Tag Archives: dragster

Pitfall! [Atari 2600] – Review

Selling north of four million copies, this is the second-best selling game on the Atari 2600.
Selling north of four million copies, this is the second-best selling game on the Atari 2600.

Of the original designers at Activision, David Crane was arguably the most prolific with titles like Dragster and Freeway to his name. But I’m not kidding anyone with that succinct introduction; inarguably, David Crane’s magnum opus is Pitfall!. Originally released by Activision in 1982 for the Atari 2600, it was also released for every major video game console of the day, as well as a few personal computers.

As Pitfall Harry, players are tasked with retrieving a slew of treasures hidden all over an expansive jungle – over two hundred screens! Within twenty minutes, the player is expected to navigate Harry through the puzzle-like jungle and overcome obstacles like quicksand and crocodiles. Traversing the (now) technologically primitive, yet, expansive 2D world makes one wish Harry had a GPS or at least a map, but part of the fun is solving that quandary with a map of one’s own making.

What I found interesting about Pitfall! in some retrospective reading, is its introduction of long-form gameplay. If anyone has actually been following along with these articles, the games I’ve been discussing are very simple. The majority revolve around the concept of score attack or time attack, rather than a quest; they’re more focused on competition. Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort describe this game as “a distinction point between the home and video game markets” in Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System. In effect, Pitfall! was one of the first games to bring about what could be considered the evolution of the single player video game.

In case you didn't think this looks tricky, believe me, it is.
In case you didn’t think this looks tricky, believe me, it is.

Anyways, there is an unlockable commercial and patch in Activision Anthology, awarded after 12,000 and 20,000 points which was the actual requirement to get the patch back in the day. If anyone didn’t already know, that’s Jack Black in the commercial.

Skiing [Atari 2600] – Review

Not a lot of photos of Atari 2600 games without price stickers on them floating around on the internet.
Not a lot of photos of Atari 2600 games without price stickers on them floating around on the internet.

Qualifying as both a great score attack and time attack game, Skiing was, personally, an unexpected pleasure in Activision’s Atari 2600 catalog. Designed by Bob Whitehead and released in 1980, Skiing was an exemplary game for my friend and I’s ongoing competition, the Game-a-Thon Olympics.

In the early going, the skier seemed awfully stiff because movement was limited to slight degree changes either left or right. Soon enough though, this was a boon. Rather than holding a direction to avoid obstacles, I could instead push in the direction once (or more if needed) and change direction. In my mind, this lent to more “twitch” style gameplay which had me addicted.

Hit detection can be a little frustrating.
Hit detection can be a little frustrating.

Beyond the simple design and addictive gameplay, Skiing had two types of downhill races, multiple difficulties, and even random courses so there was a lot to do before growing bored. A simple game, like Dragster, that’s deceptively enjoyable and replayable. Finally, included alongside it in Activision Anthology is an unlockable patch (awarded upon completion of game 3 in under 32 seconds) and its original television commercial which includes a faux-Frenchman and lots of cheese.

Fishing Derby [Atari 2600] – Review

Warren Robinett must have drawn that shark.
Warren Robinett must have drawn that shark.

What could’ve been a laid back fishing trip to the piers is anything but in 1980’s Fishing Derby for the Atari 2600. In it, two opposing fisherman aim to out fish each other, which in this game means reaching ninety-nine points first.

Fish are arranged in rows and are worth more points depending on how deep they reside. Getting a bite seemed hit and miss in my experiences with the game, but with a human opponent, this wasn’t as much of a detriment since both were facing the same problem. If one person was getting strikes consistently and the other wasn’t, it could be a tad funny, maybe. When a fish was on the line, managing it didn’t simply entail reeling it in as fast as possible thanks to the opportunistic shark roaming near the surface. A cute and easy to pick up and play game that, like Boxing, is at its best with a human opponent.

In what seems like a still from The Red Green Show, two oafs try their luck at fishing in shark-infested waters.
In what seems like a still from The Red Green Show, two oafs try their luck at fishing in shark-infested waters.

Fishing Derby was designed by David Crane who was arguably the most prolific designers of Atari 2600 games with titles like Dragster and Pitfall! to his name. He continued developing video games until the mid nineties and is perhaps most known post-Atari 2600 for A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia.

Dragster [Atari 2600] – Review

Back in the day, if you could complete a race in under six seconds and mail in a photo proving it, Activision would send you a patch. I’m not there yet.

Dragster for the Atari 2600 – it’s a drag racing video game designed by David Crane and published by Activision way back in 1980. Burning through the gears and completing a quarter mile as quickly as possible is the aim of the game and with a friend, the few seconds that are spent on a single race stretch into a half hour trying to figure out the optimal shifting pattern while not blowing an engine.

It’s my favorite game on the Atari 2600 partly because it’s so fast. As soon as a race is done, it’s a flick of the joystick and the next race is already counting down. Races already last under twenty seconds but this quick reset makes the proposition of just one more race all the more compelling.

However, being able to get back into the game quickly wouldn’t matter if the underlying gameplay wasn’t enjoyable, and Dragster’s is. The risk/reward gameplay associated with shifting is easy to learn, tough to master, and flexible enough to allow experimentation. It’s not like shifting a daily driver though, unless you’re the type to rev each gear up to the redline, drop the clutch, up shift, and slam on the gas pedal. If so, I need not explain further. Perhaps I should mention that blowing the engine is quite easy and has been the cause of many of my losses.

Trust me, fourteen seconds is not a good time.

Like Vin Diesel’s mantra from The Fast and the Furious, playing Dragster is like living your life a quarter mile at a time. It’s fast and fun, but before you know it, time has passed you by.

Leonard 2012 Video Game Olympics – Round 1 – Atari 2600

To coincide with the London 2012 Olympics and to give my friend and I a proper reason to play through massive amounts of video games, all the while competing, I devised the Leonard 2012 Video Game Olympics. We’ll attempt to play through every video game in our combined collections, as long as there’s a fairly easy way of competing. Competitive multiplayer games are a no-brainer, as are video games including scores. I’m including every video game in the results, even though we may not play them. It’ll be a convenient way of cataloging my collection.

The first round revolved around the Atari 2600. One of the pioneers of the video game industry, it brought video games into homes in a big, big way. I have 21 games for the system and perhaps because of their simplicity, they were either good or bad. I’ll probably discuss them in further detail soon, but standouts were Asteroids, Combat, Dragster, Galaxian, Vanguard, Video Pinball, and Yars’ Revenge.

Of the 21 games for the Atari 2600, 15 of them were applicable to the event. I lead the medal count with 8 compared to my friend’s 7, while he leads the high score count with 8 compared to my 7. Essentially, the first round was a wash. up next is the Intellivision, if I can figure out a way to get it working.

If anyone has any ideas for games to include or possible prizes, lemme know. This event will take a very long time, but it’ll be a fun way to experience the evolution of the industry, game design, and advances in technology and thinking. Plus, it’ll just be fun.

Leonard 2012 Video Game Olympics