50. Kaboom!

Kaboom!
Atari 2600
1981


When it comes to paddle games,I have deep-rooted love for Super Breakout, and I’ve got nothing but respect for Pong, the granddaddy of them all. But when push comes to shove, Kaboom! has got to be  my favorite.

The gameplay is great, and dead simple. A mad bomber is dropping bombs from the top of the screen rather quickly, and you have to catch them with a bucket before they reach the bottom. There is no strategy and no skills to master. It is hand/eye co-ordination stripped of all the bells and whistles, which is awesome, but it isn’t why this is my favorite paddle game.

The game has one of the greatest names of any video game ever. “Kaboom!” It is memorable, it evokes strong imagery, and it is onomatopoeic. If you ask me, you can rarely go wrong with onomatopoeia. And the exclamation point is just icing on the cake. Yet neither is this my reason for loving Kaboom! above all other paddle games.

And I just love the mad bomber. He’s so sad when you are catching his bombs. And then he’s so happy when you miss a bomb.Presumably, he’s thinking about all the dead, the dying, and the permanently maimed. He’s so cute.  But even this is not the best thing about this great, great game.

No, my favorite thing about the game is this box art:

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

50. Kaboom!

Kaboom!
Atari 2600
1981


When it comes to paddle games,I have deep-rooted love for Super Breakout, and I’ve got nothing but respect for Pong, the granddaddy of them all. But when push comes to shove, Kaboom! has got to be  my favorite.

The gameplay is great, and dead simple. A mad bomber is dropping bombs from the top of the screen rather quickly, and you have to catch them with a bucket before they reach the bottom. There is no strategy and no skills to master. It is hand/eye co-ordination stripped of all the bells and whistles, which is awesome, but it isn’t why this is my favorite paddle game.

The game has one of the greatest names of any video game ever. “Kaboom!” It is memorable, it evokes strong imagery, and it is onomatopoeic. If you ask me, you can rarely go wrong with onomatopoeia. And the exclamation point is just icing on the cake. Yet neither is this my reason for loving Kaboom! above all other paddle games.

And I just love the mad bomber. He’s so sad when you are catching his bombs. And then he’s so happy when you miss a bomb.Presumably, he’s thinking about all the dead, the dying, and the permanently maimed. He’s so cute.  But even this is not the best thing about this great, great game.

No, my favorite thing about the game is this box art:

49. Circus Atari

Circus Atari
Atari 2600
1980

In Circus Atari, you take on the role of two clowns that are using a rolling seesaw to propel each other upwards into a circus tent, with the goal of bursting balloons with their heads. When one of them misses landing on the seesaw, he smashes head-first into the ground, his legs still twitching.

Really, all this game’s awesomeness is self-evident, and it is just as much fun as it sounds. If playing as a pair of balloon-busting, kamikaze seesaw clowns doesn’t sound like a great premise for a game, then you and I have different concepts of fun.


Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

49. Circus Atari

Circus Atari
Atari 2600
1980

In Circus Atari, you take on the role of two clowns that are using a rolling seesaw to propel each other upwards into a circus tent, with the goal of bursting balloons with their heads. When one of them misses landing on the seesaw, he smashes head-first into the ground, his legs still twitching.

Really, all this game’s awesomeness is self-evident, and it is just as much fun as it sounds. If playing as a pair of balloon-busting, kamikaze seesaw clowns doesn’t sound like a great premise for a game, then you and I have different concepts of fun.


Just When I Thought I Godfather Reference, They Pull Me Back Or Is It a Sopranos Reference by now?

Well, we’ve reached the end of the alphabet for Atari. If you know your Atari, you may have noticed that none of the games I’ve played have used the system’s non-joystick controller, the paddle.

In addition to the joystick, the Atari 2600 came with paddles, which were dials with a button, intended for Pong and pong-like games. These controllers were wonderfully responsive, due to a sensor that has a tendency to break after a couple of decades of use.

However, a last-minute controller repair means that I can play all my skipped games that use paddle controllers. That’s good news, because a lot of the paddle games are super mega awesome.

So…

48. Breakout

Breakout
Atari 2600
1978

I guess Pong is the quintessential paddle game, but in my heart, I’ve always felt Breakout is more deserving of that title.

Let’s look at the word “quintessential”. In ancient times, quintessence was the hypothetical fifth element, a repulsive force that supposedly permeated all of space, and counteracted gravity. To be quintessential was to be of purest form, to be of the aether.

The barrier in Breakout bears more than a passing resemblance to that imagined field of quintessence: It is a quai-mystical barrier separating the physical world from the heavens. And what is Breakout’s barrier made of? Large colored blocks, the stuff of pure, unrefined video games.

Breakout’
s cartridge illustration has some lame tennis mojo, but the sequel, Super Breakout, evokes imagery of an astronaut trying to pass through a metaphysical barrier. That astronaut, I posit, is a metaphor for the gamers of 1978, trying to evolve past the limitations of Atari hardware, into the platonic realm of Pure Video Game. Truly, Breakout IS a game of quintessence.

Besides, Pong needs two people to play and Breakout only needs one, so Breakout is, like, way better.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

Just When I Thought I Godfather Reference, They Pull Me Back Or Is It a Sopranos Reference by now?

Well, we’ve reached the end of the alphabet for Atari. If you know your Atari, you may have noticed that none of the games I’ve played have used the system’s non-joystick controller, the paddle.

In addition to the joystick, the Atari 2600 came with paddles, which were dials with a button, intended for Pong and pong-like games. These controllers were wonderfully responsive, due to a sensor that has a tendency to break after a couple of decades of use.

However, a last-minute controller repair means that I can play all my skipped games that use paddle controllers. That’s good news, because a lot of the paddle games are super mega awesome.

So…

48. Breakout

Breakout
Atari 2600
1978

I guess Pong is the quintessential paddle game, but in my heart, I’ve always felt Breakout is more deserving of that title.

Let’s look at the word “quintessential”. In ancient times, quintessence was the hypothetical fifth element, a repulsive force that supposedly permeated all of space, and counteracted gravity. To be quintessential was to be of purest form, to be of the aether.

The barrier in Breakout bears more than a passing resemblance to that imagined field of quintessence: It is a quai-mystical barrier separating the physical world from the heavens. And what is Breakout’s barrier made of? Large colored blocks, the stuff of pure, unrefined video games.

Breakout’
s cartridge illustration has some lame tennis mojo, but the sequel, Super Breakout, evokes imagery of an astronaut trying to pass through a metaphysical barrier. That astronaut, I posit, is a metaphor for the gamers of 1978, trying to evolve past the limitations of Atari hardware, into the platonic realm of Pure Video Game. Truly, Breakout IS a game of quintessence.

Besides, Pong needs two people to play and Breakout only needs one, so Breakout is, like, way better.

47. Wizard of Wor

Wizard of Wor
Atari 2600
1982

Yes, it is an inexplicable and annoying truth that a single-player game of Wizard of Wor uses the second controller and not the first. In addition, t is certainly true that this game has some of the lamest names in any video game that isn’t Turok Furthermore, I will readily admit that your character appears to have just come back from a failed audition for the role of Custer in Custer’s Revenge. However, I feel none of these details should get in the way of the fact that Wizard of Wor is a damn great game.

The game is in a spiritual predecessor to Doom. You play a dude with an improbably large gun, trapped in a maze with monsters. You have to shoot the monsters before they shoot you. This is a fine scenario, the sort of premise upon which a developer can easily build a video game around, trusting that the thrill of shooting monsters is all the more complexity a game needs to be fun.

And although the makers of Wizard of Wor could have stopped there, shooting monsters was simply not enough for this game’s designers. They were of a rare breed, the sort that upon achieving awesomeness, does not rest, but rather asks “how can we make this even more awesome?” In the case of this game, a radar system was added to the mix, and a lot of thought was given to how to create mood and tension.

It is hard to be anything other than cute on an Atari game, but dang, this game is genuinely atmospheric. It has creepy music that is just slightly grating and conducive to paranoia. It has invisible enemies that force you to keep one eye on your radar at all times, something that is really conducive to paranoia. This may be the first good horror game to hit the video game market.


Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

47. Wizard of Wor

Wizard of Wor
Atari 2600
1982

Yes, it is an inexplicable and annoying truth that a single-player game of Wizard of Wor uses the second controller and not the first. In addition, t is certainly true that this game has some of the lamest names in any video game that isn’t Turok Furthermore, I will readily admit that your character appears to have just come back from a failed audition for the role of Custer in Custer’s Revenge. However, I feel none of these details should get in the way of the fact that Wizard of Wor is a damn great game.

The game is in a spiritual predecessor to Doom. You play a dude with an improbably large gun, trapped in a maze with monsters. You have to shoot the monsters before they shoot you. This is a fine scenario, the sort of premise upon which a developer can easily build a video game around, trusting that the thrill of shooting monsters is all the more complexity a game needs to be fun.

And although the makers of Wizard of Wor could have stopped there, shooting monsters was simply not enough for this game’s designers. They were of a rare breed, the sort that upon achieving awesomeness, does not rest, but rather asks “how can we make this even more awesome?” In the case of this game, a radar system was added to the mix, and a lot of thought was given to how to create mood and tension.

It is hard to be anything other than cute on an Atari game, but dang, this game is genuinely atmospheric. It has creepy music that is just slightly grating and conducive to paranoia. It has invisible enemies that force you to keep one eye on your radar at all times, something that is really conducive to paranoia. This may be the first good horror game to hit the video game market.


Solicitation for advice

If I had a DVD set of a tv show with a lot of music such as The Muppet Show,
or Fraggle Rock, and I wanted to rip all the songs into an audio only
format, what would be the recommended way of achieving that goal?

EDIT: I still don’t know how to rip audio but check it: http://www.amazon.com/Fraggle-Rock-Rockin-Collection/dp/B000V8WD42/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1210908976&sr=8-5
I totally bought this because I suck at saving for a new car and love fraggles.

Pinto Beans and Muffins

So I was randomly thinking about Wrath of Khan, when the theme to that movie
was shuffled up on my iPod. It seemed like a weird coincidence, but I
guess, given the amount of time I spend idly thinking about Wrath of Khan,
the real weird thing is that it hasn’t happened before.

46. Winter Games

Winter Games
Atari 2600
1987


This game is in the same tradition as California Games, only without Hacky Sack or “Louie Louie”. What we have here is a compilation of winter sports and since it is a scientific fact that all winter sports blow, it seems that science has doomed this game to blow.

The only thing that makes this game worth anything at all is the slalom event.   This is the event where you ski around Christmas elves on skateboards. Seriously, check it out:


If only they had thrown out all the lame Olympic rip-off stuff and gave us a game about elf-skating, this game might be worth a darn. If only.


Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

46. Winter Games

Winter Games
Atari 2600
1987


This game is in the same tradition as California Games, only without Hacky Sack or “Louie Louie”. What we have here is a compilation of winter sports and since it is a scientific fact that all winter sports blow, it seems that science has doomed this game to blow.

The only thing that makes this game worth anything at all is the slalom event.   This is the event where you ski around Christmas elves on skateboards. Seriously, check it out:


If only they had thrown out all the lame Olympic rip-off stuff and gave us a game about elf-skating, this game might be worth a darn. If only.


45. Video Pinball

Video Pinball
Atari 2600
1981

Man, I sure do love me some pinball. Of all the dumb little amusements in this world, there are few that give me the simple pleasure that I get from the lights and the noise, from watching the ball roll around the machine, from feeling the machine vibrate, from unpeeling the layers of complexity.  A good pinball game is magic. Video Pinball, predictably, possesses absolutely none of these charms.

Video Pinball obviously can’t recreate the complex gravity-based physics of a real pinball machine, so instead it goes with vacuum-based Pong physics. This makes for a game where the ball can bounce around the board for minutes without ever coming anywhere near the flippers, before eventually draining out of the side. This game also lacks flashing lights, ramps, bumpers or really much of anything pinball related.

I question whether the programmers of this game had ever spent any time playing an actual pinball machine. Video Pinball sorta feels like someone living in a cave was described the concept of a pinball machine, and that person made a game based off of that description.   That’s how little resemblance this game bears to its namesake. 

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

45. Video Pinball

Video Pinball
Atari 2600
1981

Man, I sure do love me some pinball. Of all the dumb little amusements in this world, there are few that give me the simple pleasure that I get from the lights and the noise, from watching the ball roll around the machine, from feeling the machine vibrate, from unpeeling the layers of complexity.  A good pinball game is magic. Video Pinball, predictably, possesses absolutely none of these charms.

Video Pinball obviously can’t recreate the complex gravity-based physics of a real pinball machine, so instead it goes with vacuum-based Pong physics. This makes for a game where the ball can bounce around the board for minutes without ever coming anywhere near the flippers, before eventually draining out of the side. This game also lacks flashing lights, ramps, bumpers or really much of anything pinball related.

I question whether the programmers of this game had ever spent any time playing an actual pinball machine. Video Pinball sorta feels like someone living in a cave was described the concept of a pinball machine, and that person made a game based off of that description.   That’s how little resemblance this game bears to its namesake. 

44. Video Checkers

Video Checkers
Atari 2600
1980

In the interest of full disclosure, I should let it be known that I believe checkers to be an irritating game only suitable for four-year-olds, elderly white guys sitting on a porches, and people without any chess pieces.  But don’t worry, I won’t let my bias affect my impressions of Atari’s Video Checkers.   I know you, the reader, don’t care about my irrational hatred of the game.  You, the reader, are nuts about checkers.  You, the reader, watch Celebrity Checkers on ESPN.  You are avid checkerbloggers.  You subscribe to English Draughts Weekly.  You, the reader, fucking love checkers.  I get it.   You don’t want to hear about my checker-based emotional scars, you just want to know if this 28 year old computer checkers program will sate your greedy, unquenchable lust for checkers  And I gotta tell you, this game won’t sate nothing, for it is a terrible checkers program.     

In keeping with the nature of checkers, you can only move the cursor diagonally,  which even under the best of circumstances would have been annoying, but might not have utterly destroyed what little fun the game might theoretically offer.    However, for some dark reason you have to press the joystick an average of three times to get the cursor to move one space. I’m triple-dog serious, that’s how broken this thing is.

 

“Well, the interface may suck, but how about the AI?” I pitifully imagine you, the reader, asking me.  Well, damned if I know.  It surely kicked the piss out of me, I can tell you that much.  That, of course, means nothing, because frankly, the AI from Berzerk could beat me at checkers because I am very so bad at checkers.   

I spent an hour of my life last night playing Video Checkers to give you, the reader, this important and timely warning:  Do not, under any circumstances, play Video Checkers for the Atari Video Computer System.  That hour I spent is never coming back.  It is lost forever and my death is now that much sooner.  Don’t let my sacrifice be in vain.  Don’t play Video Checkers.   

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

44. Video Checkers

Video Checkers
Atari 2600
1980

In the interest of full disclosure, I should let it be known that I believe checkers to be an irritating game only suitable for four-year-olds, elderly white guys sitting on a porches, and people without any chess pieces.  But don’t worry, I won’t let my bias affect my impressions of Atari’s Video Checkers.   I know you, the reader, don’t care about my irrational hatred of the game.  You, the reader, are nuts about checkers.  You, the reader, watch Celebrity Checkers on ESPN.  You are avid checkerbloggers.  You subscribe to English Draughts Weekly.  You, the reader, fucking love checkers.  I get it.   You don’t want to hear about my checker-based emotional scars, you just want to know if this 28 year old computer checkers program will sate your greedy, unquenchable lust for checkers  And I gotta tell you, this game won’t sate nothing, for it is a terrible checkers program.     

In keeping with the nature of checkers, you can only move the cursor diagonally,  which even under the best of circumstances would have been annoying, but might not have utterly destroyed what little fun the game might theoretically offer.    However, for some dark reason you have to press the joystick an average of three times to get the cursor to move one space. I’m triple-dog serious, that’s how broken this thing is.

 

“Well, the interface may suck, but how about the AI?” I pitifully imagine you, the reader, asking me.  Well, damned if I know.  It surely kicked the piss out of me, I can tell you that much.  That, of course, means nothing, because frankly, the AI from Berzerk could beat me at checkers because I am very so bad at checkers.   

I spent an hour of my life last night playing Video Checkers to give you, the reader, this important and timely warning:  Do not, under any circumstances, play Video Checkers for the Atari Video Computer System.  That hour I spent is never coming back.  It is lost forever and my death is now that much sooner.  Don’t let my sacrifice be in vain.  Don’t play Video Checkers.   

43. Title Match: Pro Wrestling

Title Match: Pro Wrestling

Atari 2600
1987

Despite the Atari’s deep hardware limitations, this game plays exactly like every other wrestling video game I’ve ever played on the systems of later eras.  During any given game, I mash on the controls, which causes me to randomly perform a handful of hits and grapples and whatnot, meanwhile there are weird gauges at the top of the screen that convey no meaningful data to me. Eventually I’m pinned, and I cry. On the inside.


Since I lack the finesse and subtlety required for professional wrestling, I am unable to fairly gauge the quality of this game.  Instead, I will judge the quality of the wrestlers you can play as.  You must choose between one four characters:  Mr. Mean (white guy), Mad Dog (black guy), Big Chief (Native American guy), and Skin Head (white guy). Under normal circumstances,   Mr. Mean, who wears a pervert mask, would likely be the character for mothers to complain about, but he is the only character in Title Match who isn’t a negative racial stereotype, and so Mr. Mean stands out as the one relatively tasteful character in a pool of grimace-inducing caricatures. 

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

43. Title Match: Pro Wrestling

Title Match: Pro Wrestling

Atari 2600
1987

Despite the Atari’s deep hardware limitations, this game plays exactly like every other wrestling video game I’ve ever played on the systems of later eras.  During any given game, I mash on the controls, which causes me to randomly perform a handful of hits and grapples and whatnot, meanwhile there are weird gauges at the top of the screen that convey no meaningful data to me. Eventually I’m pinned, and I cry. On the inside.


Since I lack the finesse and subtlety required for professional wrestling, I am unable to fairly gauge the quality of this game.  Instead, I will judge the quality of the wrestlers you can play as.  You must choose between one four characters:  Mr. Mean (white guy), Mad Dog (black guy), Big Chief (Native American guy), and Skin Head (white guy). Under normal circumstances,   Mr. Mean, who wears a pervert mask, would likely be the character for mothers to complain about, but he is the only character in Title Match who isn’t a negative racial stereotype, and so Mr. Mean stands out as the one relatively tasteful character in a pool of grimace-inducing caricatures. 

IV

So I’ve been playing GTA:IV and it is a fascinating opportunity to step into
a life unlike my own. A life with different rules and different priorites.
I’m having fun playing by those rules for a little while, even as they
remind me of how much happier I am with the choices I’ve made in my own
life. Yes, Grand Theft Auto IV is a guy-with-a-cell-phone simulator, and it
just reinforces how glad I am to not own one.

When it comes to cell phones, I’m a 20th century hold out, a man who doesn’t
want his life interrupted by annoying phone calls. When I attempt to
quitely trail a drug dealer back to his supplier, and am interrupted by my
cousin calling me to ask me out to a strip club, it is annoying as hell.
But when it happens in the game, it is a great moment.

This might not be a better game than San Andreas, but it is the finest game
about recieving text messages I have ever played.