround sound effect, now that I think about it), but the sound just seems a lot better than what I was getting out of the Atari. Guess I'll have to compare someday.
The only thing missing was variations in gameplay. Unlike the Atari's Gunslinger, which had a dozen or so variants on one cart, Gunfight, just has the one. Yeah, the best variation is, probably, the original game, but if you aren't given others to which to compare it, you won't necessarily figure that out. Everything else was fine.
Just to clarify: Call these little blog entries whatever you want to call them, but just so we're on the same page, I don't think of them as "reviews". They're just an overall impression I got of a game (any game) when I played it by myself or with my son or daughter and whether or not we had fun. Sure, that may be what a "review" is, but lots of other factors affect my opinion. My health, my mood, my financial position, the weather, the moon phases, mind-control laser satellites, etc . . . all contribute to my general enjoyment of a game. I really can enjoy anything if I'm in a good enough mood. Although, some games can put me in a bad mood (anything on the RCA Studio II, really). Um . . . what was I saying?
Oh yeah, I don't think of these things as reviews, they're more or less like a diary entry about what game I just played.
Okay, so next entry: 280Zzzap and Dodge 'Em on the Bally Professional Arcade.
Unrelated Catty Addendum:I heard someone, a programmer (Larry Kaplan?), once refer to Atari's Bowling as having the first multicolored sprite in home videogames. I don't know when that game comes out (1979, I think) but Gunfight has player sprites with two colors. I'm no programmer, so maybe they aren't technically sprites.
(That's two "firsts" that should be taken from Atari. First Easter Egg and first multicolored player sprite.)