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.

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