Space Invaders

Celebrate Atari Day With Space Invaders!

Being the 26th of the month once again it is time to celebrate Atari Day. There is so very much to love and celebrate as well when talking about Atari of course. Although as usual I am focusing on a particular game for the Atari 2600. A port of the massively popular as well as legendary Space Invaders from 1978!
Space Invaders - Flyer

When Tomohiro Nishikado set out to create Space Invaders I certainly doubt he realized how popular it would become. In Japan there were arcades that offered nothing but the “fixed shooter”. Just rows and rows of Space Invaders for gamers to spend their money on. As a matter of fact it’s been reported that by the end of 1978, Taito, who produced the game had manufactured over 100,000 arcade cabinets.
Space Invaders

To say nothing of the amount of money that the success ofSpace Invaders earned for the company. I ask you, how does 600 million dollars sound? Having said that, bear in mind that was only for Japan in its first year alone.

Now as you might imagine when Atari announced they were going to be producing a home port for their Atari 2600. It was kind of a big deal. Not only did it mark the first arcade title to be licensed for home use. It smashed sales records for the 2600 as well. Steven L. Kent’s 2001 book The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon has in fact said that it helped to quadruple the sales of the Atari 2600.

Were you aware the Atari 2600 port was part of the How To Beat Video Games Series?

Which leads us to why in particular Atari made sure to mention their home version of Space Invaders in print. As much as possible. As well as producing rather charming television ads like in the case of the one below entitled Uncle Frank.

[Via] Dig That Box RETRO

Far smarter people than myself have pointed out that the Space Invader themselves have become almost an iconic symbol. Representative of video games itself – more well known than even the likes of Mario!

Listen to Uncle Vic’s hit novelty song inspired by Space Invaders!

Now the great news is you can easily join the Atari Day celebration and play Space Invaders right this second.


By and large it’s available online in one form or another, I would recommend the online services of the Internet Archive.

Image courtesy of Atari I/O’s Facebook page.

To learn even more about the fun of Atari Day be sure to hop on over and check out fellow Retroist writer Atari I/O’s site by following the link here!

Mountain King - Atari 2600

The Eternal Reign Of The Mountain King

Sometime back in ‘84, during a routine browsing of the video game rack at Kay Bee Toys, I took a gamble on a video game that I had never heard of, but seemed interesting to me based on the intriguing box art and unique description. It was one of the few Atari 2600 games that captured my interest that wasn’t produced by any of the more well-known, third-party companies.

Back then, i didn’t know what third-party even meant. I just knew that most of the games I enjoyed, owned, or at least heard of were made by either Atari, Activision or Parker Bros. Anything else I would see, I would often look upon them as if they were some sort of cheap knock-off, whilst making the “ew” face. Mainly because my experience with most other types of games was rarely good. (Up to that point, at least.) I’ve since found quite a few hidden gems among some of the lesser-known game companies, and i’ll be dedicating articles to each of those as time goes on.

For now though, I want to talk about the first one that really amazed me; Mountain King by CBS Electronics.
Mountain King - Atari 2600

Since discovering the magic of emulation, i’ve played all of the titles released by this company, and I still think Mountain King stands above all the rest. The gameplay is a bit more involved than a typical Atari 2600 game, though I wont use the word “complex”. You’re a spelunker, in search of the Golden Crown. You gain points by collecting diamond clusters that are littered all throughout the cave. When you collect a thousand (your score will turn yellow), you are now able to take hold of the Flame Spirit. The Flame Spirit’s location is noted by it’s theme song that you’ll soon hear being played. (This is one of the FEW Atari games that utilized sound as an important gameplay feature, mind you.) The closer you are to the Flame Spirit, the louder the music gets. You CAN see the Spirit, but it’s difficult. It will appear as a yellow flash….or you can use your flashlight and wander around until it appears in the light. It looks like a little fish out of water, jumping back and forth. Once you have the Flame Spirit you can now offer it to the Skull Spirit who guards the crown atop the altar that you can find towards the lower half of the cave. You can clearly see the crown floating above the altar. (NOTE: You cannot get into this area unless you present the Flame Spirit to the Skull Spirit!) When you stand beneath the entrance to the altar, bow down, and the Skull Spirit appears…which bears a creepy resemblance to that demon head that popped out of the closet in “Poltergeist”! **shivers**
Mountain King - Screenshot

Anywho…..once it appears, you may now climb onto the altar and when you bow under the crown, it appears on your head. At this point, you’ll hear a very nice rendition of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” being played out. (It makes for some GREAT suspense!) Your goal now is to make it to the top of the mountain…er, highest peak inside of the cave. (There’s a golden nugget at the highest point, which tells you you’re at the correct spot.) You are timed for this, so be quick. There’s also another obstacle in your way; Bats. Mother-#$%!&$@&*#%#@&^&$% BATS!! You will HATE bats after a few rounds of this game. TRUST ME! They will steal the crown off the top of your head, often with little to no warning or room for you to escape either. Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling! In over 30 years, I have STILL never actually made it to the top of the mountain…..er, cave. Then again, after about 2 or 3 tries, I had to turn the game off to prevent a joystick from ending up through my TV screen. Yes…before road rage, there was Atari rage. That struggle was real, folks!

As I mentioned earlier, I had never heard of this game back then, despite the amount of TV I had watched as a kid. However, while doing research for this article, I stumbled upon this commercial, which I never knew existed. It is atrocious….and boy, am I glad I never saw it as a kid, or else I would’ve NEVER wanted this game. This commercial looks like it was put together by a 4th grade Advertising 101 class! (No offense to any 4th graders who might be taking up advertising as a hobby.) Sorry, but when you see other commercials for Atari games, you’ll see why this one was probably swept under the rug after its first airing. If you want to see it, here it is…..but you wont be missing much if you just skip this part. The box art did a much better job!

[Via] Happy Game Family

Now, the whole purpose of this article is to celebrate the fact that this game has just been recently reviewed by my personal favorite Youtube game reviewer, Mark (Lord Karnage) of Classic Game Room. Even better, is the fact that the actual cartridge that Lord Karnage HIMSELF is playing is MY cartridge that I had since childhood. I had recently decided to downsize my Atari cartridge collection in favor of a Harmony Cart. (See: AtariAge). In doing so, I realized I was only gonna keep about 10 of my original carts. Mountain King would’ve have been one of them, but it was the ONLY game I was gonna keep that I hadn’t seen Mark of CGR review yet. I e-mailed him to make sure he didn’t already have it pending, and he confirmed that he didn’t, but also that he had not ever heard of it. The choice was clear at that point. I donated the game for review, and here it is, in all its sentimental nostalgic glory.

[Via] Lord Karnage

There are a few things Mark didn’t mention in his review; 1) The giant spider on the bottom floor of the cave, which will tangle you in a web AND take away either the Flame Spirit OR the crown. It’s easy to get out of the first few times. You just wiggle around a bit, and get out of these as fast as you can. However, upon the third time you get tangled, you’re dead. 2) The treasure chests throughout the cave. They contain large amounts of diamonds which will expedite your goal of 1,000 to earn you the Flame Spirit. They can only be seen with the flashlight though! The drawback is that the usual diamond clusters disappear when you shine it…so you just have to learn to flicker it on and off as you wander through the levels.

The final feature he didn’t mention (probably because he wasn’t even aware of it) was the infamous “Heaven” glitch. Even I wasn’t aware of this until recently, actually! But…it is one of the more well-known and admired glitches in the Atari-era library. I wished I had discovered this as a kid because it probably would’ve been the highlight of that particular month! I would’ve raved about it at school for weeks, getting strange looks from all the kids who had upgraded to a Colecovision or Intellivision. Not that there has EVER been a shortage of strange looks from my peers at any point in my lifetime…but I digress.

In a nutshell, this glitch (or bug) is a “secret” level, high above the mountain peaks, which consists of a dense cluster of platforms and ladders. There isn’t really anything up there to discover. (That anyone knows of…yet.) But it is very cool to go up there by way of jumping a few times upwards and holding the joystick until you land on one of the tiny platforms up there. There have even been accounts of people getting there by way of some secret trap door in the spider dungeon! It was a debated topic several years ago as to whether this area was intentionally put there by the programmer or not, but it seems the general consensus is that it is in fact a bug that was carried over from the 5200 version of the game. Maybe the programmer had intended for there to be more levels for the 5200 port, but just couldn’t finish it for whatever reason…? The world may never know. Here’s a Youtube video of the secret area.

[Via] Orion Pax 55

I LOVED this game as a kid, and still do today. I always kinda thought of it as a make-shift “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” kinda game. We only ever got one Indy game for the Atari, but it didn’t play like an adventure game should have, in my opinion. Mountain King was far more up my alley in what I expected when I was in my Indiana Anthony and the Misadventures of Saturday Morning mode. Despite the frustration it can cause, Mountain King still a very fun game to play. My only complaint about this game is that the epic box art didn’t get put on the actual cartridge. Luckily, these cartridges are still fairly ubiquitous on the second-hand market, and wont cost you the price of a vintage, carded Star Wars figure either. So to quote Ferris Bueller, “If you ever have the means, I HIGHLY recommend picking one up.” Happy spelunking, Retroist fans!

ELO

ELO: The Video Game – A Soundtrack To A Game That Never Was

In an age when Beatles Rock Band is old hat, It’s hard to remember a time when video game “product placements” or celebrity connections were a rarity, and kind of a big deal: Atari slapping Pele’s name on a new soccer cartridge, Mattel Electronics securing permission to emblazon every new sports video game with the name and logo of that sport’s professional league, or the one that started it all, a 1976 arcade, game awfully similar to Night Driver, called Datsun 280 ZZZAP!.

[Via] Hirudov gaming

And then there was Journey. Around 1983, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger radio hit than Separate Ways (Worlds Apart). That synth line, the one that leads the whole song off, was practically made to be turned into video game music. Journey inspired two video games – a fantastic Midway arcade game, and the quirky but enjoyable Journey Escape for the Atari 2600.

[Via] MY SATURDAY M0RNINGS

Read: Celebrate Atari Day With Journey Escape And MTV!

But what if another band had been in the right place at the right time to cash in on the video craze?

That’s the idea behind another project perhaps best described as “quirky but enjoyable” – a soundtrack for ELO: The Video Game that was never, in fact, made.
ELO
The free downloadable “ELO: The Video Game” album from online label Pterodactyl Squad re-imagines several of the band’s singles, and a few lesser-known tunes, as chiptunes – as they would sound as music for intros, level-up animations, and even boss battles.
ELO
It’s a little disconcerting seeing the ELO spaceship – a fixture of the band’s album covers since 1977 – spewing missiles at everything within sight on the artwork for this release, but it’s a fun (and fast) listen.

Now someone just needs to create a game to go with the music.

Journey Escape

Celebrate Atari Day With Journey Escape And MTV!

The 26th of the month is here once again, friends! Which of course means it is Atari Day. What better way to celebrate than by checking out Data Age’s Journey Escape?

Journey Escape

Image courtesy of Atarmania

While in fact Journey Escape was marketed as a tie-in to the band’s 1981 album of the same name. The game actually uses an original theme with the exception of a rather nice chip version of Don’t Stop Believin’.

[Via] A Personalised Insane Asylum

When Journey Escape for the 2600 was released back in 1982, it flew under my radar. However at the very least by the time I picked up the cartridge at a garage sale in 1983, I was quite familiar with the band’s arcade game. I’m not sure how in 1982 I managed to miss this rather excellent television commercial. Not only is it imaginative, capturing elements of the game itself. But moreover it has the bonus of Casey Kasem’s voice work as well!

[Via] MYSATURDAYM0RNINGS

In the light of having missed the TV ad for the game. It’s probably not too hard to imagine that I also failed to catch the MTV interview with members of Journey itself talking about the game.

[Via] ScottithGames

What was the goal of Journey Escape you ask? It would seem you are traveling with Journey and they have just finished a performance that has netted them $50,000. It is up to the Player to escort all five members of Journey with their money to the safety of their escape vehicle – the Scarab naturally!

The obstacles in your path to accomplish this are many. For one thing you have to guide the band members past “Love-Crazed Groupies”. If a Player comes in contact with one of these they lose time and $300 bucks.
Journey Escape - Love Crazed Groupies

In Journey Escape a Player must also be wary of the paparazzi. The likes of the “Sneaky Photographers” will cost you $600 dollars upon contact. Why so much you might ask? To pay for the film negatives of course!

Also while playing the game you have to beware the “Shifty-Eyed Promoters”. These slightly gangster looking hucksters will cost you a whopping $2,000 dollars on contact.

Now the Player must also do their best to avoid the Stage Barriers. While at the very least it won’t cost you money if you collide with it – it does slow you down.

Having said that though, not everything in Journey Escape is designed to hinder your game. Case in point the “Loyal Roadie”, who looks in fact like a robot. If you manage to make contact you will be granted a temporary invulnerability.

Last but certainly not least is none other than the “Mighty Manager”. This jovial character allows a Player to run all the way to the Scarab without being stopped. In addition to adding $9,900 to the band’s purse.

I certainly hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Journey Escape for Atari Day. I hope you will also remember Atari Day is celebrated every 26th of the month.


Image courtesy of Atari I/O’s Facebook page.

To learn even more about the fun of Atari Day be sure to hop on over and check out fellow Retroist writer Atari I/O’s site by following the link here!

Bigfoot Family Rescue! A New Atari 2600 Game?!

How many times can you say there is a new Atari 2600 game waiting for you to play? That involves a Bigfoot Family Rescue? I’m pretty certain that there are not a lot of you that can claim this. I will have to admit I would be in the exact same boat until last evening. When my best friend, Shea Mathis, plopped down the Bigfoot Family Rescue he purchased for the arcade!
Bigfoot Family Rescue

Or is it Bigfoot Family Search? No, the manual in fact clearly states the name of the game is Bigfoot Family Rescue. Perhaps this Atari 2600 homebrew cart was inspired by the legendary In Search Of… TV series? Case in point the episode of In Search Of…Bigfoot that Tom Berges shared a couple of years ago!

My silliness notwithstanding, Bigfoot Family Rescue was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016. Programmed by Jason Santuci of Gemintronic based on an concept by Bobby Alexander. The Kickstarter was only attempting to raise $800 but ended up securing $2,398 in pledges.

What is the story for Bigfoot Family Rescue?

Well, Bigfoot and his Family are under threat from the Witch of the South. It seems the love of these particular forest inhabitants angers her to no end. So she abducts Bigfoot’s Family while he is sleeping. Our poor Bigfoot must now go forth and search the forest – smashing question mark shaped rocks to find useful items and his kin.

Those symbols you see that I’ve collected – from the left to the right are two extra health, Bigfoot’s Daughter and Wife, as well as a pile of rocks. Which can in fact be thrown at the enemies that come charging at you.

In addition to the attacks from the Witch of the South which include harnessing the Northern Lights to assault Bigfoot, she can warp you to parts of the forest that are frozen. Costing you precious time, the red bar in the bottom right corner of the screen.

After breaking open the correct rocks, Bigfoot will find his Family and must quickly attempt to bring them to the safety of their cave in the North. This is done by literally touching symbols found throughout the forest – represented by the letter N. Having said that however you still must keep moving through the forest to find those markers that will take you to safety.

At the arcade we really had to read the manual a couple of times to put everything together. While the symbols were easily explained in the opening page of the manual. The instructions for playing the game are hidden in the story itself!


For this reason I am pretty certain that Shea is going to keep this new Atari 2600 cartridge in the office. Instead of having it out in the 2600 cart circulation on the arcade floor. Which is okay by me – it just means I can play it after we close.

Now that we have seen what Bigfoot Family Rescue is all about. How about you take a moment and watch this Halo Atari 2600 homebrew video?