Friday, February 27, 2009

Mission accomplished!

National Pac-Man day was a bigger success than I could have realized, already people are throwing off their corporate leashes and taking to the arcades, just look at how much fun these two are having!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The closing of National Pac-Man day...

Well, it's been long hours since we started this crazy thing in celebrating the one and only Pac-Man but all good things must come to an end. I want to thank all of you my friends for the outpouring of support in this endeavor and I hope you and yours were able to stave off the wolves at the door for at least a couple of hours as the world came together to honor Pac-Man.

Who knows what a new day will bring? Perhaps this worldly celebration has changed the course of our planet as we know it...perhaps not but let us refuse to be cynical at this moment as we bask in the warm glow of comradery and a sense of a job well done.

Let us instead enjoy the national anthem for National Pac-Man day.

Which Pac-Man would you have wanted to play?

Now guess which of these pics above is the Atari 2600 version? Even as an ever hopeful lad, back in those days of yore when I still hoped that Grig from Last Starfighter would come and take me away...even then I knew this could have been better. Ugh.

So are you still celebrating National Pac-Man day?

Thanks to Dcbowe for this wonderful holiday picture of old, look at that...handheld Pac-Man on the table next to E.T., what looks to be a Pac-Man blanket folded up next to an empty plate of what might have been Santa's cookies. Family member celebrating National Pac-Man day on the Atari 5200...which is one of the only game systems I never owned. Had a friend next door who did and the differences in graphics were night and day.
Keep on celebrating!

Still more Pac-man!

Yeah! National Pac-Man day! There was even pictures in the cutting edge sources of young journalism like Dynamite and Joystik with a Mayor giving Pac-Man the key to the city. Good times, good times.

It is a sad thing that in our times we can no longer look forward to a National Pac-Man holiday...I weep for the future of our children.

Updated: No, I now declare today National Pac-Man day. Quit your working or blogging, stop preparing dinner for your family or flipping through the pay per view channels. Wake the children and cram them into the living room...drag out your gaming systems of choice (But only those that play Pac-Man) and bring a little joy into a weary world!

Thanks to for the image above.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Don't you dare cross Pac-Man!

Or Bally Midway for that matter. I apologize but I'm hoping that if you click the picture above you will get the large version as this flyer was sent out to arcades concerning all the "clone" or pirate copies of the Pac-Man game during its intial heyday.

Just in case you cannot embiggen the picture this is what it says,

" Theft is no trifiling matter. We cannot permit anyone to steal or copy our creations. We'll pull no punches to protect our rights.

Bally Midway Mfg. Co. and our growing family of licensees have a lot invested in Pac-Man and in the whole wonderful world of Pac-Man games, symbols and products. We have acted forcefully to halt production, distribution and sale of unlicensed products and will continue to pursue any manufacturer, distributor or retailer who tries to infringe on our rights.

Our proprietary rights encompass Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man-the delightful, color-changing, combatant-chasing monsters-the dotted maze-the fruit symbols-and all the rest of Pac-Man's world. They are without exception the copyright and trademark properties of Bally Midway Mfg. Co.

We're happy to help you profit from our success-fairly. Just come over to our corner."

Wow...I just like the picture up above...the ghosts in the left hand corner worrying as they gaze upon Pac-Man in the boxing ring.

"Shire. Baggins."

Wow...where did this cartridge come from? As you can tell from the box art it was based on the Ralph Bakshi movie back in 1978. So what happened? Why didn't I play this as a fresh faced youth in 1983?

Well, it was never released is the short answer. In fact it seems that people who called Parker Brothers inquiring about it were told it had sold out, though like previously stated it hadn't been available in the first place.

The prototype box above was sold in 2001 on Ebay. It's official title in the advertised game manuals was Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell.

But the game is available now thanks to the kind folks at Atariage and a former employee of Parker Brothers, Mark Lesser, who gave the site the original cartridge he used to program the game.
Mark Lesser was also the programmer of Frogger II: Threedeep! but more importantly he programmed all of those old Mattel Electronics handheld sports and racing games.
The two screen shots above are of course from the Lord of the Rings: Journey to Rivendell, I like the one with the charging Ringwraith and though its hard to make out the image, Frodo, is a little to the left of the road.
Characters that pop up in the game besides Frodo are Samwise, Aragorn, Gandalf, Tom Bombadil (really?), and Glorfindel.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sure you were good at games...

...but were you good enough to get a sew on patch for your efforts?

These patches, which were offered on quite a few of the classic Activision games, were one of the things that really set Activision apart from the rest of the game developers. In your manual you would have a set or sets of scores to achieve and then with your Polaroid camera you took a picture of the television screen and submitted it...then in a few weeks you would get back an awesome bragging right to sew onto your silver Atari jackets!

The only one that I seemed to have a knack for was Robot Tank, kind of a swiped version of Atari's own Battlezone...though Activision improved upon it. You had four parts of your tank that could be damaged, your treads, speed, radar, and of course the view screen. It also had varying weather patterns to cause all manner of havoc on you, especially in fog when your view screen is rolling and sparking out.

How good did you have to be in Robot Tank? 4 Squadrons/48 tanks for the Medal of Merit. 5 Squadrons/60 tanks for the Cross of Excellence. 6 Squadrons/72 tanks for the Star of Honor.
These were not easy things to achieve and to this day I long to be able to buy someone's collection of Activision well as one of those silver Atari jackets.
Oh, to get the Explorer's Club patch? You needed to get 20,000 points in Pitfall. Yet again, no easy task back in the day. There were a total of 32 treasures and to achieve this score you needed to not die, not get 'hurt' like landing on fire or touching the rolling logs, falling into a pit, etc.

If gaming has a name... must be the Atari 2600! Boy howdy did I ever freak out when I opened this up on my birthday ages ago when I was but a wee lad. This game in my mind stands out for a couple of reasons, the biggest being it was the first time you had to use two, count 'em, two joysticks to play the game. I belive the other game to use this concept...and perhaps better...was Imagic's Riddle of the Sphinx.
Another reason the game stands out was how my entire family seemed to come together for this one. Now bear in mind my Grandfather and father just outright disliked video games, it was usually my Grandmother who had my back in these circumstances. But in this case, all three of my parental units were taking notes and scratching their heads trying to figure out how I could possibly get the shovel from the black market that was being held by the...lunatic. That's actually what the manual called him. Go figure.
A coming together over a video game like this didn't occur again until Atari's SwordQuest series.
I did beat the game but my score wasn't quite enough to propel the digital Indiana Jones up to the glowing Ark of the Covenant. But just beating the game was something of an achievement of itself. Years later I learned that if you flicked the power toggle on and off quickly it would cut to the end scene and Doctor Jones would be touching the fabled Ark.
Agents of the Lightbulb Detective Agency, I've been looking up more of those Easter Eggs and found one pertaining to this title that I did not know of...more of that infamous Yars housefly.
From the good folks at Atarimania once again:
"The manual mentions the appearance of a 'special signature' on the final screen if your score is high enough (although this isn’t entirely true). On the final screen showing the Ark, the initials HSW2 (for Howard Scott Warshaw – the 2 denotes this is his second game) appear in your inventory.
A screenshot of Jerome M. Domurat's initials in the 'Valley of Poison' appeared in several publications. For reasons unknown, this graphic was removed in the released version. Also, a second key exists in the program which cannot be found in the game. It seems the key was originally going to appear on the 'Entrance Room', but due to the way the kernel displays objects, it couldn’t be used.
The manual also states the possibility of an extra-terrestrial Yar near the 'Flying Saucer Mesa'. This is true and here’s how to find it: go to the 'Flying Saucer Mesa' with the Chai and a parachute. Walk off the bottom of the mesa and drop the Chai when you start falling. The Yar will appear above you at the top of the screen. Uncovering the Yar is required to reveal the initials."

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm sure my Father and Grandmother thought I was insane.

Yep, it's a post about what most video gamers of our generation think is the worst Atari 2600 title ever created. E.T. Most of our generation is full of beans.

Now I admit that playing it as a ten year old lad I found it to be pretty dang hard as the game consisted of you collecting Reese's Pieces, falling into wells (Which you had to do to find the three pieces of the communication device), and avoiding goverment agents and doctors who rushed at you with syringes, and sometimes healing a dying plant. At least you could use your 'powers' to make the bad guys run away, it had a neat sound and your blocky E.T. would raise its neck.

However, the reason for this post is an easter egg that I discovered that blew my mind as a small boy. Now thanks to them all powerful tubes that the Internet is made of I've found out that there is a few more of 'em.

Try to imagine my surprise as a youth when healing one of the plants it changed into a Yars housefly (From Yars Revenge) and flew off the screen. I jumped up and ran out of the house and shouted excitedly to my Father and Grandmother in the backyard about what had just happened. After dragging my Grandmother back into the house to show of course wouldn't do anything. What does a ten year old know about prepping the events for an easter egg?

Now, thanks once again to Atarimania, you will know the intricate secrets that were hidden from me at that tender age so very long ago...what you do with it is up to you...

"Collect all the phone pieces and give Elliot 7 pieces of candy. Then revive the flower. It will change into a Yar and fly away. Repeat this for the next round and the flower will change into Indiana Jones. Repeat this a third time and the initials HSW3 (for Howard Scott Warshaw – the 3 denotes this is his 3rd game) will appear. Actually, you don’t have to get all of the phone pieces for the trick to work. You only need to collect the H piece for the YAR, the S piece for Indy, and the W piece for the initials. "

"Go for it!"

I'm feeling pretty puny today so I'm keeping it short. This is the first Arcade game that I was really good at, I discovered Crazy Climber at one of the very first arcades in our surrounding area when I was growing up called Games People Play. The dual joysticks were a first I believe, each one controlling one hand for climbing up the skyscraper while avoiding being pooped on by buzzards or having residents of the building knock you off as they drop potted plants on your head...I'm not quite sure what the story is for your character but he must have really done something bad to cause people to shut windows on his fingers and smile as he plumets to the concrete below.
The offer for this on the Atari 2600 was what made me join the Atari club in my youth...I never got my 2600 cartridge though...
Nevertheless this arcade is where I learned a couple of things:
1) My father and Star Castle should never ever be in the same room together.
2) I really do play better when people are watching me.
In case you were wondering about that Star Castle dad lost his temper when the game "cheated" and he shoved the entire arcade cabinet backwards. Luckily the main floor of the arcade had the cabinets in a circle, so Crazy Climber actually broke the fall of the other machine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy."

Oh man, if there was ever a glorious time to be a videogame fanatic it had to be in 1982. July 9th, 1982 to be exact. For that is when Tron opened on the big screens and my ten year old mind just punched its way out of my skull and drooled at all the action upon the screen.

An even greater part of Tron, besides the exquisite soundtrack and cast, was the absolute onslaught of merchandise. T-shirts, storybook records, cards with bubble gum (remember back when they did that?), a smattering of toys, and of course video games based on that valiant program himself.

Now almost everyone of my ancient time remembers the Tron arcade game, for good reasons as it actually turned out to be more profitable than the movie. In terms of playing in the Tron universe however it was the Intellivision Master System that really came through for my Tron addiction.

The Intellivision ended up having three Tron cartridges produced, Maze-A-Tron, Tron Deadly Discs, and finally Tron Solar Sailer. Of the three I was most fond of Tron Deadly Discs. The scene in the movie where you first are introduced to Tron fighting with whirling blue disc in hand just absolutely captivated me and here was the Intellivision allowing me to play as Tron himself.

Though there was a rather odd discrepancy with the game. Tron in the movie was a neon blue as were all of the good guys, but in the game he was colored red and the 'soldiers' of the MCP were blue...but considering the game let you fling a disc into your enemy with a satisfying whack accompanied with the sound of well as fighting an almost indestructible recognizer, you had to hit its eye through a tiny slit...the programming could be forgiven. In fact they might never have even seen any of the film footage before working on the game. Only the Blue Sky Rangers, the programmers of the Intellivision time, could let us in on the skinny about this coloring issue.

I can only hope that with the new Tron movie coming out I will once more be able to heft an Identity Disc over my shoulder, even with my standard/substandard training and grin as the the followers of the MCP are de-rezzed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Who didn't want to be a Warlord?

Ah, 1981 and the thrill of the paddle controller in my hands being spun wildly as my grandmother and I threw balls of fire at each others castles. The memories...of mostly getting my keister kicked while playing grandmother had a go for the jugular instinct that would shame most animals on Mutal of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.
The Atari 2600 helped us both wile away many a hour during my youth and how could it not? Look at that artwork for the Warlords box, man, that is a manly knight and at the bottom you have a catapult flinging hot death and bringing low the enemies tower.
I love the current games on our next gen systems, don't get me wrong, but I am that old guy that has to explain to his wife that games in the past didn't have save spots...and didn't need 'em. ;)
The image above the Warlords box art is the updated X-Box 360 version which allows for a camera to display your humiltation at being beat by a ten year old.
I swiped the Warlords image from a great site that I highly recommend, It is full of love and attention for the old Atari systems...and I don't know about any of you but my 2600 still works and is quite a hoot to drag out now and again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Showtime is airing Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade

Being an obvious fan of the arcade days of old I try to keep my failing eyes peeled for anything that might pertain to that era. A couple of very nice documentaries have been made over the last few years and while one, King of Kong, is available on DVD as I type this, the other, Chasing Ghosts, has yet to make its shelf appearance.

For those with Showtime Too though it would seem you are able to enjoy this documentary as it airs this month 02/18/09 at 8:15 am and again on 2/24/09 at 9:00 am.

Chasing Ghosts deals with the 1982 Life Magazine article and photo that showed the then top arcade game players, picked by coin-op referee extraodinaire Walter Day, and follows up on those players and where they are today.

It was this photo that made me believe that we would all be walking around today with silver Atari jackets and quarter holders clipped to our belts. Ah, to be that young again.