First Atari - Missile Command

Celebrate Atari Day With…well…My First Atari!

It is once more the 26th of the month. Which of course means that it is time to celebrate Atari Day! Furthermore I felt that perhaps a more personal recollection would be in order. Case in point the memories of how I got my first Atari.
First Atari - Vic Sage

As you can certainly see I was rather excited to unwrap this particular Christmas gift. In addition I should say that it certainly wasn’t a bad holiday up to that point. If you look closely behind me you will spy the likes of Imperial Troop Transport as well as the remote controlled R2-D2.

[Via] Sarlaac Pit Podcast

Of course if you keep checking out that late 70’s photograph. You will likewise see a few more equally important toys in my youth. I will direct your attention to the then desired Mortimer Snerd ventriloquist dummy sitting…patiently…in the decorative chair behind me. Bear in mind this was before I was instilled with an overwhelming fear of dummies. This was naturally before Steven Spielberg delivered 1982’s Poltergeist!
First Atari - Poltergeist

Besides a collection of wind-up toys, something I will admit I was totally captivated by in my youth. We have some of those faithful blue friends, The Smurfs. Going off my memory I want to say that it the three present were Doctor Smurf, Lion Tamer Smurf, and possibly Hang Glider Smurf.
First Atari - Lion Tamer Smurf

Which I am sure you will be more than glad to hear leads us to my first Atari. Finally. So as I have already stated this was a good Christmas. It was all done or so I thought. My Grandmother asked what was that in the Christmas tree. I will admit to not being able to remotely find what had captured her attention. At this point my Father had joined in – trying to direct me to behind the tree where one wrapped gift remained hidden, nestled in the branches. It was small and box shaped, I literally had no idea what it was. Moreover when I ripped off that wrapping paper I discovered I was an owner of Atari’s Missile Command!
Missile Command

I think you can imagine how excited I was, right? The dawning realization that this obviously meant I got my first Atari! In the nearly seven years I have written for The Retroist have I ever let on I was remotely that sharp? I can vividly recall looking at the box and just shrugging my shoulders. I mean this gift was wasted as I of course didn’t own an Atari VCS.

That is when my Grandmother opened a closet door and pulled out a much larger wrapped gift. Heady with the joy of not just the Holiday but the thrill of civilized destruction I tore into the wrapping paper. You can see the absolute joy on my face in that photo, which was snapped by my Grandfather by the way. As much as I loved all of my Star Wars gifts and other presents…my first Atari was the best thing in my eyes.

In addition to Missile Command there was another Atari cart hidden in the tree. That was Adventure, a game I still love to this very day. Very quickly I was sitting in the middle of the living room floor with my Grandmother. After my Father had set up the Atari 2600 to that large television of course. But as you can see from this photograph of my Father and myself…even though he disliked video games in general. The fun of my first Atari was enough to coerce him to join me in game or two of Missile Command!
First Atari - Missile Command

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!

Now that you have learned about my first Atari featuring Missile Command. Perhaps you would like to know another fan of that classic Atari game?


That would of course be none other than Steven Spielberg. Yep. The man responsible for many of our most cherished films as well as instilling a lifelong case of Automatonophobia was also a fan of the 1980 arcade game!

Marvel Age - Cover

Marvel at this issue of Marvel Age featuring Questprobe!

Marvel Age was a sort of comic book that was published from 1983 until 1994. It actually was kind of an extension of the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins. Which of course offered news about upcoming books and events that all of us Marvel Zombies needed to know. Marvel Age went a step further by offering previews of new titles. In addition I was always impressed with the great interviews with some of the superstars of the time.

Furthermore how can you balk at a publication that featured none other than Crystar? I realize I may in fact be in the minority for my love of Remco’s crystal warrior. But that first issue of Marvel Age totally has a cover by the legendary Walt Simonson as well!
Marvel Age

I have in the past shared my memories and thoughts on the line of Questprobe games. The graphic and text based adventures by Scott Adams. While certainly they might appear to be rather dated in contrast to the Marvel games being made today. I think it’s equally important to remember that in 1984 – when Questprobe featuring the Hulk was released. These were a big deal and offered a new way to experience the adventures of our favorite Marvel Comics characters.

For one thing, you should keep in mind that one of the best Marvel Comic games at this point was 1982’s Spider-Man for the Atari 2600!

[Via] Retro Game Commercials

I certainly hope it doesn’t sound like I’m knocking the Atari 2600 Spider-Man game. As it is in fact one of my favorite games for the system. However when your text based actions help to trigger the transformation of Bruce Banner to the Hulk! That is a magical moment indeed!
Marvel Age - The Hulk

Which brings us to this particular issue of Marvel Age. Knowing my love of the Questprobe series of games. The esteemed Gary Burton picked up this issue at a flea market a little while back. Within the pages there are excellent interviews with the likes of then Editor In Chief Jim Shooter as well as Scott Adams of course. To say nothing of what looked like a bright future for the Questprobe series.
Marvel Age - Chief Examiner

How could they fail? They had twelve games in the works with the most popular Marvel Comics characters at the time. The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, and even the duo of The Thing and The Human Torch! In short these were the only three games to be produced which was a terrible shame. The concept was intriguing and moreover they almost had the X-Men game finished when the plug was pulled.
Marvel Age - Spider-Man
Marvel Age - Human Torch and Thing

At the very least we still have those three Questprobe titles and they are readily available to play. Likewise there were 140 issues of Marvel Age to enjoy and they still are an excellent snapshot of the time they were produced.



Now that you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy issue 18 of Marvel Age. Why not check out my earlier posts on the Questprobe games?

For all of you fans of the Incredible Hulk – Here is my article from back in 2011!

Don’t you worry true believers! I also covered Questprobe featuring Spider-Man!

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.