Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Video Welcome

I bought a Playstation Vita upon release, and it can also serve as a camcorder, which can be very handy.  I uploaded a video to Youtube just last night, which was a video of me playing a ZX Spectrum game called Thru' The Wall, which is a Breakout clone.  I just made another video earlier, which features myself this time.  It doubles as a video welcome, and as an introduction to the Oregon Trail game.  Let me explain.  The first game in the "1,001 Video Games to Play Before You Die" book is 'The Oregon Trail', listed as 1971.  While the first known version was released in 1971, the earliest copy which can be accessed was released in 1975.    This can be accessed via Windows, by using "Command Prompt" and the Teletype feature.  I try to explain this in the video.  I will upload a video of myself explaining how to use Teltype and how to play the 1975 version of the Oregon Trail as soon as I can.  I had some technical malfunction with my Vita, but anyway, here is my video.  Enjoy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thru' The Wall

The last Breakout clone I play (for now, until Arkanoid) is this one from 1982, called Thru' The Wall.  What is somewhat historical about this is that it was included on a software compilation that was packed in with the ZX Spectrum computer system.  The ZX Spectrum was a computer system designed for the British market; at that time, it was common for particular kinds of computers to be developed primarily for a specific market.  It wasn't global like it is today.  As far as I can gather, the Spectrum was to the Brits what the Commodore 64 was to us.  From what I have seen on Youtube videos, though, the Spectrum appeared to be a significantly less powerful machine than the Commodore.  It was able to garner a significant following, nonetheless, one that persists to this day.

So, when you bought a Spectrum in 1982 or in the following years, you would also get a compilation called "Horizons".  Horizons had a series of tutorials on how to use and program for the system, and also had several simple BASIC programs, of which Thru the Wall was one.  Thru The Wall is a really simple game of Breakout.  Probably too simple considering the year that it was developed in, as gaming had already taken a step or two forward since the release of Atari's original game.  On the other hand, back in those days, the arcade was always significantly ahead when it came to graphics, as opposed to systems like the 2600 and the Spectrum.

But as it's Breakout, I still had fun playing it.  It is entirely keyboard controlled, and a nice touch was that pressing the shift key would speed up your paddle, making it easier to catch up to a far-away ball.

I had a lot of problems finding a Spectrum emulator that was simple and wouldn't kick up a fuss as I was loading a file.  I was finally able to find one called ZX Spin.  I cannot speak for how well it may run other games, but I was able to boot this one right up.  The game did not play sound, but from what I have seen of other games on Youtube, the Spectrum's sound capability is really sparse and all I was able to hear were a few blips.  It has nothing on the Commodore 64 and its famous SID chip.

And, I am happy to report that the following video is my first Youtube upload, ever.  I was not able to find a video of this on Youtube, so with the help of my Playstation Vita, I was able to record a few minutes of myself playing this game and then upload it to Youtube.  I had to play it with one hand, as I had to hold the Vita up with the other, so I wasn't able to utilize the shift button and its "boost" feature, but I still did alright.  Anyway, enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Circus Atari

Circus Atari, for the Atari 2600, is the most famous rendition of the game "Circus".  I played it on the Atari Anthology compilation disc for the original Xbox.  It's very similar to the arcade version, with several variations to switch things up, as was customary for 2600 games.

But after my experiences, I do not feel like I'm being fair in reviewing this game without a paddle controller.  From what I understand, my only option (other than buying a 2600 itself), is to buy the latest version of the Atari Flashback.  The Flashback is designed to look like a 2600 system, but it has games built into it, and I believe that you can attach original Atari accessories to the unit, such as the paddle controller.  So hopefully one day I will be able to play the game with the paddle, and hopefully my experiences will be better.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Field Goal

"Field Goal", unlike some of the other games included in Wikipedia's entry for the game "Circus" (which I'm reviewing based on its status as a Breakout clone), actually is a fairly relevant depiction of the Breakout game.  Unlike catching a man on a trampoline to vault him up, in "Field Goal", you use a paddle to hit a football and this football is used to hit flying helmets.  Depending on the color of the helmet and how high it is, you get a certain number of points.  In addition, after a certain number of points are accumulated, a football player comes out and runs around.  Hitting him will give you a multiplier and increase your points.  It will also lead him into doing some kind of celebatory dance.

Like some games of this era, it is a minor variation of another pioneering game and therefore one can lose interest in it very quickly.  I still found it interesting, only because Taito would later go on to make "Arkanoid", which was a stellar "Breakout" clone that added a lot of new features and bells & whistles.  The Breakout genre is still pretty popular today, and developers that come out with Breakout-type games owe a large debt to Taito and their "Arkanoid" games.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gypsy Juggler

I found this game, "Gypsy Juggler" via the Wikipedia entry on this arcade game, "Circus", that I tried awhile back.  I wasn't crazy about it, probably because I wasn't playing with a paddle.  "Gypsy Juggler" is considered to be a spinoff of "Circus", which I suppose makes sense, but I found this game simpler and much easier to enjoy than "Circus".

This game is Pong-simple, but unlike Pong, can be enjoyed with one player (although Gypsy Juggler allows multiple players).  I don't know what Gypsies have to do with juggling, but I will take the game's title for it.  Anyway, the gameplay really is as simple as the title implies: you juggle an egg.  Each time you juggle an egg on your hand or arm successfully, you get 5 points.  If the egg hits your head, you don't get a point.  Hitting a button releases another egg, so you can juggle up to 4 eggs.  The more eggs you juggle, the more points you get for each egg you're able to juggle successfully.  Every time you break an egg, a little chick comes and walks away.  

I'd never heard of this game before reading about it on Wikipedia, but I'm glad that I tried it.  It's a pretty fun time-waster.  As the maker of the attached Youtube bit says, it'd be a natural game to update for cell phones and iPods, since it's one of those games that are perfect for a short round of gaming.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Interestingly enough, there have been quite a few adaptions and clones of the game "Circus" over the years.  I'd barely heard of the game before taking a look at the original arcade version last time, so that shows that I still have a lot to learn about the early days of gaming.  I didn't really care for "Circus", but it's a game that is more suitable for two players and with paddle controls.  The first clone to come out was "Clowns", which came out a year after "Circus". 

A very fascinating thing I've come to realize over the years, was how much the early years of gaming had a "frontier" style veneer.  What I mean by that, is that in addition to designers and programmers trying innovative, new things with this newly discovered and implemented form of technology, there was also not much hesitance in shamelessly cloning and ripping off the ideas of others.  In the early years of gaming, particularly in the arcade scene and in some home systems (I'm looking at you, Commodore 64), bootlegs ran rampant.  "Clowns" is pretty much the same game as "Circus", but by a different publisher, Bally Midway (Exidy published Circus). (Note: Just read that "Clowns" was a licensed game, meaning that Exidy was compensated for Midway using their design).

So, any differences?  Not really.  I did find the game slightly easier to play, and a little slower than "Circus".  It was still quite difficult though.  I do like that when you receive an impressive score or hit a high balloon, the action will pause for a moment while a melody plays.  I think it will always bother me when others refer to these types of games as Breakout clones.  Technically, they are, but in a rather loose sense.  Games in this vein require rather pinpoint precision-like controls in order to be playable, and unfortunately, I do not have a paddle.


Friday, May 25, 2012


Next on my list of Breakout clones is a game that has had a lot of ports and adaptions over the years, and that game is called Circus.  I have never played any of the "Circus" games, and the arcade original was my first.  I know the Atari 2600 version is pretty famous, but does the arcade version compare favorably?  I have not played the 2600 version either, although I will very soon, but I will try my best to sum up this arcade original. 

Let me just say, this game is tough.  I don't know how the 2600 version compares in terms of difficulty, but the arcade game is really hard.  The game starts with a clown veering off a platform and the other clown must catch him by moving his seesaw.  Upon the first clown hitting the seesaw, the other clown will veer into the air and pop balloons, and then land back on the seesaw, sending the other clown into the air, and so forth.  Hitting the balloons will translate into points for you.  The yellow is on the bottom (20 points), green is in the middle (50) and blue is at the top (100 points). 

That is pretty much the objective of the game.  Where the difficulty comes in, is that the game is really fast, and in some cases, it's impossible for the clown to hit the seesaw.  Often, the clown must hit towards the end of the side of the board that is empty.  Otherwise, the clown will usually die.  And missing the clown altogether is very common too, as the game is fast. 

As I've noted in those days, the monitors used were monochrome, so color overlays had to be used on the monitors.  The graphics and the sound, therefore, are very simple.  In some cases, the gameplay can overshadow the primitive nature of the technology involved.  Unfortunately, this isn't the case here.  Although it seems that the gameplay improved in later ports of the game, this arcade version is simply too tough and fast to recommend.