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Found 59 results

  1. UFO/Sea Monster/Break It Down/Rebuild/Shoot (APF MP1000, 1978) I'll say one thing about this cartridge: it has motion. Getting decent screenshots of any of the games on this cart was impossible for me, due to the constant motion of one or more of the elements on any given screen. Well, except the menu . . . UFO and Sea Monster are reverse variations of Sea Wolf style gameplay, almost. UFO-1 just has you blasting alien drones that move across the screen. The UFO that scores the most hits, wins. Yee-haw! UFO-2 is the exact same thing, except you're blasting alien passenger saucers (or what I imagine to be saucers containing sentient beings.) hit the most saucers and you win. Yee-awn! Sea Monster has you in ships a little more domestic and floaty. This time you're shooting at Sea Monsters that traverse the bottom of the Sea Screen. There's a catch to this one. Hit the Sea Monster, gain 5 points. Hit one of the cute friendly fish and you lose all your points. One strategy is to hit the Sea Monster once or twice and then don't fire at all, thus keeping you from inadvertently destroying friendly sea life. This was a little fun. I'll mention that the sounds for these games are all quite adequate. No complaints there. Below are three links to .mov files that try to capture the essence of these games in about a megabyte, each. (DEAD LINKS WERE HERE AND ARE NOW GONE) Break it Down and Rebuild are interesting. In the former, there are rotating square perimeters at the bottom of the screen. Player to clear theirs with the least amount of shots wins. Rebuild is the exact opposite of Break it Down. You have to shoot "invisible" places at which a part of the rotating square perimeter appears when hit. Hopefully, the attached .mov's display the essence of the gameplay. (dead links were also here but this time I'm proclaiming it without using all-caps) The last game is called Shoot with three variations. Shoot a Little, Shoot and Shoot a Lot. (one more removed dead link) The variations are only in the amount of ammunition with which one starts the game. You and your competitor each control a laser-cannon-like device which fires a solid beam up the screen. You're trying to hit either of the square blocks that are going back and forth across the top. When you strike them, you gain points and they change color, speed, or both. When you run out of ammo, your game is over and the person who does the most with their starting ammo wins. I'm astonished by my lack of anything even moderately amusing to say about these games. These games are neither bad enough to activate my sense of humor nor good enough to activate my sense of fun. Maybe I'm just tired from OVGE, which was awesome by the way. We've got One. More. 1978. APF. Game! I was lucky to "win" (purchase) a working copy of Brickdown/Shooting Gallery and we'll look at that one next.
  2. Even STARLOG called them tapes: STARLOG Number 11 (page 42) It was January of 1978, back when most people were still painting pictures on cave walls and learning how to make fire, so they had an excuse for misunderstanding the technology of the gods.
  3. Guest

    Basketball, Atari VCS

    "Grandpa, why does your leg phase in and out of existence when you walk?" "What? Oh, well, that's just my Blinky Leg." Basketball, Atari VCS (1978) The solution to the problem of animating a human figure has many approaches. (I'm not an animator so forgive me while I just talk off the top of my ass.) You could do it the Hard Way, which would be filming a person moving around and redrawing every frame exactly as it appears OR the Easy Way, which would be to just draw something that vaguely looks human and move it around. Then, of course, there's about a thousand Middle Ways between the Easy and Hard Ways.The person who programmed Basketball for the Atari VCS took the Middle Way that was about two pixels above the Easy Way. He used a still side silhouette of a person, which makes sense, given that most of us see Basketball players from the side as they move to either our right or left. The problem with a side silhouette of a person is that the person appears to only have one leg. To make up for this he put a second leg in a slightly kicked and bent position extending in front of the player. To add the "illusion of life" he had that leg blink in and out of existence whenever the player moved. Is it effective? Not supremely, it looks really silly, but, this is a videogame and not "The White Shadow". Does it add to the point that this little figure is a basketball player and he's moving around? Well, yeah. Then I guess it is effective. Someone tell me if this is the first animated character with the simulation of moving parts in Home Video Game history or not. Anyone? Anyone? Playing these hoops is a hoot. It is fast paced and unpredictable. My son and I have been enjoying this on and off for the last two weeks. He actually asks to play this first when I ask him to help me play an "old game". No lie. Note: We don't use the term "crap game from hell" anymore. After abusing the term so much during the RCA Studio II exploration period, Satan let us know that even he felt bad for forcing people to play RCA Studio II games. I apologize for my presumptions. My son has actually gotten pretty good at Atari VCS Basketball and can block my shots more often than not. He's also gotten good at shooting baskets. He's not yet as good at stealing the ball as I am. Needless to say, we play some very close games. If I pretend to be "the grown-up" and put my difficulty setting on "A" (which slows down my Player sprite) he kicks my ass. Screw that. The beauty of this game is in its use of simple identifiable elements from the real life game of one-on-one basketball. You shoot the ball, you block a shot, you dribble the ball and you steal the ball. Also, the ball bounces with its own physics model after you have taken a shot. Except for there being no skill whatsoever involved in dribbling the ball, (it is automatic) all the elements are there. In fact, adding a conscious element to dribbling the ball would be detrimental to gameplay. Being able to focus on maneuvering your player and timing your shots makes this game playable for pretty much anyone who understands how to use a joystick and button. This particular cart has the distinction of possessing the first simulated 3D playfield in home videogame history. The basketball court is drawn in perspective, so it looks like a trapezoid, which is what a basketball court really looks like when you look at it from the side. (Try it yourself!) All these design elements would be great for a two player game, but Basketball goes one step further by adding a one-player game against a computer opponent! The computer opponent seems to adjust to the player's skill as well, getting agressive if the player is doing well or holding back a little if there are indicators that a beginner is at the stick. Oh, and if any of you didn't already know: If you have a child that seems to have trouble "getting" the whole Atari joystick thing (for instance, never remembering to keep the button to the upper left) a Genesis controller is a great way to get around that little setback. The "B" button on the Genny controller serves the same function as the red button on an Atari joystick, by the way. (Try it yourself!) Okay, next entry is a surprise! Only because I can't remember what game we played after Basketball . . . <- PREV | NEXT ->
  4. Guest

    Hunt & Score aka Memory Match

    Hunt & Score aka Memory Match aka A Game of Concentration I think there should be a limited and defined set of "real world" games that are appropriate for translation into the art form of videogames. The following is my hastily composed list of criteria. 1: Any real world game for which it may not always be easy to find a human opponent. 2: Any real world game that normally involves two or more teams, physical exertion or a lot of expensive equipment. 3: Any real world game that might kill, maim, or drive you into bankruptcy. 4: Any real world game that just isn't easy to find out in the real world anymore. Of course, this list excludes the consideration of market-driven forces and therefore isn't worth a damn. The "need" for Hunt & Score, while not a bad game by itself, is obviated by the pre-existing Memory Match card games that most every parent already has sitting in their closets and/or playrooms. The "real world" version of this game has illustrations, both more colorful and more numerous, making it, respectively, more entertaining and more challenging. I don't see the point for making this game other than the fact that there must've been a perceived demand for it. I don't know enough about sales numbers for Hunt & Score to know if they were wrong or not. You may choose between a 4 by 4 grid and a 5 by 6 grid of memory cards. You punch in the number of the card you wish to turn over, view the card, type in the second card's number, hear a happy sound indicating they match or a sad sound if they don't. You get to go again in the two-player game if they do match. The difficulty switches merely control the number of points you earn when you make a match. (One point on setting "A", two points on setting "B") While I was able to play the one player game of this title, I wasn't able to play the 5 by 6 grid version because the bottom of the grid extended off the bottom of my old TV screen. When I tried to play it on a more modern television, the picture rolled. (Maybe I have an odd copy of the ROM in my Cuttle Cart 2?). I didn't try playing this with my son, as, unfortunately, we haven't been able to spend time with the Atari since I started my new gig this week. Perhaps this weekend we'll correct that, but I suspect that my bottom line will still stand. Bottom line is: I don't think the game of Memory Match needed to be turned into a videogame. Nice thought. Thanks for trying, but really, it wasn't necessary. Next Entry: Hangman aka Spelling. UPDATE: My son and I played this today and we reached the same conclusion as supercat. Why did they make this a keypad game when a joystick would've worked? We enjoy memory games, too. We just didn't enjoy this one very much.
  5. Videocart #17, Video Pinball, FCF 1978 I wasn't able to find instructions for this one, but the label has enough guidelines for use that we were able to figure it out for the most part. It's not really Video Pinball at all. It's Video Breakout, which is the same as saying Breakout (licensing issues aside), since the "video" part of the name is assumed. We do enjoy some of the variations on Video Breakou-er-Pinball as presented on this cart. The game variant called "Cooperation" allows one player the ability to only move the paddle to the right and the other player can only move the paddle to the left. This is fun because it allows the players to yell at each other, while cooperating. "Move it back! Move it back! NO! Too far! Baka!" (yeah, we watch a lot of anime.) (PSA)This can actually engender more bad feelings than a head-to-head competition, so play with others at your own risk.(/PSA) "Crossover" is interesting in that it puts both player paddles on the screen, each at a different vertical level. Players alternate sending the ball up to the bricks and switch to the front (upper) level when it is their turn to hit the ball. If they miss when it is their turn, their paddle disappears and the survivor plays out the ball. The "Blok" variants are pretty cool. In addition to controlling your own paddle, you're given control of a paddle further up the screen, just below the wall of bricks. You use this smaller paddle to block your opponent's ball from hitting any bricks, which stops them from scoring (which enables you to whup their sorry bottom). All of the games allow you to adjust the size of the paddle to a pixel-fine degree, so that's nice if you really wanted to hone your Video Pinball skills to a sharp edge or just create a massively wide paddle if you prefer your skills to be honed to a soft shapeless mass. The "mode" setting manages such things as invisibility mode, increasing angle of deflection mode, paddle shortening mode (gets shorter after every hit) and what I'm assuming is a ball speed-up mode. We haven't got the instructions so I'm speculating based on casual observation. I'm sure with some math, we could figure out all the possible mode variations and we'd come out with about 32 different ones, which is what they already came up with for us. I'm sure I didn't try all the modes. You can forgive me for that, can't you? Let's just say 6 different games times 32 variations for each game equals 192 games, which, were they Atari, they would have emblazoned on the cart and box proclaiming the cart to contain 192 games. Oh, and I think I've realized the error of one of my (many) erroneous ways. (Please don't tell me about my other erroneous ways as I like to stumble on them and be surprised, and later depressed. Then I go into denial and I'm fine again.) I've often said that I like the Channel F controller, lots, because it is a joystick, a paddle and a plunger all in one. Well, I think I've been wrong this whole time about the "paddle" part. I can't really call it a "paddle" in the same sense that we refer to certain Atari controllers as "paddles". The twisting action only goes about a quarter turn in either direction. It's more of a "twist right" or "twist left" functionality, meaning there's only three "twist states" for the controller (left, neutral and right). When using a genuine paddle controller, one can feel that they have precise control over the speed at which their conjoined virtual paddle traverses the screen. Let me just say, in case I've given the wrong impression: The Fairchild Channel F controller does not lend itself well to that type of control at all. I apologize if I've implied it does. To get around this, the programmers of Video Pinball come up with a creative, but not altogether effective, solution. To move the screen paddle to the right, move the joystick to the right. (no surprises there, stay with me). To make it move faster, push slightly forward on the stick while moving it to the right. To make it move slower, pull slightly backwards on the stick while moving it to the right. The deduction of how to control the speed while moving the paddle to the left remains as an exercise for the reader. Clever, Yes? Very manageable? Well, not completely unmanageable but not completely "bee's knees" either. All in all, like a lot of the Fairchild Channel F games, Video Pinball gives me the impression that there were some smart people designing games for the Channel F, but that the machine itself must've been a real pain in the tush to work with. I like the fact that they did some cool Breakout variants, but the controller just doesn't serve their ideas very well. Next entry: Channel F's Hangman, because the public demanded it.
  6. Guest

    Ugly Homebrew

    Guess what that is!!! It's a Bally Professional Arcade controller which I Frankenstein'd from an Atari VCS joystick and paddle. Oh, and a small white cardboard box, newspaper and scotch tape. No solder for the wiring either, just cut, strip, twist and tape. Scotch tape. Now, there's a lot of people out there who lend a bit of flare to their homebrew hardware projects. Quirky behavior like planning and design were left behind while I did this completely on the fly and without any real forethought other than . . . "hmm, I needs me a paddle controller . . . Atari gots a paddle controller . . . guess I'll cut one up and see what screams." Anyway, as of now, it's the only completely functional Bally Astrocade compatible controller in my house. It will allow me to chronogame the rest of the Bally for 1978 at least. I might have to build another one someday soon.
  7. Guest

    Red Baron / Panzer Attack 1978

    Red Baron / Panzer Attack, Bally Professional Arcade, 1978 Bally's machine continues to thwart me at every turn. I opened a sealed, slightly smooshed copy of Bally game #2003, Red Baron / Panzer Attack and upon inserting the cartridge into the machine and turning it on, I was greeted with no change in the default menu of the Bally. My "sealed" cart is unfunctioning, still-born out of its factory-provided protective film. Broken it is, and broken it shall remain, given my dearth of electronics knowledge, until, quite possibly, the end of this world! Trying to play games on the Bally Professional Videocade has been challenging, due to issues having nothing to do with the games themselves. A stern reminder that, these games are frackin' old. We must be careful around them, lest we might recklessly exhale and our very breath corrupt them into disrepair. The ROM, the proverbial soul of this cart, does boot up in the MESS emulator, sans sound, which I imagine would have been pretty good. The games on this cart are Bally's version of Atari's Combat. In Red Baron, there are two player-controlled planes which fly around the screen and shoot at each other. There's a field from which they take off. There's a little airport in the center of the field. There's a cloud in the sky behind which they can hide, for a brief respite from the horrors of air-to-air combat. In this latest example of the recurring theme of two friends pretending to kill each other, the playfield is picturesque indeed, but the sky is the limit because the sky stops at the top of the screen. In other words, there's no up-down wrap-around, but there is right-left wrap-around. I imagine the gameplay would be similar to the plane part of Combat, except there are no variations on the play; no guided missiles, no difficulty level for either player - just go up, maneuver and shoot. Parts of it impress me but most of it doesn't. Then again, I'm not actually playing the game, so what the hell do I know? The tank game sports multi-colored tanks. Another early example of multi-colored sprites on a console in a world that, in 1978, had yet to see multi-colored sprites anywhere else, even in the arcades. That is pretty cool, doncha think? Panzer Attack also supports up to four players. Awesome if you have the controllers for it. The tanks in this game, like Combat, can only move in the direction they're facing (compare to Desert Fox on the Fairchild machine which let them strafe for the love of Pete.). The game is pretty much a "last tank running" type of game. One shot and you're out, your killer gets the point. When there's only one tank left, the other three are resurrected and the positions are reset. Unfortunately, I can't give an account of what it was like to play this cart, due to its unfunctioning disposition. Fire it up yourself in the MESS emulator to get an idea of how it moved and how it looked. If you can get the sound to work, so much the better. One more Bally game to go for 1978, Tornado Baseball and its cartridge co-inhabitants, Hockey, Tennis and Handball.
  8. Guest

    Football, Odyssey^2, 1978

    Football, Odyssey^2, 1978 Wanna dance? Like Bally's Football, Odyssey^2 Football does a good job of offering the plays and the interaction that the real sport promises, without the bone crushing, spine shattering injuries. Major difference between this and the Bally is that the Bally shows a "slice" of the football field and scrolls the field to accommodate movement, while the Odyssey^2 Football shows the whole field all the time. The Bally animations seem to move a little more realistically, too, but that's just a general impression and I can't validate that by saying I counted the frames per character or anything. The game starts when the whistle blows (which sounds pretty good) while the players are in their huddles discussing their plays. Defense and Offense selects their plays by moving their joystick to a particular position based on plays as diagrammed in the instruction manual. It's not a bad idea to have those plays memorized before playing, because if you don't, it's harder to pass the ball to your wide receiver, who is the only one who can catch it. When he does catch it, you lose control of your quarterback and you take control of the wide receiver. The figures that you can control are distinguished by noticeably thinner necks. I think this is a useful, subtle idea and less distracting than say, making them blink, or turning them a different color or putting a cursor under their ass. That's really all I can think to note, otherwise, it's a football game and I guess it isn't a bad game at that. We had some fun with it, we're just not huge football fans. Something I should talk about is a short line found in the manual. "On-screen electronic sensors enable the defensive linesman to follow the ball automatically." Huh? on-screen electronic sensors?!? . . . I think that says a lot about the time period in which this is written and either the level of understanding the marketers had about the technology or at the very least, the level of expectations they had of their customers' understanding of that technology. I'm going to guess, that here in 1978, more people have a general understanding of electronics than have a general understanding of programming algorithms. So, terms like "enemy AI" or even "artificial intelligence" itself, aren't exactly in the public meme. However, everyone who's seen a James Bond movie knows about electronic sensors, right? Next entry, Bowling and its sister sport, Basketball.
  9. Okay, I'm back with all my chronogaming equipment and ready to do this whole chronogaming thing again. Yes, time in general has moved forward in my absence, but I'm still stuck in good 'ol 1979, looking at the APF games from 1978 that I missed the first time through. (Or was it my second time, since technically I lived through 1978 before) Today, we're looking at the one I thought I might never see and regret for the rest of my life. I'm fairly prone to "stress" and "regret" dreams. Though definitely more the former than the latter. Lately, I've been doing a lot of studying for a class I'm taking (Federal Tax Accounting, whee.) and last night I had those horrific school related-acheivment dreams where you find out about a class you've never attended or you're naked in a class you've never attended or you're naked taking the final exam in a class you've never attended, etc. So, my worry was that after doing this chronogaming for 30 years or so I'd be waking up screaming: "Slots!! I never played Slots on the APF M1000!!" Not that I'm a big slots fan, but the slogan is "every game. chronologically" and, well, you know, if I didn't do slots, then I wouldn't have done every game. (Yeah, I know, I'll probably never do Bingo for the RCA Studio II. Boo-fucking-hoo. I'm over it.) Casino I: Roulette / Keno / Slots (APF M1000, 1978) EDIT: I came up with a pithy way to sum up this cart. These games all rely on luck, however if you happen to be playing them, you don't have any. /EDIT Roulette was attempted for the Magnavox Odyssey waaaay back in 1972, six years ago on the chronology. I hated it. Really. On the APF, I also hate it, but it is a kinder, gentler, less italicized hate. First let's look at presentation, which you will be able to do when I post a screenshot. I'll just talk about it, for now. The presentation is good. You've got your little bank at the bottom from which you place bets, you've got the mainboard on which you may place bets from 1 to 9 and the side boards which take bets up to 99. Placing bets is strange. You move your marker around, left to right only, until you're at your bet and you input your amount. The amount doesn't show up on screen while you input, nor are there any audio cues to indicate you're inputting anything. You just hit "5", hit "enter" (or "fire") and a "5" will show up under the position you're betting on. There may be a limit to how many bets you may place, but I didn't find it. I placed 12 before I felt I was just pissing my life away and had to stop. Payouts are simple, 2 to 1, 3 to 1 or 36 to 1. This is a two player game, by the way, and both players may place their bets simultaneously! That's a nice feature, as proceedings would seem to stretch interminably if it weren't there. When you "spin" the wheel the number indicator goes through a bunch of numbers randomly for about 12 seconds and when the number comes up, all the winning points on the main board are marked. It's actually pretty spiffy. The problem is: it's still Roulette! I just can't get excited gambling in such an abstract manner for merely a score! I can't see that there is any skill involved; I can't see any "clever" bets that will improve one's odds! It's neither a puzzle, nor a game and it is as fun as flipping a coin except there's even less money involved. Keno is a new game (EDIT: by new, I mean, new to videogame-land), in fact, I'm tempted to say that it's an APF exclusive! You've got a Keno board with 80 numbers. You pick 2 to 15 numbers (out of 80), (your co-player may also choose numbers). When ready, you pull down your stick, the computer clears the Keno board and picks 20 numbers of its own (out of 80). If your numbers come up ... you win! You start with $100.00. Each time you play a group of numbers it costs $.70. The amount you win varies depending on how many numbers you've chosen vs. how many numbers you've chosen that the computer pulls up. With one number chosen and chosen correctly the payout was $2.10. (though I thought you had to pick between 2 and 15, mistake in the manual?) When I picked 5 out of 8 correctly I won $1.40. Kids, you can do the math for this at home, if you want, I'm mathematically paralyzed by not caring. The presentation is good enough, as you see in the screen shot; the Keno "board" is shaped like one. There's an area for your picks below it. Everything moves quickly enough, for Keno, I just see no draw for this game. I just can't imagine people designing this game, based on a real Vegas game, I'm told, and thinking there would be people who would enjoy it. Buy it? Maybe. Enjoy it? No way. Slots. Slots is awful. You can't choose the amount of your bet. You just pull back on your stick and the machine goes. The noise produced by the slots, um, slotting, is unpleasant. The graphics are fairly colorful, but as representations of icons found in a slot machine, they're a little hard to identify, though not impossible. The horror is that you just pull back on your stick, you lose a coin from your bank, the slots "whir" and you either get a payout, or you don't. I just don't get it. Two players get separate banks but have to take turns pulling their respective stick. What the heck is up with that? You can only win 2 coins (one cherry) or 5 coins (two cherries). If you're very lucky, you can get three gold rings (or lemons, not certain) and win 10 coins. If you're even luckier, you'll lose power before you lose 40 minutes of your life trying to find out if there's a "jackpot" or something. If there is, 40 minutes is too long to wait to find out, but I'm certain that, eventually, you can win more "money" for other sets of three; I just never saw them. Now I can lay this little obsession to rest and I am happy about it, despite how unenjoyable Casino I is. See, "enjoyable" isn't really the point of this whole exercise, is it? No, it's merely indulging an obsessive compulsion. Of course, 20 years from now, I'll wake up screaming: "Slots!! Oh, god, I played APF SLOTS!!! *sob*" (EDIT 2021: Well, it's been almost 15 years and no nightmares. Just thought I'd let y'all know.) Next entry we'll do another APF gem, I think we'll try Backgammon. I have the instruction booklet for this one, too, so I'm a little excited.
  10. Guest

    1978 Protoview

    1978 Protoview Yes, I'm well aware that there were other things happening in the world of electronic entertainment during 1977-78. I'm only focusing on the Home Videogames for programmable systems. That should be more than enough to keep me busy for a good long time. So, let's look at 1978. There are four (possibly five) active consoles in 1978: Atari VCS Fairchild Channel F (formerly VES) Bally Professional Arcade The Magnavox Odyssey^2 I'm pretty certain the Bally console didn't get out and working properly until April of 1978. I really have no clue as to when the Odyssey^2 made its debut. For purposes of keeping this mess manageable, I'm going to continue by starting 1978 with the Atari (hell, mine's still hooked up from 1977) move on to the Fairchild's last hurrah (before it's Zircon resurrection.), continue with the Bally Pro Arcade and close the year with the Odyssey^2. Here's a list of what came out in 1978 as far as I can tell. I welcome any corrections should I be in error. Atari VCS 1978 Basketball Braingames Breakout Codebreaker Flag Capture Hangman Home Run Hunt & Score Outlaw Slot Racers Space War Fairchild Channel F 1978 #15 Memory Match #16 Dodge It #17 Video Pinball #18 Hangman #20 Video Whizball Bally Professional Arcade 1978 Gunfight / Checkmate / Scribblin / Calculator (built ins) 280Zzzap / Dodgem Clowns / Brickyard Elementary Math / Bingo Math Football Letter Math / Spell & Score / Crosswords Panzer Attack / Red Baron Tornado Baseball / Tennis / Hockey / Handball Magnavox Odyssey^2 1978 Armored Encounter / Subchase Baseball Bowling / Basketball Computer Golf Cosmic Conflict Football Las Vegas BlackJack Matchmaker / Buzzword / Logix Math-A-Magic / Echo Speedway / Spin-out / Crypto-Logic I'm not entirely sure about some of the years on these, but again, I'm trying not to be too anal about it. The other console I think may have existed in 1978 is the APF MP1000. I don't have that one yet, and I'm not sure if it was 1978 or 1979 during which it was released. If anyone can set me straight on that, I'd appreciate it. EDIT added APF games APF MP1000 1978 Backgammon Baseball Blackjack Bowling / Micro Match Boxing Brickdown / Shooting Gallery Casino 1: Roulette / Keno / Slots Catena Hangman / Tic-Tac-Toe / Doodle Pinball / Dungeon Hunt / Blockout Rocket Patrol UFO / Sea Monster / Break it Down / Rebuild / Shoot Hmm, 1978 may take until Thanksgiving 2005 to get through! Next entry we'll start with Basketball for the Atari VCS. <- PREV | NEXT ->
  11. Guest

    Brickyard / Clowns

    Sorry for the long absence. In setting up our Christmas living room my Bally Pro Arcade was trapped underneath a table. To get to it we would've had to move a large sofa bed and we just weren't up to it. Now the holidays are over . . . let the chronogaming continue! Brickyard / Clowns - Bally Pro Arcade 1978 Brickyard is essentially Breakout. The only variation from Atari's Breakout is that there is some music and a stunningly good brick busting sound effect. I might have mentioned before that the sound on the Bally is pretty good and some of the lower pitched sound effects have a real punch to them. When you hit a brick in Brickyard it sounds like a nice "thump". Other than that, it's just Breakout with a different name. Clowns, however, is something different. Clowns gives a bit of context to the Breakout/Brickyard gaming model. Instead of a featureless pong ball/square being hit with a paddle to destroy simple colored bricks, you now have to knock around wacky, dancing fun clowns that teeter-totter up to dizzying heights, popping an array of colorful balloons! See? Doesn't that just sound a lot more fun? Well, for the most part, it is. The clown figures are animated. They have no clown-coloring to them, but they are definite representations of the human figure and they do things. Clown things. They kick, jump, do splits in mid air and hop around--just like real clowns!!! It's quite effective in providing just enough anima to give the little guys likeable characters, ahem, for clowns, that is. The clowns propel themselves up along a quasi-ballistic path to pop the balloons marching across the top part of the screen, all with the help of their teeter-totter and a little bit of Newtonian magic! You move their teeter-totter with the controller knob to catch a clown jumping from a platform on either side of the screen. Catching him propels the clown on the other side of the teeter-totter into the air to pop more balloons. The twist from Breakout/Brickyard is that you must catch the clown on the part of the teeter-totter that's "up". If you catch him on the "down"side, well, I don't know how to say this, but you "lose" a clown. Awww, poor clown! Don't feel sad, though, the Bally plays a teasing tune and sends out the next clown! Yay! Another clown! You can chose the number of clowns per game as well as have multiple-alternating players. (I only had one controller hooked up so we just took turns playing a one player game with 50 inevitably doomed clowns.) Despite being genetically engineered to dislike clowns, my children were, in a word, delighted by this wholesome clown game. My wife even enjoyed it in the sense that she enjoyed watching the kids enjoy it. The only problem I have with the game, is that the clowns move a little jerkily through the air. It's as though some unseen overmind calculates the locations of all the moving balloons before updating the location of the moving clown. Maybe it's just me. As a side note, I should talk a little bit about my packaging experience with this title, not because I find packaging interesting, but because I only find it interesting because it is so uninteresting, and therefore something interesting to me. The copy of Clowns that I managed to acquire was sealed, as in never touched by human hands (assuming it was packaged by robots or apes). I must note that this is the first time, during the six years of Chronogamer, that I've opened a sealed game (it won't be the last time, either. If you collect sealed games you may cringe a little). Upon opening it, I learned that the cover art of the gamebox, is actually the cover art of the manual showing through a window in the gamebox. The gamebox, as printed, is completely generic, identifiable with a particular game only by a sticker placed on the spine indicating the game's title. The cartridge is freed by opening up the backside of the box. I don't know the name of this type of packaging, but I think that the very earliest Atari games (like Combat and maybe some of the other '77s) used this same box style to hold the cartridge. The cartridge, fresh out of a sealed package, had aged, despite its near airtight suspension in plastic. The glue affixing the label had soaked through to some extent during its 25+ years of sleep, giving it a stained, um, aged look. It works just fine, it just doesn't look "new" as the day it was sealed. Let this be a lesson to all of you here in 1978 that plan to freeze yourselves to see what videogames are like in the distant future year of 2000. I won't give anything away, but I will tell you that Smell-i-vision never catches on like we thought it would. The manual, while having colorful cover art, is amazingly bland inside. It looks like reduced typewritten pages stapled together. If you've ever read a text file of a Bally manual, you're actually looking at a fancier version. I honestly don't remember what's next in the line-up. For Christmas, I did a bit of a clean up and closeted most of my Chronogaming lineup, much to my wife's joy. Now, finding my stuff is a bit like rummaging through a storage unit. I think the next game is Seawolf, but I won't swear to that, especially if I can't find it.
  12. Guest

    Tornado Baseball, Bally, 1978

    Tornado Baseball, Hockey, Handball, Tennis - Bally Pro Arcade, 1978 These must be popular sports. Let me just point something out here. Magnavox Odyssey 1972 Baseball Hockey Handball Tennis Fairchild Channel F 1976 Tennis (built in) Hockey (built in) Baseball (1977) RCA Studio II 1977 Baseball Tennis / Squash (Handball by another name) Atari VCS 1978 Home Run (Baseball) Video Olympics (1977) (Tennis, Hockey and Handball included) Blackjack and some kind of Fun with Arabic Numbers variant also seemed de rigueur for the period. I just don't wee WHY the marketing departments of the world thought this was what we still wanted in 1978. I guess that explains why these three games were all crammed onto the same Bally cart, as if they were saying, "if you have to have 'em, here they are." The Hockey, Handball and Tennis games on the Bally are a little bizarre. It is nice of them to replace the paddles with actual human figures, so thanks for that. Control of their movement is strange, however. Your paddle/knob moves your Hockey/Tennis/Handball players up and down, but the joystick moves them from side to side. Different? Yes. Awkward? Also Yes. Effective? Well, maybe after a while, but we would've fallen asleep if we had played too much longer. I mean, these games are essentially PONG all over again. Baseball, no wait, I mean Tornado Baseball is a different story. This was probably based on an arcade game of the same name which I vaguely remember seeing in an actual arcade back in the 70s. Hmm, I'm sorry, I've completely lost my "let's pretend we've journeyed back to 1978 " attitude. Okay, after watching brand new episodes of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley we put in this new Bally cart that has Tornado Baseball on it, just like the one in the arcades! The players run out on to the field, just like they do in a real baseball game! Damn, that expression gets old quickly. The gameplay is a lot like the other Baseball games we've seen. The team at bat only has to worry about hitting the ball. There's no lineup to choose or running strategy. Team in the field only has to worry about pitching (with direct control over how the ball curves and passes over the plate or not. Still, no beaning the other player, which would've been fun.) and moving the outfielders around. The infield is all automatons who perform their duties well enough, but there's never any chance for an error. It is interesting to see a player in the field catch a ball and watch the ball bounce around to the other players. We hit doubles, triples and homers (EDIT in 2021: DOH! (sorry for anachronistic Simpson's reference.)), but mostly singles and fouls. It was hard to get a triple or double, harder than it was to hit a homer, even. I can't say this game offers great gameplay, although this is probably because I'm not a real life Baseball fan. That being said, this is still the best Baseball videogame, in the purest sense, that we've seen. It certainly knocks Atari's Home Run right out of the park. The sound is acceptable, though I don't know why they couldn't have included a few ballpark melodies since the machine can sing circles around anything else out there. The graphics are good. The players are animated as they run, they don't just stand still while they float out to their positions. No flicker, either. If you find yourself stuck in 1978 and you just gotta play a Baseball videogame, this is the one to play, at least for now. What's kind of astonishing is how little the design of this, the best Baseball game so far, has changed since the Odyssey Baseball in 1972. Basically, a pitcher sends the ball, controlling the curve and the batter hits it, trying to aim it for a particular zone to get a some kind of hit, while the outfielders move back and forth to catch it. Frankly, I think the Odyssey version had more variation and possibility for interesting situations. Pinch hitting, base stealing, player stats, balking -- I may not have enjoyed it much, but that game had a lot more to it than the recent crop of Baseball games, even though it was more boardgame than videogame. Okay, next entry will be a new system. There are only two left for 1978. Please look forward to it.
  13. Guest

    My APF plea . . .

    This is sort of an interim entry taking place between the sharing my experiences with the Fairchild Channel F and going on to explore the Bally Professional Arcade. I just won an APF MP1000 a few weeks ago on eBay and, in separate auctions, won six carts for it. I still have some time before I get to this system, but when I do, half of its library is unavailable to me. As far as I know, an emulator for it isn't finished and the carts for it are not dumped. I'm about to start playing the 1978 Bally Professional Arcade library followed by the 1978 Odyssey^2 library. Some time around February 2006, I'm going to "need" those APF carts. There's very little on the internet about the gameplay in the APF games individually. Try finding any site, anywhere, that takes each game and gives it its little day in the spotlight. Try finding anything about the gameplay in any of the Odyssey, RCA Studio II or Fairchild Channel F games I've written about, for that matter. The APF M1000 is another one of the systems about which there is very little information available. In addition to this blog, I'm working on a site (www.chronogamer.com)(yeah, it's very primordial at the moment)(EDIT: It never went anywhere, though I still own the domain. Yes, I'm not very good at follow through. At least I can blame my recently diagnosed ADHD.) that will have as much information about this old stuff as anyone will be able to stand, which is why I'm appealing for your assistance. For Chronogaming purposes, I need the following five carts: Backgammon BoxingCasino 1: Roulette / Keno / Slots Pinball / Dungeon Hunt / Blockout UFO / Sea Monster / Break It Down / Rebuild / Shoot Here's what I'm asking . . .Of the five that I need, can anyone lend me theirs? I'll pay shipping both ways (Unless you live near me, then I'll just pick them up.) and I'm willing to leave a deposit equal to 125% of their listed DP Guide worth. I would expect to get my deposit back, when I returned the carts, of course (so it would probably be a Paypal payment which you would refund when you got your cart back). Please pm or email me if you'd be willing to volunteer those items from your collection for inclusion in this blog. Otherwise, I'm going to have to skip over them when the time comes. (not like that's the worst thing in the world that could happen to us all, but still, I'm trying to be thorough here) Remember, I'm not asking for anyone to GIVE me these carts. I'm asking to BORROW them. I'm willing to risk my money and my trade reputation, such as it is. (I have one on Digital Press, but not Atari Age.) For trade references, please see my eBay handle "chronogamer" and my Digital Press feedback in the Feedback Forum (as mezrabad). I will be keeping my eye out for these items on ebay and in trading forums, so, please, note that I am also willing to buy them, assuming they come up for sale or auction, but since I'd only be selling them back someday, I'd rather borrow. Full credit will be given to the lender, at the lender's discretion. Heck, I'd even make you a character in one of our comic strips . . . wait, I'm not Penny Arcade. Okay, scratch the comic strip idea, you'll get credit. Anyway, please consider it. I'm not going to cry my eyes out or end the blog if no one offers, but no one's going to offer if I don't ask. Oh, and I'd also need to borrow the 1979 cart, Space Destroyers, too, but I probably won't get to that until May or June of 2006. Thanks. Next entry we'll start on the 1978 games for the Bally Professional Arcade.
  14. Guest

    Bally Professional Arcade Built Ins

    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.)
  15. Guest

    Slot Racers, Atari VCS 1978

    Just let me babble for a moment . . . First point: Back "then", we just called it "the Atari", right? We left off the "VCS", because it was shorter, and before 1982 the "2600" portion of the title wasn't ever mentioned because there was no other Ataris from which to distinguish it. I've been calling it the "Atari VCS" because that's what it literally was, and to contrast it with its eventual title change into the "Atari 2600". I did the same thing with the Channel F/VES. No consumer in 1976 called the Fairchild Channel F, the "Fairchild Channel F" -- the name didn't exist. I'm not quite sure when it became the "Channel F", but I think it was sometime around when the Atari came out (VES ~ VCS, too confusing). But, to be clear, we never called it "the Atari VCS", we just called it "the Atari" which, in my misguided effort to talk about it like I was in 1978, I've neglected to do. My point is "gee, it's hard to talk about this stuff the way we might've talked about this stuff 25 to 30 years ago." Yeah, I know it might seem easy to those of you with the big brains out there, but my merely "above average" brain is still coming to terms with it. Second Point: You know that I'm trying to write about each game as if I were writing from the perspective of the year in which the debut of each particular game takes place, pretending that the only games I'd ever played were the games that existed prior to the "current" year (and from the same forced perspective). Right? You do know this, don't you? We've covered this material already, you should all know this! *mumble mumble* Oddly enough, I began to find this game of "make-believe" more difficult as I started to reach the games that I had actually played back when these games were the "fresh episodes" of the videogame universe. I'm no psychologist, but this is probably because I'm dealing with two sets of memories. The memory of playing these games back when they were new to me, and the memory of playing them within the last week or so, with my son. I find my 37-year-old self arguing with the 12-year-old version of me (whom I still keep imprisoned in my head) about the merits of each game. For instance, my last entry Space War. I had really liked Space War when I played it waaay back when. Yet, playing it more recently with my son, I didn't enjoy it so much. I know the game hasn't changed any, I guess I've just been exposed to the Cinematronics version more often and more recently so I find that I really enjoy that version far and away above the Atari home version. So, I've got the 12-year-old saying "hey, can't wait to play Space War!" and I'm, like, "meh". And then he's, like, "don't be a prick, you love this shit" and, again, I'm like, "meh". Then he calls me an asshole and goes off to watch Star Blazers. OK, so, my second point would be "gee, it's hard to talk about this stuff the way we might've talked about this stuff 25 to 30 years ago." which is the same point as the first point, but it's such an important point that I thought I would say it twice. Slot Racers is another game on which my memories conflict. I clearly remember being completely unimpressed by it back in the day. It was slow. It was dull. It was completely "charm-free". We didn't have the instructions for it (and no, we couldn't download them, this was before telephones, remember?) (heh) so we had to fudge our way through it and eventually throw up in disgust. Um, throw up our hands, that is. I take it [slot Racers] out recently, find the handy-dandy instructions for it on AtariAge (Hail AtariAge! Let it never fade from the net!) and proceed to have a half-hour of joy and laughter with my son as we merrily play through this interesting little game. Meanwhile, my inner 12-year-old is saying "you dork! we hates this game! we hates it!". The game is two-player only. Meaning, one person can't play it. Neither, can three. Five is right out! (Ni!) Each player controls a vehicle in a maze. The vehicle can move forward and you can choose to turn it to the right or the left in the maze, but you can't make it turn around or go backwards. When you press the red button, the front portion of this vehicle becomes a missile and, as you might guess, you fire it at your hated enemy to destroy them. In some variations the missile may impact a wall, or deflect or turn a corner, but the result desired is the same: destroy your enemy. The exciting part, if you're playing it right, is getting to watch your opponent, who is unable to turn or turn around and run, be driven towards their inexorable doom. They get a big kick out of doing the same to you, too, I might add. The first versions of it are a little slow, but for every slow version, there are one or two faster versions. There are four different mazes. Get the right maze and the right speed, and this game is can be quite a tickle. My wife said she is surprised by how much she hears us laughing while we play this. My inner adolescent really can't come to terms with it, but screw him. WTF does he know? He didn't even want children! Okay, next entry: the last of the actual carts that I have from 1978, Home Run aka Baseball! <- PREV | NEXT ->
  16. Guest

    Dodge-It, FCF 1978

    Videocart #16, Dodge-It, Fairchild Channel F, 1978 We really enjoy Dodge-It. Simple concept: You and your second player (optional) are in a box. A red ball (square) bounces into the box and you have to avoid its many rebounds off the walls of your enclosed space. Avoid it for long enough and it is joined by a second and then a third and then a fourth and so on up to nine bouncing balls. The highest we got was six balls at once. A counter on the left increases as you play and stops when you get hit. If it's the highest score it gets transferred over to the right and stays as a "high score" for that session. Each time you fail to dodge, you are treated to a spectacular show which celebrates your defeat, and a new box is formed. The thickness of the wall varies, so the shape and size of the Dodgespace, a word I just made up, also varies. In addition to the Dodgespace, the game randomizes the speed and size of both the dodge balls and the players. Every game, while being very similar to the others, is always a little different and unpredictable. The one failing of Dodge-It, is that it isn't terribly re-playable. Which, I guess, is a pretty fatal failing. Yes, it is fun, yes it is challenging, but how well you do from one round to the next is pretty much determined by the luck of draw which determines the speed and size, both of the balls to dodge and of the ball you use to dodge. We will keep this game around until something similar comes out. It stands out as a fairly unique entry into the 1978 universe of home videogames. Well, that was a short entry. I guess I should show in some screenshots just to round it out. Okay, this is the protagonist block trying to avoid the other blocks bouncing around the Dodgespace. This is the graphical reward for getting pummeled by one of the balls if you fail to dodge. It's pretty flashy for the Channel F. Next entry will be . . . Videocart # 17! Video Pinball!
  17. Guest

    Exponential Odyssey

    Okay, remember the Odyssey? The one with the Überlays? Well, it had a sequel. The Odyssey^2 as in "Odyssey to the second power" or "Odyssey Squared" or "Odyssey times Odyssey" . . . I guess they named it that because there was also the Odyssey 100, Odyssey 200, Odyssey 300, Odyssey 400, Odyssey 500 as well as an Odyssey 3000, 4000 and 5000. I'm sure I'm forgetting some but I think you see where I'm driving. Why go linear when you can go exponential? I think exponential was the smart way to go. It was an original twist and didn't involve just making a number bigger. It was saying that the very idea was bigger, more fleshed out, taken to the next dimension, as it were. Probably the most stand-out, unique and beautiful thing about the Odyssey^2 is the fact it comes with a keyboard. The keyboard is an integrated part of it and nigh-unremovable. Not the easiest of keyboards to use, given its flat keys, but a full keyboard, none-the-less. In fact, even though it is not a game, I'll do my best to learn a little bit about programming the Odyssey^2 when Computer Intro (1979) becomes available. That's probably what I would've done back in the day if I'd gotten it for Christmas instead of Basic Programming for the VCS. (Jesus Crotch! What a disappointment!) A great and powerful website about the Odyssey^2 is The Odyssey2 Homepage:The Odyssey2 Homepage (EDIT in 2021... not there anymore?) I encourage everyone to visit the site and soak in all the information they can. It will make you better citizens and help you to live fuller richer lives. Information that I can't seem to find often enough are the release dates for the games. This is either something that is "hard to know" or something "no one really cares to know". Somewhere in the past year of preparing for 1978 (I'm only "prepared" up to and including 1979, by the way.) I made a list of games playable from 1978. I usually post these sorts of lists at the beginning of the year. Since I started 1978 in October of 2005, here's a refresher of what I think I should be playing for 1978 on the Odyssey^2: Armored Encounter / Subchase BaseballBowling / Basketball Computer Golf Cosmic Conflict Football Las Vegas BlackJack Matchmaker / Buzzword / Logix Math-A-Magic / Echo Speedway / Spin-out / Crypto-Logic An earlier version of this list had included Take the Money and Run, which I've since discovered didn't come out until 1982. It has been stricken from the chronology until such time as appropriate. As of 1978, the title Take the Money and Run was only a Woody Allen movie, a Steve Miller song and probably a popular expression. I think my conclusion that those games were released in 1978 is based on the copyright year in their manuals. I dunno, I made this list a while back. I'll be rechecking that as I go, but really, copyright date is not the most reliable way of doing it. Case in point: some games on the Bally Pro Arcade have a copyright of 1977, the year before the Bally even came out! I'm trying not to be too anal about this. I know it's just a meta-game. However, under the rules of Chronogaming, playing a game too far before the year it was published in the chronology being used can disrupt the fabric of SpaceTime. I'm sure none of you would want that to happen. So, for the love of Sagan: if you see something listed on there that didn't come out until *gasp* 1979 or later, please speak up. Likewise, if there's something you know that came out in 1978 and is missing. Well, what else can I say about the Odyssey^2? I think something that is notable is that the console itself has built-in graphic sets which the programmers can use. For what it's worth, it does provide a certain consistency of "look and feel" to the software library. Another very consistent "look and feel" is the box/manual and cartridge art. When you get a lot of Odyssey titles in one place they all look like part of the same family. Yeah, Atari VCS does that for awhile, but its longevity insured it would see several design revisions, while the Odyssey^2 remained relatively unchanged throughout its career. (Yeah, I'm speaking out of the context of being trapped in 1978 for the purposes of exposition. ) As is the tradition, I'll start with the pack-in game next entry. Oh, and if anybody cares, I've started up my crappy little website: Chronogamer (EDIT in 2021: No, it doesn't exist.) which is really just these blogs being "rebroadcast" in non-blog form. Yeah, it's an ugly website, but it's not always a pretty subject, either.
  18. Guest

    Blackjacque, APF, 1978

    Blackjack, APF, 1978 Blackjack. Again. I'm really sorry, all of you must be really tired of hearing me bitch about the fact that this game shows up on nearly all the systems. So, let's just get it over with, shall we? Okay, the only thing you must know is that you can choose the number of decks up to four that the dealer draws from, which is cool. The graphics are ugly. The suits are green and black. EDIT: Let this serve as an example of my intermittent green/red color blindness, though I've never noticed it before. The suits are RED and BLACK, just like normal card suits. I went back to get some screenshots and realized I must've been misremembering my colors. (Not the first time I've done so.) I don't know what the "options" are for each hand because we were only able to get it to "hit" us. Sort of a sure way to lose. APF, Atari and Fairchild Blackjacks. EDIT: A comment (below) brought up that these graphics are actually better than any other Blackjack I've shown to date. From the above shots, you can see, that Supercat is absolutely right. There's no good reason for me to have called them ugly. For the record: I was hasty in my pronouncement of calling these graphics "Ugly". These are the nicest Blackjack graphics on any system so far, and it's the only system to bother to include symbols for the suit. I obviously didn't give this particular cart the attention I should have due to not being able to figure out how to control the game. I guess this was an "off day" End EDIT Did I mention that this Blackjack also takes place on a green background, undoubtedly meant to represent the green tables on which these games take place in the casinos? Well, it does. In fact, every game on this system has a distinct "green"-ness to it. Could be my console. Could be my TV. Could be my frackin' eyes. Don't know for sure, but my memories of the MP1000 are green. (except for Bowling, but even the text background in that has green to it, doesn't it?) Probably something to do with . . . nah, I got nothin'. The only distinction to the graphics from other versions is that there is a separating line between the playing areas of the dealer and each player. The pattern is similar to the one you might see on a Blackjack table, but I haven't seen enough of them in real life to be an authority. EDIT I'm wrong again here. This version of Blackjack includes suit symbols. Nice suit symbols. This is an important distinction that I failed to make. End EDIT One plus to Blackjack was the sound effect for the shuffling of cards: it sounded like a long controlled quiet electronic fart. My kids and I chuckled heartily, as I'm sure you would've guessed. It also triggered a Pavlovian response in my children as they suddenly decided "share" their own little shuffle sounds! Um, sorry, I guess that has very little to do with this game, I'm just finding it hard to come up with a different angle on Blackjack so I've resorted to flatulence humor. I'm so ashamed. Yet another Baseball entry is next.
  19. Guest

    Catena, APF 1978

    Catena, APF, 1978 Something to notice about the menu screen: This machine is considered to be a "TV Micro-Computer" by its makers. Well, yeah, all videogame consoles are, technically, "computers", just not what we usually call "computers" anymore, thanks to the great Computer/Console Distinction riots of the early 1980s. But I digress from the chronology . . . First of all, lets just deal with the title. I originally confused it with the word cantina, which is a bar on Mos Eisley, but that's because I'm an idiot. It's actually a smart title if you know what the word "catena" means. (I didn't, I had to look it up.) Catena is the Latin word for "chain" and "Planetary geologists use the word to refer to chains of similarly sized impact craters." Yeah, I copied that directly from Wikipedia.Catena, the videogame, shares the same rules of the boardgame Othello (remember? "A minute to learn a lifetime to master?") using maroon and orange squares instead of black and white circles. With the definition of the word catena given above, isn't that an appropriate name? It is nice to see this game on a console. I don't think it was ever in the arcades (which isn't a shock) and I think this marks its first appearance on a home system, so "yay" for the APF! In case you're not familiar with the game of Catena/Reversi/Othello go here:http://www.rainfall.com/othello/rules/othellorules.asp There's also a version of Othello that you can play here:http://www.rainfall.com/othello/ I'm going to try to link more often to better directions as I always make things more complicated than they should be. In Catena, on the APF MP1000, to select your pieces you input the number of the square upon which you'd like to place your next piece using the keypad on your controller. The computer handles the task of changing the colors of the pieces you "capture".You can set the computer to play against itself, in case playing against the computer by yourself has "worn you out". (Hint: A lava lamp is prettier to stare at.) An odd quirk of the game was that the computer wouldn't "let" me make some moves. I'd have to input the number of the square of my choice several times before it would accept it. Also, there were times when it would place my piece at a completely different position than the one I had been punching in. Problem with the code? Problem with the cart? Problem with the console? Problem with not having the instructions? I don't know, but it was really annoying. The sound also qualifies as annoying. The only sound effect is a non-innocuous clicking noise used to alert you where the computer has placed its piece and what pieces are affected by the move. We turned down the sound on the TV after about three turns, patched our bleeding ears, and resumed play. (Note to self: I need a refresher course on when semicolons are best used.) Opening Move I can say that the game's graphics are functional, but the colors are damn ugly. So is the sound. However, unless I'm mistaken, the system and the game itself get points overall for being the first boardgame translation with an AI opponent on a home videogame system. (Correct me if I'm wrong, okay? Am I forgetting one?) As far as the quality of the AI, I'm not really good enough at the game to notice any problems with it, so it gets points for it even existing.Next entry will be another Hangman game. This one is the best Hangman, yet!
  20. Guest

    Cosmic Conflict! Odyssey^2, 1978

    Cosmic Conflict! Odyssey^2, 1978 Okay, as I said in a previous entry: for flavor I'm trying to include close-up photos of the player-controlled avatars in these games. It doesn't really work for something like Blackjack, and honestly, it doesn't really work for something like this game, never-the-less, here's what you control in this universe: That's your targeting reticle in Cosmic Conflict! The game consists of you "piloting" that reticle (1st person piloting perspective, inverted vertical movement) and maneuvering that reticle over enemy Imperial Ships. Just so you know, the ships move smoothly. There's no blinking or jumping, like there is in the Atari 1st person space shooter, Star Ship. There's a starfield, ships to shoot and your space-windshield reticle. What else should there be? You're in space, after all. The ships to be blown apart come in different colors, but there are only three shape-types. Two of them just move across the screen either horizontally or diagonally (never vertically). The third shape-type starts from waaaay far away as a tiny dot that scales closer and closer as your ALERT klaxon sounds. If you don't manage to shoot it, it will be destroyed by your deflector shields before it can fire a shot. Um, why are we shooting these ships that can't even fire back? Because scraping ship parts off of our windshields annoy us, that's why, and that's good enough reason for me. This game actually has a backstory, sort of -- you aren't just any pilot, the manual calls you a "legendary hero" of the Earth Federation! You have your own star fighter, too, CENTURION (caps theirs). In other words, you're not some peon at the bottom trying to make a name for themselves. You are an established, bonefide hero from the get-go. This goes a long way towards explaining why this game feels so easy. Your mission is to shoot down (apart, really) 15 fighters using the least amount of megajoules possible, because that's the sort of goal legendary heroes set for themselves when energy is tight in their society. You start with 1000 megajoules. You burn 1 megajoule per second just flying your ship. You burn 10 megajoules every time you fire and you lose 50 when a ship splatters on your windshield (vacuum shield?). The maximum top high-score in this game would be 850 if you could make all the ships sit in the center of the screen and rapid-fire through them all in less than a second. No, you can't do it that way, and there isn't a cheat-code either. (Just what exactly is a cheat-code anyway? Must be some future invention for when people are lame.) This is my high score, meaning, it took me about a minute to blow away 15 ships assuming I made every shot (which I think I did). Not a great score, and I'm not posting it to brag but rather to illustrate a point of sorts. This is the first home videogame in the chronology, about which I cared enough to want to improve my high score! I didn't spend hours doing it (only about 30 minutes) but I did want to do better. Why? The messages, man. It's all about the messages. If you run out of megajoules before destroying 15 enemy ships the following scrolls across your screen:MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND: YOU ARE RETIRED IN DISGRACE. That's actually pretty fitting. There's no reason any sighted mammal with two opposable thumbs shouldn't be able to complete this game before their megajoules run out. If you can't, then you're either doing it on purpose (to see the message, like I did) or you just don't care enough about destroying the enemy. That would make you a frackin' traitor, by the way. Jerk. The other messages are pats on the back. MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND: CEASE FIRE. ENEMY DESTROYED. MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND: GOOD WORK. GALAXY SAVED AGAIN. (same as above): CONGRATULATIONS. YOU ARE PROMOTED TO COMMODORE.(ditto): ENEMY RETREATING. GOOD SHOOTING. The first time I saw the "promoted" message, was when I hit my high score. So, I thought the messages were connected to score levels. I hoped, that if I scored anything over 0800, I'd get a message like "DARTH VADER IS YOUR BITCH" or some such. Alas, I wasn't able to achieve that score before I decided it was time to move on. I did some experimenting with LOW scores: I killed 14 enemies and let myself run out of megajoules until I was in the 20s before I killed the final enemy. Low score = 0010 and message was the same "promotion" message as when I got 0794. Really, saving energy must only be your character's goal. Star Command just wants you to frag the enemy windshield stains. Um, what was my point? Oh, yeah: Rankings are cool and promote play, even if it's just to see what rankings are available. I know that these aren't "rankings" technically, but they did keep me coming back to see what I could "achieve". They made the little universe feel less little. I should say something about the sound. The sound is good. No, you shouldn't be able to hear explosions in space, but we'll let that go. The fired shot sounds and the alert klaxon are very effective. For the record, I enjoyed this game. Easy to play, hard (for me) to perfect. I still want to break 800, even if it won't make Darth Vader my bitch. Variations might've been interesting, but, for a change, I think that this one version cart gets it right enough. Next Entry: Armored Encounter! Sub Chase!
  21. Before I do the Odyssey^2 thing, I must report another chronogamer! Xagar's Game reviews Go and enjoy his blog, too, for a glimpse of . . . the future! While you're at it, start a chronogaming blog of your own. It's easy! Simply pick a system, research all the release dates, and play them in order! Okay, it's not that simple, assembling the roms/carts hardware etc can be a bit time consuming (not to mention expensive), and in some cases, figuring out the release dates is hard, but it is fun, um, often! Something I immediately like about the Odyssey^2 is its opening screen commanding me to "select game". No it doesn't tell me what's available, but that would be asking for a bit much, don't you think? (Well, yeah, the Bally does do that. Hmm, and so does the APF. BUT, both do it with less colors.) Speedway I'm trying something different to provide "flavor" for these entries, namely, instead of a screenshot, or a boxshot, I think I'd like to just show the Player "avatar", if you will. That car directly above, is the shape you control in the game, Speedway, which I'm given to believe came on the pack-in cart for the Odyssey^2. A close-up shot reveals things that aren't really there: shadows on the left, sunlight from the right . . . it looks like it has a little more depth than it actually does, at least, to me, anyway. This is a game similar in mechanics to Dodgem on the Bally Pro Arcade. You can move that car left or right to avoid cars that are moving down the screen on your road. It's not a bad little game, but it does become predictable. There's a repeating pattern in the descending cars every three or four cars. With a little practice, one could "beat" this game pretty quickly, or so I would assume. My son liked it well enough, but was ready to move on quickly. Spin-Out Why is it so often Red vs. Blue? Is it because Red vs. Green looks too much like Christmas, or Green vs. Blue is too hard to tell apart? Dunno. In this two-player game, each player controls one of those cars and races them around the track. The directional control is what one would call "absolute" as opposed to "relative". To compare to Indy 500 (Atari, VCS, 1977): Indy 500 is "relative" directional control. As the car goes in a given direction, you steer to the right, the car steers to its right. In Spin-out, you move the joystick to the right, the car goes right, if you want it to turn to its left, you move the joystick up. The car moves in whatever direction you move the joystick. It does spin to face the direction in which it moves, so that's good. Another good part of this game is the collision gameplay. If you hit your opponent, one of you may "spin-out" in place for a little while, while the other continues on as if nothing happened, laughing uproariously at their opponent's misfortune. This was fun, but, if I had to compare it to Indy 500, (its closest relative), I'd have to say I didn't enjoy it as much. There weren't enough gameplay variations and the steering seemed awkward. Still, I didn't dislike it. Crypto-Logic Can anyone figure out what I typed? My son said he liked this one "the most on this cart" which brought a tear to my eye. I'll tell you why. He made me leave the room while he typed in his phrase and he hit the enter key to have the console scramble what he typed in. He called me back into the room and I started puzzling it out. It isn't a cryptogram, technically, it's a word scramble, spaces and all. Anyway, I started figuring out what he typed: it was "GRAET DAD". *sniff!* He said he liked it most because he got to type that to me. Isn't that sweet? For that reason alone, I can't say anything against this cart. Next entry will be Las Vegas Blackjack . . . no I don't have anything sarcastic to say about it just yet. I'm trying to keep an open mind.
  22. Guest

    Computer Golf! Odyssey^2, 1978

    Computer Golf! Odyssey^2, 1978 Computer Golf! is the first golf game for a home videogame console. There are nine different holes and the game supports up to four players.I tried to hype this game up for my family over the weekend, but we didn't get to play. Today, however, both kids were home from school sick. I yelled "Who wants to play Computer Golf!?" and they both dutifully yelled "I do!"(I could've yelled "Who wants to step on puppies!" and I would've gotten the same response.) Players 1, 2, 3 and 4. If you can't tell, they are Mr. Blue, Ms. Pink, Yellow Dude and Purple Babe. My kids just weren't up for this one. My son was grouchy and my daughter just wasn't able to make the fine adjustments to set up the golfer for each shot. My son got even more grouchy while waiting for his turn. I learned that this is not a game to play with more than two people if everyone is playing it for the first time. The waiting can be painful. I can see this as a fun, four person, beer and pretzels game for ONE EVENING ONLY, provided proper training is provided for each player before an "official" game starts. If you're looking at Computer Golf! as a possible recurring event with tournaments and week-to-week record keeping, you might find that your friends' schedules are suddenly full on nights when they used to be dateless and playing videogames. Mr. Blue gazes at the final challenge. For the record: I liked this game best as a single player event. I enjoyed trying to figure the best path around the trees to the cup and trying to find the best angle and power setting to take with my club. I still think I could beat my low score and will probably play again, but only with me. There are a few interesting technical aspects, I think. Each playfield starts as an overhead view of the entire course, through which you must walk your golfer (alas, no golf carts) to the ball after each shot. When your ball does make it to the green, the playfield "zooms" in for a close up of the area immediately surrounding the green. That's pretty cool, to me, and I can't think of another game prior to Computer Golf! in the chronology that does anything remotely similar. Purple on the Green I also think that having the nine different holes represents another "first" in home videogaming. I can't think of another game with nine different pre-designed playfields prior to this point in the chronology. We noticed that you can get the ball into the hole even if you're not on the green yet. We learned this by accident, but were pretty impressed when it happened. This would seem to allow for getting a hole-in-one. Unfortunately, that feat looks only vaguely possible on one or two of the holes, and we couldn't do it. There are trees that serve as obstacles, which can provoke the golfer to have a tantrum if the ball hits them. It is very nice to see a humorous touch. I can't say that I've seen that very often yet in other games. Bottom line: Not bad as a single player game. Not great as a four player game, but not awful, either. If it is winter and your friends like to play golf, then this might make a fun evening, once. One more game for the Odyssey^2 in 1978 and that's Math-a-magic! / Echo!
  23. Guest

    Spoiler! Video Whizball Easter Egg

    Videocart #20, Video Whizball, FCF 1978 WOW! I haven't got the instructions for this Videocart so I felt I should come up with a setting for this ancient gaming gem. Here's the scenario: two squares, (call them "Blue" and "Green") -- enemies from the day they were born -- spit their hatred for each other across a field of battle about which huge lumbering red squares roam (We'll call them "Reds"). To express their hatred for one another, Blue and Green may spit across the field to try to hit one another and force the other to temporarily retire from the field of battle (presumably to wash their face). Meanwhile the Reds roam freely, bouncing off the walls and each other in their mindless wandering. Up to four hulking Reds can stalk the battlefield at a time. Reds can crush our two smaller antagonists if they happen to rumble over them. Fortunately, Green and Blue have an unlimited army of clone replacements. All are ready to fight after a short mourning period. All are filled with the same hatred for the other hue. Unfortunately, while either Blue or Green is down, their respective gate stands unguarded. This gives their enemy ample opportunity to use their acid spit on the Reds, and force one or more through their enemy's gate. Direct enough Reds through that gate, and victory is acquired! The Reds have a speed, direction and an apparent momentum that our antagonists can change by spitting on them. Each spit hit slows a Red down and will begin to force it back towards the enemy. To aim, Blue and Green not only can move themselves up and down in front of their gates but they can also twist themselves diagonally to allow their Spit missiles to traject at an angle to rebound off the walls of the battlefield. If Blue is at his gate and a Red is accelerating towards him (because Green is spitting at the other side of it) Blue can spit with all his might and try to deflect that Red, or at the very least, slow it down. Blue can also maneuver so that, with a diagonal spit, that Red may deflect from its current course, bounce off a wall and propel itself, with all initial momentum plus what Blue has given it, back towards Green. Later levels allow a slight control over the trajectory of the spit missiles. Other levels put numbers on the huge Red squares. Their significance is still a mystery to me . . .We have great fun with this game. One of the nice design elements is the spit physics. Each Square may only have one spit missile in play. This missile will deflect off the playfield walls, but disappear when it hits a Red or the Enemy. The connotation being that if a Red is bearing down on your Square, your Square will develop rapid fire as its shots begin to disappear at a faster rate as the Red gets closer. This gives you defensive power when you most need it. Conversely, as you try to control Reds on the other side of the field, near your enemy's gate, your Square spits at a slower rate and each shot needs to be more carefully considered while your enemy gains the defensive advantage that you just lost by spitting the Red into your enemy's area. Really, this is game is whole bunch of good and one we'll be playing again. (EDIT in 2021: No we never did play it again together, though I did take it out to look at it again.) An interesting thing about this cart is if you start a game and not touch the controllers the computer starts playing itself. There isn't a two-player game to select, just don't touch one of the controllers and the other square will start playing the game. The enemy AI in this doesn't suck either. This game should win an award or something. I haven't played all the games from 1978 yet, but I think I'd give this the Game of the Year Award, or, at the very least, I'd give it a strong nomination. Here are some screenshots. The one with the name in the center is an actual Easter Egg and most likely the first Easter Egg in a commercially sold game. Just FYI. (EDIT in 2021: This did come out two years before Atari's Adventure)
  24. Guest

    Math and Loathing on the Bally

    Elementary Math / Speed Math / Bingo Math Lettermatch / Spell n Score / Crosswords Bally Professional Arcade, 1978 I can't honestly say anything about these titles other than that MESS, which does a great job of emulating the Fairchild Channel F, doesn't support the Bally Professional Arcade as well, at least in my experience. I can't get my PSX controller to interact with MESS in the Bally emulation (like I can in the Channel F emulation) and the analog knob of the Bally is nigh impossible to simulate with keyboard, button or even the PSX analog controllers. If anyone has advice on how to get it to work, I'm all ears. Speaking of ears, the sound in the MESS Bally emulation doesn't seem to work, either. I don't remember having this amount of trouble with it back when I first attempted Bally emulation, but something along the way has changed. I imagine it's my fault, somehow, some driver I'm missing or some update I've missed. Regardless, I didn't even bother buying the above edutainment titles because I assumed they would be easy to play on emulation. It turns out that I was wrong. This also means I'm going to have to search a little higher and a little lower for some of the other Bally titles I couldn't track down, because playing them in emulation just isn't going to provide the experience to which I can apply my razor sharp analysis. (heh, yeah.) I also can't find my little cheat sheet of "what to play for 1978 on the Bally" maybe I blogged it a while back. Guess I'll go look. Okaly-dokaly, no Math or Letter bullshit today. Sorry, I know all of you (all five of you) are disappointed. I'll have to inventory my Bally carts and redouble my efforts to get some more since I don't have emulation to fall back on. Of course, I've used the word "redouble" once before in reference to this chronogaming blog and I've made two entries in the last month. Perhaps I'm using the word wrong?
  25. Well, I wasn't able to bring any chronogaming equipment with me for the summer, but I was able to bring some screenshots that I've finally "processed" and moved to the computer in this place that's hooked up to the net. (Neither of my PCs seem to work with the network here. They've become paperweights.) So . . . Boxing (APF MP1000, 1978) Oh, so, here's the obligatory menu screen. Ya gotta love the alliterative appellations. Slugger Sam, Horrible Harry, Jabbing Joe. This game is from a simpler time when such names could cause amusement for us. Heh. Boxing for the MP1000 kinda reminds me of playing something on the TRS-80. Remember how some, if not most, (hell, if not, all) of the games with graphics on the TRS-80 didn't really have "graphics" per se? The were just ASCII characters or rectangles arranged in such a way that looked like graphics? The Tandy CoCo was probably the same way. Anyway, these graphics look like they're made of not-so-little rectangles, just like Tandy's stuff. Two boxers, differentiated by a slight tan on the left one, start the game out in their corners (er, line segment terminals?) and . . . come out fighting! The stick on the APF controller is squeaky, so since this is actually more action oriented than most of the other games there's a lot more squeaking going on. The stick moves them from side to side, the side buttons launch a punch and pushing the stick forward blocks an incoming punch. Hey, we're looking at the first 2d fighter!!!! See Mr. Paler stick his arm up like that? I call that the "Mr. Fantastic Punch" for some reason. The way it's animated, it looks more like squares are being added as extensions to his arm than it looks like he's moving it. I should still mention that the animation is pretty detailed, stretchy arms not withstanding. The boxers "dance" from one leg to the other as they "float like a butterfly, sting like ..." um, Mr. Fantastic. I call this the octopus shot. Overexposing the picture lead to the combining of the two organisms into one eight-legged beast with two heads. Horrible to behold yet impossible not to stare at. This game supports two players and, impressively, supports ONE player. Yes, they've provided the three nemesi mentioned (Harry, Joe, Sam) to pose as punching bags. I'd love to describe them as three delightfully distinct opponents, each with exciting nuances that differentiate them from one another, but it seems I lack a "sense" for such subtlety. Either that or they are all exactly the same. (EDIT from corrective post I made later: Boxing: I mentioned before that there are three AI driven boxing opponents with different alliterative names yet indistinguishable fighting habits. THAT was an incorrect statement. I played it again yesterday and say that each computer opponent has a boxing style primarily concerned with their offense. Horrible Harry punches every 3rd beat. (one, two, PUNCH, one, two, PUNCH). Slugging Sam swings every other beat (one, punch, one, punch) and Jabbing Joe stabs at the air every beat (jab, jab, jab, jab). Just thought I'd mention it as I wasn't kind when I spoke of the variation in opponents before. (Hey, it'd been a month or so since I'd played it. Gimme a break.) END EDIT) Here's the blocking feature in action. Blocking is when one boxer holds up their hand and the other boxer's stretchy arm extension thing can't penetrate. Oh and here's what everybody is waiting for. The shot that shows one brute hitting the other so hard it DEFORMS HIS HEAD! Reporter: "Rocky, do you think you've suffered any brain damage?" Rocky: "I don't see any." This came out in 1978, just two years after Rocky. (Best Picture, 1976) but since my chronomachine couldn't handle going back to 1978 (after having already moved on to 1979) I can quote things from Rocky II even though it didn't come out until 1979. Makes me want to yell "YO, ADRIAN, I DID IT!!!" Or if Creed had won . . . From what I understand, when someone is unconscious from being hit in the head many times, they're not really "asleep" so those "ZZZs" are really misinformative. Can anyone give us the details on being unconscious? I try to put a little science into each and every post. We had fun with this, squeaky controllers and all. I can't remember anything about the actual sound effects for the game; it's the squeaky controllers that stand out in my mind. I don't know what I'll look at next. This entry was supposed to be the casino cart (slots!), but I didn't take any screenshots sooo, we'll see what we got.
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