Saturday, October 20, 2012

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #99: Megamania

If anyone remembers the commercial for the Atari 2600’s Megamania, they most likely remember the sense of chaos it conveyed and the Tubes’ theme song.  It was crazy, man, crazy. 

The game plays like a cross between Space Invaders and Galaga, but looks nothing like them; instead of aliens coming after you, it has things like hamburgers and bow ties.   Since it was the Atari 2600 it looked like various shapes, but it was supposed to be hamburgers and bow ties.  Whatever.  It was fun either way.  What does defy logic, however, was the Activision game itself.

Shooting things from space was nothing new for video games.  The way this game was set up, though, had people shaking their heads.  You were a ship that looked like something out of Star Trek, and you were stationed at the bottom of the screen.  You could move left or right only.  It was never established that the ship was grounded, so that made little sense.  Your targets could move left to right or up and down, passing you and coming back out the top of the screen.  Galaga worked better when it came to giving the sense of flight through space.  Stars moved past your ship.  Here there is nothing but black.  That said, the game billed itself as a “space nightmare,” and nightmares lack logic, so perhaps that was all part of Activision’s ploy.

Activision, the maker of this and many other fine games, offered its traditional patch for breaking a high score, and if you reached the max cap out on points the game would freeze.  Classic Atari and Activision.  The game didn’t need a patch, however, to sell.  It was fun, furious and fast.  Each object had a different movement pattern, and you waited with eager anticipation to see what type of thing you would see next.  One of the kids in my neighborhood couldn’t play the game because it made him “nervous.”   I thought that was part of the game’s appeal.  I had my daughter, who has played many different newer games, try it recently.  I wanted to see what kind of reaction a person who never played it before would have if they were raised on a later generation of video games.  She played a few times and described it as “intense and exciting,” but then asked if we could play Oops, Prank Party.  What does that tell you?

Unlike the previous game on this list, Dark Chambers, I did factor this game into my decision to buy a classic game anthology.  I saw that it was on there, and knew it was one I had to have.  After playing it again, I can say it has lost some of its appeal, but it doesn’t tarnish my memory of it at all.  Megamania was a game I sunk a lot of time into back in the day.  I was not great at it, but it was a guilty pleasure.  As for my friend who was made nervous by it – try it now.  I guarantee it won’t make you all twitchy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #100: Dark Chambers

Why the hell do I like Dark Chambers for the Atari 7800?  I’m sure if I played it now, I’d be asking myself that every step of the way.  But back in the day … man, I played this for far too long and got far too much enjoyment from it. 

The sole reason I played it so much was because I couldn’t find many games for the Atari 7800, I was a Dungeons and Dragons fan, and I loved Gauntlet.  Pretty much any one of those reasons would be enough for me to purchase the game, though.  Yes, it did rip off Gauntlet, but the draw for me was having a game like Gauntlet at home.  No creepy voice was telling me I needed food or a potion or something, and there weren’t 800 ghosts choking up the screen, but it was fun nonetheless. 

The game is usually correctly criticized for being slow and kind of pointless.  Sort of like that one uncle nobody wants at the picnic.  I can agree with that, but back in the late ‘80s a lot of games were kind of slow and pointless, and to the best of my knowledge there were no other Gauntlet rip-offs for the system.  How could you go wrong?  If you liked Gauntlet, chances were that you would like Dark Chambers, too.  That said, I don’t know of anyone who likes this game more than Gauntlet.

This game gave you a taste of an arcade hit at home.  That’s what made it cool.  That’s what made it fun.  These days it would be maddening.  Back then I couldn’t get enough of it … and I wasn’t on drugs.  And while fond memories put it on this list, I can safely say if it showed up on some greatest hits collection it is highly unlikely I would factor that into my decision on whether or not I would buy it … maybe.