Whatever your game is—Space lnvaders, ol’ Pac, Missile Command, Asteroids—it’s somehow different to hone your skills in the intensive atmosphere of the arcade. The presence of other “vidiots” will spur you on to better and better scores…and you’re using state-of-the-art game equipment, as fast as the vid wizards can turn the machines out. These days, your “arcade” is just as likely to be an airport lounge, the laundromat, the basement of your dorm, your favorite restaurant—just about anywhere you go about your normal tasks, you can take an electronic vacation for a few minutes…or an afternoon, if you have the quarters!
SPACE INVADERS: SNEAK ATTACKS
There’s no question that Space lnvaders is one of the classic games of its type. What’s most interesting about the game is the basic idea behind the program…
There are dozens of science fiction movies that rely on the ploy that made Space Invaders so popular. You’re sitting at home, minding your own business, when suddenly creatures from outer space land in your backyard, and the first thing they want to do when they come out of their spaceship is to come after you.
Yes, it’s The War Of The Worlds, The lnvasion Of The Body Snatchers and Close Encounters…all programmed together so that you’re on the rocket fire controls when the invaders from space bomb the earth.
In a way, Space Invaders follows the traditional “hit and run” program philosophy that is present in many successful games. The player spends his time dodging bullets and firing at the enemy, in the hope that the enemy is eliminated before the player is.
The player must be aware of the factors involved: The movement of the alien ships, the bomb drop pattern, and presence of protective overhead structures, and the player’s ability to move the defending gun out of the way of the bombs and into the trajectory needed to fire rockets at the invading ships.
There’s no question that this cops and robbers plot allows for a good deal of tension and eye/hand action. But no matter whether you think of your guns as “rockets” or “laser cannons,” it's still a game of shooting practice.
We’ve all spent hours on shooting practice games, be they Sea Wolf or Space Invaders.
This is the most physical kind of computer game, and the closest to the sort of ball control in pinball. You tend to nudge the machine with your body as you play, trying for that extra inch of control.
In the light of future games, one wonders how Space Invaders will fare in the long run. It will certainly be remembered as a game that caught the eye, but because it is of a type it will not be missed, simply because it has been muscled out by the latest in laser combat.
As the game computer’s capacity increases over the next few years, so the detail of the graphic will improve. In the case of cops and robbers action game, this will make possible more realistic armed encounters with the unknown. Hope these programs aren’t so scary that we’ll drop our laser blasters and run!
Irrespective of what the next milestone in action programs may be, the present milestones—the early Combat program, and the later Space Invaders program—offer testimony to our penchant for participating in vicarious violence by TV.
PAC STRATEGY LEVELS
Level One: This is the beginning. Pac moves left or right, up or down. As he moves he traces a pathway through a maze by gobbling the pellets that line the maze. Life would be idyllic for Pac except that first one and then four ghosts are chasing him. And if one of the ghosts floating down the hallways of the maze happens to come into contact with Pac, then Pac gets exploded, and the Player must start with a new Pac back at go.
Level Two: The player finds that with proper manipulation of the joystick, he can get Pac out of corners and away from the ghosts. Also discovered is that Pac can disappear through a hole in the bottom of the maze wall and reappear up at the top of the maze through another hole. So Pac has got some defenses against the ghosts that are out to get him.
Level Three: With a lot of hard effort, the player wins against the ghosts, the maze is relined with pellets, and Pac and his ghostly enemies start again. After a while the player begins to wonder if this is it. Then the four blinking pellets in the corners of the maze are discovered. It turns out that if Pac eats one of these, for a short period of time he can disintegrate any ghosts that come near him. So you have Pac hang around one of these pulsing pellets until just before a ghost without fear.
Level Four: This is where the true strategy and joy of Pac begins. The player realizes that when Pac is charged by the blinking pellet. Pac can actually chase and tag the ghosts, thus giving himself time for some fast gobbling before four new ghosts emanate from the center of the maze. Now we have Pac as the tough guy, going after what he used to be afraid of, and setting out the boundaries of his turf for a few moments before danger once again lurks.
Level Five: Zen time. The path through the maze is the key: a path that avoids all dangers, without a ghost to be seen. The path to the heart of the computer. How do we chart this path, is it there to chart if we knew how? And other such mundane considerations, of which you are apprised elsewhere.
FAST ACTION WITH CENTIPEDE
If you’re looking for rapid, multi-event action, Centipede is always a good play. You’re in a position to fire missiles and run up the body count, and if you’re quick enough you won’t have any problems with the spiders and centipedes. Who knows, you might even log in with the high score of the day.
At first play, Centipede can seem deceptively easy. Space Invaders players will feel especially at home with the game board. But don’t be lulled into a false confidence. When Centipede gets going, you’ll need to make instant decisions to stay in action.
Atari created an interesting combination of game elements with Centipede, for it seems to demand maximum eye/hand action, while giving a specific sense of the dangers and adventures involved.
Centipede also features very strong sound effects, especially during missile firing. They add to the impact of the game, and it is hoped that game programmers will take note of how well sound effects are handled with this machine.
STARGATE: ADVENTURES IN DEEP SPACE
You’re in total command, but that may not do you much good if you don’t stay alert and ready for the worst, or at least so it will seem as you play the latest in sci-fi action on the StargateStargate game at your local arcade.
Unlike some other deep space action encounters, Stargate doesn’t mess around when it comes to the kind of alien enemies you’re going to have to be prepared to deal with. Many players think that Stargate is great because of the intensity of play and the kind of alert, hands-on response needed to become a high scoring Stargate immortal, or even a reasonably successful Stargate mortal.
An entirely new concept in laser warfare makes Missile Command an interesting change from Space Invaders. The player is on the defensive here, using his weapon to defend his city.
The alien attack takes the form of red and then green lightning strokes of laser fire which bolt out of the heavens to demolish the city below.
The player has rockets at his command, and a moving signal that pinpoints the laser pulses and explodes them before they reach their targets.
Atari has come up with a good game program here. The action is fairly furious, and builds as the attack develops. There are some extra elements to make the game more difficult, and a knack to be developed to rapidly pinpoint and explode the laser blasts.
ASTEROIDS IN ACTION
If you had to tell somebody one game that would give them a great introduction to ‘cade action, Asteroids is one of the few logical choices.
After all, the kind of action that comes from having your star ship caught in a belt of deadly asteroids with only your own eye/hand talents as ship commander between you and certain annihilation is definitely what game action is all about.
Asteroids is considered one of the classic screen games, not only as an arcade game, but also in its home game form as available from Atari.
2084 IS READY WHEN YOU ARE
A personal invitation from Williams to step into the future with Robotron, the game that takes place in 2084. And in the process make 1984 look like the good old days.
It seems that in 102 years, man has managed to perfect the perfect creature, the Robotron. But due to an error in the lab, the Robotron turns out to be somebody you don’t want to turn your back to. Especially be wary of the Brain Robotrons for they can destroy any humans that get in their way.
With the scene set, Robotron takes you on a computer adventure into a future shock world where you must defend yourself against some very deadly antagonists.
The latest invasion on the arcade game scene comes from space by way of Atari under the intriguing name Pleiads. In this new space screen game, all sorts of exciting challenges have been programmed in to let you deal with alien firepower with your laser weapon and your eye/hand response. And that response better be as quick as you can make it, or you’ll win-up blasted out of time and having to invest more quarters to get your self-respect back and conquer the alien forces.
TEMPEST: WATCH OUT FOR THE SPIKER
If any one game brings great new terminology to computer play, it’s Atari’s Tempest, where the action is all wrapped up in terms like Fuseball, Spiker, Super Zapper, and the like.
Using an interesting spider-web effect as the screen game graphic, Tempest gives the player plenty of eye/hand practice as the player attempts getting skewered by the Spiker and at the same time tries to take out the Fuseballs, Pulsars, and Tankers that come his way. Tempest is a definite skill game that takes some practice before the player can achieve anywhere near a maximum score or deal with the many game variables. It seems as if danger lurks in every direction for the player, although three controls, including a Fire button and a Super Zapper button, do help to even up the odds.
Interesting play possibilities arise with Space Duel which offers either solo play or two player action. The two player mode should not be over-looked. It allows two players to try their skill at starship warfare with another starship controlled by the second player. In addition, each player must watch out for the hazards of space, like saucers, rocks, space mines, and other forbidding elements.
The distinctive red and green starships of Atari’s Space Duel make it easily recognizable. You may find that the graphics are a little loud, considering the premise involved, but get down to the action and you’ll discover a game that is quite a different approach to space strategy.