Tag Archives: Atari 2600

Have You Stayed With Atari Today?

I tend not to cover news on this blog, I usually stick with opinion pieces, histories and sharing memories, etc. But a slice of news has surfaced today that made me chuckle a little that I felt I had to quickly cover.

When it comes to big names in gaming, Atari were one of the biggest. The grandfather of gaming to most people and the company the defined home gaming with their brand of consoles, going back to 1977’s iconic Atari 2600. I think it would be fair to say that Atari as a company have had a very chequered past. I mean, they were central in the infamous video game crash of 1983.

The company has died, been reborn and swapped hands so many times over the years that I’m really not sure who own the name anymore. A new console, the Atari VCS is said to be released this year, but that’s not what I want to cover here. I’m going to look at the Atari hotels… yes Atari hotels.

Atari Logo 2

It’s very recently been announced that Atari (whoever owns the name now) has teamed up with real estate developer True North Studio and GSD group to build eight Atari hotels around the U.S. The first is set to begin building in mid-2020 in Phoenix, Arizona… which given Atari’s rather ‘interesting’ connection to that particular place is kind of ironically amusing (see the previously mentioned video game crash of 1983).

The hotels will obviously be gaming related. They will be used to house the ever increasing in popularity e-sport events. Guests can expect VR experiences, interactions and games. Gaming related rooms utilising famed Atari IPs. All along with standard hotel facilities such as restaurants, bars, gyms and all the other stuff a hotel usually offers.

More sites for hotels are planned outside of the Phoenix one with Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle all set to have their own Atari hotels built over the next few years.

Honestly, I love the sound of them, I’d love to stay in an Atari hotel and revisit my childhood as well as experience (what I hope will be) cutting edge gaming interactions and experiences. But there is serious doubt over of they will ever happen. I mean, there have been numerous stories of troubles in getting the new console made and ready for release. So if that’s been a bit of trouble, how will multiple, cutting edge gaming hotels work out?

I just hope they do happen and that they will have guest capacities of 2600, 2700, 5200 and 7800.

You can check out the official website right here. Plus here’s a few renders of what the hotels could look like…

Man Of Steel, Part I

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With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice relased in a few days and the fact I did a multi part retrospective look back at Batman in gaming last year. Starting with the very first official Batman game right up to the release of Batman: Arkham Knight.
I think now would be a good time to give Superman the same treatment and take a look at The Last Son Of Krypton in gaming over the years.

Now, I said in my Batman retrospective that The Dark Knight has been pretty well represented in gaming. Yeah he has been in some terrible games, but he has also had some good and even amazing games too.
Has Superman been as well represented as his DC brother in games?

Same rules as the Batman retrospective. I’ll not cover every Superman game and only the ones I have played and remember. Plus I am sticking to games where Superman is the star and main character and not ones where he is featured in a cameo or secondary character.

Lets start at the very beginning with the first ever Superman game and the first one I ever played.

Superman Atari cover

Superman: Released in 1979 for the Atari 2600. This was the very first ever official Superman game relased. The game has you playing as Clark Kent/Superman trying to repair a bridge destroyed by Lex Luthor…we had very simple plots for games back then.

Playing as Clark, you would have to find a telephone box to change into Superman. Then you could use Superman’s flying power to explore the small and very simple play area. While trying to round up Lex Luthor and his henchmen and having to take them to jail. Kryptonite could be found is some areas and you would have to avoid it, it you did come in contact with any Kryptonite then Superman would lose flying powers and you would have to find Lois Lane who you could kiss and get your powers back.

The aim of the game was to find all pieces of the destroyed bridge, capture Lex and his minions and return to the Daily Planet in the fastest time possible. In fact, the game could be “completed” in just over 1 minute…

And people complain games are too short today?

Interesting tit bit. This game was one of the first (if not the first) games to feature a pause option. Something we take for granted nowadays but unheard of back then. However the pause option had a bug as you could pause the game and the game could be completed without having to fix the bridge or capture Lex and his men.
Using this bug, you could finish the game in literal seconds.
It also featured a strange two player co-op where one person would control Superman with one controller and able to move Superman left and right, while the second player would move him up and down with another controller.

Superman Atari screen

Superman was a very well received game back then and praised for its unique gameplay and (at the time) great graphics.
I have many fond memories of me and my brothers playing this one a lot back then. It was one of the first games to feature and actual goal and and end as most games back then were just about getting a high score.

Next up, Kal-El makes an appearance on one of the most popular computers of the 80s.

Supman C46 cover

Superman: The Game: Developed by First Star Software in 1985 for the Commodore 64 and later ported to the Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC, Atari 400/800/XL/XE, BBC Micro, Commodore 16/Plus/4 and ZX Spectrum.
This game was designed for 2 players at the same time or 1 player and 1 computer controlled. One player would control Superman and the other (or computer) would play as Darkseid.

The game was set over six sections, three in Metropolis and three set underground. The aim of the game was to collect diamonds and rescue/kidnap citizens all while fighting off either Superman or Darkseid, depending on who you were playing as. There were barriers on each of the levels that could be adjusted to change the direction the citizens would walk in as well as effect the direction Superman’s heat vision or Darkseid’s omega ray. When hit, Superman/Darkseid would lose energy. Lose all your energy and it was game over.
Superman could pick up and carry the citizens while Darkseid could teleport them. One you saved/kidnapped the citizens and collected the diamond, you could move onto the next section. Between each section there were what were called “combat zones”. These areas were kind of mini games. If the player who chose to leave the previous section wins one of these combat zones, the game moves on to their chosen section. If they lose, play returns to the previous section.

The game is completed when there are no more citizens left to save/kidnap or when Superman/Darkseid have no more energy left and the winner is whoever saved/kidnapped the most citizens.

Supman C46 screen

Superman: The Game was an interesting concept as you could play as a villain against another human player in a competitive game mode. The game play itself however was a little dull and repetitive overall and really didn’t offer too much to keep you playing. The six different sections were not that different and the same task of rescuing/kidnapping people became tiresome. The combat zone mini games offered a lot more variety however from simply exchanging hits until one loses, to Superman having to use his super breath to blow projectiles back at Darkseid. Then there was a side scrolling one where Superman would have to activate various traps to harm Darkseid while being shot at and one where Darkseid would try to bomb Metropolis while Superman had to defend it.

Now, Superman makes his début on the NES/Famicom.

Superman NES

Superman: Released of the Famicom in 1987 and then on the NES in 1988. Developed by Kotobuki Systems. This one was loosely…very loosely based on the first two Superman movies.
Using a side scrolling platform concept and even a few puzzle elements thrown in too. Interesting to note that the US/European version featured all new music where as the Japanese version used a synthesized rendition of the classic John Williams Superman theme tune.

Playing as Clark Kent/Superman you are tasked with saving Metropolis from Lex Luthor as well as Zod and his gang. Superman was armed with various powers including; x-ray vision, flight, super spin, heat vision and super breath.
You start out as Clark Kent and have to build your super power before you can change into Superman via a phone booth. If you took too much damage from enemies as Superman, you would turn back into Clark Kent.
The main game play revolved around you taking out various henchmen and helping people that would need it which you could see via the map screen.
The game was split into different chapters with each chapter ending with a boss fight against Lex Luthor and even the exiled criminals from Krypton; Ursa, Non and General Zod himself.

Superman NES screen

This one met with very mixed reviews and nothing really praising the game at all. It was rather bland to be honest with a lot of back tracking and exploring pointless areas just to have people say mundane and inane things to you. There is even a part where Superman has to get a ticket to ride the subway…why would Superman even need to use the subway when he can fly and even more so, who would charge Superman to use the subway to begin with?
Superman for the NES was not very good at all and just bogged down with loads of filler to pad out a rather dull game, especially the bit where you get to talk to someone about the stock exchange…in a Superman game.

Well that just about does it for part I and Superman’s early appearances in gaming has been pretty poor so far, but there is more from The Kryptonian coming in part II and maybe we will see Superman in a worthy game…but I wouldn’t count on it.

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E.T. is the worst game ever!

Or is it?

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Short answer. No, not at all.
I was originally going to just do one of my “game overviews” of this game, but I feel this game deserves a little more depth than that due to it’s infamous nature.

But before I get into why it’s not the worst game ever, lets just recap on the infamy surrounding E.T. for the Atari 2600.

Often labeled the “worst game ever” (not true) and often cited as the game that caused the infamous game crash of 1983 (also not true), it was also the spawn of the “rumor” that Atari buried 1000’s upon 1000’s of E.T. carts in the desert as it was so bad (again, not entirely true).
E.T. has been the subject of many reviews, ridicule and blame over the years. Most of that comes from people that either do not remember E.T. at the time, did not understand the game or just taking misinformation from the many, many people that have done exactly what these people are doing themselves by remembering the infamy of the game and not the game itself, kind of like a bad game of Chinese Whispers.

I decided to read a few E.T. reviews in research for this article and I mostly found reviews by people that would have been either 2 at the time of release or even -20. But as I said, these are people that are acting on the infamy and not the game itself.
E.T. is just too easy a target to rip apart and quite frankly, it’s tedious and dull.

Now I’ll not sit here typing a defence for E.T. being a great game…cos it’s not. It’s just not “the worst game ever”…not even close.
First, a “Little Bit of History”: E.T was was designed by Howard Scott Warshaw who also developed Raiders Of The Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 and both games were relased within weeks of each other. But with Raiders being released just a few weeks before E.T., making Raiders the first ever fully licenced movie video game.
E.T. was rushed through development to cash in on the upcoming Christmas season and Howard Scott Warshaw himself was burnt out after developing Yars’ Revenge for seven months and then spending six months on Raiders of the Lost Ark previously.
Upon release, E.T. actually met with favourable reception and success. It even went on to be one of the biggest selling games ever on the Atari 2600 selling over 1.5 million units and back in 1983 that was a hell of a lot.

The whole infamy comes not from that E.T. was bad, but due to Atari massively overestimating the gaming market at the time and overproducing the E.T. game cartridges along with many other products. E.T. did not cause the infamous game crash of 1983 either. The game was released in December of 1983, so how could 1 game bring down an entire industry in only a few weeks?
So if E.T. did not cause the game crash of 1983, what did? Well, around the same time console hardware and software sales were dropping fast as more affordable home computers started to hit the market. As consoles could only play games, but computers could play games and so much more as well, the computer was a more logical choice for the consumer.
The reason the game crash of 1983 occurred was simply due to the fact manufactures like Atari over flooded the market with products no one was buying at the time. There were many games caught up in the game crash, not just E.T. There were great games as well as terrible games. In fact the game crash was already underway when E.T. was released at the end of 1983 and part of the reason it was rushed through development was an attempt to counteract the already plummeting sales at the time as Atari believed a game based on the massively popular film could turn sales around.
Yes 1000’s of E.T cartridges were buried in the desert…but so were 1000’s of other gaming cartridges, game consoles and phererials. They were buried, not due to the fact they were bad, but because they were simply unsold and they were unsold because Atari overproduced during a time when the consumer was just not buying.

Anyway, about the game itself. For it’s time, E.T. was actually a very innovative game and ahead of it’s time (much like Howard Scott Warshaw’s Raiders of the Lost Ark). Yes of course when you play it today it seems pretty poor…but that is from today’s perspective and where pretty much every (mis)review of this game comes from.
At the time however, E.T. was a striking and original game. That is why it became one of the Atari 2600’s best selling games. It had an original concept and it was also one of the very few games that you could complete at the time with an ending and a plot to follow, which was relatively unheard of back then.

Is E.T. the “worst game ever”? No, but I admit time has not been kind to it even though it was a very solid game back in 1983. E.T. was very playable back then and offered us gamers a fair challenge. Give it 30 years and games of today will also be getting called “the worst game ever” as some games just do not stand the test of time, but that does not mean they were bad when they were first released.

So what is “the worst game ever”? That’s up to you as games are subjective. I just wanted to set the record straight on the undeserved infamy E.T. has.

I’d rather play E.T. for a while than any QTE based game anyway.

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Raiders Of The Lost Ark – Atari 2600

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Little Bit of History: The first ever officially licensed movie based game. Based on the movie of the same name, developed and published by Atari. Released in 1982. Designed by Howard Scott Warshaw, who for inspiration would walk around Atari’s offices wearing a Fedora hat and cracking a bullwhip.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: Follows the basic plot of the movie with Indy being tasked to find the Ark Of The Covenant. Exploring screens based on scenes from the movie itself.

Little Bit of Character: Characters were few in this game. While you played as Indiana Jones, you got to meet and interact with other such as Sheiks, a Lunatic (yes that is what he was called in the manual) and Thieves.

Little Bit of Influence: Most games at the time were simple, no point other then trying to get a highscore. This game brought the concept of an actual goal to achieve and a story to follow and even an ending to reach.  Easily the first ever “action/adventure” game and certainly opened the door for future games such as the Zelda series and many other action/adventure styled games and even games with an actual plot and ending. The game also featured a unique control system where you would use one controller to move Indy and another to select and use items, meaning you could use items on the fly without menus or interruptions. Something we take for granted now with our controllers with multiple buttons, etc. We really owe a lot of modern games and gaming to this title.

Little Bit of Memories: I always remember my brother playing this, making notes, drawing, maps and having to use wits to advance…like Indy himself. The first game I ever saw being completed which was new at the time.

Little Bit of Playability: Once I got used to the concept and feel of the game after 30 odd years, I still found the game playable and rewarding. It’s basic by today’s standards but also a great history lesson to see the first official movie based game and the forerunner for not only plot/story lead games but also one of the main steppingstones for the action/adventure genre.

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Atari 2600

Atari logo

The true definition of the term, “classic gaming”.
This is where it all started for me with the Atari 2600 as this was the first home gaming console we ever owned, I’m pretty sure if you ask any old timey gamer their first gaming console that this would be the main one mentioned.

The Atari 2600 was originally released in 1977 and gave us our first taste of home gaming. First called the Atari VCS (Video Computer System) but adopted the Atari 2600 monicker after Atari released the 5200 in 1983. The 2600 would come bundled with 2 joysticks, 2 paddle controllers and a copy of Combat or later Pac-Man. Remember those days eh, when you got value for your money when you bought a console?

Combat along with eight other games were initially available at launch with over 525 “official” games released in total and even indie game developers still making games for the system now. It’s amazing the Atari 2600 is still “effectively” going (even if unofficially) after almost 40 years.

The 2600 went through several redesigns over the years from the original “wood finished” six switch to the later four switch model, a Sears exclusive rebranded version called Tele-Games 2600 which had a nice silver colour. There was even an all black “Darth Vader” model, plus a sleek Japanese version called the Atari 2800 and even a cost reduced Atari 2600 Jr.

It was such a great experience at the time to be able to play some of our favourite arcade games such as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Defender, Star Wars. Or even orignal and new games, and games that broke the mold when released like Raiders Of The Lost Ark

The Atari 2600 was the Nintendo Wii of it’s day and was very family friendly. I recall not only myself and my brothers playing on the system, but I also remember my Mom playing and loving Ms Pac-Man.

But while the console was family friendly, some of the games were not. With titles based on horror films like Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There was even a whole sub-genre of Atari porn games…yes Atari porn. These games would often be sold “behind the counter” in blank cases as to not offend and you’d have to ask specifically for them. As this was decades before the ratings board got into the games industry, there were no real rules to adhere to.
Speaking of pre-ratings, this was also before strict licencing laws we have today and if you wanted to, were able to and many people did. You could make your own Atari 2600 games and get them sold with relative ease. It was the birth of what we called “bedroom programmers” or what is now known as Indie game developers.
The Atari 2600 was a great piece of kit in it’s day and such a diverse and wonderful console pleasing the young and older generations in our family.

This console has a rightful place in gaming history and I urge any gamer to own one and play a few classics now and again.

2600 six switch

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