Wings was an 1983 game intended to be released on the Atari 2600. I say intended as while you might remember seeing the TV ad online – it was never released. Programmed by Stuart Ross for CBS Electronics. The Video Game Crash of ’83 scuttled it’s release. I have to say that judging by the television commercial it looks to have been rather in-depth.
[Via] Retro Commercial Forever
As you could see from the TV ad. You would have had to keep an eye on the various gauges of your aircraft. Power, Altitude, Airspeed, Fuel, in addition to the Compass, Radar, and Artificial Horizon.
Wings was designed to be played using the Booster Grip. A device that would slip over your standard joystick. It would plug into the 2600 unit and give a player two buttons to operate. One button would control the engine throttle with the second button required to engage your weapons system. However I can’t say whether the third button – the one on the base of the joystick would have any use.
As was pointed out in the ad, the game had the addition of RAM Plus, which is how it was able to include so many features. RAM Plus was an additional chip on the cartridge board that would give the 2600 game more memory. Letting Stuart add those extra bells and whistles.
Here is an excerpt of an interview with Stuart Ross from Scott Stilphen of Digital Press.
“The game was basically finished (although marketing wanted clouds added…which were never implemented). We were about 2 weeks from having Wings ROMS manufactured when CBS pulled the plug. They even had some promotional material ready (hats and scarves), as well as a TV spot!”
Definitely make sure to follow that link to the full interview on DP for more about Wings. Furthermore when you hop on over you will get to see a bit of awesome behind the scenes photos. Of the development of not just Wings but Tunnel Runner. As well as the RAM Plus chips and even some of the merchandise Ross mentioned in that quote!
While the game was shelved before release – two prototypes have surfaced. Back in 2004 the prototypes were found and while buggy you could at least get a feel for what the finished product would have been like. Moreover if you would care to try the game for yourself, you can locate it on the Internet Archive!
What about other flight simulators for the Atari 2600 other than Wings?
I definitely wish that Stuart’s game could have seen the light of day – that it could have been completed. On the other hand I don’t think we should forget the most challenging flight simulator for the Atari 2600. Released in 1983 by Activision and programmed by Steve Kitchen was the amazing Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space. A game that required an overlay for the 2600 unit itself as all switches were used during gameplay!