Posts from the ‘Atari’ Category

Atari 2600 Haunted House Cardigan

Dear Reader, I must admit, I sincerely miss writing for this blog. This doesn’t mean you can expect any frequent posts in the near future, however – I simply can’t promise that. What I can promise is that I’ve found the perfect gift for your significant other.

Haunted House cardigan
This may look like a gag, but trust me, it’s 100% real. Upscale fashion chain Nordstrom is selling a very expensive women’s cardigan emblazoned with the spider from the Atari 2600 classic Haunted House.

Haunted House
Truth be told, Haunted House is one of my favorite Atari 2600 games. Unless I’m mistaken, it could be the very first survival horror videogame, and believe me, it does get downright unnerving at times. Great sound design, clean graphics, easy-to-learn controls – simply put, this game is worth your while. But back to the cardigan…

What impresses me is that this cardigan actually looks downright nice while being the geekiest piece of mainstream clothing I’ve ever seen – I mean, Haunted House is not exactly on the same level of popularity as The Legend of Zelda. It takes a real videogame fan/sad sack to recognize that design.

So if you’re desperate to find a great gift for that special someone, you could do a lot worse. Click here to buy it from Nordstrom’s site. If any Dear Readers happen upon this piece of clothing in the real world, please take a pic and send it in – bonus points if you’re in the picture and two giant thumbs up if you’re wearing the cardigan.

Merry Christmas!!


Unflattering Photos of Video Game Developers

Yale graduate Jordan Mechner

Square programmer Nasir Gebelli

BioShock designer Ken Levine

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell

Spore creator Will Wright in Paris

Disclaimer: The content within this article is entirely fictitious and only meant to be entertaining in a tongue-in-cheek sort of fashion. So, for lawyer’s sake — Please don’t sue!

Early Games of the Atari 2600

Everyone? Everyone?

*taps glass with spoon*

Please be seated. Tony, don’t stick your finger in the candle wax.

Welcome to the inaugural post of my latest “to-be-abandoned” project, Tele-Games 2600. Soon my attention toward it will waver and it will join such past interests as my Estes rocket collection, Jackson Pollock, and my dog Columbo.

I miss you most of all, Estes rocket collection.

Recently, I managed to snag a sizable collection of Atari 2600 games and consoles (three of them!) for one tendered President Franklin. I swooned at the sight of this archaic device; the 2600 was home to a boss collection of original games and the ports, while not perfect were icing on the cake. Right?

This is where things fell apart for me. Being reunited with the system was euphoric…for about a minute. No, make that forty seconds.

Okay, thirty-nine.

Growing up I thought my schoolyard’s slide was absolutely massive, but when I revisited it ten years later, I was able to step over its apex without breaking stride. In clearer terms, things change, and these childhood classics aren’t quite the pinnacle of home gaming anymore, except from maybe a scholarly point of view.

…nah, even Nolan Bushnell is blushing.

But make no mistake, the Atari 2600 deserves its place in gaming history, thanks to its extensive library. Everything wasn’t peachy keen at the beginning, though, as evidenced by its starting lineup.

Frankly, I feel for those early game designers, having to grapple with a system designed to only play Pong or Tanks That Shoot Pong.

The first game I’d like to talk about that’s not Pong – because frankly Pong is boring – Combat, is actually quite nice. You and another person each control a tank, ducking and weaving behind blocks like a tank would, attempting to shoot each other. Should a tank be hit by a Pong, it will spin wildly, resulting in a point for the opposite player. If you find fighting in tanks boring (I can’t imagine why you would), you can choose the option of fighting in biplanes, “the Tanks of the Sky.” Like redressing an ugly mannequin.

I’d be remiss and have to take to my bed without acknowledging the artwork of Atari’s games. Atari went the whole nine yards in attempting to explain just what you’re expected to see on-screen with a luscious piece of art displayed on each and every cart. Although, as was the case 100% of the time, their artists often went overboard. Just how am I supposed to surmise an entire Theater out of two dayglo “tanks” bumbling their way around a hedge maze?

Still, it’s better than the alternative, specifically Sears’ variant covers and names. Sears – God bless their stainless steel soul – couldn’t be any less helpful or imaginative when it came to their cartridge artwork. Just look at the difference between Combat and it’s Wisconsin cousin, Tank Plus. Where’s the pizazz, Sears? Tank Plus looks depressingly like was liberated from a former Soviet republic. At gunpoint.

As I said above, the discrepancy between the artwork and what was seen in-game was often immense. Just look at the artwork for our next game.

Ohh yes. F-Zero before the SNES. Kids, have you ever dreamed of driving some sort of space Camaro in the year 2015? Well, then Slot Racers is the game for you.

Wait a minute. Slot Racers? Sounds like a carnival game… Now hold on..

No!! I’ve been tricked by the Atari Gods once again. It’s merely Combat on a fixed track! And although I’m thankful that Atari is slowly making its way away from Pong variations, I’m still quite pissed that I’ve wasted my allowance on this.

Slot Racers is marginally better than Combat, if only because it can be so unpredictable. The gameplay is thusly; two slot cars race around on tracks, shooting bullets at each other. You can switch tracks further inward or outward to your advantage. Because of this, the real skill is in determining which track you’re on. All the same, dreadful game.

And even more dreadful are the graphics, which look downright pornographic to me. Because I am a pathetic manchild, I can’t help but think I’m controlling a blind penis who makes his way around by running his head against the walls of the maze. The bullets are ejaculations, which shoot at an incredible rate and distance, with debilitating results.

Oh, and by the way, the Sears version is called Drive Block.

Just kidding.

Our last game, which doesn’t have an ounce of Combat-y gameplay in it, is Blackjack. The main reason I’m “reviewing” this game is to bring up an interesting point about Atari’s library. I’m under the impression that a game like Blackjack or Video Checkers was made for the Atari 2600 as a gateway drug for non-gamers to invest their time and money in buying other much better games. No kid in their right mind would B-line for a game of Blackjack, no matter how many copies of Combat he had. But Grampa Hal might.

Unfortunately for Gramps, the achilles’ heel of a system designed to play Pong, Combat, and Compongbat reveals itself once again. With only one button, Blackjack becomes as tedious as TEN Combats! And get this, according to Wikipedia, the game is obscenely difficult to play:

“This game employs a variant of blackjack rules that is so extremely unfavorable to the player, that it would almost certainly never be seen in a real casino because no one would play with them.”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Grampa has one of two options at this point; cut his losses like any smart gambler would and pass the game and the system off to his grandchildren so they can buy more cartridges, OR buy more carts himself to ensure a better investment in his space-aged Atari system. Either way, Atari wins.

Speaking of Video Checkers a while back, check out the artwork for it:

I… I don’t know where to begin. This was truly a litmus test for finding the smarmiest losers in your class. Who looks at this cover art and decides they want to imagine playing chess in medieval times with your own mother cheering you on?

King: Well done, Chessmaster. Well done.

Welp, that’s about all I have to say on these three Atari games. I have to admit, I don’t know how to end this blog entry, so I’ll do what I would’ve done in high school.

In summation, old Atari games were very bad.