8bitrocket.com’s Project: Save Atari #3: 10 Lesser-Known Atari Coin-ops That Would Make Kick-Ass Casual Games
Note :This week we are exploring some ideas that we believe could help Atari -Infogrames pull itself out of their current difficulties, while at the time time treating Atari’s illustrious past with the reverence befitting befits the world’s first video game company. We are calling this effort: 8bitrocket.com’s Project: Save Atari
Not every game from the past can be used produce a set of AAA console/PC games in the 21st Century. Back in the 70’s and 80’s, Atari Inc. created dozens of coin-op games that were designed to hook players in, steal their money, and by the end, have them beg to play one more time. Nolan Bushnell described these games as “Easy To Learn, Tough To Master” and they were the genesis of the today’s casual game market. Why then, could Atari-Infogrames not look back to those games to inspire them to make smaller titles that could be sold as Virtual Console, Sony Online, Xbox Live Arcade, or PC downloadable games? There is no reason why they can’t, and here are 10 lesser-known games that could make the transition fairly easily.
Dominoes (1977): Atari’s Dominoes coin-op was a version of “snake” where each player guided a set of “dominoes” that grew longer and longer as they stayed alive. The object was to not run into your “dominoes” or the dominoes of the other player. I used to play a single player version of this (collect things on the screen and don’t die) on my cell phone every day and it was extremely addictive. This concept could easily be moved into the 21st century by going back to the original themes of “dominoes” as single player snake-style game and add gates, jumps, obstacles, etc. in arenas of ever-increasing complexity.
Canyon Bomber (1977): At first glance, Canyon Bomber looks like an action game. You have planes with bombs, and you are destroying stuff. However, at closer glance you can see that this is not the case. When you drop a bomb into the “canyon” it destroys some rocks, but other fall into place where the ones destroyed once rested. If you added a “color” to the bombs, and had that color bomb only destroys rocks of the same color, you would get a game that resembled a ballon-pop style game, but with added action elements. You could even take this one further, and add a story , and a second on-screen opponent, thus getting a a game much like Puzzle Quest.
Avalanche (1978): This game has been described as the “reverse” of Breakout. It’s a “catch the stuff” style game popularized by Activision’s game Kaboom! The rocks at the top of the screen fall, and you must catch every one, or die trying. With added bonuses, multipliers and power-ups this could be great concept for an intriguing little game.
Super Breakout(1978) : Super Breakout took the “ball hits bricks” concept of it’s 1976 discrete logic brother and added several new versions including “cavity” breakout (with multiple balls”( and “progressive” (where the walls just kept on-coming). Atari should have never given-up the concept-crown of this game to the Arkanoids of the world. “The most compelling version in this game, “Progressive” should be blow-out with the same type of power-ups and extras that grace every other game that ripped-this-one-off over the past 30 years. With Super Breakout, Atari-Infogrames needs to take-back what is rightfully theirs.
Sky Diver (1978): It seems simple. A guy jumps from a plane and you guide him to the surface while managing free-fall, pick-up flags, etc. A game with progressively “lower” jumps (and maybe even bonus “base-jumps”), a scrolling play field, with items to collect and enemies to avoid while in free-fall and parachute mode would be very compelling. Add a military component, and the urgency to land a set number of troops within a certain time-frame to attack an enemy base, and you might have a winner.
Smokey Joe (1978) : In Smokey Joe (the single-player cousin to Fire Truck) you guide a fire engine to a an emergency through very dangerous streets. That was it. You never actually made it to the Emergency. An update would have several different types of fire engines racing to an actual fire. The more that arrive in a timely manner, the better chance you have of being successful. The better job you do, the more money you have to upgrade your trucks and buy new ones.
Warlords (1980): Warlords was multi-player version of Breakout. Each player occupied a corner of the screen and attempted to protect their king from the encroaching fireballs of the other 3 Warlords. As an online multi-player game with a ladder, and the ability for players to continuously upgrade their castle with improvements that remained part of their “keep” between games, this one could be very addictive. Players could opt to play others that were higher or at the same level on the ladder only. That way, newer players would not get beaten-up, and stronger players would find good competition.
Quantum (1982): One of the first arcade games created for Atari by GCC was this amazing “drawing” game. Other than its obvious inspiration from Qix, Quantum was far ahead of its time. The action is simple: draw around a set of particles while avoiding the pulsars. The more particles you can encircle at once, the more points you get. It’s that simple, that basic, and that brilliant. If there is one game on this list that Atari-Infogrames should develop into a casual title immediately, it is this one. They are simply losing money by otherwise sitting on it.
Cloak And Dagger (1983): This puzzle game was developed as a tie-in with the movie of the same name. Each level is puzzle that needs to be solved by getting from one side of the floor to the other. The player can shoot and optionally light the bomb at the center of each room. Dr. Boom’s minions get harder and more numerous as the game progresses. This coin-op was not very popular when it was first released, but time has been kind to the depth and the concept of this game. With a few enhancements (i.e. different weapons) this could be a very effective action puzzler.
Food Fight (1983): Finally we come to my all-time favorite “lost” Atari coin-op. Like Quantum, this one was designed by the geniuses at GCC (who would go on to design the Atari 7800 console, and the exact replica of this game for that platform). Your job in this game is to each the melting ice cream cone on each screen. Sounds easy? Well, there are several evil chefs trying to stop you buy throwing food in your direction. You can use the same food to stop the advancing chefs. Bonus rounds with unlimited ammo (watermelons) and an instant replay function really put this one over-the-top. There is simply no reason why Atari-Infogrames is sitting on this game (licensing from GCC maybe?). This one needs to be re-released as soon as possible.