Friday, March 04, 2016

My Favourite Games (Second Generation Era)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of my favourite arcade games. Tonight I consider some of my favourite games from the so-called second generation of video games, chiefly those found on the Atari 2600, the Intellivision and my cousin Darwin's Arcadia 2001 - marketed in Canada as Leisure-Vision.


We didn't have an 8-bit machine in our household - my parents wisely purchased an Atari 400 computer instead - so my experiences with the world of 8-bit games was confined to the times I played at the houses of friends. I don't remember which friend introduced me to Adventure, but I loved it; as a fan of swords and sorcery, I found the notion of slaying dragons and finding the golden chalice pretty enthralling, even if the game is really primitive by today's standards.


On the other hand, I remember playing Outlaws at Paul Ravensdale's place quite vividly; shooting each other through an endless parade of covered wagons was a scream. The frenetic action probably came close to spraining a couple of wrists.


Atari's adaptation of the complex arcade smash, Defender, couldn't emulate the superb graphics and sound of the arcade machine. But the gameplay was pretty good, especially considering they managed to mash all those controls into the Atari joystick. On one memorable afternoon, I managed to roll the score counter, albeit on the easiest setting; it remains the pinnacle of my video game achievements.


As much as I loved high fantasy, I was also a huge fan of jungle adventures thanks to Tarzan and Allan Quatermain. Playing Pitfall was like jumping into one of their tales; it had rolling logs, dangerous snakes, crocodiles and scorpions, underground tunnels, and even swinging on vines over obstacles, complete with a Tarzan yell. I never found all the gold bars, but the joy was in the journey.


When the Intellivoice module was released for Intellivision, a lot of gamers went a little nuts over the revolutionary notion of games that talked. B-17 Bomber was not only a fun World War II flying game, the voices blurted out hilarious warnings such as "Bandits - 6 o'clock!"


Astrosmash for the Intellivision was a faster-paced, more colourful version of Space Invaders. Gameplay may have been simple, but blasting space sponges (at least, that's what they looked like to me) was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Yar's Revenge was among the very best of Atari's 2600 releases. It was pretty high concept; you played the role of an intelligent being evolved from Earth houseflies, defending your planet from a Death Star-like doomsday cannon protected by a thick layer of shielding. There was also a neutral zone to protect you. You had three weapons: your mandibles, which you could use to eat through the shield, a ray gun, which you could use to shoot the shield, and your own mega cannon, which you had to use to blow up the bad guy's doomsday weapon. What made it especially challenging was the requirement that you had to get out of the way of your own shots when firing your main weapon.


At the time many reviewers panned Combat, the game that came packaged with Atari 2600 systems. Sure, the graphics aren't pretty, but the player vs. player action could get pretty intense, whether you were driving tanks or flying jets or biplanes.


I can't be sure that Darwin had an Arcadia 2001/Leisure-Vision, but the controls and design of the system evoke strong memories. I recall a racing game that put the two of us on the mean streets of a blocky 8-bit suburban neighbourhood, zooming back and forth, heedless of the hazard we presented. But if you ran your car into the exhaust creature that snaked along the roads, you were doomed.

The Arcadia also had a pretty good baseball simulator for its time, which also provided some entertainment. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always loved Astrosmash. I also really liked Intellivision's game Utopia.