There are a few arcade cabinets that the side art really stands out to me and I still remember them to this day. Space Invaders with its alien hurling down missiles and Fire Truck with its old time fire engine on the side would be a couple examples of that. Atari Red Baron is another one that seems to be etched in my memory. The artwork on this cabinet really made me feel like I was flying a WWI Bi-plane maybe even on the hunt for Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel, although he never did show up in the game.
Red Baron was released by Atari in 1981. It’s a first person combat flight simulator based on the dogfights which took place in WWI. It might not be the most realistic flight simulator but it is a fun arcade game. Red Baron is another one of Atari’s black and white vector game. It came out about a year after Battlezone and is built around the same hardware. You control your plane using a single analog joystick that operates like a real flight stick so you pull back to climb and push forward to dive and there is also a red fire button on top that operates the machine guns. The analog stick lets you precisely control how fast you bank, climb or dive and allows for a great feeling of control over your plane. They came in an upright model and a cockpit model. According to Atari’s documents 1500 uprights and 504 cockpits were made. There were also a handful of dedicated prototype cabinets made which gives the game even more of the feel of sitting in a bi-plane cockpit. Here’s a shot of the cockpit and that prototype.
The object of the game is to destroy the enemy targets while avoid getting shot down yourself or crashing into the hillside. There are aerial targets and ground targets you have to worry about. The points are as followed:
plane 300 to 10pts depending on the distance
Turret and Pill Box 200pts
The game will not allow you to crash into the ground but you can fly into a hillside so you need to avoid them. It is possible to shoot through the hillsides if enemy ground targets are behind them. Here’s a video of the game in action.
Red Baron has been ported to the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Windows PCs as part of the Atari Anthology in 2004 and it was also available in the Microsoft Game Room service for the Xbox 360. I’ve never really been happy with the way the plane flies in those versions though so I really hope you get a chance to play it on the really hardware sometime.