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Retro Review: Haunted Mansion



Atari inc - 1982 - Atari 2600

Overview:

Haunted Mansion is an overhead action adventure game for the Atari 2600, and is often refereed to as the very first Survival Horror game. In it, you must navigate a haunted house in search of the 3 pieces of an Urn belonging to the houses long dead owner, Zachary Graves. But don’t think he will let you take his urn without a fight. Mr. Graves will attack you with his army of Spiders, Bats, and even his own ghost.

 

Gameplay:

The game begins with your character (a big pair of googly eyes), on the first floor of the Graves House. Each of the houses 3 floors have 6 rooms, and contain 10 doors. Each time you start the game, the game changes which doors are locked, and which lead to the next floor. The way to tell which is which is the noises made by approaching the doors, locked doors making a thump noise, and each open door leading to a different colored room and music cue. Now, the funny thing about long abandoned haunted houses; nobody pays the power bill. So, each of the houses 3 floors are pitch black. Lucky for you, you have matches that when lit, will illuminate the area around you. With the match lit, you will be able to find the games items; Key, Sceptre, and Urn pieces. Much like the doors, the items will be set in different rooms each play. 


 

 You can only carry one item at a time, and they each serve a different purpose. The Key will open locked doors, the Sceptre will keep you safe from monster attacks, and the Urn pieces (which you can collect without dropping) that must be reassembled to escape the house. You do have the ability to drop items where ever you want, which can be used to help you keep all your items close by. The enemies are pretty easy to avoid most the time, though there are times where entering a new floor will jam you face first into a Bat, or Spider. Lucky for you, you have 9 lives to make it through the mansion. The game also has multiple difficulties, which will make the walls invisible without the use of matches. 

 

Conclusion:

Haunted Mansion is definitely one of my favorite 2600 games. Now yes, it’s not really a horror game in the way of a scare (unless you suffer from a fear of cubes), but it does keep you on edge in the way of gameplay. You never know where the next enemy will appear, or where the items are hidden. When you enter a floor, and see a ghost and a bat rush at you, you will turn and run, and have to think where to go next. The Horror may be lacking, but the Survival and strategy remain strong. Haunted House is like a classic horror film. It’s probably not going to make you jump like a Resident Evil, or make you wanna hide in an old refrigerator box in a fetal pose like Silent Hill, but you’ll enjoy it all the same. It’s campy, it’s silly, by todays standards it’s the C-horror equivalent of Survival Horror. And that’s all part of the fun. It’s in those simple, yet challenging ascetics, that make this and many other Retro Games, fun even today. A pair of eyes, a dollar store ghost, and bunch of squares is all you need to have a good time. 

 



Wanna give it a play?

http://www.atari.com/play/game/haunted_house

Retro Review Thanksgiving Edition: Custer’s Revenge



Mystique - 1982 - Atari 2600

Overview:

This Thanksgiving, I tried to think of a Retro Game that will rightfully represent the spirit of the holiday. So, how do you celebrate the eventual raping of the Native people of America? By playing an actual game about the raping of a Native American. What better way to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, then by playing Custer’s Revenge?*

*Please don’t answer that question, whatever you are thinking, you’re right, it’s a better way. 

Custer’s Revenge is an Adult game (though the idea of an “adult” playing this is a bit difficult) developed by Mystique, makers of other adult Atari titles Beat’Em & Eat’Em, and Bachelor Party. This game is not only regarded as one of the worst games of all time, but also one of the top 10 most racist games of all time by the UGO. 

 

Gameplay:

Not surprisingly, a game about raping an Native American woman against a cactus doesn’t have much depth to its gameplay. You are Custer (Yes, the naked man in a blue hat and pick neckerchief is Custer) and your goal is to, like I stated before, walk forward and repeatedly thrust your pixelated member into the naughty bits of a Native American lady. Now don’t think you can just go sexing your junk up all willy-nilly. As you play, arrows will randomly fall from the sky, threatening to cut your love making and your life short. The goal of the game is to thrust as much as possible, before all your horned up cowboys are defeated. 


Surprisingly enough, the game has some faults. The gameplay gets rather tedious fast, and because the arrows just randomly spawn, you will get a lot of cheap deaths. Humping for points isn’t exactly what I would call engaging gameplay, and with the entire game taking place on one small screen, and arrows constantly coming at you, you’ll spend most the time just walking back and forth avoiding projectiles, like some kind of perverted game of Helmet 

 

Conclusion:

This may come as a shock to you, but this game isn’t very good. Other than the intense racism, and rape, it’s just a poorly made game. It has absolutely no replay value, and just owning the cartridge will require you to sign a sex offenders list. This was part of a wave of games in the early days of gaming that relied on sex to sell an inferior product. The Atari 2600 alone had several of these terrible “adult” games that were often just rip offs of other titles, with the addition of pixelated genitals. Even now, we see many games that lack substance, and just rely on violence and/or sex to sell themselves. All media, be it film, books, or gaming, have examples of this. Though it may seem odd due to the graphic limitations of the time, sex even sold on the Atari….though I pray nobody was ever actually aroused while playing this. I’m not suggesting that a game about sex, or violence is always bad of course, but when it’s all you have going for you, you won’t get far. 

So, if you haven’t lost your appetites, enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone.

And if you are planing on actually playing Custer’s Revenge anytime soon, try not to do it while the families around. Though, if the kids catch you playing it, just follow the advice of the players guide, “If the kids catch you and should ask, tell them Custer and the maiden are just dancing.” 

Happy Holidays

 

Retro-spective : Pong



Atari - 1972 - Arcade

"In 1993, Dr. Timothy Leary was interviewed by Douglas Rushkoff, a journalist who would later write a book called Media Virus. They talked about Pong. What Leary said ( and what Rushkoff proceeded to explain) was that Pong allowed modern kids to do something their parents never fathomed: they could control and manipulate what they saw on television. That was the most revolutionary media event since the invention of television itself. And what remains profoundly striking is how that sentiment was simultaneously (1) so obvious and (2) so overlooked by just about everyone."

-  Chuck Klostermen, from the forward of I AM 8-Bit art book.


If you were to talk about the impact and history of Video Games in our society, you would be hard pressed not to bring up Pong. While not the first video game made, Pong was the first video game that really struck a cord with mainstream culture. This simple concept: table tennis sans the table, became the first commercially successful video game, and it credited with sparking the beginning of the video game industry. 


 
The idea for Pong began as a training exercise for new Atari engineer Allan Alcorn, whom had never worked on video game design before. At the time, Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell decided to get Alcorn to create a game based off a ping-pong game on the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game console, that involved one moving dot, two paddles, and a score counter. When Alcorn finished the game, Atari was so surprised with the quality of Alcorn’s work, that they decided to manufacture it. Pong became a fast hit, often earning up to 4 times more then the other games around it. Once Pongs popularity became apparent, other companies began to produce similar games, trying to get in on the action. This pushed Atari to branch out and make more versions of Pong themselves, along with creating newer, more innovative games to stay on top. In 1974, a home version of Pong was released, making the game even more accessible to a its fans. Thanks to the games 2 player option, kids were able to not only able to play a video game, but enjoy playing against their friends as well. Now, not only were kids at the time able to actually manipulate what was happening on their televisions, but they could do it with friends as well.


 

Of course to us today, Pong may seem silly. Archaic. Childish even. But to discount Pong’s importance is a mistake. Pong is that spark that started t all. It’s the game that made Atari a household name. It’s the game to captivated childhoods. It’s the first brick in the foundation of everything that gaming is now. 

 

So, next time you pick up your 360 Controller, or Wiimote, or 3DS: take a second to reflect. Reflect on how far we have come in the 29 years since Pong. To me, Pong is like the first thumbnail sketch before the Masterpiece. That early idea, that overtime evolves into the finished product. The sheer idea, that in 29 years we have come from Pong to Super Mario Galaxy or Battlefield 3. Imagine where we will be in 29 more years, 50 years. How far will we be able to take the medium of gaming? But do remember, every great tree started as a tiny seed. Never forget your forefathers, and always respect the past. 

   

Retro Review : Yars’ Revenge




Atari - 1982 - Atari 2600

Overview:

Yars’ Revenge is an early fixed shooter, and is highly regarded as Atari’s highest selling game for the 2600. While Yars’ originally began as a licensed port of the Cinematronics arcade game Star Castle, it eventually became its own game, baring little resemblance to the original. 



Gameplay:

 
In Yars’, you take control of one of the titular Yars’ (a race of fly like aliens) on a mission to destroy the Qotile; a large core protected by an energy shield.There are 2 types of Shields protecting the Core; the standard arch shield, which can be broken away bit by bit, or a large cube shield that encases the Core. This shield takes damage differently than the first, with each shot rotating around the outside of the Core. It sounds stranger than it is, so don’t worry, you’ll understand fast. Lucky for Yar…you…, you have 2 ways to break down these shields. You can either fire your lasers at it,chipping it away, or fly directly at it, which allows your Yar to eat sections of the shield. Once the core is exposed, you must pilot your Yar as close as you can to the Core, until a missile appears on the left side of the screen. This is your Zorlon Canon, and is the only weapon that can destroy the Core. Once it appears, it can be fired instead of your regular lasers, but be careful, the canon can destroy you as well, so make sure your get out of the way one you fire.




Of course, the Core doesn’t just sit there and take the punishment, it has 3 means of defense. First off, the Core and Shield have the ability to move up and down the screen, making it a bit harder to land consecutive shots. Also, throughout the game, an enemy missile will constantly track you and attempt to crash into you. Also, at certain points during gameplay, the Qotile will create a Swirl of energy and fire it at you. It takes a few seconds to fire, giving you time to prepare to avoid the shot, and unlike the Missile, doesn’t track you once it’s fired. While both these attacks are slow at first, the speed of the missile and Swirl attack will increase with each level, upping the challenge. The last big feature of the game is the games  Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is the large bar of static that lays near the center of the screen. While inside this zone you will be unable to fire your lasers, and the enemy attacks will not be able to hit you. This area is great to use when you need to break up the fighting and create a strategy in the later, more fast paced levels. 


 

Conclusion:

While the game may look rather primitive by today’s standards, Yars’ Revenge manages to still be one of the more challenging of the fixed shooter genera. The game makes up for what it lacks in graphics, in its depth of gameplay. With all the action going on at once, the game quickly becomes a fast paced shooter, challenging your reflexes and mind. Yars’ Revenge is a great example of how solid gameplay never gets old. Much like how Pac-Man is just as addicting and fun as it was when it was first released, Yars” Revenge manages to stay just as fun and challenging as when it first hit the shelves 29 years ago. Yars’ is a personal favorite of mine, and definitely my favorite game on the 2600. This is definitely a game you wanna give a play, be it ROM, GameBoy, or on the Atari that made it famous. 

 

Mini-Review: Demon Attack



Imagic - 1982 - Atari 2600

Overview:

 Demon Attack is a fixed shooter similar to Space Invaders, and was actually modeled after Namco’s Galaxian. In the game, your ship has been stranded on the ice planet Krybor, and you must defend yourself against the hoards of Demons that attack from the sky.

 

Gameplay:

Like most fixed shooters, the game play consists of piloting your ship back and forth and firing your canon at the incoming enemies. The enemies in this game behave different then in previous fixed shooter titles, hovering around the screen as apposed to appearing in a cluster. The Demons move back and forth erratically, making it difficult to shoot them, and fire beams down at you while moving. There are several types of Demons in this game, and they all have slightly different beam attacks. The main strategy of the game becomes learning how to avoid each Demons individual beam and racking up as many points as you can. 



Conclusion:


Demon Attack is one of my favorite Atari games, and is a great addition to the fixed shooter library. It has that simple addicting game play that so many Atari titles were known for, and it has enough originality to not make it feel like it;s riding Galaxian or Space Invaders coattails. I would recommend it if you can get your hands on a copy. And also, it wins my “Best Atari Box Art Ever” award hands down. 

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