1978

==============
1978
==============
Small advances in computers and home consoles begin setting the stage for the big video game boom coming.

Space Invaders becomes the first HUGE arcade hit bringing the public consciousness into the realm of the arcade.  Perhaps THE MOST influential game of all time!  New places spring up for people to try their hand at Space Invaders. The popularity of Space Invaders is what launches the GOLDEN AGE of video games!  Space Invaders was also the first game to be an international hit (huge hit in Japan) as well as introducing a high score feature!  So many firsts — you can now try to beat others high score!

Space Invaders was later licensed for the Atari 2600 – and that was the first killer app for any home system!  You HAD to play that one.  Not a bad conversion either, for the limitations of the system.

——————–
POP CULTURE:
——————–

MOVIE: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
MOVIE: Grease
MOVIE: Animal House “Toga! Toga!”  “Food Fight!”
MOVIE: Superman (inspired some games)
STAR WARS Holiday Special – can’t put this anywhere, it was crazy bad.
TV:  Incredible Hulk
TV:  Battlestar Galactica — great fun, total Star Wars ripoff, but still cool.
TOY: Hungry Hungry Hippo
TOY: Texas Instruments “Speak and Spell” (you remember those, right?)
TOY: Simon  (Dang I got good at this thing) LOL
– interesting that Simon was Ralph Baer copying Atari’s “Touch Me”
Home Depot founded in Atlanta GA
Bee Gees sing “Stayin’ Alive!”
Cartoon: Garfield begins…

——————–
IN ARCADE NEWS…
——————–
Taito’s Space Invaders appears and becomes the inspiration for many vertical shooting games to follow. Atari’s arcade game Football introduces 2-directional scrolling.  Also, NAMCO releases its first Japanese video game “Gee Bee”.  For the first time, Atari’s dominance in the arcade is threatened because of Taito’s huge hit.  Other arcade games of 1978 also suffer from lower sales as Space Invaders sucks up the attention.  But thanks to the desire for playing Space Invaders, and the income the machines bring in… a golden age of video games is ushered in.  Mom & Pop businesses scramble to add Space Invaders machines in corners of their stores.  It was a phenomenon I didn’t personally experience until Street Fighter II made a similar, successful splash – and I remember seeing those machines in a whole host of non-traditional arcade outlets:  convenience stores, gas stations, laundromats and more.

——————–
IN COMPUTER NEWS…
——————–
Games begin to show up for the Apple II, Commodore Pet, and the TRS-80.  Interactive-Fiction takes off on the MICRO platforms, beginning with Scott Adams “Adventureland” spearheading this new brave frontier.  He helped bring to the tiny little Micros what used to be the realm of only the mainframes. Adventureland might not be the pinnacle of game design, but it ushered in a new exciting type of game uniquely situated to the very limited gaming ability of the home computers of the day.

The affordability of the new home computers inspires more than a few fledgling computer programmers, who start writing software all on their own.  It’s the Wild West of video games on the home front!

Also, the Texas Instruments “Speak and Spell” (you remember those, right?) was introduced!

=======================
CONSOLE SYSTEMS:
=======================

APF MP-1000:
Never knew about this one growing up, but looked fairly decent.  It was an early 8-bit cartridge based system, later exapnded to what became the APF Imagination Machine.  Marketed by the APF Electronics company, it never gained much traction in the Unisted States and could only be played on a color TV.  Joysticks were also non-detachable, but did have a numberic keypad.  It also came with a built-in game called “Rocket Patrol”.

BALLY ASTROCADE (or PROFESSIONAL ARCADE)
–  Clocking in at $100 more than the VCS, and marketed mostly through computer stores (vs. toy stores) the Astrocade machine never truly took off.  It was one of the most powerful systems of its time, using more advanced chips (which no doubt added to the price) and had removable cartridges with some of the best home versions of current arcade games at that time.  Although it had its followers, the Bally system was quickly overrun by the popularity of the 2600.

Note… this started selling in 1977 via mail-order as the “Bally Home Library Computer” which is why it is sometimes listed as launching in 1977.  Because no units were actually available until 1978, it seems more appropriate for this year.

COLECO TELSTAR ARCADE:
–  This was an interesting system release as it had three sides to it, and each cartridge had programming for each of the three sides.  The first side had a driving wheel and gear shifter.. the 2nd side, two paddles (pong games), and the 3rd side had a light-gun.  For being a dedicated system (ie. not interchangeable catridges) this offered some variety and some good variation in gameplay.  Only 4 cartridges were ever released.

COLECO TELSTAR MARKSMAN:
– An elongated rifle light gun only system.  Dedicated console… cool looking gun, boring games.

COLECO TELSTAR GEMINI:
– NOTE:  There was a “Gemini” system that played Atari 2600 games… and then there was this system which had a pistol-replica light gun, and more uniquely two “flipper” buttons on the console to simulate a pinball machine.  The system shipped with 4 pinball games.

INTERTON VC 4000 (1292 Advanced Programmable Video System)
– This was a system released in Germany, and never made much headway into the video game industry (even in Europe).  America was far too busy with video game console wars already..  It also seems that most of the games were implementations of all the common games… pretty much most of the established games on other consoels as well.  Not sure of the specs, but the graphics seemed superior to the 2600?

NINTENDO:  Color TV Game 15

ODYSSEY 2100

MAGNAVOX ODYSSEY²
– Ah yes, the infamous Odyssey2, with it’s built-in membrane keyboard and the controllers permanently attached to the body. (Sure beat out the Intellivision system’s “keyboard” in that its promised add-on device took years to launch).  I have many fond memories of the Odyssey2, not because the games were superior… but because this was my very first system ever.  Nostalgia is ever-present when I play the Odyssey2 again:  the sound every time “Select Game” fired up, the way those little man graphics appeared in practically ALL their titles… etc.  I remember enjoying the system, but eventually wishing I could play the better games I saw on the Atari.  At least, the variety was much greater.

Although the Odyssey2 was built to compete with Atari’s 2600, and was even superior in a number of ways, it lacked the arcade connections that Atari had built.  One programmer built many of the Odyssey2 games, which made them look and sound alike.  Eventually Atari took off for the moon when they began winning the contracts for the most popular games (like Space Invaders, Pac-Man, etc.), which left the Odyssey2 crowd to play “me-too” copies.

However, one particular “me-too” was Odyssey’s version of pac-man, called K.C. Munchkin.  In this case, the Odyssey2 port was much better than the 2600 version — even beating it to the marketplace.  It was the first time people started snapping up the Odyssey in numbers so they could play K.C. Munchkin at home!  Of course, if you can’t beat them in game design, beat them up in court!  Atari won the legal battle and had K.C. removed from the marketplace.  It was one of the death knell’s for Odyssey2.  Even in the last days when some really interesting “MASTER STRATEGY” series of games came out… it was too little too late.  I remember enjoying “Quest for the Rings” in all it’s glory before finally switching to the 2600.

Kudos to Odyssey for trying, and for creating a unique system and a few really fun games.

=======================
COMPUTER GAMES of 1978:
=======================
NOTE:  Going to combine, as so many games are multi-system in the early days of Micro’s.
____________
MAINFRAME / OTHER:
————

ACHETON – no thanks.
Maybe someday, but the sheer size and cruelness of it doesn’t make me really want to     play.  Just wanting to move on to better years of gaming and not languish forever in hard games of this era.

CASTLE – one of the adventures from the WANDER system by Peter Langston.
A pretty decent sized world to explore, some non-linear parts to this game later on, but has some flaws with the source material.  The good thing is you can edit the source and fix it all up.  Multiple endings (Frog, Damsel… both) although there is one “NE” direction you have to take at the bottom of a well to open up probably more than 50% of the game world.  Still…  I had fun beating this, and figuring out the Wander system – fairly simple really.  I achieved the BEST Ending!

* MYSTERY MANSION – by Bill Wolpert
A very ambitious text-adventure for its time, featuring over 800 different possible mysteries to solve.  Like the board game Clue – figure out the who, with what and where of each murder mystery.  In addition to solving the case, you also try to score up to 999 points by finding valuable treasure, and dispatching foul creatures like a werewolf.  A fascinating blend of mystery/fantasy/and treasure hunting – an important early step into different settings of Interactive-fiction, and a very challenging game.  My best score was 979-pts after MAJOR attempts to save lantern usage, and score every point.

OREGON TRAIL – 1978 version on HP-2100 time sharing
This is the venerable classic, Oregon Trail, still in its text-only development years.  You still have to type words like “BANG” when you go hunting, and everything is reported in text.  The version most people think of is 1985 on the Apple II, but there is even a less graphical version for that system from 1980.  We’re still playing through Oregon Trail here before its Apple II days… and its still fun.

STUGA – no thanks again.
Another big game, but this one seems to fall down the most in the interest level.  I’m just not interested enough at this time to play it.  Maybe at a later date, when I’m in the right mood.

____________
THE BIG 3:
————
3D DOCKING MISSION / APL  – Nice little variation on the Lunar Lander type of game… you have to fly from Left to Right of the screen to dock straight-on with a spaceport.  The trick is you have to match both horizontal (left-right) and veritcal (up-down) by looking at two screens of action.  Score:  228

3D TIC-TAC-TOE  /  APL, PET, TRS-80 – (PET) Nice little implementation of this game.  Computer does take his sweet time to think at the opening, but speeds up as fewer options present themselves.  I beat him first try out.

ACEY DEUCEY  /  TRS-80  – This is a simply little betting game that you can go head-to-head against the computer.  I took him on and beat him, getting my initial $100 stake to $800 before calling it quits.

* ADVENTURELAND (Scott Adams #1)  /  APL, TRS-80 – Played APPLE version…  classic!  Bringing the text adventure to the severely limited 16K machines of the day.  Has a style and feel all its own, and in spite of parser issues, can still be a fun little quest.  BEAT IT!  Did need a few hints to get there, however.

AIR RAID (Small System Sotware) / TRS-80 – Saw this one advertised in Kilobaud 1978-12 for $14.95.  🙂  Not a bad game for the TRS-80, it’s just like Air-Sea Battle on the Atari, except just black & white, and no sound, graphics aren’t smooth… but otherwise just like it.  Hah!  Not really, but it is kind of a fun action game on a system that doesn’t shine in graphics, animation or sound.  They even threw extended play into the game — Win!!  Just like the big boys in the arcades. I scored 9490!

APPLE 21 / APL – A nice little blackjack game.  Good colors, definitely nice to have automated these types of experiences to handle the shuffling, dealing, and chip counting!  I won 2 bets in a row… and that’s about as good as I got in the short time I played.

APPLE II TREK / APL – The popular Star Trek game of the day…  not interested myself.

AWARI  /  APL, PET, TRS-80  – This is a clasic puzzle game played on a board with multiple “pockets”.  You move chips around the board and try to “capture” more than your opponent.  Nice little game… I didn’t beat it yet, the computer has some decent AI programmed into it – 14 to 20 was my closest.

Backgammon/Blackjack  /  TRS-80 – Your standard BASIC implementations, text only.

BAGELS /  PET / TRS-80 – Easy version of mastermind with just 2-digits. Beat it.

BASIC Computer Games  /  APL, PET, TRS-80 – There are a lot of these, actually… and most are pretty simplistic.  I played through a bunch on the CLOAD magazines, and that was a good sampling.  But we need to move on, as this is a lot of simple homebrew stuff that isn’t worth too much dwelling on.

BENEATH APPLE MANOR / APL   – Cool!  This is one of the earliest ROGUE-like games.  A dungeon crawl that was first released in a text-only format here in 1978… but I decided to play the updated HIRES version for the updated graphics and sound effects that were added.  Same basic ideas, but I think more rewarding.  I finally beat the dragons and captured the Golden Apple at Level 8 all on standard game, which was crazy because my emulator kept crashing on Saves… and ultimately crashed as I beat the game!  Wait a second… it wasn’t a crash — it was supposed to be returning me to the command prompt!  Get it — GOLDEN APPLE — APPLE Computer…  hahahahahahaha!  BEAT IT 100%

Blackjack  /  PET /  TRS-80 – I won $1 million on Blackjack, because you can bet anything you want, and have no actual “stake” – just a win/loss final. (there’s also “Adams” version of Backgammon and more)

BREAKOUT or PONG / APL  – this is an alternate version of PONG.  There was a hi-res version that I placed in 1977, but this colorful PONG implementation could indeed be the 1977 version instead.  But who really cares?  There were so many pong variants, they caused a market crash… so a little year mixup is well deserved. You win at 720 points, clearing the screen.

BRIDGE CHALLENGER  /  APL, TRS-80 – A game of bridge on the computer.  Too bad I don’t play bridge.

BULLS AND BEARS   /  APL, PET, TRS-80  – Fun little stock market simulation.  There are only 2 companies, but with volatile stock prices you can make a killing.  I went from $50,000 to over $3.6 Million before I quit.  BEAT IT! (well, not official)

DEATH STAR / TRS-80  – Now here’s a fun BASIC action game.  It flashes at ya a lot (as BASIC does) but at lesat it’s playable.  I stuck around until I beat the Death Star and scored 21000 pts.  However, to get the best score you apparently have to score over 24,500… which is a total mix of luck, and a little skill.  Don’t forget to “E”scape after you fire your torpedoes or you’re a DEAD JEDI – good or bad.  😉  BEAT IT

DOOMSDAY / TRS-80  – Another fun vertical scrolling dodging type of game.  Amazingly I was able to navigate through the corridor, make the final shot, and “SAVE THE GALAXY”.  MAY THE FORCES BE WITH YOU!  lol  (there was just no respect of copyright).  BEAT IT

DRAGON MAZE / APL – Ugh!  Hate the invisible maze games.. And this has bad controls on top of it.  Yuck.

DUNGEON ADVENTURE / TRS-80 – Well, like a dungeon crawl without graphics (yes, told in step-by-step text descriptions).  Hardly riveting.  I didn’t even finish my adventure, quit with 2050 Gold pieces.

ENTRAPMENT / TRS-80 – Here’s your “Brickyard” or “Surround” game.  Not bad, actually, other than having to use the keyboard.  But at least the higher res gives you a larger playfield than many consoles of the day.

ESCAPE / APL – Talked about on the Digital Antiquarian, a sort of “pre-Akalabeth” first-person maze game.
Rather large map, actually.  Thank goodness for save game, because you need to have 3 things to escape, and its a little bewildering at first.  1. Compass which points the RIGHT direction.   2. Correct MAP to finally get your bearings.  3. A valid hall pass (which can get taken away even so).   Don’t ever accept a new hall pass if you have one, it’s a sure way to get a bad pass that doesn’t fool anyone.  BUT, with those 3 things, a little luck, (oh, and speeding up the painfully slow emulator 3x) I escaped the maze!  WIN!

FIGHTER PILOT / APL – Another game similar to the Star Wars game, where you try to line up an Alien Ship and then fire at just the right time to destroy the enemy craft across your main sights.  Drawing routines stutter and it’s difficult to time a shot with the jumpy graphics, but I still had some fun with this little game.  Finally shot the 9 Aliens down before running out of energy!  Beat it!

HAMURABI  /  APL, PET, TRS-80  – Classic game of managing a little empire in ancient times.  Balance acres, growth and population – and don’t forget to feed your peasants aplenty.  I’ve always liked this type of game, but was confused by a “so-so” ending when I did the best I ever did, so I delved into the winning conditions and wrote a little FAQ about the winning conditions for the BEST ending:  <110 acres  <1100 acres  <2500 bushels + a ratio of 10 for population/acres and 3% or less death by starvation!   100% this one.  280 people and 3602 acres of land.

HEXAPAWN  /  APL, PET, TRS-80  – Apple has a nice graphical version of this classic puzzle game.  It uses pawn pieces, so you have to be familiar with chess… the object to advance at least one pawn across the board.  Here, the challenge is easy enough as the computer AI flubs up easily.  But it can be a little bit of a trick if you’ve never tried this puzzle before.  WIN!

HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES / TRS-80  –  Another BASIC text adventure by Greg Hassett.. who was reportedly 12 when he made this game.  Yes, it shows, but that’s kind of fun to know why we have some funny misspellings like Dungion, Peices, a Spicket (yeah, for water), etc.  I eventually worked out the 160 of 160 pts, which isn’t too challenging – the biggest problem being a guess the verb, instead of actually having the right concept.  ie.  “show garlic” to vampire instead of using it some other method — and “stab vampire” instead of trying to kill him, or the like.  WIN!

HURKLE  /  PET, APL – (also called Mouse on the Apple) a simple hunt & find game

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (Adventure)  /  PET, TRS-80  –  A simple BASIC programmed text-adventure game.  The very early “Treasure Hunt” variety – but its not frustrating and only has a few puzzles.  Good historical game, as it came out the same year that “Adventureland” by Scott Adams made so many waves.   175 of 175 WIN!

JUPITER EXPRESS / APL  – Cool little action game- you attempt to fly your spaceship from the left side of the screen, all the way across a very busy asteroid field…  to the safety of the right side of the screen.  Took me a few attempts, but I made it!  The asteroids are pretty heavy – not as easy as it first looks.  I BEAT level 9 (hardest)

LEMONADE STAND / TRS-80 – I remember this little game back in elementary school.  Try to optimize the sale of lemonade by balancing # of cups made, pricing, and advertising.  You start out with a little help from mom at just 2cents a cup – but quickly go to 4 cents, and then after inflation hits you stay at 5 cents for the remainder.  You can mess with the variables, as its simple BASIC programming — but with the defaults I was able to max my regular day profits out (once you settle in at 5 cents a day) at $2.20 daily.  53x3x10  WIN!

Lunar Lander / TRS-80  – (Softside mention) – Didn’t want to play.

Mastermind III / TRS-80 – (Softside, Lance Micklus) – Again, too many versions of this.  Bored with it, and didn’t bother playing.

MAZE GAME / APL – (MUSE, Silas Warner) – Whoah… this is just a quicker playing version of Escape… no guards to slow you down, and you can specify how large the map you want.  But essentially it looks like the same drawing routines and the same type of “escape the maze” gameplay.  Not bad, but now I wonder if MUSE did this first, or if they scaled the ESCAPE down a bit for this?  Interesting.  Well, I escaped an 8×8!

MICROCHESS 2.0  /  APL, PET, TRS-80  (APL is best)
– amazing they even accomplished this feat on such a limited system.  The AI leaves something to be determined — I actually beat the computer with White.  But a nice graphic representation and the fact you can play a computer in chess at all is quite an accomplishment.  Computer Chess was really a big thing in 1978 – they started a MICRO vs. MICRO tournamnet as well as the mainframe chess wars too.  Was fun to beat this one on the APPLE II and see how far we’ve come.  WIN!

MOUSE / APL – (see Hurkle)

MUGWUMP / PET = use coordinates to try to locate 4 Mugwumps on a 10×10 grid.  You only get 10 turns, but after each turn you are given exactly how far you are to each Mugwump.  A little math, a little luck, and you can return to your village a proud & successful Mugwump hunter!  I finally got all 4 in just 6 turns!

NIGHTMARE #6 / APL – Beat it with 2120 of a supposed 2080 (guess  I did better than the programmer thought was possible).

PIRATE ADVENTURE /  APL, TRS-80 – I’ve been working through this and finding the atmosphere fun, the puzzles fairly simple but still fun.  Giving rum to a pirate?  Of course.  The Parrot eating a cracker, naturally.  Build a boat to go to Treasure Island – but of course (although it was Treasure Island where the guy tried to build a boat… but nevertheless).  There is such an old school feel – opening a book reveals a flyer, which is an ad for Adventure #3 already – sporting lower case!  Well, the sneakers really are for safety, the bird is smart, you’ll need hammer, nails, lumber, anchor, sails and a keel…. fun stuff. This was one of the first “Adventure” games of any kind that I solved without any hints at all.  I only google’d “30 paces then dig” because I couldn’t guess the verb.  Found that it said “pace 30” then “dig”!  DOH!  I was trying all sorts of pace variations…  hate that.  Right idea, parser issue.  Other than that, I figured everything out on my own.  100 of 100 WIN!

QUBIC / PET  – This is connect 4, but on a 3-dimensional scale.  A 4×4 Grid.
Good computer intelligence really makes you have to take a step back and think it through.  I was beaten up twice by the lowly ‘ol PET intelligence, before I nailed the upper-hand and won a game!  Kind of like 3D Tic-Tac Toe on many other platforms.  WIN!

QUIX / PET – NOPE!  not the famous arcade game of the same name.  This is just another Simon-like game.  Except harder, because after every successful sequence, they don’t start over but hit you with a brand-new sequence.  I got a sequence of 9, and probably with some practice could do better… but sometimes you just don’t want ot work that hard.  SEQ of 9 completed.

RACE / PET – Just a little ASCII graphic game of a car navigating a little obstacle course.  Try 100 pylons at 100 Speed, however, and see how quick your reflexes are!  WIN!  (100 pylons / 100 speed)

ROBOT (v1/1) / TRS-80  (Softside ad) – The Robots chasing the human game.  Through logic, survive and get the robots to hit the wall or themselves.  It’s a good BASIC implementation, I enjoyed it… but even the Fairchild had a much faster, smoother, more fun implementation.  WIN!  5 fences 20 robots.

ROTATE / PET – Guess I’m just a sucker for puzzle games.  Here the idea is like one of those sliding puzzles where you have to put all the tiles in the right place.  However, in this setup you rotate a block of four clockwise with each “touch”.  Can be a little tricky, but the final “Special Tile Swap” move (allowed once per game) can mean the difference of win or not!  WIN in 56 moves!

* SANTA PARAVIA AND FIUMACCIO  /  TRS-80 – Nice improved game of “Hamurabi” if you will, this time the ability to change taxes, buy/sell land & grain, and the fun addition of growing your little town with buildings.  First you add a marketplace, then a Woolen Mill, finally working up to building a palace & a cathedral.  This game was featured in Softside #3, and now I see why – really detailed and repeatable, especially for a game of its time.  I actually did WIN, becoming a KING in year 1444 (Guess I was lucky to live so long.

TIME BOMB / TRS-80  – (Softside) – Published in Softside #2, you’re trying to diffuse a bomb that is somewhere in a giant skyscraper.  Primitive graphics, but a fun concept.  The initialization took so long that I thought the game was broken on bootup, and almost stopped it before I got to the actual game screen.  First time through, I took too long and BLAM! appeared multiple times all over the screen. But I finally made my way to the Bomb and won (You’re Safe!).

TREASURE HUNT / TRS-80  (Softside, Lance Micklus) – Cool Game!  Search for 20 treasures in a Hunt-The-Wumpus kind of interface.  However, there are some puzzles to solve by bringin a particular object into a room with you.  There’s also some strategy, as once you pick up an object you either drop it off at the cave entrance, or carry it until you use it — and you only have 3 inventory slots.  Bit of a challenge to avoid the pits, the dragon, and the pirate.. not have your magic carpet disappear, and then to find & recover all 20 treasures!  But I did it.  WIN!  20 of 20 treasures

TROLL’S GOLD / TRS-80  (Softside, type-in) – Cool little luck/strategy game.  Sneak through a constantly shifting maze of open doors to get to the Troll’s Gold pile, and then sneak back out.  One unlucky sequence and the Troll will have you for dinner… but escape and you’ll be a very wealthy person!

TOWERS OF HANOI /  APL, PET  – Another puzzle game that certainly takes me back to the early days of computing.  This is a simple version of the challenge, where you only have to move 4 rings from tower 1 to one of the other towers… never putting a larger ring on top of a smaller ring.  I’ve always loved the orderly approach and the very natural solution that flows once you grasp the concept.   WIN!  15 moves for a tower of 4 discs – no mistakes.  On TRS-80 we have the 7-disc versions.  That one took me 127 moves – PERFECT SCORE! (2 to the power of how many discs, minus one)

TRS-80 ONLY: (see the CLOAD – 1978.txt file)

=======================
CONSOLE GAMES OF 1978:
=======================
————————
–      APF-M1000       –
————————
– BACKGAMMON:  You shouldn’t have to consult a manual in order to even play a move… I just didn’t know what to do to get this game going.  Also, its backgammon… why bother playing a traditional board game on an old system – when it’s far easier these days to find an online website for point & click simplicity, or download a free app on your phone! (no score)

– BASEBALL:  Now here’s at least a playable game, although not great.  Sure it looks like the arms of the baseball players are flailing around in a “screaming in terror” sort of way… but it’s still baseball.  A little animation for getting a player out is about the extent of the action.  The biggest problem is that there is no outfield control when a ball is hit – it’s all preset based on where you position your fielders.  Another issue – too easy!  My first time through and I won 28-7!

– BLACKJACK: I won $500 once…  betting $500 at a time.  Gambling isn’t that much fun when you’re simply dealing in virtual currency, and you can restart with $1000 anytime.  There needs to be some other incentives to make it playable.  Furthermore, this version of blackjack plays far too slowly.. .really needs to be sped up for a better experience. Finally, playing Blackjack without all the options is just not the same game.  It’s like playing a game of chess — but you can only move the pawns.  Here we are given 1 prompt –> “Hit?”  It’s a yes or no question.  No double down, no insurance, split, etc.  And for me, that’s really not blackjack.  Score: Win $500

– BLOCKOUT:  A 2-player only version of the surround type of video game… far inferior to the Atari 2600’s “Surround” in sound effects and speed.  You can play a few variations, but there really isn’t much reason to:  1. You don’t have anyone to play against.  2.  If you DID have somebody to play against, you’d most certainly play a far better implementation elsewhere.  (no score)

* BOWLING:  A pretty fun bowling game.  You get to pick from 3 different speeds – this determines how quickly your bowling ball oscillates from left to right at the bottom of the lane.  This is all about timing… simply press the button when you want to let the bowling ball down the lane.  If you send it just to the right or left of the center pin, you should be able to get a strike — the trick is timing it to hit at exactly the right place.  Fairly simplistic, but at least the score is accurate and the hit detection consistent.  One of the better carts for the MP-1000.  SCORE: 177 (Medium speed)

– BOXING:  Always enjoy boxing games…  well almost always.  Okay, it wasn’t all bad.  APF’s boxing is a commendable attempt using large boxing characters and a side-view of the arena.  There is even an element of timing in beating your opponent, not just hitting the button the fastest.  However, play is not all that exciting and it gets boring rather quickly.  I was in the middle of the sixth round of my boxing playthrough when I was about to give up — just too much tedium.  Luckily I had gotten a feel for the controls and won by knockout with just 5 seconds left in Round 6.  Winning by knockout rewards you with a celebratory victory dance and an immediate 15-0 win.

– BRICKDOWN:  Here’s the requisite Breakout clone for the APF.  Unlike having a smooth paddle controller, you have to control your paddle with a joystick, never as easy.  But the biggest downfall of this program is the strange directional response of the ball bouncing off the paddle.  Seemingly at random the ball will either switch direction, or continue on in a normal path.  The angles of the paddle seem to matter little.  Because of that, you really lack any finer control… and you get so desperate to knockout the few remaining bricks you try to hit the ball at the very edge of the paddle – and that’s how I didn’t end up with a the proper “avoid losing ball for high score”.  TOTAL:  167

– CASINO:  Here ya go.. Roulette, Keno and Slots all emulated on the APF.  All in glorious color, and sound… and…  okay, who am I kidding, this blows chunks.  There is no thrill of the gamble with nothing to lose, and nothing but a digital $ amount in the bank.  I could hardly figure out how to place a bet in Roulette… KENO is probably the most fun, as at least you can sort of try your hand at the lottery…  and the SLOTS are just loud and extremely annoying.  No loitering… good riddance.

– CATENA (OTHELLO):  The big question here… why’d they have to call this “Catena”.  Who ever heard of a Catena?  Is that where a bunch of space jockies hang out, drink and smoke, listen to a band, and shoot bounty hunters before they get you?  Never mind.  I find the gameplay, again, rather slow.  So much flashing and beeping… I donna s’ponse you coulda hurry it up?  What’s more to say about a computer version of Othello, other than the computer A.I. isn’t half bad, and I’m not half good… so I wasn’t going to stick around for the thumping I was receiving.  Score:  DNF

– DUNGEON HUNT:  Take turns turning over tiles to uncover little Crowns of victory.  The player who turns over the most winning tiles, scores the most points… and wins.  Yeah!  That sounds like fun.  A big bunch of luck and random guessing.  Seems like desperation is setting in to run up the “Total Games” count for the APF-MP1000.  Not looking good… but at least this wasn’t a cartridge unto itself — that would be robbery!   Score:  2p only

* HANGMAN:  Yes!  Finally an actually FUN, playable game for our little system that could.  Some of the words are actually quite hard when you’re doing the longer ones.  The sound effects aren’t bad, the graphics are passable enough… and there is a little animation when your guy is dropped from the platform and hanged on the gallows.  I like that APF went full “person” to persecute, and didn’t hold back punches… (even his FACE turns blue!)  They also didn’t make a lame attempt to hang a monkey (looking at you Atari 2600) or something like that.  Great game.  I guess I beat it a few times… uh, the game I’m talking about.

– MICRO MATCH:  Concentration.  Easy enough.  A few variations on the kinds of tiles you can pick from — words, designs, and color box.  I like words the best, my brain seems to remember them far better than colorful boxes or the like.  Not a bad game, if you like concentration, and the option of triple-match on a few variations is kind cool.  But a poor scoring system makes it hard to figure out what is being calculated and limits repeated attempts.  Without some kind of scoring for accuracy and/or time elapsed, it’s just a quick trip down the brain game path.  Too many far easier versions to play these days.  I won both Words &  Design Triplex (match 3)

– PINBALL:  Whether you play regular pinball, PRO (faster), or Pinball-2 (2 paddles)… you’re basically faced with a type of breakout-like game on a pinball table.  There are a few bumpers and scoring targets that flash… if your ball hits them while they are “on” you will score points.  You move your paddle at the bottom of the screen ala Breakout.. .and you can temporarily light up the side bumpers to keep the ball in play.  Not so much like pinball, but at least they tried to be creative here.  I just got bored with it quickly.  Lackluster for sure.  Just sort of quit after hitting 14,950.

– ROCKET PATROL / TRASH TRUCKS:   This is the built-in game, and that’s a very loose interpretation of the word “game”.  The entire play consists of hitting a fire button to send a shot upwards, hoping to explode one of the flying rocket ships overhead.  Simple timing shooter, and hardly a challenge at all.  It gives you 1 minute of play time per player, and then compares the two scores.  The first 30 sec is normal speed, and the second 30 seconds is faster.  After you’re both done shooting- player with the higher score wins.  I hit 29, and didn’t bother sticking around for the next round.  HOWEVER, I did give it another attempt in the form of “Trash Truck” – which is just alternate graphics for the same dumb game. LOL.  Annoying.  31 pts.

– SHOOTING MATCH:  Start with 5, 10, or 20 bullets (so generous, I know)…  and try to shoot the left-to-right bouncing block.  The more accurate your shots… the higher your score.  A glitch in the game makes your target disappear at a certain point — which really does it make it hard to hit the block at that point.  Use the force Luke… let it guide your actions.  SCORE:  300

* SPACE DESTROYERS – Yes, this is easily the best game for the APF-MP1000.  A decent space invaders clone, smooth-playing, good challenge.  However, this is an advanced cartridge which came out later… and it’s almost more of an APF Imagination Machine game, which are generally better with the ugpraded system.  So although I’m mentioning it here for its cartridge version… the variation I played is on the full Imagination Machine.  You’ll have to check out this game on that system, with its loading audio file that adds to the atmosphere.  Pretty cool stuff… but I rocked this game and got:  7,360 pts

– TIC TAC TOE:  Okay, what you do, see, is you are either an X or an O. X goes first and you take turns trying to get 3 X’s or O’s in a row.  If you manage to do that, you win!  Really brainy, difficult, strategic game.  Yeah!   Hours of enjoyment.  *end sarcasm.   Beat computer easily.

– UFO / SEA MONSTERS / BREAK IT DOWN / REBUILD / SHOOT:  – This cart has a few decent games, all in the timed-shooter variety.  First you take the part of a UFO gunning down the little beasties flyin around.  It’s head-to-head.. so little challenge here unless you go against one of the many APF Pro players who hang out in your local Radio Shack.  Other variations of games on this cart include shooting out all the sections of a rotating block… or Rebuilding the same block with bricks instead of blowing the bricks to bits.  UFO: 40  SEA MONSTERS:  15   Break It Down: 28  Rebuild:  48  Shoot a Lot:  2250

————————
–      ATARI 2600      –
————————

– BACKGAMMON – A pretty sweet implementation of Backgammon for early console/computer games.  The computer graphic representation is easy enough to follow, even with lo-res graphics, the play mechanics are speedy enough to be worth playing, you can play against a computer opponent, and all the game rules seem implemented.  They even offer the “Gambling” game, where you can choose to go back and forth on the doubling of the wager for whoever wins.  I didn’t know any of this, but it was all explained in the manual.  So good job Atari.  Although every single system of the day seemed to want to throw the Backgammon game on the me-too table, Atari’s was one that was actually worth owning.  Lost.

* BASKETBALL – Great game.  This game proves that it’s not all about the realism, or proper perspective… it boils down to a playable, fair challenge.  I had a neck-n-neck game against the computer the entire way, basically beating him in the final seconds 48-46.  So it’s definitely competitive, if unrealistic.  It doesn’t really follow the rules of basketball, and you’re limited to one type of shot (although you can vary the distance). Still, Atari is ahead of the field again with their fun factor.   WIN: 48-46

– BOGGLE (unreleased prototype) – Looked like a decent implementation, but rather hard to play compared to just looking at a boggle cube.  Also, the Atari 2600 probably didn’t have the memory or firepower to actually do any kind of word checking.  Therefore this was always going to be a 2-player only game where the other person was your word checker.  No points.

– BOWLING – Nice.  Another fun Atari implementation of real-world activities people actually did back in 1978.  Simple controls means a pick-up-and-play experience… with decent pin knockdown detection. Not easy to dial-in the strike, but I suppose it could be done with practice.  Score 165

– BRAIN GAMES – Okay, can’t say I’m a fan.  This is variations on “Touch Me”, Atari’s laughable name for a game most people simply know as Simon.  The rules for all these games, however, is that you have either 4 misses or you complete a sequence of 32 tones.  That’s pretty steep.  No intermediate step for those in training? No, 8, 16, or 24 sequence options?  Too bad.  There are also a number of other tone and brain like games.  You could also play songs with the tone generator.  Like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…  (DNF)

– BREAKOUT (aka. BREAKAWAY IV)  – Just like the arcade, but blockier.  They even kept the arcade’s 2-screen limitation… meaning your high score is for clearing two screens for a grand total of:  864 pts (Beat it.)   There is also a variation called Breakaway where the ball just goes right through all the bricks.  Will go a little faster than Breakout, but I didn’t stick around to see if you have more than the 2 screens to clear.

– CANYON BOMBER – Yup, pretty much just like the arcade – again with just a reduced limitation on the graphic display.  But the play mechanics are well-implemented, and smooth.   The manual says first one to 1000, but I was playing even past 1000, so the game doesn’t really end I think. One thing is that if you haven’t played the arcade, you might not realize why the “color blocks” on the 2600 version shift around…  it’s because the targets shift as lower targets are eliminated.   SCORE: 1000+

– CASINO (aka. POKER PLUS) – Plays Blackjack, Stud Poker, and Poker Solitaire.  Frankly, just not that interested… although a quick game of blackjack isn’t too bad. It’s just that all these games that are not “unique” are so much better implemented as time goes on.  The games you really want to play are original to the Atari 2600…

– CODEBREAKER – Two games that were popular in this era – “Mastermind” and “NIM”.  The NIM game was much better implemented on the Fairchild Channel F, I thought…  with up to nine piles – a real brain teaser.  Mastermind is good, but you can only do 3 or 4 number codes… not up to 5 like the Channel F.  So, can you believe it – a cartridge that is BETTER on the Channel F!?   Beat ’em both, but didn’t “master” either – yeah, too bored

– FLAG CAPTURE – Quick little game somewhat akin to Minesweeper.  Find the flag via clues.  The single player game offers a timed experience.  I scored 6 points in just 75 sec.

– FOOTBALL – Dammit man, can’t even complete a single pass.  You have to keep the button pressed all the time and let go at the right moment.  Which is a little confusing.  Furthermore, your players rune erratic lines and don’t stick to any patterns.  Otherwise you could totally predict where to throw it.  My best play was a single interception… at least that was fun.   But this is 2p only, so I was only beating myself.  Uh….  Football is way more fun to play in real life.

– HANGMAN – Short words.. strange graphics.  Beat it.  Laughably easy.. even “High School” words were nowhere near difficult. Also… Atari totally wimped out and created “HANGMONKEY” here, not hangman.  Well, it’s either that or a far worse interpretation of what’s going on with that, errr.. tail sticking out there.   lol   Beat it.

– HOME RUN – Arcade like, and somewhat fun.  Twitch controls, speedy infielders! Really hard to hit anything on a consistent basis, however… and the computer was frightfully quick at picking up anything hit.  Most of the time I’ll stick it out until I beat a sports game… but the fun had been had and I wasn’t too bad, so I wasn’t sad to leave & tie 2-2.

* HUMAN CANNONBALL – Kind of like an Artillery game, where the “shells” you are using are human cannonballs.  Nice variations on gameplay, with moving net, moveable cannon (my favorite) and even a barrier for extra timing skills (thread the needle!).  I mostly like moveable cannon… feels the most “real”.  You also have to like the sturdyness of this little dude – hits the ground after 100 feet through the air and says, “Ouch”.  That’s tough stuff!  7-3 WIN

– HUNT & SCORE – Concentration…. again… oh my goodness… At first they were flashing all these numbers and I thought that was so distracting… not sure why they couldn’t put a little number on the boxes – but the switching is better than typical Atari “flashing” when too many sprites are on screen.  BUT.. I’m so tired of concentration I can’t concentrate anymore.  I still managed to beat the 30 tiles in 22 guesses.

– MAZE CRAZE – Hey, for a maze game… kind of fun. This was obviously trying to capitalize on the Arcade maze games which had a brief period here of popularity.  I don’t know why they always have to make the sound effects so irritating.  The best thing about this cart, though, is trying to escape against 5 robbers!  That’s a fun little challenge worth trying for.  Made it!

– NIGHT DRIVER  – Like the arcade game but they throw a few cars travelling in the opposite direction at you.  There is also selectable difficulty, although it seems to go from too easy to too hard in one flip of the lever (if you have that kind of Atari).  It’s an okay port, luckily it’s not too taxing of a game, so it still works on the 2600.  Just gets boring quickly.  I did manage 59 points at highest difficulty.

– OUTLAW (aka GUNSLINGER) – Yup, another Atari arcade brought to the home screen… sort of.  Not nearly as graphically detailed as the 1977 Boot Hill – but hey, the gameplay ain’t bad.  You can still have a shootout with a friend, or simply play target practice.  Try to destroy the stagecoach piece by piece before you hit the target 10 times.  Don’t know how to score.  Beat it.. .yeah.. hit 10 before 99 seconds.  Easy.

– SKY DIVER – Jump outta da plane, pull the ripcord at the right time and land on the platform.  It’s a combo of timing and daring.  You have 9 jumps (9 lives?) and score every time you make a clean landing on the small zone.  I scored 62 pts.

– SLOT RACERS – Wow… this is just not good.  You travel around a maze trying to hit your opponent with a slow shot o’ the cannon.  First one to 25 pts wins.  2-player only.  *YAWNS

– SPACE WAR – yeah, I know the history of Space War, and so this isn’t a bad port to the 2600, but I’m just kinda bored by the whole space war thing.  If you had a tough computer opponent, that’d be helpful… however, they did throw in some variety with the “Space Docking” type of game for single player, or what you might call “Chase the Dot”.  That’s simple enough to score 10.

————————
–    BALLY ASTROCADE   –
————————
– 280 ZZZAP – Arcade port.  Driving at night… fairly easy.. even top speed.  7.26 in 2 minutes.

– AMAZING MAZE – Arcade port again.  And I’m already bored by maze games.  Ugh. -dnf

– BRICKYARD – A variation on Breakout.  Not a bad implementation… jut tired of it.  Hard to control on an emulated system, to be sure.  Needed those little Bally dials on their joysticks.  -dnf

– CHECKMATE – A decent home port of a common arcade game.  I scored 12 for 4 rounds… never dying once.

– CLOWNS – Again, a home port of a popular arcade game… tough to control.  Nothing that really holds your interest long term.  107pts

– DODGEM – Couldn’t get it working.

– FOOTBALL – Not sure what happened, but when I made a pass, and ran the ball 65 yds for a touchdown… the game froze up.  Guess it was so unbelievable the Astrocade lost the ability to process further.  WIN

– GUNFIGHT – Another attempt at bringing the arcade hit home.  A pretty good version… although it seems the speed of the bullets are overdone – making dodging a fairly difficult task.  2p only.

– LETTER MATCH – Concentration with letters.  That’s it, nothing more.  They have a pretty complex layout if you go to the high difficulty setting.  I didn’t bother to finish… boring.

– MISSILE – Pretty much trying to copy the GUIDED MISSILE game from the arcades.  Not nearly as good, however.  Just lacks the smoothness and scoring strategy the arcade had.

– PANZER ATTACK – Here’s the “Tank Game” that every system needed to have.  Now the Bally PROFESSIONAL Arcade system was so advanced for its time that the tank game would also naturally be extremely advanced for a home system — right?  And the verdict…  crap!  It moves kind of smoothly, but the sound effects suck, the tanks are too big for a decent playfield, and this just doesn’t even hold up against the Atari 2600.  I’m beginning to see why the failure of the Bally Arcade was imminent.

– RED BARON – Another head-to-head duel game, another required game for your platform of choice, another boring port…  and worst of all, this was 2-player only!  Really?  Even the Fairchild Channel F had a computer-controlled AI opponent 2 years earlier!  Stinker.

– SEAWOLF – Again, arcade clone.  Just doesn’t have the fun factor.  I’m beginning to see why the Astrocade games never really sold well – they just didn’t have enough reason to play these on a home system when the arcade versions of everything was just so much better.  SURE, Astrocade was better than Atari 2600 in terms of graphics, sound, arcade ports…   but it wasn’t offering NEW experiences – just rehashed arcade ports.  730 pts

– SPELL AND SCORE – supposedly spell words… wow, that’s fun – NOT

– TENNIS / HOCKEY / HANDBALL – Some ball & paddle games that pretty much play as you’d expect.  If this came out 2 years earlier it might have just been competitive in the marketplace, but now its just old and boring.

– TORNADO BASEBALL – Annnddd… here’s our required baseball game… maybe even a licensed “port” from the arcade version of the same name.  But, it just doesn’t do much.  It’s a good baseball game for its time, but I grow very tired of these, where much of the game is simply in how the ball is hit.  Credit where credit is due… good port… more like real baseball than the other home games out there… just leaves me kind of flat.  AGAIN, 2p only

————————
–  FAIRCHILD CHANNEL F –
————————
The games DEFINITELY improved for 1978.  I think more ideas were filtering into the industry in general, but it’s obvious the programmers became a little more familiar with the technology and graphics & sounds were slightly more elaborate.  The most telling of all the carts was programming in the physics of a cart like Video Whizball!  Too bad the system didn’t last really beyond 1978, partly because Atari carts were killing it!

VIDEOCART-15: MEMORY MATCH
– Hey… cool.  They’re actually learning how to program this thing.  I saw “Memory Match” in the G? selector screen… amazing.  And some flashy little dance of the cursor everytime you match up two tiles.  All-in-all it’s just “Memory”, and it’s made somewhat challenging by the crazy tiles.  You can play with numbers too, but it would get annoying after some time.  Far better to buy yourself a few cards and just play on the floor.

** VIDEOCART-16: DODGE-IT
– One of my three favorites on the Channel F (also Alien Invaders & Video Whizball).  So simple, really.. just avoid getting hit in the middle of the screen and you get a high score.  Easier said than done.  I like the random variations and it’d also be a good 2-player.  How cool is that.  Original, as well!!  score: 1044 is my best score.

VIDEOCART-17: PINBALL CHALLENGE
– 7 Balls on a pinball machine?  Don’t game designers PLAY real games?  Oh wait, this isn’t a PINBALL machine?  Oh… I see, it’s a BREAKOUT clone.  Man, ATARI really sucked at protecting its rights early on.  In any case… this version pretty much sucks.  You have only digital controls of the paddle (no analog), the ball can only bounce one of two directions depending on what side of the paddle it hits, and the SCORE makes noise as it increases.  Ugh!  That horrible blipping noise is a pain.  Not original, and far better elsewhere.  Score: 405

VIDEOCART-18: HANGMAN
– Okay, it’s hangman.  Ho-hum.  Actually, it’s fun to see the skills of the programmers improve… if only something could be done for the awful sound effects.  Makes it unplayable.  But turn off the sound and you can have a good one-on-one against the computer’s vocabulary!  (And OLDER games know more words than young bucks  😉  It’s tricky, but you’ll guess a word if you keep trying.  (Win)

VIDEOCART-19: CHECKERS
– Oh joy, Checkers.  I never liked checkers much.  But I played this anyway.  I was smoking the computer and so it just RESET itself.  What a frickin’ cheater!  So I tossed it across the room… that’ll show it to take the easy road away from utter defeat.  But seriously, so basic.. and the computer AI is terrible.  And the game is prone to resets and freezes.  Also, I’m SURE you could find something easier and more fun to play instead.  What about BATTLE CHECKERS??  Yeah!  (Win)

** VIDEOCART-20: VIDEO WHIZBALL
– Perhaps the MOST ORIGINAL and BEST cartridge on the entire Channel F system.  You basically control a gun that is trying to shoot a hockey-puck like object into the other person’s goal.  If you hit the other person, they disappear for a time long enough for a good player to score the puck.  It’s very cool… and still really fun.  The computer is challenging enough, but two players makes this shine.  Lots of variations and a lot of fun.  I’ll keep looking for a modern update, as this could be a way fun game style with a modern implementation.  It’s just hard to play without the original TWIST-TOP controllers to bend the ball and change the angle of your gun.  Finally beat the computer, though!  (Win)

VIDEOCART-21: BOWLING
– I generally like Bowling games, and this was a good implementation.  No fancy animation, you just launch the ball when it passes the right area, and then you can make it break-right or break-left at anytime.  I found collision detection fairly good, and you could get a strike with a curve into the center with some work.  I prefer the faster play of this game over some of the arcade titles of this year — even if the graphics aren’t as good.  160, and then cheat to 300.

(THESE LAST FEW might have been from additional years, but I’m finishing Channel F now)

VIDEOCART-22: Slot Machine
– About as slow and dull as they get.  You set your “Purse” (the $$ you start with) and your bet per spin on the wheel, ranging from 5 cents to a whopping 50 cents.  Yeah, big spender aren’t ya!  Spin the 3-symbol one-armed bandit and see if you’re lucky enough to end up ahead.  Really poor implementation of a slot machine.  Too slow, annoying sound effect, too small of a bet, and not a single ding, whistle, flash or anything when you win.  Your purse just changes $$ amounts – never even tells you how much you just won.  Yeah…. pass. (win $35)

VIDEOCART-23:  Galactic Space Wars / Lunar Lander
– Galactic Space Wars is similar to some of the Atari 2600 & Arcade titles where you fly and shoot down enemy ships from a 3rd person perspective.  It’s all a take on looking out a cockpit and gunning down enemy fighters.  The implementation is week, though.  Blocky, ships shoot back at you randomly (sometimes quite fast)… and loud sounds that actually made me jump – I guess that’s a positive….  (Score:  60)
– Lunar Lander… on the Fairchild F.  At least the game is a quick play.  Nothing like the famous arcade version which felt like physics – this is more twitch muscle, land as quickly as you can. (Score: 17 sec)

VIDEOCART-24:  Pro Football
– Wow, surprisingly decent cart here.  It has a little music diddy for either side should they score a touchdown.  The classic X’s and O’s make for an easy-to-distinguish team… and you can pick from 8 different offensive and defensive plays and then control the action with the joystick.  Unfortunately it’s two player only, and not really anything worth playing compared with the future of sports games — but for its time, this would be a nice competitive game for the football fan.  Score: na

VIDEOCART-25:  Casino Poker
– It’s poker… 5-card draw… with betting.  Limited betting.  And pushing “up” instantly folds your hand – oops!  I guess it beats playing with yourself, er or uh playing with yourself is beating it… oh wait.  Let’s just say computer poker is much more interesting against virtual opponents versus just some score on the screen. I did win with a flush:  Score 1180

* VIDEOCART-26:  Alien Invasion
– Alright! This is easily the best of the games for the Fairchild Channel F when it comes to arcade action.  A space invaders clone, but a pretty fun, smooth implementation – especially for this system.  I’m afraid its too easy however when you use double-shot, but it’d be much to slow without them.. haha.  I turned on player 2x shot, and enemies 4x shot, and it still got old after 20,000 points. But the play features are all here – marching/speeding up aliens, the mother ship, and the game-over when they get to the bottom.  Cool stuff!  Really is the only showcase of what the Channel F was capable of at its best.  Score:  21,040

* VIDEOCART-27:  PAC-MAN
– So here is another example of a great arcade port to the limits of the Channel F’s abilities.  This cartridge even has all 3 cut scenes in it – a feature which most home ports completely did away with due to limited memory.  Sure, it’s a bit blocky, a little slow on the game play, and the ghosts merely have to touch you to kill you (sprite detection edges, instead of fully engulfing Mr. Pac)…  but I played it through until I’d seen all 3 cut-scenes.  That’s a “WIN” in my book.  37,140 – WIN

————————
–  MAGNAVOX ODDYSSEY 2 –
————————

ARMORED ENCOUNTER!  – Odyssey’s version of combat, at least the tank game.  Graphics aren’t too bad, better than some of the other platforms this year — but still doesn’t have the smoothness of the Atari 2600, and the sound effects aren’t quite as good.  2p only

* BASEBALL! – This was a GREAT baseball game for its time.  Seriously, there were 3 outfielders to control, you could throw to any of the infield bases, and hitting actually felt possible to aim in various directions.  Sounds weren’t too bad either.  This really showcased what the Odyssey could do – good launch title indeed!  Unfortunately, only 2p.

BASKETBALL! – Okay, not so good.  The graphics were better than Atari, but the gameplay isn’t there.  It’s technically a little more realistic (you know, actually has a round ball here…. ) but there’s very little you can do except run left, right, and shoot.  And 2P only, yet again.

BOWLING! – Finally a single player game.  As bowling games go for 1978, this wasn’t too bad.  Odyssey is using nice color palette, and decent play mechanics.  The scoring is messed up… giving 30 for a strike and 15 for a spare straight-up.  Makes me wonder if the game designers actually bowled — or were just plain lazy in getting the scoring system setup.  As such, this might be the easiest 300 game in bowling ever – only 10 strikes in-a-row needed.  Still I only scored 104.

COMPUTER GOLF – Ouch!  This one is pretty bad.  SO hard to control.  The aim and the person do not move independently, so you’re constantly moving your guy around trying to find the one good position that will actually make proper contact with the ball.  So many times you’re just flailing around, missing left & right.  Sometimes it looks like you’re swinging a lightsaber at a golf ball.  Yeah— weird weird.  Good for laughs, however.  DNF

* COSMIC CONFLICT – Alright!  A smooth space shooter that is short, but fun to play.  The built-in challenge is not just shooting down all 15 enemy craft, but doing it with as much energy left as possible.  I finished with 762, but I guarantee you as a 6-year old boy with an Odyssey2 at home I beat that score.  That’s right – I remember this game vividly.  Best so far in my replaying the games.

FOOTBALL! – Not bad!  The crowd cheers, the quarterback snaps down, the rush is closing in — he long bombs it all the way downfield… caught & run for a TD!  This was way better than some of the other football games going around — unfortunately its only 2P so I couldn’t get a competitive opponent.  But looked like fun arcade-style play.

LAS VEGAS BLACKJAK! – Nice, straightforward implementation, although lacking a few features.  It does allow HIT, STAND (ie. not hit), Double Down, and Insurance (when dealer has an Ace).  It does tell you when shuffling a new deck, so I assume you can count cards.  No split, however, and the rules are double-down only on 9,10,11.  I found it intriguing that little Odyssey2 actually allowed for an 8-digit score – 99,999,999 max.  With a max bid of 9999 that’s pretty impressive!  (hacking is fun).  My “real” score was 8000 (3 wins in a row at max bid)

MATCHMAKER! = Concentration.  Match all the hidden tiles.  It sure makes it easier with a keyboard built into the Odyssey.  This cart takes advantage of that strength.  It times you how quickly you complete the puzzle.  I hit it in 50 sec.
BUZZWORD! = Hangman.  You are given a hidden word, you have up to 8 misses to guess what it is by punching in letters and filling in the blanks.  No problems here.  Beat it.
LOGIX! = Mastermind.  Yup… 5 digit mastermind… tells you how many you have right, and how many are in the actual correct positions.  I like it.  Let’s you keep going to see how quickly you can get all 5 aligned.  BEAT IT.

– MATH-A-MAGIC! / ECHO! – Match a magic is just a math tutor – skipping it.  ECHO is “SIMON” or as Atari would provacatively say to you “TOUCH ME”.  Using 1,2,3,4 instead of the four colors of Simon, your job is to repeat back as many in sequence as you can – adding one more number at the end of each cycle.  I got wary at about 28 and made a slipup.  I WISH it would speed up as the numbers increased however… the same slow repeat just gets old when you’ve got over 20 numbers to get through.  Score: 28

– SPACE RENDEZVOUS – Strange game, seems like it was only part of the European VideoPac 2 cart.  In any case, it’s a two-player attempt at docking with a space station… sort of like a Lunar Lander physics game, but instead of just trying to land it seems best to let yourself crash saving your meager full supply for after you’ve rebulit – and then make a mad dash for the station.  Comes down to luck once you’re following that mechanic of who just happens to run into it first.  2P only.  Not a winner.

– SUB CHASE! – Air vs. Sea…  an airplane against a submarine in head-to-head battle.  I like the guided missile version, but unfortunately lack a computer to challenge — even a dummy AI like the 2600 had was at least something to challenge yourself against.

– SPEEDWAY! – Speed up and race down the track avoiding the other cars.  Just the right speed on the higher difficulty to go fast and bring a challenge, but not be impossible.  In fact, I discovered a little bit of a pattern that you could probably get a perfect game, although I did crash twice on mine.  SCORE: 6706
– SPIN-OUT! – This is your race around the track (ala “Sprint” by Atari) game.  Fairly smooth car movement for a home console in 1978.  This was pretty fun with a good opponent — in my case, that’d be my sister.  That was a long time ago, that’s for sure!  2P only

– CRYPTO-LOGIC! –  Nice little scrambled-word game.  The first person types in words, or series of words, and then it scrambles it all up.  The next person comes in and tries to guess it.  Letter-by-letter it either fills in the encrypted word, or beeps at you if you’re wrong, then tells you how many it took to get it right.  This was pretty dang cool when it came out – seriously.  Took full advantage of this thing called a KEYBOARD – built right into the Odyssey.  Like a computer, you could spell out words and everything!  NO SCORES.

– TAKE THE MONEY & RUN! – Not a fan.  You get to play some alien-like tall dude, playing against a non-computer opponent… so likely nobody…  and either chasing or running away from KEYNESIAN robots.  Yeah and other economic words, Investment, Taxes, Expenses, Income….  sounds like a fun game!  Well, if it was playable it’d be okay… but you can’t “fit” in the maze, and as you run into it you get terrible beeping blipping noises from the less-then-stellar Odyssey 2 audio generator.  So avoid this game and run.  Oh yeah- you get a winning “fanfare” when you hit 1,000,000 million, but the game doesn’t stop – just like real life.  Man this ones deep… in crap!

——————–
–  VC-4000 –
——————–

– Cassette 01: Grand Prix – Different car racing games.  Nothing special.  Jumpy controls. Score 51
– Cassette 02: Blackjack – Another blackjack game.  Too many colors.  We don’t need music after each win/loss.  690pts
– Cassette 03: Olympics – Ball & Paddle games – very similar to the Atari 2600 “Video Olympics” but not as smooth, or as good. 83 on Breakout
– Cassette 04: Combat – 26 variations on Tank & Plane type of 1-on-1 fighting.  Again, copying Atari 2600’s Tank, but sounds so annoying I could never play this long-term against anybody without wanting to break the TV (or at least rip out the speaker)  2p
– Cassette 05: Basic Math 1 – Addition/Subtraction.  This was actually good!  The keypad helps enter the numbers quickly, which is better than Atari & definitely Fairchild…  and also like the variations on multiple lines, and plus or minus mixing it up.  As well as slowly revealed numbers.  Cool!  na
– Cassette 06: Math 2 – Multiplication/Division + and -.  Hard stuff.  Probably better to write it down on paper quickly, but a good challenge.  Much like the first cartridge, except stacking multiplication and division and things like that gets tricky to do mentally. na
– Cassette 07: Air/Sea Battle – Nice variations on the Targeting type of games.  Smooth shooting, I like the 15-shot limit and scoring as a gauge for high scores.  Most “playable” cart yet. 43 pts (one variation)
– Cassette 08: Treasure Hunt – They packed a Capture the Flag game in with a Concentration game.  Not bad implementations for the time.  I found the sound okay, not too annoying.  Numbers and picture variations on Concentration were good.  Better resolution than the 2600 version.  15y – 23 miss
– Cassette 09: Super Maze – Okay, not a big fan of maze games, but they packed this cartridge with good variations, speeds, single & dual player.  Some never-before-done variations were shifting mazes, and rotating sides, and things like that.  Good challenge on the last cat & mouse high speed. Beat fastest!
– Cassette 10: No way, Winter Sports!  WAAAYY before EPYX started in on their classic “Games” series – Summer Games, Winter Games, etc.  Here we have ski jump and slalom.  A good try, but mostly kinda dumb.  Hard to figure out.  184ft – furthers jump
– Cassette 11: Horse Racing – Really… how exciting.  Don’t even want to play this one.  Well, at least you play the part of the horse – trying to jump over a set of obstacles coming at you.  They even tried you going towards the obstacles, or a closer up obstacles coming at you.  Not as bad as I thought – but still not that good. 59/324
– Cassette 12:  Shooting Gallery.  Another “target” and “Timing” game, which are fun, but don’t have much depth.  I will say the Interton Games are impressing me for their quality, graphics, and playability.  This is a slick game with many good variations. 44
– Cassette 13:  Chess – The game that man used to love and be amused by, and then we taught computers how to beat us with brute force and artificial intelligence.  This early chess game shows no picture of the board — just lets you enter moves and play against a computer.  Interesting – but I don’t have anywhere near the patience to play it this way when so many good versions of chess are an iPhone app away.  DNF
– Cassette 14: Motorcross – Standard game of the era – time your gear shifts and acceleration for fastest speed from start to finish.  This one is better than some, but not as good as the arcade version its trying to be like.  My Record:  2082
– Cassette 15: Four-In-A-Row (Intelligence II) – Good computer AI makes this standard board game a good computer cart, as you now have a worthy opponent of varying skill levels to play against (now you don’t have to play against your easy younger brother)  Beat Computer!
– Cassette 16: Mastermind – Yup, here we have Interton’s version of the “every platform” board game.  Nice to know the breadth of game design has greatly improved over the year.  This version of mastermind if rather hard with 4 digits x 6 possibilities in just 8 turns.  But, still a fun brain game.  BEAT IT!
– Cassette 17: Circus – Oh, right… popular arcade, popular to try to recreate.  I bet this was long before licensing.  Man, Atari would’ve made a whole boatload more money in a more developed industry – with copyright protections.  Everybody copied their ideas!! 570pts
– Cassette 18:  Boxing – I was actually impressed with the quality of the graphics and the animation on this cart.  The resolution is definitely way better than the Atari 2600.  Too bad play is fairly slow, and no computer opponent (guess they wasted all their programming on that ROCKY-themed opening music).  This might be the worst Rocky music ever, but they did try.  Again – NO COPYRIGHTS back in 1978, apparently!  2P
– Cassette 19:  Space War – no, not the classic “Space War” – another Atari Video arcade game rip.  The very popular Target-in-Middle shoot moving ships shooter.  Odyssey2 had the best one of these with “Cosmic Conflict”.  Imagine my surprise when they played “Star Wars” after you win – hmmm…  a theme perhaps about unlicensed property?  57pts
– Cassett 20:  Musical Games – Well “Games” is really being generous.  There’s basically variations on SIMON with 4 or 6 musical/color seletions to test your memory.  In addition there is a note-playback program, where you can watch a song being played, or just fool around and punch in your own song.  Kinda hard on the ears… not the highest audio fidelity.  But honestly, in its time – this was not a bad deal.  Good implementation of SIMON and a way to make songs.  DNF

=======================
BEST PINBALL GAMES of all-Time, from 1978:
=======================

JOKER POKER #81 – Rated highly for good reason, easy to understand, and fun to play with a challenge.  Try to get a series of 10,J,Q,K,A set of drop-targets and also A,B,C from the ramp.  Tension builds as you knock down the targets, and every ball resets so you have to do it all in one.  Fun Stuff!  302,000

MATA HARI #109 – At first I thought this was simplistic, but the very symetrical design makes this rather fun.  The ramp on the right can run straight through to the other side and vice versa.  You continue to rack up points and multipliers in combo of the ramps, drop targets and sink hole right up the middle.  Kind of a little genie theme going on.  Nice pinball:  1,631,120 (yeah, flipped it over… gave me 16 credits before it was over!  LOL

SINBAD / EYE OF THE TIGER #145 (#199 of 259 mechanical tables) – Okay, I liked this one.  Nice amount of things to do in 1 single play of the ball that builds excitement and bonus/value of targets climbs.  Tough too – that center hole seems rather large.  92,770

PLAYBOY #192 – Either the emulated version I played was just not implemented well, or the main attraction of this pinball was the back glas… which might indeed be the reason for its popularity.  But I didn’t find much to do here and the play was rather slow.  Plus there wasn’t a score being taken, so I quit before I even finished a game.

STARS #211 – Rather slow, and not sure what really to do.  Didn’t like it much, and again… no scoreboard on this one for me – so I’m moving on.

SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN #241 – Now this one had a little more to it, a series of targets to hit to light up everything and score a big bonus.  Was rather hard though, and at least for me seems the “hard luck” type where didn’t feel like I had much control:  146,550

SPACE RIDERS #257 – ATARI made a pinball!  And here it is.  Very rainbow-like colors, and you can see the flagship Atari logo, so its definitely branded.  An interesting design, quite different… a nice array of things to do.  I liked it.  More than STARS & PLAYBOY, personally. – 159,250

PHOENIX #273  – Looks cool… plays a little bit… but after 1 ball you realize this sucker’s broken on my emulator.  Too bad, looks like a fun table to play.

LOST WORLD #298 – Really liked this one.  The side gutters were very unforgiving, and probably 80% of the balls lost went that way… but I liked the clearly defined goals: A,B,C,D,E,F and nice play field mechanics.  Pretty cool pinball for 1978:  270,310

OTHERS:
ALASKA – Nice sound effects, skill shot at the top for DOUBLE or TRIPLE scoring.  A good run on triple scoring is key to a high score.   483,620
ALIVE! – Not much to do.  Feels like a very small playfield.  Not much fun.   58,330
CHARLIE’S ANGELS – Themed after the TV Show, I liked the various drop targets, and adding up bonus, then multiplier on the bonus.  Good playing table.  225,250
DISCO FEVER – Looks inspired by Sat. Night Fever.  Mr. John Travolta wannabe on the table.  This one must have been programmed odd – I own 7 credits over the course of my game — that just doesn’t happen!  My score ended up 762,330 with 7 more games ready to play.  Wild.  762,330
DOLLY PARTON AT NIGHT – I wonder how many people still know who Dolly Parton is?  Well, this was her pinball.  Actually, not too bad.  Plenty of drop targets, light up “Dolly Parton” for extra bonuses, and a stacked line of “Music Notes” that are your score multiplier.  A fun one:  199,780
DRAGON – not much happening here.  A few things to hit, but not much in the way of sequence of skill it seems.  Also scored me way to many extra games.  232,960

=======================
ARCADE GAMES of 1978:
=======================

3D BOWLING:  Definitely the next iteration of the bowling series by Meadows Games.  Although the attempt at 3D perspective is commendable, it doesn’t quite feel right.  Your little man at the bottom is much to small, and the ball doesn’t quite roll smoothly down the lane to where you think it always should go.  Tough to consistently get strikes, although the spares seem to be fairly easy to simply bowl straight and knock ’em down.  I like the animations, and the entire 10-frames for a single quarter is quite generous!  Naturally I had to keep playing (using some strategic saves) to see if anything special happened with a perfect 300 game.  It didn’t.

ATARI FOOTBALL:  I remember some guys in the arcade playing this with great intensity, hitting that trackball as fast as they could.  Sort of pales in comparison to the incredible sports games we have now, but it was a fun game, and a capable enough simulation at the time.  It’s a complex game where you must pick your initial play based on the control panel layouts… and then try to execute that play as well.  2-Player only, however… and not at all easy to just jump in & learn.  Atari really focused on converting real-world activities into a video game version.  I don’t like the 90-seconds per quarter limit.  Seems like it should’ve been 120 seconds or stair-step up if you put in more quarters to start or something.

ATARI MINI GOLF:  Not bad.  This is just what you’d expect from a top-down mini-golf game.  Pick your direction of shot, press quick for short power, hold for long power, and bounce away until it drops in the hole.  Cycles through a total of 16 different holes, and gives you 30 total shots per quarter (although if you wait until an on-screen prompt, you can get an extra 5 shots by inserting the quarter at just the right time).  After a little practice I completed all 16 holes in 47 shots  (that’s 1 under the par of 48).  They reported me as a “Pro”.  🙂  Recognition for my skills is so nice.

* AVALANCHE / CASCADE:  Admittedly a mouse simply can’t compete with the ol’ paddle controllers, but even so it is a fun, entertaining and easy-to-learn Atari release.  A pong-style paddle game, but you try to catch falling rocks in your buckets instead of bounce a ball around.  The intensity grows, the rocks shrink, the paddles shrink, and the speed keeps increasing — making even passing one level a rather difficult task.  My score was 639.  Tough!  But I got 3 levels in while trying out CASCADE and ended up with a total of: 1454

BLASTO:   Move around, shoot everything.  Bomb’s explode, but you also get points for shooting the dots.  If you hit all the bombs, you get to play a second game for free… score resets, no continuation, just another complete game.  Shoot all the mines again and your game is still over.  The controls a little wonky, rather touchy… but gameplay is quick, easy-to-pickup and blasto your way through.  Score:  7430

BLUE SHARK:  A shooting game themed after killing undersea life… mmmm…   shark, squid, sailfish, and the occassional diver (who you have to avoid shooting or lose 500 points).  Kinda tricky.  Gameplay speeds up after 7,000 points.  The biggest problem with the game is the annoying sound effects.  Why do we have to have a “BEEP” noise for every kill… should just “Squish” or something.  You get an extra game if you score 18,000… my best was 19,300.  Seems to be a new trend this year – free games for achieving a certain score.

BOWLING ALLEY:  Another Atari bowling game, but some huge improvements have been made in physics and hit detection!  The pins spin when the ball hits it and feels generally pretty accurate to the real thing.  The ball size is about right — and here again, Atari shows their propensity to use a trackball for sporting games — but its the perfect fit.  Just like Golden Tee so many years down the road, spinning that trackball at high speed, at just the right angle is key to controlling your game.  There is also two modes of gameplay – the standard and “flash” mode.  In flash you score points for strikes and spares, and score higher the more quickly you are able to do it.  Fun stuff!  Regulation: 168  FLASH:  4496 pts

BOXER:  A very weak boxing game… prototype game that didn’t play well enough to be released.  You just flail arms left & right, and it’s pretty annoying.  And I’m a big fan of boxing games.  I still beat the computer on my first time out, which I guess doesn’t say much either way. WIN: 510 to 350

CLAYBUSTER:  Here’s a shooting-gallery type of game that mimics clay pigeon shooting… right in front of a gorgeous waterfall.  What redneck has to muck up a beautiful waterfall & swimming hole with a bajillion shot-up clay pigeons.  But anyway, you get 4 shots to hit 2 launched targets each round… with the score gradually increasing as the rounds progress and the difficulty ticks up.  If you’ve ever played the classic Nintendo “Duck Hunt” you will see the similarities in material here (except without an annoying, belittling dog)  SCORE:  1040

CLOWNS:  Like “Circus” from 1977 with some changes to size of characters and speed, etc.  Another spin controller game, which again does not work well for a mouse.  The precision isn’t there… but can be a little bit fun nonetheless.  I found Circus the superior game actually, this “update” just feels less polished, harder to control, a little less playfield… just seemed to take a step backwards.  SCORE:  7540

DEAD EYE:  Toss up a coin and shoot at it to keep it off the ground.  Bounce it in the walls to score big points.  Sound weird?  Yeah.  Sound Boring?  Yeah.  Worth Playing?  Yeah… but it won’t hold your attentions very long.  Score:  56,530

EXTRA INNING:  An update to Tornado Baseball… clone of Double Play.  Pretty good play mechanics, although it seems to depend a little more on luck than true skill.  Some of the updates they threw into this game are a MIDWAY graphic that “grows” — one letter for a particular shot (single, double, triple on left or right sides).  Once you get the entire MIDWAY filled out, you get. . .  a whole extra inning!  Oh wow, I can hardly contain my excitement. Seriously, for one quarter, you get one inning – a stingy game.  Batting is difficult, the computer plays a tough outfield and doesn’t like to lose.  Took me a while to finally WIN a legit game 4 to 1.

FIRE TRUCK:  Definitely a new incarnation of the SUPER BUG game (even used the same inverse colors on extended play).  Adds a little variety by having 2 drivers – one for the front and one for the back.  Naturally this could either be helpful, or hurtful depending on the skill of your helper.  Fire truck is fearsome to control, and just doesn’t feel all that fun… the acceleration is quite slow and once you’re up to speed you better be able to steer with precision or else there isn’t much hope you’re going to put out any fires.  I did get extended play and an “ACE” rating with my score of 210.

* FROGS:  Now here’s something a little different.  At least the action is smooth and purely arcade twitch.  Still a timed game, but they offer a FREE game if you just catch the dragonfly at the end.  I definitely had some fun with this, being simple enough to learn and enough randomness to make it a challenge for a good score.  I finally ended up with a best score of 6300.

GEE BEE:  The magic of pinball… taken away by putting it in a video game.  PONG Pinball or BREAKOUT pinball you could call this one.  Top-down, simulated pinball action just never seems to cut it.  Good for a few minutes of play time, though… and somewhat fun for a Pong variant.  I found out the key to scoring is just rack up the bonus points (keep the ball in play!).  I eventually scored: 40,190.  Total arcade font.

GYPSY JUGGLER:  Okay, strange.  Same setup as the DEAD EYE game (layout)… but this game is like ball & paddle with a juggler and up to four *ahem* Hacky Sacks, er. Balls, er.. juggle objects to play with, er… never mind.  Final score: 73,210

INFERNO:  Man, where are all these weird games coming from.  I don’t really remember any of this junk.  Probably cuz its junk.  You have to spray out the fires burning in the windows in this game.  Don’t spray the person…  okay. Feels like a reject from the CGA days of the IBM PC and plays about as smoothly as one.

ORBIT:  Here’s another remake of the classic Space War from mainframe days (circa 1962!)  Oh Atari… seems like they got stuck in a little bit of a rut with their games… and only 30 seconds for a QUARTER!!  Lame-O.  Myriad of options seems very confusing upon selection…  probably a challenge to produce.  All around not a good game, but curious to see. Definitely plays a little faster than Cinemaware’s Space Wars.  2p only.

*SEA WOLF II:  FINALLY!  A decent game from 1978.  This is a cool game for play value, but also historically.  It’s the first successful sequel, and one of the first games to use extensive color (not just color overlay on the screen).  Came with a cool cabinet, great gameplay and cool sound effects.  Some hail this as the first “modern” arcade game.  18,900 with extended play!

SHUFFLEBOARD:  Oh yeah, I’ve been DYING to play Shuffleboard on my computer – and finally I get too!  Yeah, not really… it’s a strange sport anyway, and seems like a poor choice to make a videogame out of.  But, I guess a decent implementation. I ended up learning the rules of Shuffleboard this way – nice.  Score: 43 to 29 beat the computer (who is a little devious, mind yourself)

SKY DIVER:  Kind of a fun idea, but would’ve been best if they let you wait for at least 2 or 3 plane trips to estimate your skydive launch.  As it is, you have to launch really quickly sometimes and there’s hardly more than a split-second sometimes to decide you need to jump now.  But it’s good for a run or two.  Score: 4940

* SKY RAIDER:  An unexpected pleasure!  What a really creative and different game for this time.  It’s almost a first-person bombing run, and it runs smoothly and is quick and fun to play.  45,700 was my high score for an 80-sec game after attempting more than a few times for that elusive “Continued Play”.

* SPACE INVADERS: An undisupted heavyweight champion, popular around the world and probably THE game that did more for video arcade industry than any other.  In fact, it was the home conversion for the Atari 2600 which became the killer-app for the Atari and really helped establish the home market as viable and worthwhile.  As for gameplay… still fun today, although it’s vertical shooting format has been used countless times and lacks some of its original oomph.  Final score once I learned the timed shooting thing:  5,480

(too many Space Invader Clones to bother playing, but two of note:  SPACE STRANGER – A competent knockoff of Space Invaders, adds a few twists like a more frequent mother ship which changes directions on occassion.  But otherwise, very similar in gameplay, scoring, and graphics are slightly modified.  Also Space Invaders Part 4 – which added a message after the Wave of aliens, a giant alien graphic, a mothership that shoots back — and harder Space Invaders starting at Wave 2 that split apart into two when shot.  On more good one is SPACE WAR – part 3.  Different numbered waves of aliens.. the alien graphic change, and they march down the screen.. There are 2 types of mother ships and other cool enhancements like that.

SPACE WALK:  This is one weird “Clowns” or “Circus” type of game.  The main difference is that you are now competing against an on-screen computer opponent.  You control one half the screen, and them the other.  You bounce around a bit, but sometimes “take off” in a rocket ship which can be aimed before launch.  Score big bonuses by hitting the flying spaceship at the top, and also clearing rows of balloons like in the original.  Score:  I finally won with 4100 to 3180.

SPRINT 2:  1-2person continuation of the Sprint series.  I actually enjoyed this version, it feels better balanced on the speed, its not so rough when the other cars crash into you, and the switching of the various tracks automatically while you’re playing is a nice tough of randomness.  I was able to get to the extended play mark without too much fumbling around this time, which is a major improvement.  Good stuff, and solid sprint series of games from Atari.  Score:  194

SUPER BREAKOUT:  A nice addition to the Breakout series with the addition of 3 variations on gameplay:  Progressive Breakout (where the blocks steady drop lower and lower on the playing field), Double Breakout (where you start with 2 paddles and 2 balls… challenging for sure), and finally Captive Breakout (which has 2 “captive” balls that you can free to add to the # of balls you’re trying to keep in play at once).  Amazing that 6 years later, Atari is still finding a way to make PONG games sellable on the market.  The colors are great, its a nice improvement over the original with the gameplay variation — but ultimately it’s still pong.  Score:  552

SUPER TWENTY ONE:  At first I was shocked that I got only 1 “Credit” for my 1 quarter.  I then proceeded to double a whole bunch in a row, and was up to 24 credits.  Little did I know this was built as a redemption game– so in real life I could’ve cashed in those 24 credits for 24 quarters – or $6.00.  Too bad I didn’t know about the “redemption” button.    Score: 24

TOURNAMENT TABLE – Breakout, Soccer, Foozball, Handball, Basketball, blah blah blah.  Who really cares?  Atari – it’s amazing how much you milked the PONG concept, that’s all I have to say.  Any “pong” games after you came out with the Atari 2600 I think are practically irrelevant.  Let’s move on peoples.  Breakout = 263

ULTRA TANK – A version of tank that lets you play against a robot opponent.  You can also shoot two bullets at the same time.  The computer is actually a difficult opponent!  You also earn extended play time if you are able to top 25 points against “Robot”.  Finally did that, and beat the computer 54-51.  Phew!  That was close.

WOLF PACK – Prototype game that was obviously trying to use some kind of digitized speech as a gimmick.  “Fire 1” and “Fire 2” might sound kinda fun, but it gets pretty old playing just a few minutes.  Supposedly extended play kicks in at 16,000, but I only made it to 10,800… really tricky, so I wonder if the prototype has something to do with scores not being completely balanced?  Looks quite dated.

=======================
BEST GAMES of 1978:
* = Videogame Great list
=======================
* ADVENTURELAND (Scott Adams #1)
Alien Invasion (not 1978, but worth mentioning as I’m finishing up Fairchild). Best CHAN-F game
AVALANCHE / CASCADE (arcade) – proving another way to vary the pong & paddle type game
BASEBALL – (Odyssey2) One of the best baseball versions for this year.
BASKETBALL – (Atari 2600) – Really fun, and that’s where it’s at!
* BENEATH APPLE MANOR – A very early rogue-like, with a fun joke for the persistent enough to get to the bottom of it all and win!
BOWLING (APF MP1000) – One of the best APF carts…  good, simple, nice playing implementation.
* COSMIC CONFLICT – (Odyssey2) Really smooth, great sounds, definite ending.  There were a lot of these 1st person shooter deals – but this was a REALLY good version!
DODGE-IT  (Fairchild Channel F) – They just nailed a simple concept which was a lot of fun.
FROGS (Arcade) – Good twitchy action game, with a fun theme and original idea.
HANGMAN (APF MP1000) – A fun implementation, some hard words in there, full on person to hang.
HUMAN CANNONBALL (Atari 2600) – Cool concept!  Different, playable, enjoyable.
* MYSTERY MANSION (Mainframe) – Rich text adventure with a lot to solve, plan, replay, and survive.
* SANTA PARAVIA AND FIUMACCIO – Building up the tradition for future games like Civilization and Empire.  Big improvement over the basic Hamurabi.
* SEA WOLF II (Arcade) – Great sequel, use of full color, it’s a fun action game and a step forward in the arcade industry.
* SKY RAIDER – a trippy visual game with solid bombing & shooting feel.
* SPACE DESTROYERS – TRULY the best game for the APF, even though technically I think it came later.  Was also interesting in that they had SOUND on the cassette while loading!
*SPACE INVADERS (Arcade) – The undisputed king of 1978… making it hard for any other games to compete, practically.
* VIDEO WHIZBALL (Fairchild Channel F) – One of the best on this system, with great depth of play, computer opponent, and fun concept.

VIDEOCART-27:  PAC-MAN – Great implementation, although technically was from 2009.  But mentioning it here since this is the last I’ll review Channel-F