Developer John Plaster gave an interview to 99er magazine in 1982 to talk about his new game Tombstone City (full title Tombstone City: 21st Century). And in the interview, he reveals the problems that management had with the both the original title (Saguaro City) and some of the elements within the game itself. Here’s what he had to say to 99er:
“At first, my scenario consisted of an old ghost town being taken over by the government for a nuclear power site, with the inevitable nuclear accident occurring that causes the monsters to be generated. Somewhere along the line, management got upset by the idea of anything nuclear happening–especially a nuclear accident–so that scenario was completely thrown out, and eventually settled on the present Tombstone City: 21st Century (in which players find themselves in the 21st Century in an Old West ghost town threatened by an invading hoard of green alien monsters–villainous creatures called morgs who live on tumbleweeds and people). The other thing that I had to change was the actual tombstones to saguaro cactus. What are saguaro now were originally old Western-type crosses-with the two sticks forming a cross. That was objected to because of religious reasons. It made a little bit more sense originally when you actually had the tombstones in there. So when the tombstones were taken out and replaced with the saguaro cactus, it didn’t make as much sense to me…but I guess it’s not a big difference. A capture-type game: monsters
As strange as it sounds, it’s not a big difference. Because I’ll be totally honest, here. Until I read this, it never once struck me as odd that there are no tombstones in this game, cacti, spaceships, morgs, and tumbleweed all in the same game titled “Tombstone City” just made all the sense in the world to me.
At any rate, the game itself is a fairly simple exercise in strategy. You have a safe zone, a set of blocks in the centre of the screen, that you can exit but the green morgs can not enter. The idea is to shoot the morgs before they get too close to the safe zone, because once the morgs are shot, they are immediately turned into cacti, and if they are shot near the safe zone entrances, then they block your exits. Once you’re trapped like that, it’s over. So come on out of the safe zone, try to anticipate where the next morg will come from (sometimes the already present cacti emit a white aura to indicate a morg is about to emerge) and shoot the morgs out in the open whenever possible. Shoot the morgs (and the tumbleweed) for points, and try not to get trapped or eaten.
The game is very basic and you could likely recreate the design with some paper, crayons and your favourite Count Von Count ruler (you have one, don’t lie). But the desire to outwit the morgs and show them who will ultimately survive to see the 22nd century is somehow addictive enough to keep you busy for quite some time, Partner.