five old science fiction arcade computer games

Since my Pac-Man and Oregon Trail blog posts have proven how good I am at reviewing and playing computer games I thought I’d better keep it up. No one else seems to care about computer games. Here I’m going to look at five from the late 70s / early 80s because if I’m going to get through them all I’d better pick up the pace a bit. It’s more of a summing up of what they are about than an actual review but I’m sure there will be qualitative implications hiding in the words.

Note: Because these games are old they tend to look awful (even worse than old television) but that doesn’t mean that they are bad games, it just means that you don’t want to play them. Fortunately I am here to play them.

Missile Command (1980, Atari Inc.)

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Missile Command is a horrifying interactive apocalypse experience. A continuous rain of fire falls from the sky above several cities of which you are the sole protector. The antagonist remains unseen, are they of this world? With limited resources you can do nothing but delay the inevitable obliteration of thousands of people.

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The onslaught is irresistible, the consequences final. On the other hand perhaps this is the answer to the prayers of those that have to scratch their miserable living from beneath the desiccated landscape. Who is the enemy here? Why not take your fingers away from the controls and gift those lives this awesome relief.

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Play Missile Command.

Berzerk (1980, Stern Electronics)

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Berzerk is interactive purgatory. You are a humanoid figure in a landscape of electrified walls. The electrified walls hide electrified robots that shoot electrified bolts. They move slowly but purposefully towards you, intent on your demise. You can shoot the robots and they are easy to destroy. Maybe suffering for your sins is not so bad after all. A smiley face suddenly appears, jumping in a jolly fashion towards you. Your heart jumps in a similar fashion as it seems as though you are to be rewarded for the great job you are doing killing robots. But then your heart takes a turn like old milk, the smile is looking more sinister the closer it gets. You shoot at the face. Your bullets do nothing. You turn and run as fast as you can. Your legs whirl round but your progress is a slow crawl. This is a nightmare. That fixed grin is gaining on you but fortunately you are nearing the edge of the known world. The face is all but upon you when your foot touches the edge and you are mercifully transported away, far away from that place to a landscape of electrified walls that hide electrified robots.

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Play Berzerk.

Tempest (1981, Atari Inc.)

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Tempest is a hectic, epileptic trip deep into a neon void. Scuttling around the edge of a tubular precipice you fire wantonly down the hole until, satisfied that your deranged electric nemesis has been forced to retreat, you plunge in after it. After a brief free fall through the boundless beyond you arrive at the next front line. To your delight, your enemy has reinforced. Caught up in a hysterically violent joy tornado you grasp the trigger. White knuckled, you will never let go, you have an insatiable appetite for destruction.

Play Tempest.

Lunar Lander (1979, Atari Inc.)

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Lunar Lander is a terrifying moon landing simulator. When you begin you are just regaining consciousness after an incident to find that your lander is angled to a disorientating degree and the thrusters are at full burn. The surface is rushing vertically past the window as you descend. Once you have physically assaulted your fellow astronaut and shoved them into a corner away from the controls you attempt to rectify the situation. To your dismay you discover that, in their mania, the idiot has maneuvered the capsule over mountainous terrain. You calm yourself and the capsule and focus on the task of pinpointing a suitable landing spot. You find one but it looks too easy, you desire a greater point score. Once you’ve located the landing site with the greatest associated point score you adjust the angle and speed of descent accordingly. You’ve burned off most of the fuel getting there but you don’t care, you really want those points.

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The landing site is a small ledge half way up a gigantic cliff face. It is just as wide as the capsule. It has excellent points. A few tens of metres above the surface you fire the thrusters, almost draining the fuel tanks in order to attain the slowest possible descent speed. You land perfectly. You are congratulated. You get points. You regain consciousness to find that your lander is angled to a disorientating degree and you are descending rapidly towards the lunar surface. Is this some sort of dream? You check the fuel gauge. The tanks are still almost drained. You crash into the side of a mountain. You are dead. Your family owes the government 100 Megabucks.

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Play Lunar Lander.

Robotron: 2084 (1982, Williams Electronics)

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Robotron: 2084 is like Berzerk gone berserk. I imagine it is what it would be like to live inside the brain of a schizophrenic person who is having a migraine.

As Robotron: 2084 requires two joysticks I cannot recommend trying to play a port of it.

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