16 July 2014

Five Awesome Atari 2600 Games That Must Be Made...[]

Okay, fine, you got me. I'll do a list-based blog post. Let's just get through this...

Although the Atari Video Computer System was released in 1977, and the last Atari release for it was in 1990, games are still being made for the system. Most of these are either hacks of existing games or ports of games that should've made it to the VCS but didn't; however, there are a number of more or less original titles still coming out for the 2600, which is why I say Atari will never die.

It's this fact that makes my imagination often turn to titles I wish the world would see — sequels or spin-offs that never happened, or even original concepts that really should be done — some of which I have compiled here for your enjoyment.

1. Pac-Man vs. Evil Otto

I don't have to tell you who Pac-Man is, right? Please tell me I don't. If you don't know who he is, close your browser (Internet Explorer, right?) and come back when you find out the answer.

Less well known (but only slightly so) is Evil Otto, the villain of the classic arcade game Berzerk. He's a demented smiley face who bounces onto the scene whenever you start to take too long to get through a screen, heedless of wall, threatening instant death if you don't hurry to the next room.

Now imagine a game where you play as Pac-Man, but instead of semi-closed mazes in which you are more or less trapped, you must eat all the dots in one room and make it to the exit while dodging Berzerk robots. Should you start to take too long, Evil Otto bounces into view, and you'd better hurry to the stage exit before he gets you!

Like so. 
The mazes would have to be smaller, of course, or else you'd never finish in time. You start at one gate, which locks behind you. To open the gates again, eat all the pellets. In the center will occasionally appear a power pellet or a fruit. No time to wait in the corner for the robots to come get eaten when you've got to get out of there fast!

This game would be a mash-up of two incredible classics, and would make me very happy indeed.

2. Pitfall Hanna

People often talk about misrepresentation of women in video games, and I have to say I largely agree: games need more female protagonists. Back in the Atari 2600 days, though, you were lucky if your character looked like a human at all, as opposed to a spaceship, tank, plane, Yar, etc. So your character could be whoever or whatever you wanted.

There are exceptions, of course, like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong (and Jumpman), and Pitfall Harry.

Pitfall! is truly one of the great classics on the Atari VCS, and for good reason. It's an expansive world with deceptively simple controls and plenty of replay value. It even spawned a sequel, Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns (and an utterly execrable NES game, one we won't mention further).

I still think the Pitfall series is missing one thing, though. Pac-Man has his Mrs. Pac-Man, Mario has his Peach, and Donkey Kong has his Pauline (hehe), but where are the ladies in Pitfall?

This is where I see an opportunity. The world needs a completely new Pitfall adventure — with similar gameplay and graphics, but a whole new world to explore — this time with a female protagonist. The world needs more than just Lara Croft. The world needs Pitfall Hanna.

3. SeaQuest II: Deep Waters

Activision's SeaQuest has got to be one of my all-time favorite Atari games. It starts out slow and simple, but it gets tough quick.

So what could a sequel do to make it even better? Multiple screens, like Defender. I present my concept for SeaQuest II: Deep Waters:

Up in the top-left corner is a radar display, à la Defender, but with four screens arranged in a square layout. The player's ship is currently in the top-right corner in this screenshot/mock-up/quick slap-together job. The colored dots on the radar show the player his/her location (yellow), the locations of enemies (sharks in pink, subs in grey), and the divers (light blue).

I also decided the game needed floating mines which wouldn't show up on the radar, just because.

So now the game would involve going much further from the air and having to juggle multiple screens worth of targets. I'd love to dive into this game.

4. Star Wars: AT-ST Battle

The excellent Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back for Atari 2600 pitted the player against an unforgiving conga line of AT-AT walkers. This game would be based on the scene in Return of the Jedi where Chewbacca (and some fuzzballs) capture an AT-ST walker:
Source: Wikipedia

The game I'm envisioning would still be a horizontal scrolling shooter, but with you in control of a chicken walker with some hefty jumping ability and pew pew laser guns.

The forest moon of Endor is a lot trickier to navigate than Hoth, though. In Star Wars: AT-ST Battle, you must dodge Storm Troopers on speeders, Storm Troopers shooting from trees, and the occasional AT-AT walker as you keep the Ewoks from being decimated and work your way to blast open the shield generator base.

Here's where I'd love to have a fake screenshot to show, but my goodness did you even read that description? Screenshot totally not even necessary here. Plus, George Lucas has dark Sith powers, and Disney doubly so. It's risky even posting that screenshot up there from the movie.

5. The Yar Ultimatum (working title)

If you own an Atari 2600 and don't have Yars' Revenge, please obtain it swiftly and play it before continuing to read this post.

This is a game just screaming for a sequel (although I'm having difficulty figuring out a good title). But imagine the same setup as the original, only with more playfield variations:

Imagine facing down the Qotile with only a small square of Neutral Zone, or perhaps two slimmer ones on either side of a centrally located Qotile surrounded on all sides? Or perhaps the ultimate challenge, having to take on the Qotile Space Invaders-style, but with nowhere to hide?

I think this series is well overdue for a comeback.

Okay then, JT, you jelly-brained sluggard, are you actually going to make these games?

I wish I could. But hopefully someone with the savvy and dedication will see this post and be inspired. Perhaps not with the examples here (although I can only hope), but with some new idea even I couldn't imagine.

Hope this has been good for your imaginations as well. Feel free to comment your own ideas. 



  1. This has absolutely been good for our imaginations. That's the great thing about video games, in general: the really good ones let your imagination run wild.

    The Star Wars game you described sounds like a ridiculous amount of fun. AT-ATs and AT-STs are the second best vehicles in the SW universe (behind X-Wings and TIE Fighters, of course), and the Atari platform is a great way to experience them. Pure, streamlined action jumping and pew-pewing through those forest moons.

    Keeping up the Star Wars theme, we've got a few ideas for Atari games we'd like to see:

    - A speeder bike racing game. Two player competition or more obstacle-based time trials. Both would be loads of fun.

    - A lightsaber dueling game. It might be a bit like Nidhogg, but with more light sabers and focused on the fast paced battles you see in the movies.

    As people who like to make lists of video game things, we absolutely love this post. If you decide to do more in the future, we certainly won't stop you.

    P.S. And we would NEVER call you a jelly-brained sluggard. ;)

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