Preface: After reading Erynn Quigley’s article Please Play Again – Memories of London’s Used Game Stores, I got to waxing nostalgic about the times I lost my V-chip to various consoles throughout the years.
In terms of video games, I’m an old man.
Let’s just say when I see a 20-something walking around in an Atari shirt, my blood boils and I want to throw down.
For all the richness in graphics, gameplay and storytelling in today’s consoles, I sometimes long for the days of yore. Games were beyond basic by today’s standards, but they were hard. Some were near impossible.
My very first system (or at least the first in my household), was a Commodore Vic 20. But, it wasn’t the first I ever played. That special privilege belongs to the Atari 2600 – both of which you will read about shortly.
ATARI – JUNGLE HUNT
Funny how your cousins always seem to have better toys than you, right? When I was a wee child growing up in the early ’80s, I loved going to my Aunt Cecilia’s house. Her kids had an Atari and the first game I can remember ever playing was Jungle Hunt.
It was a game of timing, where you swung through the jungle on vines, and swam through crocodile-infested waters to save the maiden fair from… cannibals? Note: Games were just a wee bit racist back then.
Add to the mix some very deadly Shamans (Shamen?), and you have a game that was incredibly hard to beat. It’s a timed game, so while you’re waiting to jump over the witch doctors, you are also watching precious seconds slip away.
You can play the game online here and test your skills.
INTELLIVISION – LOCK N CHASE
Again, my cousins had the best toys.
When we were fortunate enough to visit my Aunt Mary, we also got to play some sweet, sweet Intellivision. The system was unique in that the controllers looked like touch tone phones with a joypad/dial beneath the number keys. Graphics were much better than the Atari, and the controls were… unusual to say the least.
The first game I can recall playing on the Intellivision was Lock N Chase. It was literally Pac-Man with a cops and robbers theme and ‘doors’ you could lock to keep the dirty coppers out, see?
Instead of Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde, you had four policemen pursuing you – the robber – around a maze. Instead of eating those delicious pellets for points, Lock N Chase had, well… pellets. But they gave you dollars rather than points. Everyone had giant hats.
Meanwhile, test your skills here. Unfortunately, I could only find an Atari version to play online. I can assure you the police look more like police in the Intellivision version.
COMMODORE VIC 20 – ASTEROIDS
An arcade classic brought into the living rooms of early nerds in 1981. Asteroids was my very first taste of the ‘amazing’ Commodore Vic 20 that belonged to my older brother.
With all the computing power of a scientific calculator, the Vic 20 employed both cartridge games and cassette-based games. “Press play on tape” was a common message to see when booting up games like Garden Wars or Lunar Lander. But, that is a whole other story.
This is about my first Vic 20 gaming experience, and that belongs to Asteroids.
I’d never had so much fun being a triangle in my life. The game consisted of spinning said triangle around, blasting asteroids into smaller asteroids until you cleared the screen.
It was an early testament to reflexes and button mashing. Of course, you only had one button to mash on the joystick, so options were limited.
Do yourself a favour and play a few rounds.
TANDY 1000 – SPACE QUEST
If ever you found yourself wanting 256K of raw computing power, Tandy was the machine for you. Thankfully, I had three buddies who all had Tandy computers, so I got to play my fair share of Sierra games.
In addition to long-lasting RPG franchises like Police Quest, King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, the Tandy also made popular the first game I ever recall playing on it…
Space Quest I – Roger Wilco in the Sarien Encounter.
This was the first text input game I ever played, and I was hooked from the beginning.
Navigating Roger Wilco through space, deserts, more space and beyond required typing commands like “search”, “examine”, “talk” and so on. The game’s writers inserted sarcasm at every point – something that continued throughout the series.
There were plenty of gags and jokes that in retrospect really weren’t suitable for kids, but then again, it was the 80s and you could buy smokes with a note from your parents.
In order to win, you had to inspect everything, find and use items correctly, and perform tasks in a certain order to progress and gain points. “Push button” could be useful, or it could be deadly.
Play it for yourself, and be prepared to type “look room” many, many times.
COMMODORE 64 – BURGER TIME
To be fair, I played Burger Time on an Intellivision first, but it was also my first real game experience on the Commodore 64. I never owned one myself, but my childhood neighbours on either side had Commodore 64s, as did my cousin Ben (see the theme here?), so I got plenty of play time.
This is still one of the hardest games ever, thanks to various vengeful vittles trying to stop you from making the perfect burger.
Armed with only a pepper shaker, it’s your job as the Burger Time chef to walk across Donkey Kong-esque platforms, dropping toppings from the bun on down. There aren’t many levels, but they get nearly impossible unless you play a perfect game.
See how far you can get before you start cursing at those dirty, conniving hot dogs, pickles and rat bastard eggs. Also, why eggs? On what plane of existence do they compete with burgers?
I’ll never know, because like most of the above, I still haven’t beaten the game!
What was your first gaming experience? Let us know in the comments, and happy gaming!