on October 31, 2013
Ah, the fabled New Mexico landfill, home of the great E.T. cartridge dump. Does it hold the key to some great mystery, National Treasure-style? Or is it more like that one thrift store where you see a big pile of old Atari cartridges, but when you look close you see it’s just Breakout, Star Raiders (minus the keypad attachment), twelve copies of Combat, and a couple of cartridges with the labels missing that you take a chance on and find out they’re also copies of Combat?
As one of those kids who spent a shocking number of hours with that barely-responsive rubber joystick in my hand, it gives me no pleasure to say this, but it must be acknowledged: a lot of the games for the Atari just weren’t great.
I’m not just talking about the sinking sense of disappointment when you realized that that copy of Pac-Man that was under the Christmas tree didn’t look, feel, sound, or play much like Pac-Man. The first five years or so of that console, before they discovered the novel concept of releasing inferior arcade ports, were littered with questionable titles like Basic Math, Hangman, and 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe.
Look, not only do I still have great affection for those 2K classics (4K once they discovered bank-switching!), I still have my old wood-grained Video Computer System, and occasionally hook it up to my 42-inch HDTV (the pixels are as big as your head). But let’s remember that for every Yar’s Revenge or Warlords, there were a couple dozen of your Video Chess, your Math Gran Prix, your Brain Games. And that’s before Activision opened the floodgates for third-party games; you think shovelware started with the Wii?
We had a lot of fun coming up with the games for this one. Some titles we didn’t have room for: COBOL Programming, Video Calculus, Basic Algebra, and Championship Tiddlywinks. What are some vintage Atari titles you’d like to see? And which ones, real or imagined, would you like to play?