Saturday, 21 March 2009

those were the days

Atari 2600Forget all those newfangled games that the young'uns (and some not so young) play on the interwebz or whatever feeble platform. This post is about a system that simply won't die. My parents have kept the Atari 2600 from my childhood and it is now in the keeping of my brother. I don't think he has tried it recently, but I fully believe it would work still (although the joysticks may have given up the ghost, they were already showing the strain of hard gaming 25 years ago...)

It's A SinRecently, I came across a reference to something I had heard of before, but didn't have the time or inclination to follow up on at that point. It took me a couple of weeks this time too, but Thursday night I tried to download a so-called Atari emulator. At first I tried to get the Stella Atari emulator, but however I tried it wouldn't work properly after downloading. Fortunately, there are other methods and as the comical collection of language gaffes by Dutch people says: "I always get my sin".

So last night after I got home from work I installed this version and it worked! It comes with a library of 772 (!) games - including several duplicates and a handful of duds, but still - which I have spent the first half of today looking through to find my old favourites. I think I found all the ones we had and a couple of games we used to play in my grandparents' bedroom.

This caused a major incident. All our cousins lived round the corner and were there every day, but we couldn't visit more than once every couple of weeks, so my parents didn't think it was fair we were deprived of my grandparents' attention by being sent off to play video games all the time - as they would do to the cousins. I don't think any of us kids minded. I used to think the years of separation were what caused my lack of connection to them, but now I've come to realise that I wasn't as close to my father's parents even before that.

One of the first games we had, I believe it came with the console, in fact, was Combat. I got bored with it pretty soon, but my little brother would manage to badger me into playing it once in a while, reminding me again why I didn't like it. O yeah, and he was too good at it, even five years younger than me. It's because I wasn't interested, I didn't apply myself, that's why. I could've been great at it if I wanted to...


Next up, Space Invaders! At first I thought this was different from the one we had, until I noticed it was just a question of changing the colours around a bit, everything else is the same. As you would expect from Space Invaders, of course. I played this quite a bit, although it wasn't my favourites. It was one of the ones I liked best at my grandparents'. What else can you say, it's a classic.

Space Invaders

The next one's different. I was completely addicted to this. We had this game both at home and at my grandparents' and if I had my way I would play it all the time. I can't remember whether there was a multi-player option, I suppose I must have let my siblings have a go at it once in a while, but this I could play for hours - and as long as I kept that little square in play, I could!


Here's another arcade classic, Pac-Man, again not my first choice, but as a kid even that could keep your hands and mind occupied for ages. I never had any experience with arcades, so this would've been my first exposure to the game.


Here's one of my all-time favourites, you can tell it's a bit later than some of the really basic ones. We never had the first episode, but Pitfall II - Lost Caverns grabbed me and never let me go. That music will still make me nostalgic for a crudely drawn little man dodging vultures, bats, albino scorpions, frogs and electric eels whilst making his way through tunnels gathering gold and floating from balloons.


And this is one of those oldies. It doesn't look like much, all you had to do was jump and engage the 'chute, but you had to gauge the wind speed and in some of the higher levels the targets would move. And when you were feeling slightly homicidal, the skydivers would land with a very satisfying splat if you didn't engage the parachute.

Sky Diver

Here's another one I loved. Love. The premiss is so simple, you're Popeye and you have to catch the hearts Olive throws whilst dodging Brutus and the Sea Hag's bottles. When you grab some spinach, you can kick Brutus' ass. That's all you need for a good time.


Here's one I hardly played at all. I've never been interested in athletics, on track, field or video.


This is what my brother absolutely had to play every time we were at my grandparents'. He was completely crazy about this game. Perhaps because of that, I never saw the fun of blasting asteroids into smaller and smaller pieces.


And here we have another one of my all-time favourites (at least on this we agreed so we could play together). Donkey Kong... even at the time I couldn't see the point of it, but I knew it was addictive!

Donkey Kong

ET! I loved that one, our favourite Extra-Terrestrial trying to outrun the FBI and Inspector Gadget (I know, it's not him, but it looks like him) and finding pieces of his phone down holes in the screen so that he may phone home.

ET The Extra-Terrestrial

And another great one. This again must be later, because I remember my little sister playing this a lot too. Or perhaps we just got it later. I've always liked his jetpack. The snakes coming out of the walls were scary, though.


Haunted House proves that a game doesn't have to be complex to be a lot of fun and very exciting. There are only six rooms per level, I believe there are only four levels. You have to light matches to find the pieces of a trophy, dodging ghosts, spiders and bats and bring it back safely out of the house. This is a screencap of the first level, in the higher ones you can't see the walls, just the outline when you use a match. The shock when a ghost suddenly appears has made me jump a few times.

Haunted House

And finally I remember playing something like this, I don't believe it was this exact one. But it may very well have been another Buck Rogers game in which you had to fly between pillars.

Buck Rogers

After all that, my favourite passtime as a girl was reading.


John F said...

Oh! You've just dragged me on a wonderful trip down memory lane! Thank you so much for that!

more cowbell said...

This was great! And timely, too -- I just had a conversation with the son yesterday about ColecoVision. I remember when my dad brought it home in the early 80s. I think was kind of the next step after Atari, and we had never been allowed to have Atari. But one year, my dad turned all big spender on us and brought home a VCR and ColecoVision, all on the same day. We were in e-heaven.

It's hilarious that there's a downloadable simulator. I'll have to show my son.

SubtleKnife said...

My dad bought a Betamax!