This may have flew under the radar for many people a couple of weeks ago, but being the dedicated Atari geek I am, this news was so exciting!
Atari has acquired 12 games from arcade manufacturer Stern!
Before we get into What all of this could mean, let’s take a look at the games.
Atari Had such a tremendous, out of the blue hit with this home port for the 2600, and later on the 8 bit consoles. I purchased this one in August, 1982. I loved this game in the arcade, and the home port doesn’t disappoint! The 8 bit versions included the voices from the arcade. this one is a no brainer for Atari. Now the can put their home versions as digital download on the VCS and other systems- as well as the arcade versions!
This game is Berzerk- amped up to 1000! New robots, new wall types, destructible props in some rooms (with different results) and a version of Evil Otto that can be shot! Sadly, there was only one port of this game made- But, man was it a great one. Coleco saw what Atari did with Berzerk, they hit it out of the park with Frenzy- with an almost perfect arcade port. It even had a soundtrack! Give a listen!
The next game on the list is offshoot (pun intended) of Berzerk and Frenzy. Lost Tomb is a great maze shooter with a lot of tweaks to make it a wholly unique and fun game. The Humanoid from Berzerk becomes an unnamed “archeologist explorer” that parachutes into a Mayan pyramid to collect the treasure and get out alive. But- watch out! The pyramid has traps galore- mummies, spiders, bats, and scorpions roam the halls. And watch out for the traps! But with your trusty whip and gun ( you always need bullets, whips, and keys- find them in the treasure boxes!) With checkpoints and buy ins for more whips and bullets, this is an adventure of a lifetime!
There was an awesome Atari 8 bit port of this game as well! it was also available on other computers at the time by the good folks at Datasoft!
Dark Planet In 3D-1983
This game I only saw… once. At Mr. T’s Arcade in Poughkeepsie, NY. It had an interesting “top down” view- looking at a mining area on a distant planet. The game is viewed through a three-inch tall slit in the front of the cabinet. The blue colored objects (your ship and enemy ships), appear to float at the top level of the terrain. The red colored objects appear to rest on the bottom of the terrain. The filters used for the 3-D effect make the layers appear about three inches apart from each other. You thrust and fire like Asteroids, but you can also “laser” the enemies on the level below you — kind of like bombing them. When you hold down the laser button, impacts or explosions appear on the level below you, destroying any enemies they touch. There is a cannon-type gun that rolls on tracks on the ground that shoots up at you. There is also a volcano in the lower right quarter that occasionally erupts into the upper level. When you fire, your shots hit the sides of the terrain and you can bump into the top of the volcano. You can get down to the lower level of game play by entering a tube in the upper right quarter. A very interesting game that is very hard to play without the backdrop- it will be interesting to see how Atari handles this very unusual game.
Armored Car -1981
Armored Car is a very interesting maze game with some great elements that really make this a great and challenging game! You have an overhead view of city streets that you drive a money van armored car through as it scrolls from right to left. Some intersections are marked with directions. You can only move in the direction it points- up and down, or left and right. You pick up money to deliver to banks while avoiding criminals by dropping saw horses in roadway. Fuel levels must be replenished at gas stations along the way. A great pick up and play game that would be cool to see a “recharged” version!
Mazer Blazer- 1982
Here’s another interesting one- we had this one at the Dream Machine arcade in the South Hills Mall up in Poughkeepsie. It was a unique cabinet- the inside panel lit up and changed colors! you controlled a raygun (no relation) to shoot the enemies in the maze! It was one that didn’t last long- it was moved from our arcade to the Kingston location a few months later.
Via arcade history.com-
The object of the game is to prevent the attacking aliens from working through the maze and entering your ship. Each time an alien enters your ship, you lose a life.
There are 14 different types of aliens in Mazer Blazer. Each level will have 1 or 2 different types of aliens that present the player with constantly changing levels of difficulty. The screen is divided into 4 colors. The colors determine the point value of the object (see Scoring section for more details).
Shoot the aliens using the rapid fire Mazer Blaster. The farther from the ship you shoot the aliens, the higher the point value awarded.
The walls of the maze are in 2 different colors; grey and orange. Orange walls are indestructible, while the grey walls can be shot away either by the nasties on the screen or your Mazer Blaster. Shooting the grey walls leaves gaps in the maze walls makes it easier for the aliens to reach their ship, and lowers your wall bonus.
After each level is a Timed Bonus Rack. There are 8 aliens per bonus rack.. Shoot the aliens as fast as possible for a maximum bonus. The aliens seen in the bonus rack will be the alien encountered in the next maze level.
In every maze is the freeze target (located at the lower center of the screen). The freeze target, when hit, momentarily stops the movement of the aliens on the screen.
This one should be easy to emulate.
The next three are… filler. That’s too harsh. Graphicly they look so much alike- it’s hard to tell them apart from the screenshots. That doesn’t make them bad games. They will play great on modern systems.
Minefield is a horizontal tank shooter game, with great atmosphere Parallax scrolling background.
Via Arcade History-
The mid-day heat is rapidly becoming unbearable as the supply helicopter lowers your battle tank on to edge of the desert. You have a whole day’s travelling ahead, 90 miles across the seemingly endless desert, until you reach the target of your mission – the enemy’s desert fortress. Only after you have managed to destroy it, will it be safe for the transport helicopter to collect you and send you on another full-scale mission.
Unfortunately, the going across the desert is not easy. Your tank has run out of super-missiles and you must replenish your armory from the stockpiles on the way. If you don’t collect enough you will not be able to destroy the forts and the enemy base, which is so well protected you need three missile hits to put it out of action. However, you have unlimited supplies of shells for your heavy duty gun that can fire in all directions.
To add to your difficulties, the enemy have buried deadly mines all over the desert floor which you must avoid at all costs, or lose a tank. Once you are on your way, the enemy, knowing of your mission, keep sending all manner of war machines to try and stop your journey. You must take action against them all, and avoid their bombs. After 60 miles of hazardous travel night arrives, and the enemy use this opportunity to try and confuse you by sending a varied mixture of attackers under cover of darkness, Beware, some of them are robot controlled and will try and crash into your tank.
Next up is Rescue. Same graphics as Minefield- but is a sea chopper rescue game.
Via Arcade History-
The player pilots a rescue helicopter and must try to rescue numerous airmen who have parachuted into the sea below. The rescue chopper is under constant attack from enemy helicopters, while sharks swim in the ocean below and will kill any floating airmen they come across. Later levels also have enemy subs and ships all intent on foiling the rescue mission. Players must be careful to avoid the falling wreckage of any enemy helicopters they have just destroyed, and also need to be wary of hitting any parachuting airmen with their ‘copter blades, as this will kill the airmen instantly.
In a very similar vein to Williams’ legendary “Robotron”, also released in ’82, the rescue chopper is armed with a gun that can fire in eight different directions, irrespective of the direction the rescue chopper is flying in. In addition to the eight-way gun, the ‘copter can also drop missiles from its underside, which is essential for destroying enemy subs and ships.
To complete a stage, players must pick up a set number of fallen airmen from the sea (determined at the start of each level) and deposit them safely onto a nearby island.
Moon War- 1981
This one is could be be a Defender derivative. Flying over the moon’s surface you must shoot 16 different targets, each having its own point value. You must enter all the uniquely numbered bases. After using your shields, you must find a refueling base. What makes this one unique is the roller control- a wheel that can roll left or right.
Any Arcader worth their salt has played Tazz-Mania!
A great cross between Berzerk and Robotron ( a couple of months before Robotron! ) You control a Tasmanian Devil with a blaster- and apparently no pants. The game is simple enough- clear the room of enemies. But- the walls are closing in! clear the room- the exit opens on the top and the bottom to the next challenge! This game will be fun on a modern console!
Well, that was ten of the twelve Stern games acquired by Atari- it was the last two the piqued my interest the most. One- a very rare game, one- never released… until now.
Great Guns- 1983
We had this beauty at Dream Machine AND Park Place Roller Rink- IN THE SAME MALL! I loved everything about this machine- From the gameplay (which was so random!) To the mazing sprite work and animation, to the cabinet- resembling a old electro-mechanical shooting gallery from a few decades before it was made- to the color scheme (I’m a sucker for Orange!) The game is impossible to find today- Exidy dominated the shooting gallery theme for a few years- starting with Crossbow (which itself was an amazing arcade shooting gallery we will discuss another time.) And- the game is very hard to emulate. So- it will be amazing to actually play this game again in the near future. But sadly, I feel it will loose a bit in the translation without it’s amazing cabinet. Just check out this beauty!
I do see a great multiplayer party game in our future! And when I say the game is so random- I mean it! Check it out!
Atomic Castle- 1983/84
This last game on the list is very interesting- because it’s a laserdisc game!
By 1983- Stern was feeling the pinch of the internal video game crash that every manufacturer in the US was feeling at that point. But like many at that time- saw the success that Dragon’s Lair was having, and turned to the medium to change their fortunes. Stern had great success in 1983 with Cliffhanger- a Dragon’s Lair style re edit with animation from two Lupin III films, most prominently Hayao Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) as well as The Mystery of Mamo (1978) so production time was quick, as the animation was ready. Stern were to have three laserdisc games released in 1984- Atomic Castle, Pitchman, and Bruce Jenner’s Gold Medal. But these three were being produced for Stern themselves. Much more was at stake. Some sources say that out of the three- only Atomic Castle (Which was tested under the title ” Eon and the Time Tunnel” in 1983.) They were tested at several arcades around the country in older Stern converted cabinets. one Arcader describes his experience with the game-
” For years I’ve occasionally searched for information about Atomic Castle. Believe it or not, I actually had the good fortune to play the game in 1983-84! It was at the now-defunct Western Trails Arcade in Oak Lawn, IL. (I always chuckle when sites claim it was never released). It was a conversion kit, so the cabinet was non-descript with no graphics. Amazing game; a quantum leap over all the games of the period. There were lots of cool scenes, including a cut scene, when you lost a life, of a woman wearing a live snake on her shoulders, and a scene where you enter the spaceship within the castle from first-person perspective. I had a hard time adjusting to the ‘hand’ icon when trying to grab the various objects. The objects were animated and overlaid on the live video. Impressive for the time.”
After testing, one can assume the rest of the story. The game did not test well enough for manufacturing, and was scrapped along with the other titles- given the state of the industry of the time. It’s the story for hundreds of games during the video game crash. what’s sad about these three- it sounds like all the video assets were RECORDED AND PRODUCED! That means a lot of money was spent- for nothing. I remember seeing this article in Video Games Magazine in January 1984 describing some of the elements of these games- plus a review of Cliffhanger- which had been released the year prior.
What interreges me is how much was done with Atomic Castle? Is it ready to play? how close are the rest to being finished to allow anyone to play? Does Atari at least have the right to produce Pitchman? This could be a very interesting few months indeed! But- we are this close to playing one of the most elusive arcade games- EVER!
Now that we know the titles that Atari’s going to give us? what does this mean for the future?
What I hope- A LOT!
I think Atari has the potential to be the Colecovision/ Robin Hood of the 1980’s- Gathering up all the old, forgotten, or unreleased games of that era- especially after the crash- where a lot of games went- unforgotten- could have a second life and a new home under the Atari banner! But at least for us- in the here and now- we get to play some of the greatest games of our childhood- anytime, and anywhere! I’m talking about you, Exidy and Universal!
That do you think of this amazing news?
Let me know in the comments!
Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981!
Interesting to see what Atari will do now that it has it’s hands on Stern games. Could this mean extra content to be purchased for the Atari 50 compilation? Guess we’ll wait and see. 😀