Released in 1982, “Demons to Diamonds” is an Atari title I acquired during the console’s original release. When I spotted it in a catalog I quickly put it on my Christmas list because I loved the idea of an Atari-style shooter that used the paddle controller instead of the joystick. It should have allowed me to move on the screen a lot faster (which it does) and I thought that would mean that “D to D” would be a much more quicker paced games than say “Space Invaders”. Unfortunately it was not and my constantly recurring issues with my gaming paddles added and compounded my frustration with this sub-par title very quickly.
What stunk about this was that this was a game my Grandmother gave me as a gift and she would often sit on the couch and smoke a cigarette and watch me play games, especially ones she had purchased for me. It was a sweet thing. She wanted to see me enjoy what she could give me and normally I loved it. In my home it was nearly impossible to get anyone to watch me play a game for more than two minutes, but with my Nana, it was easy. She would sit, for sometimes and hour at a time, listening to me ramble about things she cared nothing about as I was deeply immersed in the gaming experience.
This was tough with this title, but I was sensitive enough at the time to realize that if I didn’t at lease muster some enthusiasm, it might hurt her feelings. Which could mean no future audience or maybe even no more Atari games at Christmas. So I played “Demon to Diamonds”. I played whenever she was around and I sung its praises to the heavens. This seemed satisfy my Grandmother, but each time I faked my way through an “enjoyable” session, I died a little inside.
Gameplay for the game is pretty cool (in concept). Demons move across the screen and you need to shoot them. The longer you hold down the fire button, the further your shot goes. Now you need to be careful with what you shoot. If you shoot a demon that is the same color as your ship, it turns into a diamond. You can then shoot that diamond for extra points. If you shoot a demon that is a different color it turns into a canon that can shoot at you. All this sounds cool right? Unfortunately it just doesn’t gel and the result is a game that is pretty easy to understand, but that just doesn’t deliver on the goods.
I recently picked up some new paddles for my Atari and gave Demons to Diamonds another whirl after all these years. Unfortunately the intervening years were not kind to the game and without my Grandmother watching over me, I quickly turned the game off (after confirming my new controllers worked).
Last night I started browsing online and stumbled across the “How to beat Video Games” series entry for “Demons to Diamonds” and while it did not alter my opinion of the game, seeing the strategy for how to succeed spelled out, has made me want to give it another shot. Just to see how well I can do if I focused.
“Demons to Diamonds” was an interesting addition to the Atari lineup that just doesn’t pan out, but if you are a fan of the console or just the history of video games it is worth checking out. So grab you paddles or just fire up the above video and check out the perfect example of a game that sounds great on paper, but just doesn’t deliver in the end.