Since there’s only one game on side 1, I am combining both sides into one post.
It’s Picnic Paranoia! And the bugs are after your food! You play as “George,” a diminutive picnic guard with a flyswatter that’s about half as big as the bugs you are swatting. Your job is to keep the ants away from your food, but oddly enough, you can’t walk on your own picnic blanket/tables (the yellow area in the screenshot), so once an ant gets on the yellow it’s out of reach for poor George. Once enough ants get behind a piece of food they start dragging it away. Fortunately, once they get off the table/blanket you can swat ’em again and push the food back onto the table. Good luck with that, though, for as the levels go on, the ants get faster and more numerous. In addition, jumping spiders create webs you’ve gotta swat through, and every so often, a wasp appears that is bigger than you that can sting you and leave you out of the action for a few crucial seconds.
Picnic Paranoia is a fun little game. The graphics are decent, although it’s just one screen, and the sounds are suitably annoying for bugs (especially the wasp). There’s also a “night” mode, where you can’t see the ground or the yellow tables/cloths, but for some reason can still see the bugs (must be those bio-luminescent ants). Add to all of this the title screen sequence, featuring the song “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and you’ve got the frenetic recipe for Picnic PARANOIA!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!
Well, howdy, pardners! Y’all’ve moved West lookin’ fer gold in them thar hills, but yer neighbor’s shootin’ from the hip! OK, I’ll stop. Claim Jumper involves two cowboys, fashionably dressed in green and, um, pink, wrasslin’ for money in the Ol’ West. The entire game takes place on one screen, where the two cowpokes race for a piece of gold and take it to the assay office. The assayers then give out a stack of money, which a cowboy can then take back to his bank. The trouble is, obstacles such as cacti, snakes, and blobby-things (tumbleweed?) are blocking the way, and every time a player touches an obstacle that is not his color (or anyone touches a cactus) he gets stunned for a few seconds, at which time the other player can grab the gold or money and skedaddle. The blobs and snakes move around the field pursuing the opposite-color player, but don’t worry: a player can poop out eggs or, um, brown things, to get a snake to change into a blob or vice versa and chase after the opponent.
The best part of this game, though, comes from shooting each other. Each player’s got a gun, which can be used to either shoot a snake or blob (either killing it or turning it into the opposite type), or each other. When a cowpoke gets shot his hat flies off and an ignominious “wah-waaah” plays, after which the player us moved to one of the two “hospitals” in the corners. You can even bank shots off the corners of the hospitals in case your opponent is way ahead of you and heading for his bank. Yee-ha!
Once a player fills up his bank, he gets a new house, not to mention 20,000 points. Since the object of the game is to get to 25,000 points, and you get points for every blob or snake you convert, usually filling up the bank with ten stacks of cash signals the end of the game. Different game options include a “head start” mode, where one or both of the players start with five bills already in the bank, or a “buy bullets” mode, where you get a limited number of bullets and must buy more if you run out. This mode was never popular in our house, as the main point of the game for us was to shoot each other as often as possible.
Claim Jumper is an infectiously fun game, and definitely among my very favorites for the system. It’s a rare Atari game where both the players play at the same time (most early games featured the old “alternating” faux-2-player system). Was this game the precursor to more modern FPS multiplayer modes? Could be, but instead of having to deal with n00bs and l33t-sp33k, you can just grab a real-life friend and duke it out among blobs and pooped-out eggs. And by gum, it’s fun.
Once again, highly recommended, pardners!
Zaxxon employs the completely unique gameplay of “you’re in a space jet, blowing stuff up that scrolls past.” The difference in this game is that the stuff comes at you in an isometric perspective (apparently the first use of the isometric perspective in video game history). Your mission is to destroy the Zaxxon defense force. This mission consists of three stages. First, you must fly through a fortress-type area, where tanks are shooting at you and there is the ever-present danger of flying into a force-field or wall. Your job is to blow up fuel tanks to somehow refill your fuel before it runs out, and destroy grounded enemy aircraft. The aircraft you don’t destroy comes back in the second stage, apparently with reinforcements, and you must destroy them all to proceed to Zaxxon itself. I don’t know what that part entails, though, since I’ve never gotten past the second stage! That’s right, folks, Zaxxon is a game I never really got good enough at to be able to see the whole thing. You only get three lives, and the collision detection is spotty at best, especially during the second stage, where you can’t really tell where the enemy aircraft are in relation to the ground and they are constantly shooting, with little room and time to maneuver around their shots.
Zaxxon can be fun, and the graphics were certainly groundbreaking, but if you want to be in a plane shooting stuff the concept is better implemented in other games. Or, you could also pick up a copy of Zaxxon for a different system, hoping the graphics aren’t as confusing as they are in the Atari 8-bit version. Either way, good luck!
Another in the line of “spaceship/jet shooting stuff that scrolls by” games, Defender has you flying over looping mountainous terrain, defending your homeland (which consists of little flag-things) from abducting aliens. You’ve got a high-tech laser that you use to destroy the invaders, of which there are six types: Landers (small green aliens like in the screenshot that kidnap your flag-people), Mutants (when a Lander reaches the top of the screen with a human and, like in checkers, gets more powerful moves), Bombers (box-things that lay mines everywhere), Pods (slow-moving star-shaped aliens that when blown up transform into Swarmers), Swarmers (pie-shaped aliens that move fast, shoot fast, and come out of Pods), and Baiters (annoying, Evil Otto-type flying saucers that hunt you down if you take too long). When all enemies are destroyed on a level (except Baiters), the wave is complete and you advance to the next, where there are more and faster enemies.
The controls take a bit of getting used to, since whenever you turn around the screen shifts rapidly and you actually end up sliding a fair distance backward, but the gameplay is smooth, the difficulty level is high without being frustrating, and the explosions are fun to see fill up the screen. Plus, if things get too hectic, the player is armed with three “smart bombs” that immediately destroy everything on the screen. Defender is quite a fun shoot-’em-up space game, and I recommend it for anyone just looking to ‘splo some stuff up.
Ah, another classic. In Missile Command you play as the defender (hmm. . .a trend is developing. . .)of six cities under constant missile threats. The missiles streak down the screen as flashing dots, occasionally splitting, MIRV style, into several missiles, as they streak inevitably toward the populace. The only deterrent is your anti-missile battery, which can fire missiles to stop their missiles from missiling the cities. Some missiles are dropped by flying aircraft or UFOs (worth bonus points if destroyed), and some are “smart bomb” missiles that can change direction to avoid your missiles.
If you’re looking for a game with a higher concentration of the word “missile” in its description, you’d be hard pressed to find one (eleven in the previous paragraph). The gameplay was more than just point ‘n click, since due to the delay of your missiles firing your timing had to be just in front of any missile paths to successfully destroy one. Also, you had limited ammo, and once you ran out (or the missile battery itself got blown up), you could only watch helplessly as the enemy missiles obliterated your thriving metropolises. Did I mention that, after every level, it sped up until it was running at an inhuman speed?
Missile Command was simple, yet fun, and an enduring game. In fact, it has been ported to an enormous variety of consoles and computers, and, in fact, they’re still doing it (a version is out for the Xbox 360 right now). Give it a “shot,” and save our cities from missile annihilation!
Well, that finally does it for Disk 5. Coming up next: Disk 6, featuring Buck Rogers, Joust, Kaboom, Popeye, and BC’s Quest for Tires. Until then, folks!