After buying the joysticks, I invited my neighbor and friend, Mike Hudak over to play. We spent alot of time over the next week, battling for the World Series in fictional games. We took turns trying to get the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series (a much more ridiculous notion back in the mid 80's). Then something happened that completely changed the game forever. We discovered "The Pitch"!
In every game there are flaws and this game had an unhittable pitch. I cannot remember who accidentally discovered it, but it was soon known by both of us and the games became endless perfect games. No matter how we tried, we could not hit "The Pitch" and soon the game became very boring. Something had to be done to save the game as it was only a week old and Super Action Football was nowhere to be found.
After some debating, we finally agreed to ban "The Pitch" for the sake of the game. Soon our World Series quest returned and so did the fun. Sure, we occasionally snuck in "The Pitch" when we really needed it, but it was quickly followed by a chorus of boos. So its appearances became a very rare occurrence.
As I look back on this episode and try to remember how to do "The Pitch", I for the life of me cannot remember what it was. Sometimes it seems more like a product of myth than actual occurrence, but I know that someday I will be playing the game and it will return to me. Hopefully my competitive nature will not consume and I won't abuse it.
Up n Down
After playing a few games, I realized a certain truth about Colecovision games. That truth is that the games are always much easier on the Colecovision than the original arcade version. Much like Tapper, I was in for a rude awakening. After conquering the Coleco version and feeling like a hot shot, I was abruptly dumped back into reality with my tail between my legs. My first few games went quickly! We are talking sound byte fast! This is from a guy who breezed through five levels on the Coleco before I broke a sweat. But here it is more like five seconds and I was a victim of bad driving.
I had my work cut out for me if I was to regain my crown as the Up n Down champ. Many, many games later and I was really starting to get the hang of it. Sure I was lucky to get to the third level now, but it was satisfying accomplishment to do it.
The basis of the game is to drive your car up a road that curves and bends. You have to collect flags as you drive along and need to get all of them before you can move to the next level. The faster you can accomplish this, the more bonus points you can earn. But it is much more than just racing around and picking up flags. You have to dodge some slow moving cars that are always getting in your way. Unlike Bump n Jump or Spy Hunter, you cannot ram these cars. If you do, it is one less life for you. Think of your car as a Yugo, it cannot handle an accident without getting totaled. But you do have one means of retaliation on your side. You can jump over or onto the cars and either dodge the trouble or just squash the car and remove it that way.
Sound easy peasy right? Well, it would be if the road wasn't so crooked. See if you jump and go off the road, your car will crash and you can kiss another life goodbye. So you must be careful where and when you jump as it may lead you to safety or your doom.
All in all, it is a great game and the challenge is great enough to keep you coming back for more. While you may be able to conquer the game, it won't happen overnight. Then that is the sign of a great game, one that keeps you challenged, but not too hard as to chase you away.
For anyone who hasn't played this game, your mission is to have each band member retrieve their musical instrument and head back to the ship. Once all five band members have done this, you go off to a concert with a looping song and a bunch of girls rushing the stage. Boy am I glad I didn't waste too much money trying to see this.
The characters in the game look silly. Each one has this huge digitized head attached to a little video game body. Sorta like a video game version of bobbing heads, only with rock stars. It is enough to evoke laughter in anyone who remembers the group. This alone makes the game worthwhile.
The actual gameplay is repetitive as you have to get your players through a series of obstacles, be it a platform or flying through a cave. Once you retrieve the instrument, the game changes and a new challenge appears. Nothing is more frustrating than getting all the way to the instrument, only to die on the way back. It is enough to make you erase the game forever.
Overall, it is a dull game with less than thrilling gameplay. It is a fun conversation piece and good for an occasional laugh. Beyond this, you are better off putting on a Journey album (always available at thrift stores) and move around some GI Joes or something.
Are Video Games the Next
Memories Don't Come Cheap
The Lemming Theory
Over Ten Years of Erosion
The Completist Theory
People Want to Start at
So there are my reasons why I feel the market will take off. Don't get me wrong, I would rather see it stay small. I really enjoy the small town feeling that permeates it and really enjoy being able to trade with other collectors. Unlike many collectibles, this is one where the majority of the people are more interested in their collection instead of the value.
However, there are supposedly 99 different sectors! Each new sectors adds new challenge and more nasties! And each new nasty has its own unique form of attack. This game is very similar to Tempest. However, it definitely has an Activision personality. This game can be found on four different classic systems: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Colecovision, and Intellivision.
Disqualified: Atari 5200
Silver Medal: Atari 2600
Gold Medal: Colecovision
Many stores use this gimmick to entice you into buying a game at their store instead of someone else's store. For many people, price is the determining factor when it comes to deciding on a purchase. But all other thing being equal, we all want more.
Right now, I'm listening to a copy of the Metal Gear Solid soundtrack as I write this. I got it for preordering the game from a local retailer. Some other retailers are offering Metal Gear notebooks as a premium. I probably wouldn't have pre-ordered the game if I didn't get this bonus. Within the last week, I've also gotten a Parasite Eve Poster and a NFL Blitz lenticular card (which is pretty cool). All this got me thinking…
What other premiums have been given away to us greedy game players over the years ?
Now, I'm not talking about the things that were licensed products based on games. Oh no, I'm thinking of only those items that could not have been gotten (or rarely gotten) through means other than game purchases.
Looking around my office, I see a few.
A Mario 64 keychain, Backpack and wallet.
A Final Fantasy VII collector's prepaid phone card.
A Final Fantasy VII T-shirt.
A SNES Stanley Cup Hockey Watch (who's battery is in desperate need of change)
A Donkey Kong Country plastic DK figurine.
A Neo Geo Art of Fighting eraser-like figures.
A Turbografx Devil's Crush coffee mug.
A Mortal Kombat pin from the pre-purchase giveaway.
Several game soundtracks including the one for Road Rash (3DO).
And, stored in a box somewhere, is a Atari 2600 M.A.S.H T-shirt.
This item is the earliest premium I remember receiving for buying a game. I'm sitting here, wracking my brain, trying to remember any premium prior to that. Oh sure, there were the "Buy this machine and get a free copy of a game from this list" offers. But I can't think of any buttons or T-shirts or (heh-heh) game soundtracks from the classic era that were offered to me prior to M.A.S.H. I mean, I didn't have to send away for it, I just took it home with me when I bought the game (And quite a bad game it was. I deserved much more than this lousy shirt for buying a dog like that.)
So I ask you, you who have survived the ravages of time eternal (at least in the video gaming sense), what items have you pillaged since the dawn of time ? What premiums did you receive in exchange for your patronage, your loyalty, your cash from the local purveyors of silicon ? What little nuggets of gaming historia do you have lying around in your coffers ?
What did I miss ?
Please send any lists of interesting items to me at
I'd love to put together a modern and classic list of freebies for publication in a future copy of this newsletter.
The music has ended. It's time to go.
(Fred Wagaman has been playing games for over 20 years and actively collecting them for almost 10. The 2100 + games that he has takes up most of his home office and living room. He lives in Denver, PA with his understanding wife Jennie and his 2 year-old, button-loving son, Max. He can be mailed at email@example.com. Fred remembers determining which cereal he would ask for based on the toy inside. Fred believes that fast food restaurants have taken advantage of this tribal memory by their selection of toys in their "Happy Meals".)
Question-What was the
easiest and what was the hardest commercial games you had to program?
clunk...........clunk..........(I hope you're a slow reader).... clunk.....
This was the point I really realized that I'd have to do it in machine code, so I did a manual line-by line translation to machine code. Worked about 300 times faster; that was a real hoot. Anyway, I'd refined my skills at programming Pacman type games by learning all about graphics, machine code, and pacman logic all at the same time.
Segue to about 6 years later and as a professional programmer I'm asked to do Super Pacman and Pacman Jr (official editions) for the C64. Pretty much a breeze; but for one glitch. I didn't get along with the artists too well back then - my opinion was that our art department - nice guys (even if they did smoke joints in the ladies' loo all the time, and fill the game backgrounds with naked women) - didn't really understand that 16 colours MEANT 16 colours. More often than not, we'd get really great looking art which was completely unusable. So I bitched a lot. With the Pacman stuff, I ended up doing all the art myself, which, if you know me well enough, isn't that surprising ;)
Anyway, there weren't too many dramas on the Pacman front. I always liked that game, though I must admit my versions had pretty much "seek and destroy" logic, whereas I understand the real-thing has some sort of pattern-based logic which could allow you to sit in certain places with immunity. I like the latter idea better - but like all things back then, one had to reverse-engineer stuff, and despite my pleas to the contrary, my boss wouldn't let me go on an extended company-funded research expedition to the local arcades.
The game that really gave me problems was without a doubt Bad Street Brawler on the NES. There are games that were "harder" to program, but this one made me the most miserable. And we're talking pretty damn miserable, let me tell you.
At about the time the C64 was winding down, the NES came along. As Nintendo wanted an absolute fortune to allow you to become a legit NES developer, and we were uh.... cheap.... we reverse-engineered the machine. A brilliant hardware guy (hi Adrian!) was the main guru on this thing, and as part of the reverse-engineering project, he was using a testbed program to trial different ideas, etc. I was working on a C64 game (yes, Bad Street Brawler) at the time, and Adrian was sort of copying the basic idea for his testbed. Fine, no worries.
But come the completion of the C64 version I am handed Adrian's testbed -"finish it"! Now, if you've ever programmed anything, you know what it's like working with other peoples' code. Horrible. But this was horrible taken to another extreme; a testbed program, a homebrew hardware manual full of "don't know what this is for", and a programmer who's never programmed the machine before, with a tight deadline!
The years have mellowed my opinion of this situation. At the time I was rather critical of Adrian's programming, but to be fair it WAS a testbed, right? In any case, a lot of the comments were about what this caused the machine to do, not what the program was actually trying to do. And I guess I just plain didn't understand how crappy the NES hardware really was. It was all sort of black-magic programming.... "STA V6 ; don't know what this does".
I did manage to complete a basic version of the program, but the whole idea was pretty dumb - a side scrolling beat-em-up clone of a C64 game. The C64 had massive sprites, and the NES ones were teeny-weeny. After about 9 months development, the whole thing was shelved for a better idea. I think I resigned once or twice during that game - the only pay rises I ever got with that company were when I resigned, which was about 5 times, in all. I was pretty unhappy during Bad Street Brawler.
But not as unhappy as I was when, about a year or so later, my boss told me that they'd sold the game to Mattel, it was going to be released after all, and I'd be reworking it to Mattel's satisfaction - dig up the source code. The idea was that this would be the first Powerglove game, and that we'd change it all so that the moves would be powerglove driven. I resigned. Anyway, big pay rise later, and probably about 6 months (my memory is dim - I think this happens with extreme trauma) later... it was done. And now, I don't ever want to talk about this program again.
(Bio: Andrew Davie. Programmer for numerous games on many different platforms including Atari 400/800, C64, NES and SNES. Been making games in the industry from 1984 - present. Currently working on real-time 3D interactive movies. Contact email:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Here is another helping of three more games to take a deeper look at. So enjoy my observations and feel free to agree or disagree with me.
A Deeper Look At....Roc n
As I eluded to, the game features the one and only appearance of the Bird of Paradise. Think of it as a prettier peacock. This bird flies to the top of a mountain and it is your job to get her. Sounds simple enough. Well, we all know that nothing comes easy in classic video games. This isn't a typical walk up the mountain to free the darling bird, no you have to go back and forth from one ledge to another. If you were a kangaroo, leaping would probably be the choice form of movement, but you are a lowly human and so you need a rope. Hence the name, Roc n Rope. You must take your rope and shoot it into some rock and then climb across. They were pretty clever when it came to naming this game. So you can easily just climb up that mountain and capture the bird.
Well, not quite. What good would a game be without obstacles? Thankfully, this game has a few opponents to keep you busy. They come in the form of dinosaurs and cavemen. Yes, what else would you expect to protect a bird of paradise? These guys of course are deadly to the touch and they will kill you if possible. But wait! You have a trusty weapon to fight them! What is that you say, a gun? No, you don't get any gun. Sorry, but no knife either. You are armed with a.......flashlight! Yesiree, you go to battle with your trusty flashlight. Doesn't exactly evoke fear in a person, does it? Luckily these beasties are scared of light and are easily stunned by it. Look at the bright side, at least they cannot accuse this game of being too violent.
So with your rope and trusty flashlight you must ascend the mountain. Along the way you can find eggs and feathers left behind by this very sloppy bird. While you don't need to collect these (at least I don't think you do, I always grab them because I want a higher score), they do add to the point total. Once you get to the top of the mountain and grab that dirty bird, the game does not end. Nope, it is off to a even more challenging mountain to save the stupid bird once again. A clip of the wings could really ease your life.
All in all, it isn't a great game. Sure the logic behind the weapon choice is enough to have you scratching your head, but I find it a fun game. It is a bit rare, so it isn't your cheapest game, but you can find a Coleco version for around $10-15.
A Deeper Look
Spiderman in his own fashion, does not climb a building in the same way as most people would. Instead he swings up a building with his patented web shooters. This is actually pretty ingenious and I must commend Parker Bros for this. You shoot your webbing and then pull yourself up the building. You can also shoot it at an angle and then swing over to another part of the building. This alone is quite fun and worth the price of admission. Shoot the web and then pull yourself in, sorta like fishing for yourself.
While the web swinging is fun, there is an actual point to this game. Your arch nemesis, the Green Goblin has planted bombs on the building and it is your job to stop it from leveling the building. I personally don't see why the Green Goblin would plant bombs in a building full of his henchmen and why Spiderman would try to stop it, but I guess he must save lives, even the evil ones. As you progress up the building, these little guys pop out the window and try to cut your rope. When they succeed, you are headed to the ground to be pavement graphitti. Of course, you can shoot your web again and save yourself.
The one problem with the game is you cannot actually fight the Green Goblin. Sure he is there and can kill you, but you must just get past him and cannot even lay a glove on him. You can stop his henchmen by touching them and also can stop the bombs that are planted around the building. While the gameplay is limited, it is still a fun game and the graphics are actually quite good. You can tell it is the Green Goblin. I do recommend this game and it is a worthy addition to any collection.
A Deeper Look at....Bump
Like Roc n Rope, this is a game whose title is appropriate. You need to drive along this road in a race of sorts and either bump the other cars off the road or jump on top of them. Simple enough to understand.
Of course, the other cars aren't the only obstacles. Here you have one of the worst racing tracks ever devised. I can guarantee it isn't a sanctioned track. Unlike most tracks where a hairpin turn is your worst enemy, this one features jumps over large bodies of water. One wrong move and you are racing the fishes. If this isn't enough there are buildings to leap over. Talk about some real bad planning.
One nice feature is the different levels, so you aren't always riding the same course. Nothing like a change of scenery to get the blood pumping. I especially like the third set.
I like the Nintendo version best because it handles great. You can weave in and out of those cars with great precision and jump those obstacles with no problems. The learning curve is also set just right. It doesn't get too hard too fast like the quarter chomping arcade version. This keeps you from getting discouraged too quickly. The graphics are also as good or very close to the arcade version. Overall, it is a great version and one worthy of adding to a collection. Be warned that it is a hard version to find. Of the thousands of Nintendo games I have come across, this is the only version I have ever seen.
Over the last few years, I searched to find a picture of them on the net, but to no avail. I asked around and was given all kinds of answers; Emerson Arcadia from Canada, Imagination Machine, some strange European release. But noone ever had an exact answer. The carts themselves, while all boxed, are vague to the system. They are very generic in design with no dates or manufacturers. All they say is "For Use With Home Entertainment Centre MPT-03". The carts are all labeled MG301 to MG313. I do have all thirteen of the series and do not know if there is any others. I have supplied photos of one of the game boxes and another of the cart, rule book and overlays. The carts are shaped like a Super Nintendo game, where they are wider than they are long. Here is a list of the games that I have. As you can see by some of the names, they share the same names of some Emerson Arcadia games, which makes me believe they may be a imported version. But the cart shape and size is totally different than an Emerson Arcadia, which confuses me.
I did one time see a cart for sale on eBay about two years ago. I contacted the person, but they were not sure of what it was. While I cannot remember how much it went for, I do remember it going for quite a bit.
While many men would give their right arm to have a understanding wife when it comes to video games, it can be a bit devastating to see your high scores fall. I have nicknamed her Matilda the Hun as she doesn't stop until she rules the high score charts.
At first it was the sequels of Mr. Do. She now dominates Mr. Do's Castle and it only took her an hour to eliminate my scores on Mr. Do Run Run and Mr. Do's Wild Ride. But now she is headed for hallowed ground! I could overlook the Mr. Do games as they were ones I wasn't all that good at anyway, but now she wants the Zookeeper high score! This means war! Right now she is struggling and after the first day assault, my high scores remain intact. Her highest score to date is 72,000, while my highest is 133,000. I know it is only a matter of time before they fall like so many others, unless I take drastic action. I must increase my game playing to keep her at bay. I must put up scores to save the long standing records.
The biggest fear is once she conquers this, she will head for the most sacred of grounds, my Robotron and Crazy Climber high scores. Stay tuned for more reports on the battle to keep my name from being completely erased from the MAME charts.
Question of the Month
The question was "Has emulators increased, decreased or not affected the time you spend playing consoles"? I received 96 different responses and here is the breakdown.
91 said it has decreased
Guess that was pretty overwhelming! So with that in mind, here is this month's question:
If you were able to collect all the games for a given system, would you then stop collecting for it and enjoy the collection, sell the collection off, or begin trying to collect different variations of the games (i.e.:label variations, overseas versions, etc...)?
Personally, if I ever complete the Intellivision collection, I will keep it and just enjoy it. It has been fun trying to compile all the games and I really enjoy playing them. I couldn't imagine not owning Diner, Thin Ice and Tower of Doom.
Another trend I have been noticing is that while Atari 7800 games remain cheap, mainly due to O'Sheas, the price of Atari 7800 units is moving up. While you used to be able to get a system and a stack of carts (between 5-7) for $20-$25, that price has almost doubled in the last year. I now see very similar packages going for $40-$50. My guess is that since so many people have taken advantage of the O'Sheas deal for 7800 games, there is a big demand for systems to play these games on. At the present rate, it is not inconceivable to see a 7800 system sell by itself for $50.00 or more. You will also see the price of joysticks moving up fast as they aren't the most reliable. You can add power supplies to that group as they are not compatible with any others. So if you don't have a power supply, you cannot go to Radio Shack and get a new one, like you can for the 2600. As some begin to wear out, you will see the value of these move up, much like Vectrex controllers are always in demand.
Classic Video Game
You get to see such memorable ones as the George Plimpton Intellivision commercials, the "Have you Played Atari Today" catchphrase, the Wizard of Odyssey and more! These will make you laugh, I guarantee it. Some are so corny and others are truly a product of their times. The Megamania one screams out "MTV". Others are sappy like the "ET" one. There are over a half hour of gems including some stuff you would never find anywhere else. This includes info on the next Odyssey system, the Atari 2600 computer system and the unreleased (and you will see why) Atari Jaguar commercials.
The price is $15.00 plus $3.00 for shipping and it is well worth it! This would be a great party tape and would be a hit. I am sure a few beers would really improve them. I do recommend buying this tape and since supplies are limited, you better hurry! Once they are gone, they are gone forever. To order go to: http://www.xnet.com/~skelly/
Return to Pacland-Chapter
As I predicted, the ghosts headed over to attack their enemy. Once they moved off, I headed for the house and jumped in. While I had no idea what to expect, I could never in a million years fathom the sights that laid before me. First off, the house may look small, but it is HUGE! I mean it was cavernous! But that was only a small part of the shock. Inside the home was an enormous pile of bones. As I went over and pulled one of the skeletons out, I noticed it was a skull attached to a very long spine. It was curved in shape and after a quick view, I realized it belonged to a Pacman. How many of these Pacman have died in the years? I couldn't begin to count the skeletons, but I noticed there were different shaped ones. Some were very small and some were quite large. There was even some beanies and bows laying around. I couldn't control myself and felt a dizziness overcoming me.
As I continued to look around, I saw tunnels that led off to somewhere else. The whole area was very dark, only illuminated by some glowing rocks that seemed to line the room. I quickly typed in "Get me the hell out of here!" on the computer. As I waited for the message, I saw the ghosts begin to pour into the room. I knew there were only a few seconds for him to beam me out before I would join the pacmen who have gone before me. As they neared me, I felt a terror going up my spine. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I saw the great creatures bearing down on me. Suddenly, I was transported away, with a second to spare! As I landed back in our world, I fell to my knees and thanked the man upstairs to be out of there. That is one place I did not want to return to.
As I regained my composure, we opened the backpack to take out the dots and analyze them. But as I dug through the backpack, I found they were mysteriously absent. I know I put them in there and at no time could I think of an opportunity where I could have lost them. My only guess is that they do not exist outside of their world and so when I left it, they ceased to exist. My only hope is that the same holds true with the ghosts. If they could exist here and found a way to enter our world, who knows what havoc they could wreak.