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  • Space Cavern (Atari 2600)

    Space Cavern, Atari 2600.

    Space Cavern is one of a multitude of ho-hum games for the Atari 2600. Released in 1982 by Apollo, it was released into a glut of similarly average to below average games that were largely responsible for the video game crash of that era. Space Cavern received mostly mixed to negative reviews and doesn’t really stand out from the pack. Like many games released during this time, the box art is arguably better than the game.

    Space Cavern was one of ten games released by Apollo in about a two year time span (1981-1982). Space Cavern was also released as Space Canyon by Panda the following year. This version seems to be pretty rare and I have no idea what the story is behind Panda or why they could also publish this game. Perhaps they gained the rights to the title after Apollo declared bankruptcy?

    Space Cavern is fairly typical of fixed vertical shooters of the era. The one somewhat unique twist was that in addition to enemies coming from above, they could also come after you on the ground from the left or right. Since the Atari 2600 joystick only had one button, you had to press up or down to fire left or right while the fire button fired up. This took a little getting used to.

    As far as I know this game has never had a re-release but you aren’t missing much. The cart can be had pretty cheap if you really want it or you can check it out on an emulator. For better games of this genre check out Space Invaders, Gorf, Galaxian, Galaga, etc.

  • Frogger (Atari 2600)

    Allen Banks, Accountant by Day, Frog by Night. 1982 Frogger ad


    Frogger was one of the first video games I played and probably the first home video game I played. It’s certainly the first one I remember playing. Sometime around Christmas of 1983 I was over at a friends house. He had an Atari 2600. I don’t recall if he had gotten it for Christmas or already had it but I know it was around Christmas time because he had a Christmas tree up. Anyway, the one game I remember playing is Frogger.

    Frogger was originally developed by Konami and released in 1981 as an arcade game. The Atari 2600 port by Parker Brothers came along in 1982 and there are way too many ports, clones, remakes and re-releases to mention. For the early ports, Parker Brothers was responsible for the cartridge based versions and Sierra was responsible for the disk based versions. This meant some platforms (like the Commodore 64) had two versions of the game. The Atari 2600 port was a good one for that system and of the contemporary ports was probably the most played.

    Frogger is kind of a platform game but played from an overhead perspective. Your goal is to guide five frogs from the bottom the screen to the top. You must pass through a number of lanes of traffic without being squashed. Afterwards, you have a brief respite and then you must cross a river by hopping across logs and the backs of turtles that may sink and drown you and alligators that may do the same or eat you if you get to close to their mouth. After successfully navigating five frogs, you will progress to the next level which is much the same, just harder and faster. Frogger was a very unique and popular game for its time and is definitely one of the all time classics.

    There are numerous ways to play Frogger today. If you want to give the Atari 2600 version a try I’m not sure there is an easy way aside from emulation. There is a version of frogger on some of the Atari Flashback consoles but it is a remake, not the original Atari 2600 version. There are of course many better versions out there including those that are arcade perfect.

    The ad and screenshots above are for the Atari 2600 version of Frogger.

  • Haunted House (Atari 2600)

    Haunted House (Atari 2600)

    Haunted House is perhaps the very first example of the survival horror genre. It was released by Atari for the Atari 2600 in 1982 and while graphically simple, it had some pretty sophisticated gameplay for its time. The goal is simple enough: recover three pieces of an urn and escape without dying.

    The player in Haunted House is represented by a pair of eyes. Your opponents include tarantulas, bats and the ghost of Mr. Graves (the house’s late occupant). There are three items to be found in the game including the urn (or urn piece), a scepter that wards off evil spirits, and a key to open doors. The catch is that you can only hold one at a time. You can also press the fire button to light a match which you must do in order to see items near you or even to see the walls in later stages. You have unlimited matches but each only lasts a few seconds and will be blown out if a monster approaches. Escape with the urn and you win. Get hit my monsters nine times and you die.

    Haunted House is an interesting and unique game for the Atari 2600. It’s definitely worth trying if you are a fan of that console or just want to see the origins of survival horror games. A remake/sequel was released in 2010 for the Wii, Windows and Xbox Live Arcade. A sequel to that game titled Haunted House Cryptic Graves was released in 2014 for Windows. These games aren’t really anything special though. The more interesting release is an official sequel titled Return to Haunted House that was developed using the source code for Adventure and released exclusively on the second iteration of the Atari Flashback console.