Discs of Tron, Arcade

The second video game based on Disney‘s famous 1982 movie, Tron, released into arcades in 1983 by Bally Midway. The first one is here.

Discs of Tron focuses on the disc-throwing game, as seen in the film between Tron and Sark, and it was one of the first games to feature a playfield set in a 3D space.

You basically throw discs at each other and have to catch your opponent out by hitting their ass. Well, not their ass – just catch them off-guard. Or knock them off the platform.

As the levels progress the difficulty gets harder. Your opponent, Sark, becomes more and more aggressive. Platforms begin moving vertically, requiring you to aim up and down. Actually, aiming upwards can be the key to beating your opponent, because bouncing a disc off the ceiling, and onto one of your opponent’s platforms will make it disappear for ten seconds. Which can be a huge problem for him. Or you, if he does it to you.

It’s strange that the developers didn’t include a simultaneous two player game, with player two controlling Sark. But then again: this was 1983 and we were stupid back then. 🙂

More: Discs of Tron on Wikipedia

Valhalla, ZX Spectrum

Valhalla was a game that was heavily marketed as an “epic” adventure with limitless possibilities back in 1983 when it was first released. It was portrayed by its publisher, Legend, as something of a ‘killer app’ on the Spectrum, and they even tagged it with a “MoviSoft” logo to make it seem “cinematic” – MoviSoft was the name of the game’s engine.

In truth, what you got was a laughable (and very expensive, at ÂŁ14.95) medieval ‘soap opera’ with stick men being mean to each other; mostly in and around castles.

Valhalla is played by typing text commands into the game and getting responses. You can summon things and order characters to do things (they won’t always comply). And you move around (by typing compass directions), take, drop and give things, and even start fights between characters.

Ultimately, though, what you’re trying to do is find and collect six magical objects in order to reach otherwise unreachable areas in the game. The down side is that by just carrying these items they sap your strength, so you have to be careful. Also: you cannot get most of them on your own – you need the help of other characters to retrieve them.

Ah, the early days of home video gaming… Archaic, frustrating gameplay, and simple concepts that are blown out of all proportion… Valhalla – like Carnell Software‘s Black Crystal – is a game that was mostly hype over content. There is a modicum of fun to be had playing Valhalla, but overall the experience is a turgid one.

One interesting thing to note about the publisher: the late, great John Peel was the chairman and founder of Legend, and Valhalla was its first game. Two more Spectrum games were released by LegendThe Great Space Race in 1984, and Komplex City in 1985.

More: Valhalla on Wikipedia

Horace and the Spiders, ZX Spectrum

The third and final Horace game on the ZX Spectrum, written by William Tang and published by Sinclair/Psion in 1983.

Horace and the Spiders is yet another ‘clone’ game, this time copying Space Panic and also elements of Pitfall.

The game is split into two distinct stages. The first one sees Horace walking along a side-scrolling cavern and jumping over spiders that come his way, then climbing moving spider silk strands to cross a ravine. The second stage is a single screen platforms and ladders game where Horace must stomp holes in the web platforms so that spiders fall into them, and when they do he must stomp them again to kill them.

Like Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing, Horace and the Spiders is a game that many see through rose-tinted spectacles – the memory of playing it as a kid is stronger than the game itself. In truth: it hasn’t aged well, and isn’t much fun to play nowadays.

But at least Horace himself has become iconic among Spectrum fans.

A further ‘official’ Horace game, called Horace in the Mystic Woods, was released for the Psion 3-Series palmtop range in 1995, but it wasn’t written by William Tang. Further to that, a ZX Spectrum conversion of Horace in the Mystic Woods was released by indie coder Bob Smith in 2010. Other fan-made Horace games exist too, including Horace Goes to The Tower, released in 2011. It seems that our love for Horace continues ever onwards, in spite of his rather chequered past…

More: Horace and the Spiders on Wikipedia

Chuck Norris Superkicks, ColecoVision

This 1983 action game sees you playing as Chuck Norris – the infamous action hero of the 1970s – and it really is quite bad.

Chuck is on his way to an ancient temple and must fight off various opponents who attack him in order to get his black belt and gain access to the temple… This game really is as bad as it sounds… Which is a pity really, because Chuck Norris deserves better. Or at least he deserved better back then… He was the guy who took on Bruce Lee in the Colosseum in Rome (and lost), in the 1972 classic Way of the Dragon. He was the guy who made chest hair fashionable in action movies… He was the ginger assassin… Unfortunately Chuck is no longer with us (he died in 2001), but he did leave a considerable legacy. I’m not sure, though, if he’ll ever be remembered for this game…

I read the original manual before playing Chuck Norris Superkicks properly and had to laugh at how it tries to make the game sound more involved than it actually is. I mean: a big part of the game involves walking up a path, and you get penalised for walking on the bloody grass for God’s sake! Yes: Chuck walks up a path (avoiding the “tall grass”) and every now and then a fight breaks-out, cutting to a beat ’em up section.

The fighting sections are unsurprisingly lame. Chuck can block, kick, punch, and do a somersault jump. Beating opponents is a case of timing blows correctly, and also avoiding the shuriken they throw your way. If Chuck is hit by a throwing star he gets sent back to the last checkpoint with a time penalty. Beat your opponents and you are awarded a new belt (indicated by the colour change on the info bar at the bottom) and can continue walking up the path. Run out of time and it’s game over.

I’d almost put this into the same category as E.T., in that: there really isn’t much of a game in there, and what there is is pretty pathetic. It certainly doesn’t do justice to Chuck Norris  – or the ColecoVision – in any way shape or form.

Developer Xonox was a subsidiary of K-Tel and was one of the many companies to go bust during the big video game market crash of 1983. With games like this on their roster, it’s no surprise they didn’t survive it.

More: Chuck Norris Superkicks on Wikipedia

Tapper, Arcade

Tapper (sometimes known as Root Beer Tapper) is an iconic arcade game first manufactured in 1983 by Bally Midway. It features gameplay based on the job of bartending – serving drinks to customers and cleaning up after them.

Each screen presents the player with a row of bars and you situated at one end. Customers gather at the other end of the bars and you serve them beer by sliding full glasses down towards them. Once they’re done drinking they’ll slide the empty glasses back towards you and you have to catch them.

A bonus intermission screen sees you trying to choose the right can on a table. A guy quickly shakes up the cans, but leaves one unshaken. If you open the wrong can: it fizzes up in your face. If you open the right can: it doesn’t, and you win a bonus.

Tapper was originally designed to be installed in bars and featured Budweiser branding, with logos appearing in various places in the game. Unfortunately this drew criticism from some people who accused the manufacturers of trying to market alcohol to minors. Developer Marvin Glass and Associates later changed the name to “Root Beer Tapper“, and removed the Budweiser logos, which allowed the game’s general release into arcades.

The grabs here show both versions of the game. The original Budweiser version first, then Root Beer Tapper second.

Tapper is a classic arcade game that is still fun to play now. It’s been converted to most home systems and it still pops-up in compilations and in retrospectives from time to time, and is fairly easy to find.

More: Tapper on Wikipedia

Domino Man, Arcade

This strange 1983 arcade game from Bally Midway is based on the bizarre-but-satisfying craze of ‘domino toppling’.

In it you play the balding, titular ‘Domino Man‘, a guy who runs around, dropping down lines of dominoes, and trying to protect them from sabotage by outside protagonists. A trail of black dots on the floor designates where to put the dominoes, and when the line is complete you can go for a bonus and topple them yourself.

Domino Man can push most enemies away if they’re heading towards his line of dominoes, although some (like the Killer Bee or The Bully) require different tactics.

One thing I noticed was the similarity of the main character sprite to the one seen in the game Tapper, which is an indicator that both games were developed by the same company – Marvin Glass and Associates; a Chicago-based toy development company.

In spite of the reasonably interesting premise, Domino Man is limited gameplay-wise. A simultaneous two-player mode might have improved things, but the Domino Man two-player game is the usual ‘take turns’ on the single-player game.

More: Domino Man on Wikipedia

Lunar Jetman, BBC Micro

The BBC Micro conversion of Ultimate‘s classic Lunar Jetman is a very good one, using a high res display mode for the graphics, which are mostly monochrome (just like the Spectrum original).

It plays just as well as the original too, and this results in a very challenging, but very playable game. And let’s face it: the original is a very difficult game.

The task in hand: to collect a bomb and drive it to the enemy base, before picking it up and dropping it on an enemy missile launcher, is much easier said than done. Predominantly because there’s a time limit, and random alien sprites keep getting in the way, and holes in the ground impede your vehicle so must be covered with girders. Again: easier said than done. Completing the level by destroying the enemy base is possible (I’ve done it myself on occasion), which means doing it again at a higher difficulty level the next time.

More: Lunar Jetman on Wikipedia

Halls of the Things, ZX Spectrum

Halls of the Things is a 1983 release from Design Design and Crystal Computing. On the surface it looks like an RPG, but it’s more of an action game than anything.

You play a, erm, stick figure on a quest to find seven rings, buried deep within seven floors of a tower. Patrolling the tower are Things – monsters – that want nothing more than your head on a plate, so you must use your magic powers to blast them, before they blast you. You have a sword, but it’s next to useless because ranged spells are really required to kill the Things.

When you’ve collected all seven rings you then get access to the dungeon, which contains the key to open the drawbridge, and a path to escape.

Halls of the Things is a simple maze blaster, but it has aged quite well (considering that it’s 36 years old and counting), and is still fun to play now.

Note: the original creators of Halls of the Things made an enhanced remake in 2011 and have released it for free on the internet. It’s well worth a download.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halls_of_the_Things

Looping, ColecoVision

The ColecoVision conversion of Venture Line‘s Looping is much easier than the arcade original, which is a relief because the original is mind-bendingly hard.

This version is much slower, allowing for more thought before reacting. But not much thought – Looping is still quite difficult to play.

As good as Looping is: its lasting appeal is limited because the level itself is so short. I’m not even sure if there’s a second level. I’ve never seen it. Same goes for the arcade game.

More: Looping at arcade-museum.com

Mr. Do’s Castle, Arcade

The 1983 sequel to the classic Mr. Do!, Mr. Do’s Castle, is a platform game this time, with pushable ladders and a hammer for bashing monsters.

Rather than bashing the monsters (actually, unicorns) directly, you have to knock bits of the floor onto them from above. Knocking holes in the ground also gives you a hole to escape down, but it can also stop you reaching certain parts of the screen. Some ladders (the ones resting diagonally) can be pushed between platforms, which adds a strategic element to the gameplay. Hitting a monster directly with your hammer will only deflect it momentarily, but if you strike one when it is on the ‘sweet spot’ of a floor tile you will kill it.

Certain floor tiles have keys on them. If you clobber all the keys it opens a door at the top of the screen, revealing a shield. Collect the shield and the enemies turn into ‘Alphamonsters’, each with a letter on them. If you hit an Alphamonster and collect all the letters of the word EXTRA you get an extra life. It’s very difficult to do that, though, because they all run away from you the moment you touch the shield.

One cool way of finishing a screen is to find the hidden diamond – just like in the first Mr. Do! game – which is hidden inside a cherry block. If it’s unearthed you have a limited time to collect it before it disappears. Grabbing the diamond awards 8000 points, a bye to the next stage, and an extra credit!

The AI of the monsters is pretty direct and they also speed up at certain points, making them run twice as fast as Mr. Do, so any level above the first one is a real challenge. Mr. Do’s Castle is a good game overall though and has been converted and cloned to most home systems over the years.

Note: Mr. Do’s Castle is known as Mr. Do Versus Unicorns in Japan.

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%27s_Castle