Monthly Archives: January 2014

Atari 2600 Friday’s #20 – Space Invaders

This week we take a look at a game that maybe most of us already know a lot about…Space Invaders! Apparently more than just ‘another shooter’, Space Invaders was one of the first and through popularity helped paved the way for shooters.

The Story: You are at war with enemies from space threatening Earth. You must destroy them before they land.

From the Manual: “Each time you turn on SPACE INVADERS you will be at war with enemies from space who are threatening the earth. Your objective is to destroy these invaders by firing your “laser cannon.” You must wipe out the invaders either before they reach the earth (bottom of the screen), or before they hit you three times with their ‘laser bombs.'”

From the Box: (from the red box) “Hordes of alien invaders are threatening to invade planet Earth, descending from the skies in countless numbers. You must destroy them with you laser canon before they land. In the meantime, you must avoid getting hit by alien laser bombs. The closer those battle crazed monsters get to Earth, the faster they move, unleashing more of their deadly laser bombs! Even when you think they’ve all been destroyed, another set of invaders appears. The battle is on again! Concentrate – you must be fast and accurate to save your world!”

The Game Play: We all know Space Invaders, unless you a lame modern generation teenager, but lets take a look at what features are in this version. Thirty six space invaders descend at a time, you must shoot them all down without them reaching the bottom or you dying in order to move to the next 36. Every s often the command ship will fly across for bonus points.  The lines on the ground tell you how far left and right you can move. Once you shoot, you cannot shoot again until your laser of off screen or hits an alien. Game variations include: moving shields, zigzagging laser bombs, fast laser bombs, and invisible invaders.

The Controls: Left and right movement, red button fires.

Post Review: It’s easy to see why it gained such popularity and spawned a whole library of clones. Even for a clunky early version, it plays exactly as it should. Although I will admit it’s slightly annoying to have to wait to fire again, but that adds to the difficulty. Space Invaders is simply one of those simple addicting games, bringing out the desire to get farther and do better next time. I think one of the things that makes Space Invaders more enjoyable is the fact that is is slightly slower paced than other shooters.

The High Score: Game mode 1 – 1500

Atari 2600 Friday’s #19 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Alright, this week we get to look at something a little more involved than your standard shooter clone. Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Glorious Indiana Jones.

The Story: Indiana Jones searches for the Lost Ark of the Covenant (no, not Halo you dumb kids, look it up and learn something).

From the Manual: “Dust off your felt hat, throw on your leather jacket, and uncoil your rawhide whip – you’re going on the greatest treasure hunt of your life! Put away the glasses and three-piece suit of respected archeologist “Professor Jones,” and say hello to swashbuckling adventurer Indiana Jones* – Indy to your friends. Your mission: Find the fabled Lost Ark of the Covenant. The Lost Ark. A dazzling treasure covered by a sheet of shinig gold, the Ark was used by the ancient Hebrews to carry stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. According to the Bible, the Ark possesses extraordinary powers and is able to “level mountains” and “lay waste to entire regions.” Any army possessing it, the Bible says, is invincible. You’ve been hired by the government to find the Ark before your country’s enemies do. The only question is, where? As an expert on the Egyptian occult, you know the Ark was hidden inside a chamber called the Well of Souls in the year 980 B.C. The location of the chambe is a mystery – but there is a way to find it. Go to the secret Map Room in the city of Tanis, and, if you’re holding the right object at the right time, the location of the Well of Souls will be revealed. Of course, finding the Map Room is no easy task since Tanis was buried long ago in a sand storm that lasted over a year. You’ll need sharp wits and courage to overcome the obstacles you encounter on your way to the Ark. Armed with your wit and steel nerves, however, you can handle anything! Anything, that is, except snakes – they’ve always given you the creeps. Snakes or no snakes, though, you’ve got to find the Ark! You’re getting closer to the Ark, now. Look out! What’s that slithering out of the corner? It’s a deadly asp! Snakes! Why did there have to be snakes…?!”

From the Box: “You and Indiana Jones have a mission: Find the lost Ark of the Covenant. To find the Ark, you must travel to ancient Egypt and follow clues that lead to the Well of the Souls. Use Indy’s bullwhip and your own wits to get out of danger – and watch out for snakes!”

The Game Play: You start in the Well of the Souls with the Ark, a pedestal lowers you into the Valley of Poison and your journey begins. You’ll need to use the items you find in the Temple of the Ancients to uncover the secrets of the Map Room to find the Ark.  Be careful, you can only carry six items and you must have the right one to get the map room secret, if you already have six the new item swaps with the old. You get three lives to complete this quest. The Well of Souls can be in a different Mesa each time you play the game, good luck finding the Ark.

The Controls: So Raiders of the Lost Ark uses 2 joystick controllers. The right controller: up/down/left/right movement, walking over items picks them up automatically, red button uses selected item. The left controller: inventory control left/right, red button drops an item to the original place it was found.

Post Review: Well, I tried to play this on an emulator, which failed, trying to switch controller settings was periodically not working and sometimes resulting in auto death for unknown reasons. After hooking the 2600 to the TV (I really need to get working on finding a coax switch box) I came to the realization that I do not have a second Joystick. So unfortunately my after playing opinions are going to have to wait ;_;.

Atari 2600 Friday’s #18 – Towering Inferno

Returning to our regular schedule from the holidays, we bring you Towering Inferno this week.

The Story: You play as a firefighter going into a skyscraper to putout the fires and rescue any trapped civilians.

From the Manual: “Code Red! Emergency! The downtown skyscraper has burst into flames, and only you can rescue the helpless hundreds trapped within. Quickly, you helicopter to the scene, and dispatch your men to battle the deadly flames. How many survivors can you save? Play TOWERING INFERNO and find out!”

From the Box: “Emergency! A downtown skyscraper has burst into flames, and only you can rescue the helpless hundreds trapped within. Quickly, you helicopter to the scene and dispatch your men to battle the deadly flames. How many survivors can you rescue before it’s too late?”

The Game Play: Your objective is to score points by rescuing as many people as possible. There are 9 buildings with 9 floors each, all having different floor plans. There are 4 survivors on each floor, but act quickly because as time ticks forward the numbers dwindle. You get four firemen, so watch out for the flames. Once you have saved everyone you and the survivors will be helicoptered to safety and you will be taken to the next floor. What you need to do is get from the bottom entrance to the top white square, which is where the survivors are, to rescue them (by pressing the red button) and then escaping back out the bottom of the screen. Sounds easy right? well you can’t escape until you rescue the survivors, no saving yourself here.

The Controls: Standard up is up, down is down, left is left, right is right game play. The red button allows you to spray water at the flames which is necessary to survive or even get through some of the fire walls, it also is used to rescue survivors at the white door.

Post Review: This is another one of those infamous Atari games that sounds simple in theory, but is actually much harder than you would think. I can tell you right away one thing I do not like is that even if you “rescue” the people, they can still die on the way back to the exit. another thing I encountered was flames that never enter the building, so it was impossible to win by dowsing all the flames. I never made it past the first building on my initial attempt here.

The High Score: 356

Atari 2600 Friday’s Special – The Swordquest Contest

I want to try and include here everything I have found and know about in some way or another. There is a lot of info out there, and a lot of it is not so important filler. I want this to be the general information that people would be curious about.

Okay, we’ve gone over the games in the last month so we know what they are all about. As a recap, The Swordquest series was supposed to be four puzzle games all with a common theme. The goal of figuring out the puzzles to get each games specific item, with the side goal of finding the clues needed to enter the contest. However, in the middle of this Atari came into financial lose that was ultimately part of the Gaming Crash of ’83. The last two contests, along with the grand finale contest and the final game Airworld all never came to be.

But on that note, What were the contests? Honestly, it was all one big promotional marketing stunt by Atari, what contest isn’t? Although this is probably the biggest and coolest contest ever conceived and tried for a video game. Unfortunately, financial problems resulting from a number of reasons caused Atari to sell to Jack Tramiel, which also resulted in the premature end of the contests.

On that note, lets take a look at what the prizes were. First of all, the prizes all of which were said to be worth $25,000 except for the grand prize sword which was supposedly worth $50,000.

Earthworld – The Talisman: made of 18K solid gold, studded with 12 diamonds and the birthstones of the twelve zodiac signs.

Fireworld – The Chalice: made of platinum and gold, adorned with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, pearls, citrines, and green jade.

I don’t know of any actual photo evidence of this item.

Waterworld – The Crown: made of gold, encrusted with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, green tourmalines and aquamarines.

I don’t know of any actual photo evidence of this item.

Airworld – The Philosopher’s Stone: a large piece of white jade encased in an 18K gold box featuring emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and citrines.

The current highest quality photo of the Sword that seems to exists.

Grand Price – The Sword of Ultimate Sorcery: I have not been able to find details on this one unfortunately.

But what ever happened to the prizes? From what I understand from my reading over the last year or so, it was the fact that Atari sold that ended the contests. The new owners didn’t want to keep up with it and wanted to move on. Only two of the five contests were ever held.  The Earthworld Talisman went to the winner Steven Bell, who melted it down except for the small sword and sold the gold and jewels, supposedly to pay for school. The Fireworld Chalice went to the winner Michael Rideout, who still has it in a safe deposit box. The Waterworld entrants were paid off to end the contests prematurely, with Bell and Rideout each receiving $15,000, and the other entrants receiving $2,000 each. The other three contest prizes are lost to time. I have read theories ranging from ‘Jack Tramiel has them over his fireplace’ all the way to ‘they were melted down and sold to pay off the entrants to the Waterworld contest’.  At this point though, the real  truth will probably never be known. It is confirmed from interviews with Rideout however that all the prizes did indeed exist at one time, whether or not they do now.

It would have been a fantastic thing to see the gaming community if the contests and games had made it all the way to the end. Unfortunately the Gaming Crash proves to us that some things are just not meant to be.

Below are the contest rules and a sample entry form:

The other contest entry forms I found are all the same barring game title.

“1. Your success in the play of this new Atari video adventure game depends on your ability to progress through the Earthworld Kingdom. Proper progress will uncover “number clues” on the screen that lead to “word clues” in the DC booklet which accompanies your cartridge. Part of the analysis and reasoning required in this contest will involve your making correct choices among these clues… specifically, while there are ten “word clues”, only five are correct. One more clue, found in the DC booklet will be of help in determining which “word clues” are the correct ones.

2. Clearly print those five “word clues” you believe to be the correct ones on the EarthWorld Contest Entry Form provided as part of the leaflet and, together with your name and complete address, mail your completed Entry Form in time for receipt by March 15, 1983 to: Atari “EarthWorld Contest.” P.O. Box 8900, Westport, CT 06888.

3. Everyone’s entry will be individually graded for correct answers. If you have determined and furnished one or more of the correct “word clues,” your entry will be acknowledge with an OFFICIAL ATARI SWORDQUEST CHALLENGE CERTIFICATE OF MERIT which will be “rated” according to a different skill designation for 1-2 correct answers, 3-4 correct answers, or all 5 correct answers.

4. Entrants who supply all five correct “word clues” will compete in a play-off to determine the winner of the Grand Prize for the EarthWorld Contest. The play-off will be held at Atari’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. Atari will pay for the travel expense of the play-off contestants, consisting of roundtrip airfare to San Francisco from the airport nearest the contestant’s home-originating city, ground transportation to Sunnyvale, two nights’ lodging near Atari’s headquarters, transfers, and meals.

5. In the likely event that more than 50 entrants provide all five correct “word clues”, tying contestants will be required to complete a statement dealing with what they like about the Atari EarthWorld game as a tie-breaker basis for the judges’ determination of the 50 winners of play-off trips to California. Tie-breaking statement-completion entries will be judged on the basis of originality, sincerity, and aptness of though. Duplicate prizes will be awarded in the event of further ties. This tie-breaker contest shall be administered to qualifying contestants by mail following the March 15, 1983 deadline for receipt of EarthWorld entries. Any play-off trip winner under the age of 18 will be entitled to an additional roundtrip plane ticket at Atari’s expense, to enable his/her accompaniment by one parent or legal guardian.

6. The play-off to be held at Atari’s headquarters will consist of a time-measured skill competition among the field of finalists to play and solve a new special-edition Atari adventure game, similar in nature to the original EarthWorld game, which has been prepared exclusively for purpose of the play-off. The first contestant to furnish this new game’s correct answers shall be declared the winner of the EarthWorld Contest’s Grand Prize; a special, one-of-a-kind EarthWorld Medallion, forged from valuable metals, inlaid with sparkling gems, designed and created for Atari by Franklin Mint at a cost of $25,000.

7. Following the conclusion of all four separate contest segments, the respective Grand Prize Winners will be invited back to Atari headquarters (at Atari’s expense) to complete against one another in a Grand Finale Contest to determine the SWORDQUEST CHALLENGE National Championship. Again, a new special-edition Atari adventure game will be simultaneously provided for these players to solve on a time-measured skill basis. The first contestant to furnish the new game’s correct answers shall win a jeweled Sword prize, also exclusively fashioned for Atari by Franklin Mint at a cost of $50,000.”

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