Goodness gracious. I was so busy celebrating my Wife’s birthday that I neglected to share an Atari Day post! So let us celebrate a belated Atari Day by watching this 1981 promotional video entitled Inside Atari.
This is most certainly a nice piece of history for the legendary company. By 1981 Atari had three separate divisions going full bore. They had their arcade division releasing titles that helped make the Golden Age of Arcades so memorable. As well as the home console division with the Atari VCS or 2600 as it became known once the 5200 was released a year later – which sold like hotcakes. Atari had as well at this point released the Atari 400 and 800 home computers.
Things were looking absolutely grand for Atari in 1981. Which is why Inside Atari was regularly seen at consumer electronic shows. To say nothing of course of aiding in the wooing of potential investors.
In addition to Inside Atari coming across as a visual pep rally. There are some wonderful nuggets to be gleaned. For example in this screenshot you can see some rom chips for Defender, Pac-Man, Yar’s Revenge, and Graves Manor.
That last one is more than a little noteworthy as it is one of the four original names for 1981’s Haunted House !
Furthermore if you look quickly you can spy some interesting artwork on display. Like this piece for the port of Pac-Man. Which I might add I had not seen before until the release of Tim Lapetino’s stellar Art of Atari tome last year.
All in all Inside Atari runs about five and a half minutes. So obviously it will not be the most in-depth exposé on the workings of the company. It will however give you that perfect snapshot of the glory days of Atari as an entertainment juggernaut.
Back in the early 1970s, the Weebles toy line (“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!”) had a variety of playsets for those cute little egg-shaped people to populate. From a passenger airplane to a camper van, from a boat marina to a treehouse, the Weeble world was wonderful.
Except for that one playset on the outskirt of Weebleville. The one whispered about down at the Weeble playground. The playset where few Weebles dared to wobble.
I was a small child in the early Seventies but I do not recall having had any Weebles sets. However, today I would think I would’ve enjoyed having this Haunted House back then. The glow-in-the-dark Weeble Ghost is the main selling point for me but the idea of a toy encouraging me to go play in the dark would have been a deal killer. As a little kid, I was scared of the dark. Perhaps I would have braved this fear for the sake of playing with the Weebles Haunted House.
Search “weebles” here on the Retroist and see more posts like this:
Welcome friends to the 12th episode and 1st Halloween Special for the Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast. For this show I discuss not an arcade game or what it’s like to be an employee of a fully functioning retro arcade but talk about Atari’s hit 1982 cartridge entitled Haunted House!
If you have any suggestions for future games to cover or comments on the show itself you may email them to me at VicSage@Retroist.com. You can also contact me on Twitter and of course on Facebook. You can also keep up to date on what is going down at the Arkadia Retrocade by making sure to “Like” their Facebook page.
Our new ending theme entitled “River Raid” was graciously provided by the talented Tony Longworth, you can visit his official site by clicking that link or hopping over to his SoundCloud Page!
To join in on the fun that is Atari Day make sure to hop on over to Atari IO!
Subscribe to the Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast: [iTunes] Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes(MP3)
I’ve been looking for a Weebles Ghost for quite some time. The Weebles Ghost came in the Haunted House and Ghost Van playsets. It’s big feature was that it glowed in the dark and had an adorable face. Seriously, the Weebles Ghost make Casper look like the Elephant Man. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find one that A) is a price I’m willing to pay and B) still has the face on it. Today, though, I found the next best thing: the Ghost Weeble Bop Bag.
Look at those brutes, roughing up this adorable ghost!
I had no idea a Ghost Weeble Bop Bag existed. I had no idea bop bags in general still existed. You’d think they’d have been outlawed along with Jarts for being dangerous and promoting violence. But they did exist at one time, and the Romper Room Company, apparently eager to capitalize on what was no doubt the most popular Weeble of all time, made a Ghost one. The bop bag Ghost has pretty much the same adorable expression as the Weeble figure, which is undeniably the least scary ghost face imaginable, but it also has the word “Boo” and some ghostly legs on it. It’s hard to imagine that kids would be hitting this cute ghost with the gusto that the kids on the package are. Okay, it’s not so hard to imagine. I would have certainly taken a swing at it myself back in the day. But I at least would have felt bad about doing it. After all, he’s such a cute ghost!
As I sat upon the creaky wooden steps, I felt as though my grip on sanity was beginning to loosen. My breaths came in rapid, gasping spurts, and my heart was beating with such ferocity, I felt for certain it would leap from my chest and fall to the unforgiving floor where it would flop to and fro like a great crimson fish. My skin was slick with a veneer of cool, clammy sweat, and my hands, which held the source of my terror, shook a bit as I read each cursed word inscribed in that hellish tome. Why did I ever allow my curiosity concerning the priceless urn of the Graves Mansion get the better of me?
Haunted House by Sean Hartter
Ok, maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic; it was just a game manual after all. But, like a number of classic Atari 2600 games, Haunted House was enhanced by a detailed back story, presented in the game’s instruction booklet. Elements of storytelling were incredibly difficult to convey given the extreme limitations of cart size and graphics capabilities in the early 1980’s. This resulted in the player having to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps of character motivation. The tale woven for Haunted House was especially effective, dealing as it did with a decaying gothic mansion located in the town of Spirit Bay. The house was rumored by townsfolk to be occupied by its deceased master, Zachary Graves. The dwelling was also said to contain a great treasure, a magic urn that belonged to the first family of Spirit Bay, but none are brave enough to enter the imposing abode to retrieve the heirloom. Even if someone did have the courage, the task would be difficult to complete, as the urn was shattered in the Great Earthquake of 1890. This was a rich narrative tapestry to present to a horror obsessed kid like myself, but a good story wasn’t all Haunted House had to offer.
Another element that could fire the imagination of gamers of the 80’s was evocative, often fully painted, cover art. In the days before the internet or mass media coverage of the video game industry, many purchases were based solely on the strength of a cover image. Another function of good cover art was its aid in identifying just what was being presented by the somewhat abstract, limited pixel representations of both characters and locations in early games. Haunted House’s box art perfectly sets up the atmosphere of the game. A pair of eyes (which actually are the player avatar within the game) look nervously forward at large bats and a spider. The images are presented in sepia tones, and fade into a white, almost fog-like haze.
Now that we’ve discussed the manual and the packaging let’s talk about the actual game! Simply put, this game was revolutionary! So much of what we know today as the survival horror genre began right here. The player explores a large (24 rooms spread over four floors) mansion in search of the shattered urn, engages in inventory management (practically unheard of at the time), and tries to avoid, rather than engage the various beings (a vampire bat, a tarantula, and the ghost of Zachary Graves) encountered within the nightmarish home. Objects can only be seen if the player has lit a match, of which a limitless supply is provided. The denizens of the house may only be dispatched by means of the scepter weapon, but since the player can only carry one object at a time, running away is the wisest course of action. The game provided players with nine levels of challenge, each with varying degrees of difficulty (for example in games 3 through 9 doors within the mansion are locked and can only be opened via a master key, which provides further inventory management options). Early attempts at ambient sound (blowing wind, which can blow out your match) and music (a brief tune plays when you ascend or descend stairs) help set the mood. Securing the pieces of the urn (and yes, picking up another item causes you to drop the urn piece you are carrying) and returning them to main entrance awards the player with an ending sequence (also rare for the time) of flashing colors and the theme from Twilight Zone.