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  1. Hey everyone, I am new to these forums, I have a heavy sixer console, complete with grey ac adapter, 1977 joysticks (no hex discs), 1977 paddles and a few other things. Here are some pictures:
  2. Guest


    Video Olympics EDIT: I wanted to mention that I'm actually PLAYING these games, as I go, now. I play most of a week's worth of blogging in one weekend. Yesterday, my son and I actually sat down and went through this cartridge. (We liked Volleyball and Basketball the best, by the way.) This is in contrast to before, where I had played most of the games back in June and writing about them based on notes I had taken back then. END EDIT Okay, this is PONG to the nth degree. This Atari VCS cartridge offers PONG closure like no one would ever expect. After you play the games on this cartridge you need never worry about what you might've missed in the PONG genre. First, there's PONG. It's just like you remember, except there's also Robot PONG which is one-player. Then there's Super PONG, Soccer and Foozpong. But wait . . . there's more . . . Hockey, QuadraPONG (the Ultimate Pong), Handball, Volleyball and Basketball.(I am surprised they never went for the obvious joke variants: Hong PONG, King PONG, Son of PONG, etc . . .) All of these games support four player variants, which is really cool if you've two paddle sets and four able-handed gamers willing to play Pong for the amount of time it takes to go through the 26 different four-player games.The manual explains some of the gameplay twists in the manual. There's Speed which allows a player to add speed to the return ball by pressing the red button as the ball makes contact with the paddle. There's Whammy™ which puts sharper angles on your ball return, just hit that button when the ball hits your paddle. CATCH™ which allows the ball to stick to the paddle while you hold in the button. This allows you to take aim with your return ball. If you don't move slowly while you have it, it will escape. And finally, Jump™, which lets you move your paddle from one position to another very quickly, usually a different level (i.e. near the top of the Volleyball net as opposed to the bottom of the net.) Each of these is pretty cool as long as you haven't played PONG in about a month and for no longer than 15 minutes. On their own, each of these games can be fun, especially with four players -- because then, you're enjoying the other players as much as you're enjoying the game. However, there is a strict biological limit that gets reached at a certain point. You see, there's only so much PONG any human being can take. This is known as their PONG Tolerance™. PONG Tolerance™ varies with each individual but you'll find greater PONG Tolerance in an individual that's played less videogames. My Wife™, who doesn't do videogames, has a greater tolerance for PONG than my Son™ has and certainly more than I do. I play a lot of games, so my PONG Tolerance™ is relatively low compared to most human beings. However, I'm also a bit of a Masochist™. So, because my PONG Tolerance is low, I'm more likely to push on, relishing my Discomfort™ and Boredom™. Hmm™, I'm back to one game a day. I'll do Surround next entry. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  3. Guest

    #9 Drag Race

    Drag Race! I liked this, but it took my son a little time to get the hang of it. In fact, he never did, and he can kick my butt in Super Smash Bros. Melee back to the 21st century. The unique Fairchild VES joystick becomes your gear shift. Up and left is gear 1, down and left gear 2, up and right gear 3, down and right gear 4. You twist it to rev the engine. There's a representation of a tachometer on the screen, on the screenshots it's a blue or red line between the green dots. You rev the engine, put it in gear and shift when the tachometer gets close to over-reving. Try to do it quickly and without blowing the engine. Your Motorized Capital "I" travels as quickly across the screen as it can, warping back to the left side as it leaves the right. The manual says the record time to beat is 7.7 seconds. Yes, the graphics suck. "Two sideways capital I's crawling across the screen" as I recall someone once saying. Yes, the sound is annoying, too. But as a dragster simulation and for a Fairchild VES game, it really isn't so bad. Here are some screenshots. The little rainbow in the center is the starting lights. They disappear from right to left and when the last green square is gone you GO! The word "blown", in this context, is being used to indicate something you don't want to happen. This means you've over-rev'd your engine, now it's broken. All the other dragster drivers laugh at you. You spend the next weekend rebuilding your engine, drinking Grape soda and listenin' to country music on a cheap, AM-only radio. I'd wager this is actually more enjoyable than it sounds. I was using the emulator for these shots, so my racing results are a little laid back. I did better on the real hardware, honest. The game offers four levels of skill, and gives them appropriate names: 1 for a family sedan. 2 for a modified sedan. 3 for a funny car. 4 for a dragster. Family Sedan is for practice. Nobody really talks about their "Sedan" scores, you know? If you're going to talk about your drag times then you'd better be talkin' Funny Car or, preferably, Dragster times. I'm just sayin'. Bottom line: Compared to all the other games we've played up until now, this is definitely the most recent. It won't stand the test of time, but for right now, in 1977, it will do. Next Entry -- Videocart #10: Maze / Cat & Mouse. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  4. Guest

    Spitfire - Fairchild VES

    I'm going to resort to my old pal MESS for the screenshots again. Yeah, I actually have all of the Fairchild VES carts for 1977, but it's easier to just rip it from MESS. How to describe Spitfire when the game to which it would be easiest to compare doesn't yet exist? (*cough*Combat*cough*) Here's three pictures (worth 1000 words each). Just before take off. The Hunt The Kill Hmmm... actually "The Kill" looks closer to the beginning of a match than the picture "The Hunt" because usually the control tower disappears... not sure what was going on when I took that screenshot... little movies are better for demonstrating this sort of thing I think. This is a game where the players each control an airplane with guns on it. At the beginning of the match, the planes actually take off from an air strip with what appears to be a control tower in the center. The planes take off moving towards each other (silently). When they get close enough to the tower it disappears. Then they are fighting in the "sky". The screen is wraparound, but bullets don't wrap. You fly around trying to shoot down your opponent and are rewarded, when successful, by seeing your enemy tumble out of the sky with sound effects. The beauty of this cartridge is the fact you can play one-player against the console. No need to airdrop any friends in to play, just pop in the cart, fire up your VES and away you go. I was expecting the special Fairchild controllers to be a Good Thing with this cart, but it felt to me that they were a little mushy. The control is like an airplane, push up and the front of the plane rotates down, pull back and the front of the airplane rotates up. To fire, you push down on the plunger. Unfortunately, this also tended to upset the direction in which my plane was traveling and made it hard to shoot my opponent. /begin dreamy eyed foreshadowing/ It would be nice if there were a more refined battle game available for a home system, but, so far, the only thing similar in idea (outmaneuver and kill your enemy) is Desert Fox (VES, 1976), and that's not even close to refined. In 1977, we only have a few head-to-head, shoot-them-before-they-shoot-you types of games: Desert Fox (VES, 1976), Gunfighter/Moonship Battle (RCA, 1977) and now Spitfire. These games, the ones that let you invite a friend over and pretend to try to kill them, are very much the heart and soul of videogames. Here in 1977 we're hoping that someone gets it right, soon . . . /end dreamy eyed foreshadowing/ Next entry: Videocart #5 - Space War <- PREV | NEXT ->
  5. Guest

    We pause for a PSA.

    I want to define this act in an official-sounding-like way, in case it "catches on". chro·no·game - v. to play a set of videogames in as close to the order of their release as the player can discern, using the resources available to them. chro·no·gam·er - n. the nutjob who chronogames. A set of videogames can be any set as one would like to define it. It could be the same game across multiple platforms. It could be all the games in a franchise. It could be all the games in one's collection. It could be all the games for one system. It could be all the games from one year, although one would need some precise release dates for that one. The reasons why anyone would do this may be varied, but the one I use is the interest to see the evolution of games over time through the process of experiencing them in the order of release. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have access to the games before it was time to play them, but one must plan, and subsequently shop, ahead. Basically, it's an informal process. I guess in the gaming spectrum, there could be "casual chronogamers" and "hardcore chronogamers". I'm pretty casual about it, but someday there may be the "hardcore" who will bring with them to the hobby their own collection of pros and cons. I'd like to talk for a moment about taking this whole Chronogaming thing "too far". It is not wise to shun the sight of anything that exists after the point at which you currently stand in your chronology, especially while driving. It's generally considered rude to put your hands over your ears and sing "LA LA LA" while other people talk about such perspective anachronisms as the Xbox 360, or the Nintendo Revolution (EDIT: Yes, this was written before we were calling it "Wii"). When you're not Chronogaming, live in the "now" with other people who may have trouble accepting that you regularly travel through time to play a game when all the other games after it didn't exist. I think it is perfectly acceptable to have a gaming room in which only exists the games and equipment appropriate to your current chronology. Hell, you can even dress as they might've back in the days during which you're pretending to exist. It's inappropriate, however, to ask visitors to remove "out-of-chronology" clothing, especially shirts and push-up bras. And finally, don't be a freak about it. I mean I have a life outside of Chronogaming! Jeez, what kind of a gamer would I be if I neglected things like the Current Gen? Or lusting after the Next Gen? There's more to life than just Chronogaming! There's PC gaming, Retrogaming, LAN-gaming, MMO-gaming, Flash games, mobile games . . . life is too short to become so focused on something that you miss out on everything else. Remember to socialize, too, by visiting a forum every now and then. If you're shy, you can always blog. I would hate to see a chronogamer become so focused on their obsession that they would miss out on the important things in life, like System Launches, pre-order swank, or playing E-rated games with their children. Really, nothing would make me sadder than to see Chronogaming become something that ruined gamers' lives by blinding them to videogame opportunities that are outside of their current chronology. So, please, Chronogame-on! But do it responsibly. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  6. Hey! Where are Dick and Jane? Ah, I understand. They are -in- the moonships. I have included an "as requested" screenshot with a special subliminal bonus of ME in my UNDERWEAR! (caught by my reflection on the TV) I'll expect a lot more female comments after this entry. *nudge-nudge**wink-wink*. Moonship Battle uses the graphics you see above, in a special advanced shot of the screen. (who coined the phrase "screenshot" and when?) Players battle each other using "moonships" that look like a loose interpretation of a pixel face and an inverted version of the same. (Easy to see why they are enemies.) Your resource? A limited "energy" supply, represented by pong-score looking digits at the top of the screen on either side. You lose energy when you move your moonship, you lose it when you fire your moonship's cannon and you lose even more of it when you get hit by enemy fire. First ship to run out of energy - loses. So far, not too bad . . . in theory. The player whose ship survives - "wins", but, really, there are no winners among those playing this game. To play, you have to use the keypad constantly, and this, quite simply, is not a comfortable thing to do. There are RCA Studio II compatible consoles in the world with Joystick attachment/alternatives. Maybe, they are fun to play. For an "action" game, the keypad is just awkward. Gunfighter was also disappointing. Yet another example of how difficult it is for this system to handle any arcade oriented action. There is an indestructible cactus between the two non-animated vaguely humanoid-shaped gunfighters. You can only move them up and down the screen and fire straight across, up to two shots at a time. You use the cactus as cover. Most of the time I shot the cactus. The built-in keypad controllers are also absolutely painful for the "try to keep moving and not get shot" gameplay. "2" and "8" move you up and down while "5" fires your gun. The only thing this game has going for it, is that it has a one-player game mode. This is a Good Thing because it lowers the number of people forced to endure the game itself. The fact that it's a pretty rare cartridge is a Good Thing, too, for the same reason. Other Things about this cart, while not necessarily "Good Things" were interesting either as design choices or tech workarounds. *Shots fired during Moonship Battle are canceled out if they collide with other incoming shots. So, if your reflexes aren't good enough to actually hit your opponent, maybe they're good enough to great a "bullet shield". I'm not saying this is good or bad, I'm just saying this was part of the mix. For Gunfighter, however, it seems that when shots collide, the shot most recently generated continues while the earlier shot does not and a "riccochet" sound seems to be generated. *Another interesting interface decision was with "aiming" for the Moonships. You simply fired in whatever was the last direction you moved. I don't have a problem with this, it's just how they dealt with the limitations of the interface. *The RCA Studio II seems unable/unwilling to detect a collision if part of an object is only one pixel wide, either in Baseball (where the ball would pass through the pixel-thin center of your glove) or here in Gunfighter, where a shot passes through a thin cactus branch. I don't know if this is a limitation, a programming choice or a game design choice. (the "feature" was actually described in the Baseball manual.) It seems to be able to "detect" when two missiles (each only one pixel wide) collide head on, so it might be something the programmers were able to decide for themselves. All in all, this cartridge was the proverbial camelback-breaking piece of straw that made me fed up with the console as a whole. I can't imagine that this system was designed to do anything other than to look good sitting in the same room as your television. I cannot adequately convey how uncomfortable it is to use the keypads to control any of the games which require constant real time input, (Tag, Moonship Battle, Gunfighter, Freeway, Tennis/Squash) nor how little actual fun results from your painful efforts. The basic sentiment that I derive for the entire system is: Why did they even frackin' bother? I'm not a programmer, I have no clue how hard it may have been to make the COSMAC do this stuff, but as a gamer I'm thinking "bummer". Okay, wait let me try to be fair. Yes, this system was obsolete when it was released. Yes, the games are painful to play . . . (um, looking for a bright side) . . . Okay, how about this: Gunfighter was the first home port clone of the arcade game, Gunfight, beating the Bally Professional Arcade's *cough*superior*cough* version by a calendar year! Whoo-wee! Yay for them. Next entry, I'll mutter nonsense about Speedway/Tag. Another R8 game that, by now, you should expect to handle as badly as it does. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  7. From the album: My Game Collection

    the Serial number of said heavy sixer
  8. Hello all, I'm new to these forums, but I'm an avid classic gamer, and I'm ready to step back a decade into the joy that is Atari. Having done some reading and being a collector at heart, it seems clear that to "do this right" I need to buy an Atari 2600 Woodgrain Heavy Sixer (1977, Sunnyvale) with original controllers. I don't care about boxes, manual would be nice but not necessary. Not looking for any games to start unless they are complete in box. While I don't collect my consoles CIB, I *do* collect my games CIB. It's also important to me that the console be in very good to excellent cosmetic condition and function properly. Finally, I'm wanting to get two of the original joysticks that make the lovely "clicking" sound when pressing the red button, and two of the original tennis paddles that have the Atari logo rather than the word "paddle." Hookups for modern-day televisions would be a plus but if not, I can scrounge that separately. If you have all of the above, please reply or PM me ASAP! To summarize, WTB: - 1 original Atari 2600 Woodgrain (NOT Sears) "Heavy Sixer" (1977, made in Sunnyvale) - without box is fine, manual would be nice, but not crucial - must work properly and be in very good cosmetic condition - 2 original joysticks (the kind with the red buttons that "click") - 2 original tennis paddles (the kind with Atari logo instead of word "paddle") - Not interested in pack-in games unless they are complete with box; while I don't collect console boxes per se, I only collect 100% complete games Thank you everyone for your time and hospitality!! (Edit: I now see that there is a separate "Wanted" sub forum. If any mods would be so kind as to move this post there, I would greatly appreciate it! Sorry for the oversight!)
  9. Coleco Telstar Combat (Coleco, 1977) I lost my battle with Coleco Combat! As described in this thread I have a Coleco Combat unit with crappy stickers and a single broken joystick. I took the thing apart (using the "hair dryer" trick) and discovered a snapped "eye-hook" style leaf switch. After putting it off for a few months, I finally took the thing into a local arcade cab repair shop (S&B Amusements in Austin, TX near Northcross Mall) and they looked at it and said: "Mmm, nope, we've got nothing to replace that style of leaf switch." So, daunted, I took the floppy-limbed thing home and decided I might be able to wrangle some gameplay footage out of the console. Unable to load it to my website for some reason, I've put it on YouTube: Coleco Combat - Move, Shoot and Explode In the video you can see many elements of other tank games including the "guided missiles" and the mines. The sound effects come through a speaker built in to the console and do an adequate job of conveying a fairly generic "video tank" sound. I suspect that my console is busted in more ways than just one of its joysticks (black tank's left stick, by the way) as the tanks in the game seem to ignore all of the white barriers, including the border around the playfield. The barriers do serve to block any missiles, however, causing them to explode prematurely -- a nice touch to the design, I think, as I've played other tank games that merely have the missiles disappear if they hit a barrier. I also like that the screen flashes when a shot is fired. Another nice touch is that the tanks are given a feeling of inertia to some extent. To get a tank moving there isn't a sudden lurch forward, there's more of an acceleration, this makes the controls feel a little sluggish, but I think the effect is intended and appropriate. Speaking of the controls, let's talk about the controls. The whole point of picking this particular dedicated console out of a large field of available dedicated consoles (which I WON'T be playing) is because of its unique control scheme. Reminiscent of the Kee Games arcade release, Tank II, the Coleco Telstar Combat console features two "tank controller" stations. Each side has two "up-down-only" grip joysticks, one of which has a fire button on the top of it. While not being a direct, licensed descendant of Tank II, it looks, controls and plays a lot like it, making it a very nice "arcade perfect" attempt for the home. FYI: pictured above is not my actual unit. My actual unit is too horrible in its disfiguration to show to anyone at the moment. These controls, however, no matter how keen, had a bit of a learning curve. My son, who has demonstrated ability at picking things up quickly when it comes to most videogames, took more than his usual 20 seconds to understand how to operate his on-screen vehicle. Obviously, I haven't exposed him to enough tank controls in real life and will have to rectify that situation as soon as possible, though I think the real ones involve pedals. Here's a clip showing the lack of working barriers as well as my son trying to understand the tank controllers: Coleco Combat - Broken Barriers This console supposedly has four different tank game versions. Other than a slight change in background contrast between each one, all four variations are fairly indistinguishable to me. Most likely, this represents yet another failing of my hardware. If I find out anything about those variations I'll edit this entry appropriately. Compared to other tank-a-like games in the home from the 70s (on the Fairchild, the Atari VCS or the Odyssey^2), this isn't a bad example, mostly because it offers the specialized controls. However, given its limited variation in gameplay I can't see it taking up space under my TV for very long. What would be cool is if I could figure out how to rig the controls up to work on the Atari VCS for Combat or future VCS tank games...now that's a good reason for keeping this console around! The next retro-out-of-chronogaming-sequence console we'll do is what is commonly known as Atari Stunt Cycle, also chosen for its unique controller. It won't take as long to get to as Coleco Combat did, I'm certain of that! 16437
  10. Thanks for all of the nice comments and PMs. You have no idea how much they push me forward on this project, not that I've ever considered abandoning it, I just get slow sometimes. See, now we're "retro-chronogaming" -- playing the old games that we missed the first time we tried playing all those old games! I've got a few movies this time, so sorry to those on 56k lines. Atari Video Pinball (Atari, 1977) The pictures below are of the Atari Video Pinball console. This is the version of the console which is, sadly, lacking in the faux woodgrain finish. On the top of the console, you can see the large knob. That's for controlling the paddle of the Breakout game included within the console. If you look on either side of the console, you can see what appear to be knobs protruding from either side. Those are actually oversized buttons used to control the pinball flippers in the video pinball variations. The person who thought of placing the flipper buttons on the sides of the console in imitation of the location of the flipper buttons on an actual pinball machine was either inspired, or just doing it the only way that made sense to them. This location of the controls has huge potential as when one starts hitting those buttons they start feeling that, 'hey this is just like real pinball!' kind of feeling. A quality found in most PONG games is that they are 2-D and Zero G. When not being manhandled by an ENGLISH controller, as on the Odyssey, PONG balls normally sail across the viddy screen in a nice straight line. They also demonstrate an admirable symmetry in their angles of incidence and reflection when interacting with the upper and lower walls of the PONG playfield. In Video Pinball, they've kept the 2-D but they've added a G. Instead of a uniform straight line, the ball travels through graceful parabolic arcs interrupted only by a bunch of junk on the screen masquerading as pinball accessories. Yes, I love the concept of adding gravitiy. Yes, I love the placement of the controls. The trouble with this pinball game is the activity of the on-screen flippers. For this, you'll need a visual. Atari Video Pinball Gameplay Movie (6.14 MB) (No, Sony is not a sponsor of my chronogaming. Though that IS a good idea. I should contact them and see if an arrangement could be made...) Our experience with this game was not unpositive. The ball moves well and interacts with the various, um, squares in a satisfying way. The touble is in those flippers. They appear to not exist between their open state and their closed state, almost like how electrons disappear when moving through energy shell levels. At the end of that last clip, you can see that the flippers can indeed act on the ball when it is in that "in-between" below the exit but above the bottom of the abyss. However, flippers that appear to merely "switch" between open and closed aren't flippers at all. Yes, they should be called "switchers" or "binary state gates" something more clever but at the moment, I got nothin'. You can see on the playfield, that there are some "drop switch" like squares that go away after the ball hits them a few times and they turn a few different colors. They'll reset after all of their brethren also drop away. You can also see the graceful parabolic movement of the ball. This play experience has potential, I just don't like those flipper wannabees. Breakout This dedicated console is also dedicated to Breakout! Yes, the arcade smash hit is now available in your home! The big round dial serves well as the controller. My son and I found this version of Breakout to be, well, hard. The ball really picks up speed quickly and every seven or so hits puts very shallow angle on the ball's trajectory that's a pain in the paddle to hit. I should note that, unlike Video Pinball and the yet to be discussed Basketball, Breakout is in good old fashioned Zero G. It should also be mentioned that one of the Pinball variations uses the Breakout paddle instead of the pseudo-flippers. I wasn't crazy about the gameplay for that version of Pinball either, but I prefered it to the flippers. There was no gravity effect in this one, in that respect it was also like Breakout. Basketball There are two Basketball variants and they illustrate my contention that one of the cool things about the Atari Video Pinball console is that the console itself essentially is the controller. It doesn't merely contain the controls; you practically hold this thing while playing Basketball or Pinball. Here is a video of my son playing one of the basketball games. Notice that his left hand is on one of the pinball buttons and his right hand is on the dial controller. Controller shown and Basketball being played on Atari Video Pinball (3.95 MB) ::ASIDE::For those who care, that's a 34" Sony WEGA Flattube HDTV which I bought in 2004 just a few months before the Plasma HDTVs that you can hang on your wall got much cheaper. Poor market timing on my part, as that behemoth weighs over 100 kilograms. Underneath you see a Wii, a fat modded Korean PS2, a moded Korean Halo green Xbox and a Platinum GameCube with a matching Platinum Game Boy Player underneath it (don't see many of those, do ya? ) Yes, my kids take videogames for granted, but I make it very clear that these are MY toys.::END ASIDE:: The side button is used to give the ball a "boost" in its bounce. To score a basket, you try to maneuver the ball and paddle to a point from which you use the "boost" to get the ball through the top of the net. Which is better shown in the next vid... Video of Basketball gameplay on Atari Video Pinball (3.45 MB) The numbers at the top of the screen are, from left to right, the current score, the high score and the number of balls left. Notice also that, again, we've got gravity in this one. Here is one more video of the other Basketball varient. Deep net Basketball on the Atari Video Pinball console. (3.17 MB) This version is a little harder because you have to get the ball a little higher to consider it "in" but, as you can see, getting it in through the side can also work. Also note the net moves to the other side when a basket is scored. Up to four players can play any of the games by taking turns. Hmm, I don't know how it displays the scores after four people play. It probably cycles through them, but I didn't think to check while playing. When my daughter stops playing Hello Kitty on the 'Cube and I'm done cleaning the kitchen I'll have to check. Next entry we'll laugh at my pathetic and failed attempts to fix my Coleco Combat. 13745 EDIT:: OH THE MISINFORMITY!!! I made an assumption about the option settings being a number of player settings but I was wrong! For instance, in Breakout, option one gives you a big paddle and seven balls, option two gives the player five balls and a big paddle, option three gives five balls and a half-sized paddle and option four gives three balls and a half-sized paddle. Whne a player manages to "breakout" the size of the paddle they are using is reduced by half. So in option one, the big paddle becomes the same size as the half-size paddle used at the start of options two, three and four. When a player "breaks out" in options two, three and four, their half-sized paddle becomes quarter sized--teeny, tiny! So, I retract my statement about multiple players playing. It just isn't true and was an assumption! Good thing I got curious about how the games would display the score for multiplayer. Answer to that question is: there is no multiplayer! So, Seven different games, 4 different options for each game. That's 28 games on this one console. I have to say that while I'm not crazy about the games, I'm still very impressed with the console. Does that make any sense? Oh, and Breakout isn't all that hard afterall, I just hadn't given myself a chance to get back into the Breakout groove.
  11. Guest

    Air-Sea Battle + Little Girl

    Air-Sea Battle (a.k.a. Target Fun) My son and I have played this, but today, on the game's "write up" day, I asked my daughter if she wanted to play. Yeah, that's a Genesis controller plugged into my Atari VCS. Yes, it's anachronistic, but then again, so is she. She said yes! She was happy to engage in what her big guys "waste" so much time doing. Air-Sea battle is a little bit like the Fairchild's Torpedo Alley in that you shoot stuff going across the screen using a "shooter" on the bottom of the screen. The similarity ends there and the quality of this cart, from graphics to gameplay variants, far outshines Torpedo Alley. In the lower numbered games you each have a cannon. Sometimes, the cannon's barrel can be adjusted (raised or lowered). Sometimes, the whole cannon can be moved (left or right). And sometimes, both. Heading across the upper portion of your screen are aircraft, or boats or ducks and bunnies. Quite simply, ya shoot 'em. The higher up they are, the harder they are to hit and the more points they are worth. The other variation on the theme is you control a Ship and your opponent is a Plane (or vice-versa). The plane flies across the screen in either direction. The player controlling the plane can only control the speed of the vehicle and, thusly, the horizontal velocity of their shots. It is, Air vs. Sea in title and function. The Ship shoots up at the Plane, the Plane shoots down at the ship. Some of the Plane vs. Ship variants are neat. They all let you control your vehicle's speed (fast, normal and slow) but one version locks you into whatever speed you're currently traveling when you fire your missile. It allows for some nuance in the gameplay that isn't immediately apparent. I guess this is another nostalgia cart for me. I played it as a kid and I have even more fun playing it with my kids. I'll throw it into the group of carts I'm holding onto... forever! <- PREV | NEXT ->
  12. Guest

    Atari Video Computer System

    October, 1977 The Atari VCS is born! The system that started a lifelong habit for most (edit: many) of us. I can't say anything about this system that hasn't already been said. Seriously, I'm at a loss. My idea for playing every game in chronological order can happen whether I write about it or not, however, it's much more fun for me if I keep a running blog of it. For some games I can feel like I'm contributing something to the community at large when I write about games that hardly anyone has played. Some games, in my little mind, I feel need no introduction or commentary. This is one such game. Combat (Atari VCS, 1977) Now, here I am looking at Combat. The first pack-in game for the Atari branded systems. (I think the Sears branded systems came with Target Fun.) There's nothing I can say about Combat that someone else hasn't already written or said. I'll just say this:In my opinion, Combat was the first truly satisfying "deathmatch" made for a home videogame console. Whether you're playing the Tanks or the Planes you're having fun. Even if it's just for 10 minutes. It won't be 10 minutes you'll regret and it's 10 minutes you won't hate repeating once every other month for like, 20 years. This is one of the few "old games" that I don't have to bribe my son to play. Who hasn't played Combat? (dead silence) (EDIT: Okay, I guess I should realize that not everyone here, just because they're here, has played Combat, so in the interest of historical accuracy, I should say the answer was not dead silence, but I can't just go in and redact my original response... so the edit represents my admission of fallibility. again. I hope someone isn't counting these.) I'm going to make a thread in DP forums and see what I get for answers. Of course, there's always the person who doesn't understand that it is essentially a question that should produce one of two answers ("I haven't" or "I have") but there are people who take polls who'd rather just expose the inadequacy of the choices, ie "I played it on an emulator but that wasn't a choice". To them I say, go play in traffic. Nine games were "launch" titles with the Atari VCS. I'm not sure if there were Nine launch titles plus Combat or Nine titles including Combat. I'm going to go with what is listed in the book "High Score!" which lists the launch titles as: Combat (a.k.a. Tank Plus) Indy 500 (a.k.a. Race) Air-Sea Battle (a.k.a. Target Fun) Basic Math (a.k.a. Fun With Numbers) BlackjackStar Ship (a.k.a. Outer Space) Street Racer (a.k.a. Speedway II) Surround (a.k.a. Chase) Video Olympics (a.k.a. Pong Sports) That list reads like the early history of arcade games, too. Atari wasted no time porting most of the early arcade genres into the home including more Pong variations than you could shake a joystick at. The only two for which I can't think of arcade equivalents are Blackjack and Basic Math. (WTF? I'm looking forward to the first system that doesn't have Blackjack or a Fun With Numbers game.) Next entry I'll try to talk about Indy 500. At least I have a picture for this one from "back in the day". <- PREV | NEXT ->
  13. Guest

    Videocart # 10 - Maze and Backgammon

    #10 - Maze This was fun, but would have been more fun with the directions. We weren't quite sure how to set up the mazes we wanted to play. Of course, now I know where the instructions can be found, but not having them made our selections a little random. This is a maze cartridge that generates lots and lots of random mazes. Apparently this cart is "special" as it is one of the few carts with an extra chip in it (a 2102 SRAM, if you're curious) to help it handle all the work it does. (The other cart is hangman). The maze variations are interesting: Regular Maze, Jailbreak, Blind-man's Bluff and Trailblazer. Regular maze is pretty straight forward. Two mice in a maze first one out wins. (Presumably, cheese.) -Cat and Mouse- NOTE: This is the second game entitled Cat and Mouse on a Home Console system. Can anyone name the system on which this game has also appeared? Hmm? We really had a good time with "Regular Maze" Cat and Mouse. Cat and Mouse involves you and the other player controlling the "mice" in the maze while a fast "cat" square hunts you down. It's pretty exciting when you're cornered and the cat is closing in. Sometimes you'll escape because the Cat may take a different branch before heading down yours, but other times you'll know it it's just a matter of time until it gets you. My seven year-old and I had a pretty good time playing this variation. Another Cat and Mouse variation is called Paranoia. A mouse can't leave the maze until the other mouse gets eaten. Kinda sick, but we liked this one, too. -Blindman's Bluff- This maze variant blanks out the whole maze and you have to "feel" your way through it. This gets old quickly because your trails aren't permanent. EDIT: What I forgot to say is that you can draw a trail behind you to help you find your way, but as you back track you erase your trail. It just wasn't a lot of fun moving around a blank maze "blindly". -Jailbreak- Jailbreak was more fun than Blindman's Bluff, but less so than Cat and Mouse. The entire maze is a grid. You get through the maze by pushing your way through "weak" spots in the grid. Trailblazer is similar to Blindman's Bluff, but instead of a blank maze, it's a completely "full" maze and you have to figure out where the trail is. One of the interesting things about the game design is you can leave a trail for your opponent to follow so that it either helps them or hurts them. Our exploration of this title, however, didn't inspire us enough to fully explore the subtleties of this feature and I leave it as an exercise for the reader. Actually, when you think about it, Blindman's Bluff, Jailbreak and Trailblazer are really all the same game. You're trying to get through a maze which has its paths completely obscured... Hmm. Yeah, well moving on . . . We stayed on this cartridge for about 30 minutes and didn't go away hating it. We'll probably never put it in again, regardless. #11 - Backgammon This Videocart actually taught me how to play Backgammon. Something I hadn't managed to do for myself in 37 years of life. My son managed to pick up the rules, but lost interest pretty durn quickly. He's just not interested if there's not a shread of Narrative to make a game less abstract. I guess I could have made something up about pieces representing prisoners and they can only move so far, yada, yada, yada. Yeah. I doubt he'd have bought it, too. I had no problem with the implementation of this game. The rules were there and they were enforced by the computer. The graphcis were ugly, but that's really not worth quibbling over during the "baby steps" of this era. The problem that I do have with the cart is that it only supports two players (As opposed to a single player variant against the AI). Wouldn't it be easier to just play with a regular Backgammon set? I can understand why it might have been difficult to program an AI, especially one to support different levels of difficulty, but if you're going to make a videogame a "port" of a boardgame commonly found in the real world (or at least it was, back in the 70's, just flip over your checkerboard.) at least give someone a reason to prefer it to the boardgame other than it being on TV. That's it for now. Next entry: Baseball, I think. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  14. Okay, since it's a "TV School House" sequel, one might expect the same sort of standardized testing format. One might, but one would be wrong. This is actually a Math test game, you can compete against yourself or another player. The drill is the same as the Math game built into the system. A problem is shown, you get points for answering it correctly, the quicker you answer, the more points you get. Up to 10 points can be awarded per problem if the answer is input within the first 1.5 seconds after the problem is posed. Response time, difficulty level and type of math problem (the basic four, see manual page scan, or a combination of them) may all be selected. This is better than the built-in math game. The problems can have answers which are greater than 9 and they certainly have more variety. The one problem that can't be solved is the fact that this really isn't a "game". It could be considered a "competition" if you're playing against another player, but not a game. Rather than do a full summary of the RCA Studio II in the next entry, as I normally would, I've decided that in the spirit of the system, I'll just do a ugly little half-assed summary right here. We had more fun with Space War than any other cartridge, but that wasn't much. Patterns, built-in to the system, was a little fun in a 2D on color lava-lamp kind of way. Moonship Battle/Gunfighter, Tag, Freeway and Tennis/Squash were all painful due to the built-in, non-detachable keypad controllers. Baseball was technically the most, um, complex game in the library. It kept track of innings, scores, balls and strikes. It was a little fun, but it was too long. Bowling didn't suck as badly as some of the others. I'm just sayin'. Fun with Numbers. I've nothing more to say about this "arcade" cart. The TV School Houses are not games, so, screw them. Blackjack is just too mundane to give a flying fig about. And that's all I feel like bringing myself to think about. Bonus Feature - The "lost" game: Bingo!!! No, I don't have it. But I'll tell you everything I know. According to a post on usenet dated April 17th, 2000, a person named Dan was driving home from Phillyclassic and rediscovered the RCA Studio II game, Bingo.http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.v...54253f28d02636f So, there you are. That's all the information on the internet which I've found about this game, other than what it says in the (since republished) DP Guide which is: "TV Casino Series. Includes 20 bingo cards & 150 marker chips. comes in a larger box than the normally miniscule RCA game boxes." I'm assuming the box is blue-themed, because it's from the TV Casino Series, and that the box is the size of the TV School House I box, just because that's what I'd guess. Your mileage may vary. I'd love to understand the mechanics of gameplay and how the RCA Studio II handles this game, but alas, the email address in the usenet post is defunct. If anyone has Bingo and wants to share some of that information, the world would be grateful, at least the dozen or so people in this world that reads this blog. A picture of the box? A scan of the manual? A dump of the ROM? Screenshots? A little essay talking about what the game is like to play? Anyway, that's all for the RCA Studio II. At best, it was disappointing, at worst, it was frustrating to the point of generating small fits of impotent rage. Next entry I'll start again on the carts for the Fairchild VES that carry the copyright date of 1977. We'll start with Videocart #4. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  15. Guest

    Speedway - Tag - RCA Studio II

    Speedway: race your squares around the track. When you hit the wall or the other square you stop dead and have to slowly accelerate again. It has one good thing going for it, as far as interface design, and that is that you don't need to hold down a particular key for the square, er, car to keep moving in a particular direction. It continues to accelerate in the direction of whatever key was last pressed. This helps alleviate much of the interface discomfort that I've complained about in some of the other games. Speedway only supports two players (no one-player variant). It's pretty frustrating to test out by one's lonesome but I was unable to induce my son to join me on this one. I said that it was a racing game and he said "Daddy, those don't look anything like cars." He -is- right, they really don't look anything like cars. The only thing I can come up with as an excuse for why they don't look like cars is that the machine couldn't handle "turning" a car shaped object to face four different directions. Tag: There isn't a more primitive videogame on a programmable system. Anywhere. Ever. Okay, maybe there is, I just haven't seen it yet. Now, let's move on... Tag is two shapes -- one square and one square missing two corners -- on an otherwise blank screen. One of the squares has a dot on it, indicating that the other square needs to chase it. After 10 seconds (or after the chased square gets tagged) the other square gets the dot and that square becomes the hunted. Very unfulfilling, to say the least. Okay, two available carts left: TV School House and Math Fun: TV Schoolhouse II. For those of you playing along at home, we are skipping over Bingo because it is soooo, gorram rare, if it had even been released in the first place. (Some think it was just a demo and never actually published). <- PREV | NEXT ->
  16. Guest

    RCA Squash

    Jane: "I think my legs have fallen asleep." Dick: "At least you have legs." How could they get this one wrong? The ball looks like it's moving across the screen in skips and jumps from coordinate to coordinate rather than doing that smooth trajectoring that I've come to expect in "Pong"-like games. Even the paddles move in jerky motions -- which probably has something to do with the fact that you control them with the keypads. At first I thought that maybe it's the first Pong-like game to be displayed in a system with "resolution"? But then I realized, no, the Fairchild VES had blocky resolution and their paddles and balls moved smoothly enough. I have no idea, I just know that this would be the absolute last Pong-clone I would want to play if I wanted to play a game of Pong. The last. Okay, next entry we'll take a look at . . . well, crap, this just isn't enough to write for an entry. What else can I talk about? Okay, here's a theory, proposed to me at vgXpo, by a guy named Andy, regarding the RCA Studio II. I'm not quoting him directly, so don't bug him about it if I butcher what he suggested. He said that maybe the RCA Studio II had keypads directly on it and undetachable because the designers thought that couples would be playing videogames together. I don't think this is a bad analysis. Think about all the ads from the mid '70s related to videogames that seemed to promote them as a path to recreational intercourse? There's a website that has a bunch of arcade flyers and if you peruse that site you can find ads that either display direct male/female contact ("Gotcha") or at the very least showing a male playing a game with a female looking on, very closely. (um, I forget the name of it, Gran Track 10?) I also recall seeing couples in ads for the Fairchild VES and featured on the box of National Semicondutor's dedicated console, "The Adversary". While the Studio II doesn't have any male/female thing happening on its console box (other than a Mom, Dad and Child, which does imply a the parents had sex at least once), six out of the ten game boxes I have for the Studio II display a couple (always the same couple) sitting together and staring at their TV with a Studio II hooked up to it. While no obvious touching is going on, clearly the message is supposed to be "videogames may be experienced with members of the opposite sex". This is a nice theory, but I'm sure we all know how it's worked out. (Damn, I'm really abusing parenthetical commentary with this system. I hope it doesn't become a habit.) Whew, well that was a little too much thinking for one entry. Next time, I'll complain about Gunfighter/Moonship Battle. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  17. Guest

    None more Blackjack

    Dick and Jane (above, on the box cover) still can't bring themselves to touch this infernal contraption. They continue to sit there, unmoving, staring in disbelief at the atrocities that were committed in the name of Consumer Electronics. This is no worse a game of Blackjack then that found on the Fairchild VES, except for the part where the black and white graphics make you appreciate the fact that the real world is polychromatic. An interesting thing about this Blackjack, in the context of the "era", is that this version uses TWO 52-card decks and reshuffles them when there are 21 cards or less left in the dealer's deck. The Fairchild VES version only uses ONE 52-card deck and reshuffles if there are 16 cards or less. I have no idea how this variation affects the playing of the game or the calculating of the odds, but occasionally I like to take you behind the scenes, just to see you smile! This game is "winnable" if you break the bank at 999 (dollars? francs? mesetas? who cares? it's pretend!). What makes this game far less exciting, than say, playing Blackjack on a Louisiana "river"-boat, is that, if you lose the game, (ie, run out of your "money"), you need only "reset" the game to play again. *sigh* Without any true risk, a gambling game just doesn't appeal to me. I decided to remedy that by increasing the risk!From now on, whenever I go "BUST" in a gambling videogame . . . BEFORE I restart the game with a fresh supply of money . . . I have to pawn something. Preferably an object which a close friend or family member holds dear. It doesn't have to be anything worth more than, say, $20, because the risk isn't the "money" so much as it is the "reaction" of the close friend or family member when they can't find their "precious" collectible. Moments like that are priceless. For everything else . . . well, you know the rest. Next entry we have "Fun" with numbers. This is, apparently, a usage of the word "fun" of which I am previously unaware. (Apologies to the estate of the late DNA for the butchering of his well-penned line.) <- PREV | NEXT ->
  18. Guest

    Built-in and Charm-Free!

    When you play games on the RCA Studio II, you have to change your whole perspective on life. You have to remember that you're lucky to even live in a world where such a thing as videogames exist. Then, you must remember that you are one of the few citizens of this planet who can spend money on videogames without having to worry about eating. Being so fortunate, how can you not greet each day, at the very least, with a faint smile? You know that if you choose to do so today, and if you manage your time well, you may play a videogame. Surely, even if it is a mediocre videogame, you should remember how lucky you are to have the opportunity play it. Count yourself twice lucky if you get to play even a mediocre videogame with a loved one. If you have a good attitude and an overwhelming awareness of just how sweet your life is you may be prepared to experience the RCA Studio II System. However, even with a "count your blessings" perspective, it is exceedingly difficult to enjoy games on this system without starting to damn the misuse of planetary resources. You will find yourself mourning the trees used to make the RCA Studio II game boxes. You will shake your fist at the squandering of petroleum and silicates used to create the plastic casings and the electronic circuitry. You will curse the fact that there are actually chemicals being used in your brain to store the memory of playing these "entertainment products"... in fact, these brain chemicals could have been better spent reminding you to move your bowels. And with that happy thought... on to the games: All of these games rate Ungood. If I describe one as "Fun", I mean it is "more fun" than getting hit in the face with an entire train. There are five built in "games" on the RCA Studio II. You get to them by pressing a combination of keys on one of the keypads rather than putting in a cartridge. The first one we tried was Doodle. Doodle was slightly interesting, but not a game. You can create very simple blocky drawings with Doodle. After you've finished your artwork, press a button and then watch in fascination as the RCA Studio II manipulates your art into an color inverted form. RCA Studio II creates a negative of your "art" by scanning row by row and turning "on" any pixels that are "off", and vice versa. It's slightly hypnotic, but given the low resolution, less fun than an Etch-a-sketch and a good deal more expensive. The next is called Patterns. Patterns is slighty more interesting than Doodle. It uses the same control method as Doodle except now you just draw a tiny visual "motif" and let the mighty COSMAC chip elaborate upon it, over and over again. If you've ever found fractal patterns interesting you might find these patterns interesting in a "complexity from simplicity" kind of way. However, before "playing" you should bear in mind that they are nothing like fractal patterns and a lot less interesting. Bowling was "fun enough" (remember the train?) for one game. The ball oscillates vertically on the left side of the screen. At any point in time that you choose, you send the ball down the alley with a command to "go straight", "hook up" or "hook down". Wherever the ball collides with the "pins" determines how many pins fall down. The math in this machine can't handle sending back bowling scores one frame into the past. So if you get a strike, instead of adding your next two balls to that frame, it simply gives you a 20. A spare is 15. A perfect game is 200. I rolled a 154 and feel no compulsion to push myself beyond that feat. Initially, Freeway was "fun" according to my son. How could any game with cars in it not be "fun"? He soon changed his mind when he realized how simple it was. You control a car on a narrow road. You approach a computer controlled car from behind and try to avoid it as you pass. Again and again. The gameplay is neither fast nor furious. The computer car is so easy to predict that it that you could tell someone else when to hit certain keys while you went into the next room to get a snack. What is interesting, from an interface design perspective at least, are the controls. It is a single player game but the player uses both keypads: keypad B (#4 and #6) controls steering and keypad A controls the speed (#2 for increase, #8 for normal and #0 for decrease). Someone make it stop. EDIT: That paragraph really didn't end right. I had some kind of a brain-fart while editing and never cleaned it up. There was really no transition from describing the interface to describing the pain. That's because the pain is overwhelming, I guess. Addition was a nice little math drill for my 7 year old. The game puts up three digits, you have to add them and press the number on the keyboard before your opponent does, or before time runs out in the case of playing solo. You score points, up to 11 for each problem, based on how long it took you to add the three numbers. Since there are only ten keys on each players keypad, the numbers will always sum to less than ten. I'm completely exhausted by this, you have no idea how draining these games are. Next entry, we'll go over Space War. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  19. Guest

    RCA Studio II

    It is now January 1977. 1977 is a year of extremes in the home videogame universe. On the one extreme, call it the "bright side", we will see the birth of a mighty system which will bring joy to literally millions of people. On the other extreme, call it the "dark-as-the-inside-of-a-cow's-butt side", we will see an ugly little system that will bring pain and misery to the select few brave enough to purchase it and gaze upon its grotesque and deformed offerings. Okay, enough with the hyperbole. (I think it's pronounced "hy-per-bo-lee", but I always want to say it "hy-per-bowl".) *1977 contains the continuation of the Fairchild VES (to become known as the Channel F). *It also will mark the birth of the Atari VCS, destined to bring the love of videogames to millions. These are the sweet high points of the year in terms of home videogame consoles. (Other stuff was happening with home computers, very important stuff. We'll have to save that for when I do chrono-computer gaming.) The low point is the RCA Studio II, which came out in January of 1977. The system does have its bright spots, however, these spots are only bright when set against the darkness that is the rest of the system. Firstly, the most fascinating thing about the RCA Studio II is the microprocessor that runs it: The RCA COSMAC. This particular chip has the honor of being the furthest man-made microprocessor from Earth. Ever hear of the space probe Voyager? Well, the same chip that runs the RCA Studio II is still running Voyager. Voyager is now billions and billions of miles from Earth (seven, actually), thanks in part to the same object responsible for the videogame Tag. More on Tag later. I'm going to go through every game released in the US for the RCA Studio II, except Bingo. Bingo, apparently, is extremely scarce. This is one of those game for which I will but say "gee, I wish I could play that game". There was a site once that had screen shots of this game, but they don't anymore. As far as I know, Bingo, is an RCA Studio II exclusive. The rest are (in no particular order):Baseball, Blackjack, Speedway, Tag Space War, Gunfighter, Moonship Battle, Biorhythm, Tennis, Squash, Bowling, Freeway, Patterns, Doodles, Math-TV School House I, Math Fun (TV School House II), Fun with Numbers (TV Arcade I) Here are some pictures of the system . . . Take a look at this!! It looks cool enough to maybe not suck! (hah, if only.) Just so you know, you use this with your TV! The Built-in games . . . in glorious Black and White! RCA's logo emblazoned on the styrofoam looks pretty classy. Take a look at this!! It looks cool enough to maybe not suck! (hah, if only.) I have to say that I like the way the system presents itself: The box art has a nice "family friendly" look to it. The console itself has a metallic finish and looks very cool -- the way the future used to look! Even the Styrofoam is pretty slick, um, for Styrofoam. The built-in games, pictured on a side panel of the box, are just too painful to talk about this entry, especially since I've already been abusive of the system enough for one day. I'll talk about the built-ins next entry with renewed venom. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  20. From the album: My Game Collection

    same heavy sixer, closeup to reveal base
  21. Guest

    Basic Math and Blackjack

    Basic Math Okay, don't talk to me about basic math, see? It ain't a game, see? It ain't fun, see? It's math, man! It's not even "fun" math, like differential equations and shit. It's plussin' and minusin' and multiplyin' and dividin'. Phooey! Blackjack Oh, please, dear god, why? Why is it always Blackjack? While the graphics for the Fairchild version of Blackjack are slightly more ambitious (remember the rounded, green dealer's table graphic?), Atari's Blackjack is superior in many ways. The sound is better and it allows for up to three players, who can come and go during the game as they please without disrupting the other player's games. It has a difficulty option which determines if the dealer shuffles after evey hand (difficulty "A") or if it shuffles when 34 or more cards have been dealt (difficulty "B"). The other difficulty switch lets you choose between Casino rules and Private rules. Private rules is what I noticed was missing from the RCA and Fairchild Blackjacks. One rule in particular was the rule I kept looking for: if you take a hit four times without "busting", you win the hand. It's Atari's version that lets you have that, which is why I remembered it, because it was Atari's version that I actually played as a kid. You "break the bank" at "1000". Atari's edition of Blackjack also neglects to use the dollar sign to denote currency. The advantage of this is that you can pretend that you are gambling with gold pieces, kitty cats or radioactive rods -- whatever your avarice requires! It also allows them to sell it in other countries without having to make up versions of the same game with different currency symbols. This is a "competant" version of Blackjack. However, once again, I'd like to point out: IT'S JUST BLACKJACK! Why'd they even bother? Did they do a focus group in Vegas? Do they really think that the type of people who enjoy gambling would enjoy doing it with pretend money? Hell, it's not even money, it's just "points" that you can call "money" (or dubloons, or yen, whatever.) In keeping with my new "house" rules (established after the RCA Blackjack): After I lost one round of Blackjack, (and lost 200, um, pesos), before I could play again, I had to pawn an old multi-colored glass desk lamp which belonged to my wife since high school for $20. (It said "tiffany" on it. Wasn't she an early 90s pop star?). I did it just to get that "I'm-a-pathetic-gamblin'-kind-of-guy" feeling. It made me feel "dirty" which was actually pretty cool. My wife sure will be surprised, because she was going to get it "re-stored" anyway so I re-stored it for her. See? If it's in a Pawn Shop, it's in a store again. That's what it means, right? Re-Stored! Haw-haw-haw! HAAAW-haw-haw! Haaaaw-haaaw-HAAAAAW! Next Entry: Star Ship. (It's odd to see the word "starship" it written as two words, but then again, people still rip apart the words "video" and "game" to talk about videogames.) <- PREV | NEXT ->
  22. Guest

    the walls are closing in . . .

    Surround (a.k.a. Chase) After Combat, Surround was one of the original nine carts that I remember playing most fondly as a 12-13 year old. I remember getting the game cheaply (about $10) at JC Penny's on 69th street in Upper Darby, PA. (Most likely, just before, or maybe even during, the "crash", but here in 1977 we don't know anything about that, do we?) The game variant that my friends and I seemed to laugh the most during was the one where you can turn off your "trail" and go faster and faster up down or across a wrap-around-screen. Eventually, one of us would veer off and try to leave a trail across the others path, hoping they'd be too zoned out to notice. There are many arcade versions of the Surround game-type, some of which had options for up to four players. Atari's Surround was for two players at the most, but also included a one-player version for practicing. For those of you who don't know. In Surround, each player starts off with a square in the middle part of the screen. When gameplay starts, the square moves forward, leaving behind it a square to mark its passage. You can't stop your square from making another square behind it so you keep moving in any direction where a new square has not been drawn. Eventually the screen is very full of "trail" from you and your opponent's square. You have to outlast your opponent by not slamming into a trail and trapping them so that they do. "Surround"-ing them with your trail is a good strategy as it leaves them with an area from which they cannot escape while they continue to leave a space-filling trail. My son and I have been having a ball with this, and this is one of those games I will choose to keep for nostalgia reasons as well as for fun. Oh, I almost forgot to list the next entry. Next Entry: Air-Sea Battle. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  23. Guest

    Indy 500

    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? <- PREV | NEXT ->
  24. Videocart #12 - Baseball Two player only, this one. I'm not complaining, I mean, in real life you need at least three, plus equipment. The age of videogames has at least cut it down to two. We like this one a lot better than we liked our attempt to play Odyssey Baseball(1972) or RCA Studio II Baseball(1977). This "port" doesn't deal with player stats, batting zones or runner tokens. At this point in time, I think that's not a Bad Thing. It's in color and the sound isn't anemic . . . well, I should say isn't as anemic as RCA Studio II's Baseball. The "at bat" player, obviously, controls the batter. The "fielder" player controls the pitching and the fielding. As the pitcher, it is fun to fake out your enemy with a sudden slow ball, or even bean him just because he looks at you funny. Having different pitches and having them represented visually, at least as far as speed goes, is a big plus for this version. Incredibly, we managed to play an entire game of Baseball! At the end of it both my son and I could say we had a good time. We especialy enjoyed beaning the batter, because at their heart, all sports are about doing whatever it takes. Videocart #13 - Robot Wars and Torpedo Alley Two games on one cart! Robot Wars and Torpedo Alley. Robot Wars was interesting for a minute. The robot on the box cover looks a lot like an R2-D2 droid from the new and great Star Wars movie of 1977. Maybe, there's an influence there, but it stops at the box. The playfield consists of you (an upside down Y) a few squares and a few robots. The robots chase you and you try to "trick" them into running into the squares (force fields) so they are destroyed. If you don't, then they run into you, and, eventually, you're toast and the level is their's. Their artificial "intelligence" seems to consist entirely of the instruction "move towards the player", hence, it is very easy to lure them into the force fields. Just stand behind one of the blue squares and a robot will throw itself into it for your amusement. Each time one of the robots touches you, one of the force fields disappears. When you're out of fields, there's nothing you can do to kill the robots, so you lose the point for the level. All in all it was a fun game for about a minute, then you start to realize: it doesn't change. It doesn't get any deeper. The enemies don't change tactics. There isn't anything to "figure out" other than you can move faster than they do because you can move diagonally and they can't. The levels don't change, though the squares and robots do change their starting locations. Pretty much every point is the same as the previous point. There's no reason to ever play this game again after you've played it once. Torpedo Alley is a shooting game. Each player shoots from a cannon capable of left to right motion. You're trying to take out ships that move across the ocean above you. The fun is when two players play at the same time. One player can try to take out ships that the other player might be shooting for. The closer, faster ships are only worth one point and the ships at the top of the screen which move the slowest are worth five points. There are obstacles across the middle of the screen to make it more difficult to hit the higher scoring targets. Not great and not awful. I think all these games suffer most from the fact that, back in the year 2005, we've got other games to play. If it were 1977, a rainy day and I had never seen a home videogame before, I think I would've enjoyed spending an hour or so playing Torpedo Alley or Baseball with my brother or my Dad. EDIT: Requested Screenshots of Torpedo Alley! Okay, next entry, the last of the 1977 Fairchild VES games -- Videocart #14: Sonar Search. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  25. Guest

    TV School House I - RCA Studio II

    Here is a scan of both TV School House I and II for scale comparisons. (In case you've never seen one of the RCA "longboxes".) I didn't even try to coax my son to play this one because it isn't a game and it requires knowledge that he does not yet posess. Remember your SATs? If you are not old enough to have taken them yet, then try to remember any standardized test you've ever taken. This game pack is like those tests -- except the questions are a lot less interesting. The main component of this package is the test manuals. I guess the box, which is twice the size of a regular cartridge box, was enlarged to accommodate these manuals. Inside each of the two manual varieties are 18 quizzes. The subjects quizzed are pulled from Social Studies (covering geography, history, government, cultures, graph interpretation and map reading) and Mathematics (covering addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measurement, Roman numerals and logic). The way the programmers decided to handle the tests is clever and somewhat sneaky. You put in the cart, you start the game and you select less time or more time (1 or 2) for answering the questions (about 10 seconds for 1, 20 seconds for 2). You then select a quiz number. I'll use the first quiz in the Orange Series (Advanced) booklet as an example. The quiz page for quiz number 1, has a map of Europe at the top. Selected countries are labeled with a letter from A to H. Beneath this map there is a two-column answer grid. In the left column there is a number for each row, going from 0 to 9. In right column there is the name of a country. Social Studies, Quiz 1: European Geography, consists of the RCA Studio II displaying a letter and the test taker inputting the number corresponding to the correct answer from the answer grid. For instance, Letter A on the map of Europe is situated on the outline of the country most of the world knows as Portugal. When the Studio II puts up a letter A, you answer the question by pressing the numbered button for Portugal, which is "8". The game gives you points based on how quickly you answer the questions, up to 120 points per quiz. The cart comes with four quiz books, two each of yellow and orange, so two players may participate at the same time. This two-player version pits the test takers against each other. The first to answer correctly gets the points. Answer first, but incorrectly, and you're locked out of your keypad until your opponent answers. So, what's so sneaky about this? Well, it's how the programmers get around any memory limitations imposed by the machine. You've got four sets of 9 quizzes. The answer to question A in quiz number one for Social Studies (Orange book, European Geography) is 8. The answer to question A in quiz number one for Mathematics (Orange book, Addition) is 8. The answer to question A in quiz number one for Social Studies (Yellow book, State Location) is 8. etc. . . Essentially, they've stored 72 letter-number combinations and then created 4 different sets of quizzes to fit them. Clever and sneaky. Anyway, this doesn't even count as a game, so technically, I shouldn't have even bothered talking about it or "playing" it. But it was in my the little pile of RCA Studio II carts so, what the hell. I do think it's interesting to see this attempt at a pseudo-standardized testing environment on a console back in the early days. In fact, I would speculate that this sort of thing is what the corporation may have had in mind all along. Try to sell these "testing" cartridges to the schools. It really seems to be the only thing this system is good for. That, and running the Voyager probe. TV Schoolhouse II: First Blood next entry. (I was going to say TV Schoolhouse II: Electric Boogaloo, but I couldn't stand my spellchecker telling me I was spelling "Boogaloo" wrong.) <- PREV | NEXT ->
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