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Adventure for the Atari 2600
Adventure is a video game for the Atari 2600 that was released around 1979/1980 (I keep reading different dates). The game was designed and programmed by the now legendary Warren Robinett.
In the game, you take the form of simple square shape avatar. Your goal? Find the chalice that an evil magician has stolen and hidden. Then once you have recovered it, return it to the Golden Castle. It should be a piece of cake. It can be, if you know what you are doing, but learning how to do it and mastering the gameplay is what makes Adventure one of the best titles ever released for the Atari 2600.
Adventure‘s graphics are simple. For modern games, they seem underwhelming, but the games clever programming and attention to detail make for rich gameplay that you can return to time and again.
The game world of Adventure consists of mazes, passageways, castles and room. You move between each in your search for the Chalice Along the way you will need to fight or avoid the three dragons that inhabit the game. They are:
Grundle, the Green Dragon, guardian of the Magnet, the Bridge, and the Black Key.
Rhindle, the Red Dragon, guardian of the White Key.
When not guarding the Enchanted Chalice, Yorkle, the Yellow Dragon, roams freely about the Kingdom. Sometimes he will assist Grundle or Rhindle in guarding whatever it may be that they are guarding.
In addition to the dragons, on higher levels you will encounter the Bat. This cheeky creature is a thief. Picking up object and randomly distributing them. It is an extremely effective gameplay element that adds a lot of replayability to Adventure.
While you have enemies trying to make your quest more difficult, you also have tools that will make it easier. You can only equip one item at a time, so choose carefully and make sure you remember where you put them.
The Bridge that can be used to pass over the walls of any portion of the kingdom.
The Magnet that affects all inanimate objects, including the Bridge.
The Sword that you can use to slay the dragons.
The Keys that will open the gate to their corresponding colored castle.
After you master the game and learn its patterns, you can actually UP the difficulty to randomize the game or even make the dragons try to avoid you when you are holding the sword. The first time I figured this out as a kid, I could not help but laugh with maniacal glee as the dragons cowered in fear from the might of my pixelated arrow sword.
Back then I called it my signature. My first game Slot Racers had been released the previous year, the box said “Slot Racers, by Atari.” So it was quite obvious when Adventure came out in 1979 it was going to say “Adventure, by Atari.” Yet I’d done everything. I had the idea – at least to convert it to a video game. Wrote the program. Did the graphics. Sound. Gameplay. So, I decided I’d hide my name in the game in a really hard to get to place and not tell anybody. Let Atari manufacture a few hundred thousand cartridges and ship them all over the world, and then… I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to find it. It was pretty hard to get into this little place.” – USG
The Easter Egg
It seems common now for game designers and developers to hide things in their games, but this is the first video game to do so. If you are dedicated enough to explore the game thoroughly and have a little bit of luck on your side, you can find a secret bonus room. When entering you will see the words “Created by Warren Robinett” in text which continuously changes color.
You can easily find out how to do this by watching videos or following online instructions, but back when the game came out, it was mostly spread by word of mouth. This added a new level of obsessiveness to anyone who loved the game. After all, could you call yourself a master of this game, if you haven’t found the one secret room?
Does this all sound like a lot of gameplay for an Atari game? Consider this, the game’s file size is probably 1/50th the size of any images included in the article. The fact that it fits onto a 4k Atari cart is a testament to the brilliance of Robinett. The fact that he was also able to cram the first documented video game “Easter Egg” into the game, just adds to the legend of this amazing accomplishment.
Adventure is up there with Pitfall! for a game that everyone should have in their collection. For its time and technology, it is nearly a perfect title, with a good amount of replay value and mythology.