Lasso, Arcade

Lasso is an obscure arcade game, developed and manufactured by SNK Corporation in 1982. In it you play a rancher/cowboy trying to round-up his cattle with a rope.

The game generously gives you an opportunity to practise throwing the lasso at the beginning with a “warm-up” screen. Then you have to catch loose sheep and shoot fireballs at attacking wolves… Ah, you can’t make this stuff up… Let a wolf or any of your cattle touch you, though, and you lose a life. Lose all three lives and it’s game over.

If you complete the sheep level, it’s then onto the cow level at a slightly harder difficulty; then the horse level. And so on. Extra hazards, like fire(?) breathing lizards, also become more frequent as the stages progress.

Lasso is basic at best. Like Food Fight and Domino Man it is a video game idea that doesn’t really work that well in practise, but probably sounded good on paper. It’s fun for a short while, though.

More: Lasso on arcade-history.com

Pengo, Arcade

Sega‘s Pengo is an arcade classic from 1982 and is a block-pushing maze game starring a cute penguin called – you guessed it – Pengo.

Pengo must push the ice blocks around to squash the Sno-Bees, while at the same time avoiding any contact with them. He can also push the diamond blocks together, which stuns and makes the Sno-Bees vulnerable for a short period of time. And one other ability he has is to ‘push’ and the perimeter fence to stun any Sno-Bees chasing him (and once stunned they can be killed by walking over them).

Pengo is both visually and sonically appealing, and also very challenging. Like many early arcade games: it’s no kid’s game, even if it might look like one.

Another classic from Sega‘s early catalogue, Pengo and has been re-released and re-made a number of times, so remains popular to this day.

More: Pengo on Wikipedia

Millipede, Arcade

Millipede is a direct sequel to Atari‘s Centipede and was first distributed into video game arcades in 1982.

It’s basically the same trackball-controlled gameplay as before, but with a few changes and enhancements.

You control a small elf (yes, an elf – called Archer) who can move anywhere within a small area at the bottom of the screen. Millipedes – long, multi-sectioned insects – move side to side and down the screen, turning when they hit a mushroom (or the side of the screen). What this basically means is that hitting mushrooms makes the millipede move down the screen quicker, so shooting the mushrooms and removing them from the millipede’s path helps keep it higher up the screen for longer. The ‘elf’ fires constantly if you hold the fire button down, but – crucially – he will not fire another bullet until the last one has gone. So shooting becomes tactical at certain times.

Differences to Centipede include: DDT bombs that can be shot once and will kill any insects caught in the blast radius; a bonus level where a swarm of bees replace the usual millipede; the choice of whether to start at an advance level before the game starts; and the introduction of a variety of new enemy bugs. The millipede itself also moves faster than the centipede in the previous game, which makes it harder to hit.

Millipede is a fast and enjoyable shooter from the early days of video game arcades. It’s also been converted to many home systems and is still popular today. Considering that it’s been 37 years since it’s release, that is quite remarkable.

More: Millipede on Wikipedia

Horace Goes Skiing, ZX Spectrum

Hungry Horace author, William Tang, also produced this sequel – Horace Goes Skiing – the same year as its predecessor: 1982. It was again published by Sinclair/Psion.

This one is part Frogger clone and part skiing game, and is slightly more playable and enjoyable than its predecessor.

Horace starts off having to cross a busy road to get to the ski slope. The traffic is fast, relentless and deadly, and finding a gap to make it through is not easy. Get hit by a vehicle and Horace must pay $10 for an ambulance. And – since he starts with $30 – that gives him three lives to begin with.

Survive the road, and the scene changes to a horizontally-scrolling slalom course. Horace skis down the screen and his speed is dictated by how much you turn him left and right. If Horace is facing directly downwards he’ll accelerate to top speed. If you turn him left and right he’ll turn and slow down. The route to success is lined with coloured flags, and only by carefully controlling Horace‘s speed and direction will you make it between them. Bash into a tree or a hill and Horace‘s skis will cross and he might break them. If he does, it’s back to the road for another pair (or game over if he doesn’t have the cash).

While Horace Goes Skiing is definitely better than its predecessor, it’s still not what I would call a “classic” game – even for the Spectrum. Sure: it’s steeped in nostalgia, but that’s not good enough on its own. If you were going to play it today, you’d probably be tired of it in 15/30 minutes.

More: Horace Goes Skiing on Wikipedia

Hungry Horace, ZX Spectrum

This ZX Spectrum Pac-Man clone is a legendary early title from Beam Software/Melbourne House, and was published by Sinclair/Psion in 1982.

Hungry Horace is probably as well known as it is because of Horace – a cute blue blob with eyes, arms, and legs – and who is somewhat memorable. It certainly isn’t revered for its sparkling gameplay, which is limited at best (and banal at worst).

Four mazes, repeated over and over; supposedly representing a ‘park’ – Hungry Horace isn’t even a particularly good Pac-Man clone. The faces that chase you have weird AI; the mazes have dead ends; some mazes have corridors; ring the bell and the faces get scared for a limited time and you can ‘kill’ them by touching them…

Describing Hungry Horace any more will just cause me (and you, probably) to yawn, so I’ll just say that this is a game that is fondly-remembered because it was the ‘birth’ of Horace – a character Spectrum owners grew to love immensely. The game itself has unfortunately degraded over time…

More: Hungry Horace on Wikipedia

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Atari 2600

This notorious 1982 release for the Atari 2600 was – at the time – the most expensive movie license ever acquired by a video games company ($35 million dollars it apparently cost), and it also undoubtedly hastened the demise of Atari Inc. as a company (as it was back then), and was also a major contributing factor in the video game market crash of 1983.

Yes: pumping out games as bad and as cynically-rushed as E.T. was created a significant fall in consumer confidence – particularly in North America where the effects of the crash were felt most strongly.

And none of this was the fault of the programmer, Howard Scott Warshaw, who took some persuading to actually take on the project in the first place. Warshaw was given only six weeks to create a finished game from scratch, when normally an Atari 2600 game would take between six to twelve months to program. But complete the game he did, and it was then marketed by Atari some six months after the film had been released (ie. late; when people where starting to become fatigued by the film). Also, Atari suits at the time inexplicably decided to manufacture six million E.T. cartridges in anticipation of high sales. And – while E.T. did sell more than a million copies initially – a lot of the people who bought it were not happy and returned the game for their money back. Ultimately  – after returns – Atari sold less than ten percent of the cartridges they manufactured for E.T. and infamously buried hundreds of thousands of them in the New Mexico desert in an attempt to hide their embarrassment.

Throughout the decades there have been numerous instances where upper management at a video games company have made calamitous decisions, but those made by Atari management in the case of E.T. must rank as the greediest, most cynical, and most stupid of all time. Again: no real blame can be placed on the shoulders of the programmer, but the people who pushed him to make the game in six weeks; and the ones who thought that $35 million dollars was an acceptable price to pay for the E.T. video game license, are nothing but fools. Fools who brought the video games industry to its knees with their blindness and greed.

As for the game: it’s dogsh*t, of course. Of little or no redeeming value. It bears little resemblance to the film, or the characters in it, and few people who play E.T. have got anything positive to say about it.

E.T. on the Atari 2600 is an interesting story, but unfortunately one that highlights the very worst of the video games business.

More: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on Wikipedia

Donkey Kong, ColecoVision

This ColecoVision conversion of Nintendo‘s classic Donkey Kong is famous for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the deal made between Coleco and Nintendo was unusual to say the least, because Nintendo were demanding a lot, and got it. Secondly, ColecoVision Donkey Kong is known for its high quality – it easily beats any other version produced at the time (except the arcade original). Thirdly, the game was never made available as a stand-alone cartridge release – it was only available as a pack-in game with the console. But it sure as hell helped sell a lot of consoles…

My only criticism of Coleco Donkey Kong is that it is missing a level. The 50m ‘Cement Factory’ level is missing and there are only three screens in this, instead of the four seen in the arcade game. In the world of tiny ROM cartridges, I guess you can’t have everything…

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donkey_Kong_(video_game)

Mr. Do!, Arcade

Universal‘s 1982 arcade game Mr. Do! is an iconic, early digging game, with chasing monsters and falling apples, and plenty of cute, Japanese surrealism.

You play as Mr. Do himself – a cute-looking circus clown – and the basic aim is to dig through the ground; collect the cherries, and avoid or kill the monsters by digging under apples and allowing them to fall onto them, squashing them, although there’s a bit more to it than that.

The monsters come out of a central point on the screen, and when all five are out the central point turns into a tasty snack (usually cake or ice cream), and if you eat the snack the monsters will freeze and three Pac-Man-like ghosts will come out, along with an ‘Alphamonster”, which carries a letter. Collect five letters, and spell the word EXTRA, and you get an extra life.

There are other subtle features in Mr. Do! that contribute to its greatness: a time limit whereby monsters mutate after a certain time and can then tunnel through the dirt themselves; levels can be completed by either killing all on-screen monsters, collecting all the cherries, or finding a rare hidden diamond (which also awards the player an extra credit); Mr. Do can also throw a ball which will destroy the monsters, but takes a short while to return to be usable again.

Mr. Do! is challenging and fair, though, and its colourful, cute graphics have captured the imagination of gamers for almost four decades now. It’s an undoubted arcade classic.

Note: in the original Japanese version of Mr. Do!, Mr. Do himself wasn’t a circus clown, he was snowman!

Mr. Do series on The King of Grabs:
Mr. Do! (1982)
Mr. Do’s Castle (1983)
Mr. Do’s Wild Ride (1984)
Do! Run Run (1984)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Do!

Microsurgeon, Intellivision

Microsurgeon is a fantasy action game set inside a human body, similar in many respects to the scenario in the classic film Fantastic Voyage.

You control a microscopic robot and must administer care to patients in need of it. Inside the body you must be careful to move within veins and arteries, and the lymphatic system, so that white blood cells don’t attack you. By looking at the status screen you can pinpoint which part of the body needs help, then go to it. On arrival you must assess the ailment and administer one of three possible treatments (ultrasonic rays, antibiotics, or aspirin).

If you allow two or more major organs to become Terminal, then the game is over. If you run out of energy while inside the body the game also ends, so you have to try to keep topped-up, or make for the exit when you run out.

Considering that it was released in 1982, Microsurgeon is quite an interesting and imaginative game. Graphically it is colourful and appealing (unless you’re squeamish, but it’s hardly what I would call ‘gory’) and gameplay is quite compelling when you get into it. There’s even a two-player mode where one player controls the robot and the other administers the treatments.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsurgeon_(video_game)

Beauty and the Beast, Intellivision

Beauty and the Beast is a 1982 release for the Intellivision, by Imagic.

It’s a Donkey Kong clone – in some respects – but with none of the challenge or joy of Nintendo‘s classic platform game.

In Beauty and the Beast you play a dude called “Bashful Buford” on a mission to rescue his girlfriend “Tiny Mabel” from the clutches of the giant ape “Horrible Hank”… Yes, I know…

Buford can climb levels by finding windows that are open. When he reaches the top of each screen he moves further up the building (the Empire State Building?) until he eventually reaches Kong – I mean: Hank…

If Buford falls off the edge of a level he falls all the way back down to the very beginning again and has to start from scratch. So reaching the top is a bit of a challenge. Especially when you take into consideration all the objects flying around that can kill you.

Beauty and the Beast is an interesting curiosity, but isn’t really much more (in spite of what you might read elsewhere).

More: Beauty and the Beast on Wikipedia