After Jumpman, there was Jumpman! And after Jumpman, there was Jumpman Junior! In the original Jumpman (to which Jumpman Junior is basically an extra level pack), you were the title character (not related to Mario) whose duty it was to collect bombs that some nefarious force had placed all over Jupiter. Nevermind that a person would be crushed to death by the atmospheric pressure and wouldn’t be able to breathe, let alone construct some sort of puzzle-filled base for terrorists to put bombs in; we’re on Jupiter, and that’s that. In any case, most levels consist of running, jumping, climbing ladders, etc. while bullets patrol the screen slowly, suddenly firing quickly at you if you’re lined up horizontally or vertically with them. In addition to this, most levels have some sort of puzzle-y gimmick to them, such as ledges that disappear, hailstones that drop from the top of the level, giant walls that push you off the edge of platforms, and even a hurricane that constantly pushes you to the right, along with a flock of birds. On Jupiter. You know, Jovian birds. Work with me here.
Like previously mentioned, Jumpman, Jr. is more of the same gameplay as Jumpman, just with different levels, but the game is a lot of fun. It’s fairly difficult, too, as you only start with three lives and can gain extra ones only by getting a certain score. The levels are varied and range the entire gamut from ridiculously easy (like the “Electrocution” one up above) to quite difficult (such as a level that reveals itself as you walk around it, meaning that you don’t know where the end of a ledge is until you walk off of it and die).
Recent history has shown us that the dangers of mining are very real and hazardous. From cave-ins to hazardous atmospheric conditions, to radioactive burning walls and pools of pink acid filled with deadly octopi, modern miners face all sorts of difficult conditions while trying to mine the precious minera…
Wait a second, radioactive burning walls and pools of pink acid? Deadly octopi?
That’s what the game H.E.R.O. would have you believe, anyway. Nobody’s quite sure what H.E.R.O. stands for (Wikipedia offers up at least three guesses), only that it has something to do with helicopters, so I would like to say it stands for “Helicopters Eating Real Oranges.” Yeah, I know, it sucks, but I can’t think of anything better right now. In any case, you play our plucky H.E.R.O., flying into dangerous mine shafts to rescue trapped workers. Also, nobody’s quite sure why the powers that be gave him an implausible helicopter pack instead of, say, a jetpack, or an environmentally sound rope and tackle set or something. Maybe the game was designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
Anyway, in addition to the red walls (which the manual calls “magma” but come on, magma’s a liquid! Do the research, people!) and octopi tentacles, there are other types of fauna that are deadly to the touch, including snakes, spiders, and some sort of frightening butterfly hybrid as shown in the screenshot. Even a recolor of the bat from Pitfall II makes an appearance. Most of the (later) levels consist of two parts: first he drops through a set of improbable caverns until he reaches the bottom which is flooded with either water, green acid, pink acid (I guess), or mud. Really liquidy mud. Then, he side-scrolls through a couple screens and rides platforms across the liquid until he reaches the trapped miner, after which the level instantly ends. No mention is made of how the H.E.R.O. actually evacuates the miner, so I assume that he is actually just a Catholic priest, flying into mines to perform last rites before perishing along with the miner in the gloom.
The H.E.R.O. is not defenseless. First of all, he has a few sticks of dynamite which he can use to blow open certain doors. I don’t know how safe it would be to blow open a wall with a stick of dynamite when one is already deep inside a claustrophobic mine shaft, but hey, I’m not an engineer. Secondly, he can also shoot laser beams from his eyes.
Which is cool.
H.E.R.O. is a pretty fun game that’s difficult to master. A lot of the gameplay is simply trial and error (going down the left mineshaft lets you progress, while going down the right leads to instant death, etc.). The controls are a little wonky (it takes a second after you press up on the joystick for the man to actually move), but that adds to the challenge. Also, in many rooms there is a lantern hanging on the wall and if you accidentally touch it then the room goes dark except for enemies (which turn gray), raising the difficulty level even more. Overall, sometimes frustrating, yet not enough to turn off most gamers. I recommend it.
This is a weird game. You star as Java Jim, a digger with glasses who is digging up a, what, tropical island, I guess? Maybe it’s in Indonesia, given the title of the game? Anyway, you are seeking random treasures, like rings, keys, crowbars, dynamite plungers…ok, these are less treasures than they are random stuff you can dig up on the beach using a metal detector. However, the whole time a volcano is tossing lava shots at you. If a bit of lava hits a hole, it fills it back up again. If it hits solid ground, then a tree or a bush suddenly grows there. And occasionally, the lava will spawn either a spider that stuns you or a strange creature that looks like a cross between a frog and a hippo that will either kill you or get killed by you depending on its color. This is very fertile lava.
After you dig up your quota of random crap, then the volcano turns into stairs (?) and you climb up to the next level. You only have a certain number of times you can dig, after which you need to crawl into a hole and steal shovels from snakes.
Like I said, this game makes no sense. It doesn’t have to do with coffee, even. Still pretty fun, though.
This is the third take-off on Frogger that I’ve reviewed on these disks, and out of the three (this one, Frogger 2, and Preppie), Froggie seems to be the most faithful to the original. Unfortunately in this case, that simply means that it’s basically the same as Frogger with worse graphics. The story is a tale as old as time: frog wants to cross street, frog avoids cars. Frog wants to cross stream, frog leaps across logs and turtles (that submerge sometimes). Frog leaves identical frogs across top of screen, and repeats the process five times. Frog goes to next level, where everything moves faster. Yeah, it’s a fun concept, but this is just a Frogger clone without anything distinctive to separate it from the original. If you’re going to play Frogger, go play Frogger; don’t bother with Froggie.
Oddly enough, I’ve reviewed at least three take-offs of Frogger, yet the actual Frogger is nowhere to be found on these disks. Strange.
Yay! A shooting gallery! You’re a gun, and you shoot things going across the screen for various amounts of points! Most of the objects just disappear when shot, but some reverse the direction of everything, some give you more bullets, and some make other targets reappear! When you’ve shot them all, they all reappear moving faster! Also, circus music is playing! If you run out of bullets, then you just sit there, totally screwed! Whee!
What if the entire Death Star attack sequence from Star Wars: A New Hope was seen exclusively from the viewpoint of Luke’s targeting computer? My bet is that it would look very similar to this game. It consists of three stages: first, destroy some TIE fighters; second, blow the tops off some towers (which look like actual, literal towers instead of the turrent guns from the film), and finally, fly through the trench and fire into the exhaust port, blowing up the Death Star. Sadly, instead of a big ceremonial march, you instead then advance to the next stage, where the Empire has quickly built a whole fleet of new Death Stars right behind the first one, so you have to do it again and again and again! The only way to escape it is to use the Force Reset button, Luke!
That finally does it for disk 12! Coming up next: disk 13, featuring apparently just Lode Runner. That review will probably be posted in a much more timely manner than this one. It’s one game. See you then!
Side 1 of Disk 2 contained a program that I have yet to find, as the disk got corrupted when I was very little. All I remember is that it was some sort of drawing program that I really really loved. Oh, well. Side 2 contained two of my top Atari games of all time, so it was one of the most-used disks we owned.
Necromancer was one of my favorites on the Atari. You were a little druid/wizard who was battling an evil necromancer and his army of creepy spiders. During the first stage you were protected by a force field that looked vaguely like the Star of David and you used a little magic wisp to grow seedlings. These seedlings were threatened by walking dwarf-type people that looked like they either had wings or those lampshade things they put on dogs who had surgery so they won’t chew on their casts. Eventually the seedlings would grow into full trees, which were then immune from the dwarves but could be torn down by a giant spider that occasionally flew around and, um, made the trees scream.
In any case, the first stage ended when your strength ran out and you went to the second stage with however many trees you grew. This stage was even odder: you were in some sort of stone structure with giant hands coming out of the ceiling and rows of chambers containing spider eggs. Your goal was to get through the chamber unscathed by growing ladders using magic ? marks the hands left behind, while at the same time using your army of grown trees to crush the spider eggs. The catch was sometimes an egg would hatch and a spider would fly out, trying to steal your trees and weaken you. This happened for five screens (in each one the hands and spiders would get faster), which led to the final stage: the showdown against the necromancer himself.
The evil wizard would pop up behind gravestones, leaving trails of spiders in his wake (the more eggs you crushed in the previous stage, the less spiders there’d be) who would drain your energy if they touched you. You could clear away the spiders with your wisp, but sometimes his pet giant spider would come along. If it touched any normal spider, the normal spider would start to glow and become impossible to kill: you just had to avoid those ones. Your object was to pick up all the gravestones on the screen so the necromancer couldn’t use them to reincarnate himself. This, supposedly, went on for five screens, after which you win the game. I say supposedly because I have never beaten this game! Yes, despite having this game since before I could remember, I have never beaten the final stage. Even today, when I’ve gotten much better at games in general and have save-states and emulators to help me out, I’ve still never seen the end of this game. There are just too many spiders in those last stages, even if you get rid of every single spider egg in the previous ones! A lot of the earlier stages depend on luck anyway: in the first stage the trees can either shoot up like weeds or take literally five whole minutes to bloom, or anything in between. The same is true for the trees breaking through the spider egg compartments. And if a spider hatches in a compartment with a tree above it, say goodbye to that tree and hello to another spider in the final round. Bagh!
This intense difficulty notwithstanding, the game rarely gets frustrating. Part of that is the first round: you can either grow 30 trees or none at all, but you still can “beat” the first round. In fact, it’s technically possible to win the game without any trees, if you can contend with the literal army of spiders during the final round that will make it virtually impossible to move. The graphics are also colorful and fun, but what really made the game for me was the music. During the game there was this demented, jazzy bassline playing, which would add sevenths and thirteenths whenever the giant spider appeared. But the best music was over the title screen: a haunting melody that would slowly get louder and add a 4-part countermelody. All in all, Necromancer was a top-notch game, however illogical and demented it was, and I highly recommend it.
The Last Starfighter
The Last Starfighter was actually apparently a beta version of Star Raiders II. This version was based on the movie of the same name, which I’ve actually never seen but have been told the plot by my brother-in-law: how a kid plays this video game and gets the high score, and is then whisked into space by some actual aliens (headed by Professor Harold Hill, apparently) to save their planet based on his l33t skillz.
In the game itself you must defend a solar system from the evil invaders, who are sending out red-colored short-range fighters (seen in the screenshot here) from their mother ships, which are supposed to be flying saucers but look more like cymbals with eyes. If you stave off enough attacks from the cymbals you can warp to their system, where you are supposed to destroy all their cities on their planets to, um, get revenge, I guess, although it seems that saving your planet from being wiped out by wiping out hundreds of civilian cities of the enemy would be a bit harsh. In any case, the graphics are pretty good for the time (the pseudo-3D when you are fighting the short-range fighters and flying over planets is especially worth a mention), and the gameplay is pretty fun, although a bit repetitive when you have to deal with the same horde of fighters and cymbals time and time again. Also, since you can fly to a star at any point to recharge your energy, it doesn’t matter how much damage you take in a fight: the fight resumes where you left off when you return. (Although, spending too much time at a star can be kind of fun and frightening at the same time: the heat literally melts your ship off the screen, and the effect is a bit jarring.)
Anyway, this game is a bit of fun, and you can either play it here in its beta stage or grab it, fully completed and with all the movie references removed, as Star Raiders II.
Pitfall II, bar none, was my favorite game for the Atari 8-bit computer, and in fact is still in my top ten favorite games of all-time. You are Pitfall Harry, an adventurer who has lost his niece Rhonda, the beautiful Raj diamond, and some sort of cat-creature that looks nothing like a cat named Quickclaw. You must traverse the dangerous Lost Caverns to find them, grabbing gold bars and dodging bats, vultures, scorpions, and electric eels along the way. Pitfall II was unique at the time in that it had an open world to explore, and that the game would actually end instead of just starting over and getting harder (in fact, there was a blog by Strong Bad about this very subject not too long ago).
The best part, though, was that the version available for the Atari 8-bit computers and the Atari 5200 had an easter egg: after finding the girl, ring, and cat-thing, you were transported to an entirely new level, which was both much more interesting and difficult than the original. Now you had to deal with giant ants, crazy bats, pirahnas, and more intelligent frogs, along with devious jumping puzzles. Your quest now was to find a snake-charmer person, a bowl, a horn, and the Golden Rope (which was Pitfall Harry’s only hope) in order to escape the Lost Caverns and see daylight once more. The level was fairly difficult by itself: fortunately, you couldn’t die. Each time you touched a vulture or ant or whatever you lost some points and were sent back to the last red cross you touched, which were scattered about the levels. Unfortunately, there were some very difficult areas (like the path to the Golden Rope itself) without a red cross in the middle, adding to the challenge. Also, getting a perfect score took a lot of effort, as not only could you not touch any creatures, but even the act of falling to the next floor below often cost you 100 points, leading to a lot of convoluted routes to pick up all of the gold. This, of course, added to the replay value, which was needed in a game with a finite ending.
Pitfall II was not just a pioneer in the gaming field, it was also very fun. The game was kept interesting also by the music: a sprightly heroic theme would play every time Harry picked up some gold or other treasure, and a sad version of the theme would play every time he touched a creature. The rest of the time, a “moderate” version of the theme would loop, which may get tiring after a while, but for me only added to the impetus to find the next piece of gold and hear that heroic tune again! You can find all three themes here.
In any case, if you love exploration games, swashbuckling jungle tales, and games that are fairly easy to beat but difficult to master, grab Pitfall II for the Atari 800 or 5200!
Just for fun, here is a video I uploaded of the end of the game when I got a perfect score (a feat in and of itself):
Finally we come to Frogger 2, the sequel to the very famous and popular Frogger. You once again took on the role of the famous frog, trying to get across obstacles to plant your froggy face in the top of the level. This time around, instead of crossing roads and streams, you began underwater and had to avoid fish and sharks. There were three logs that could hold your face at the top; however, if you jumped on the top of the logs, you would find yourself on top on a different part of the level, where you jumped across lilypads, ducks, hippos, and alligators to plant your face in a life preserver at the top. If that weren’t enough, you could also take a ride on a mother duck and find yourself in the sky, where you had to bounce on clouds and birds and avoid a giant dragon to immortalize your face in the heavens, so that every time a schoolchild lay on his/her back and pointed out shapes in the clouds, he or she would say, every time, “Hey, that one looks like a frog! In fact, it looks just like that frog caught in the life preserver over there!”
Frogger 2 was a pretty fun game, especially if you were a fan of the original but wanted more variety. The sound was nothing to write home about, but the graphics were pretty good for the eight-bit era, and the gameplay was varied enough to keep you coming back for a little while, at least. All in all, a good game, though not one of my favorites.
Well, that’s it for this edition. Stay tuned for disk 3, which contains the fun games Ms. Pacman, King Tut, Centipede, Pacman, Berzerk, Crossfire, and Fast Eddie. Until then, keep on retro-gaming!