Category Archives: early videogame history

There was a Pac Man Land, and it lived in Texas – Plus: They made a board game from a video game & Pac Man 7-up and Pac-Man Cereal adverts (all 1980s)

In the early 1980s, Pac-Man became a cultural phenomena which (arguably) has not been repeated since – a videogame character that crossed over into the mainstream in a highly (profitable) commercial manner. Only Mario (and then maybe Sonic) can lay claim to be somewhere near the iconic status of Pac-Man.

As a result of this popularity, many commercial opportunities were explored. Pac-Man land was one of them. A Pac-Man-themed children’s area of the Theme Park ‘Six Flags Over Texas’, it was open from 1983-1985 (to then be replaced by Looney-Tunes land) when presumably, the Pac-Man hysteria had dampened down and his appearance no longer generated sufficient revenue. By the look of the slideshow (see below), the ‘Pac-Man land’ concept consisted of a children’s play area (like the type you get in family pub chains and fast food restaurants) configured to vaguely look like the maze environment where Pac-Man did his thing.;

SharKade (1972 – 1978)

The film Jaws has a nice little sequence where we see someone playing the arcade game Killer Shark – its one of the early arcade games (produced by Sega) and (obviously-duh) pre-dates the film. For a great clip of this scene, click here

Anyway, great game and all that – I remember playing it at the Drayton Manor Park arcade in the mid 1970s – probably my first arcade experience. I recall that the gun trigger was hard and there was a sort of snapping when you fired off a shot. The wriggling of the shark (and the stream of blood) when you hit it was disturbing and exhilarating – a game where you see your victim in its death throes! There is plenty written about this game – see the links at the end of this post.

There were a few other games out once the film Jaws was released, obviously capitalising on the Shark craze;

Shark Jaws (Horror Games (aka Atari) 1975)

Claimed to be the first video game adaptation (for that article by Ian Bogost here), this was early Atari, capitalising on the success of Jaws, but when Universal nixed their license to make a game of the film, they went ahead and made a game anyway. They even created a dummy company called ‘Horror Games’ just so the Atari brand wouldn’t be associated with any quick n’ dirty cash-in. Best of all was the marquee that sat at the top of the arcade cabinet, with the game advertised as Shark (small letters) JAWS (big letters);

cheeky….

Some guy writing at Everything2.com claims there are only 3 of these complete arcade cabinets left in existence, and only one of them works. Not that it would be worth tracking down, as the game is of its time – simplistic, repetitive, monochrome and graphically basic (the screenshot of the game tells you all you need to know).

Maneater (Project Support Engineering 1975)

The magnificently titled Project Support Engineering (that’s not a company, it’s a department!) produced this wonderful cabinet, and even produced a game to go inside it (though the game is irrelevant in comparison to the grandeur of this);

The game looked like Shark Jaws and Shark (ie BASIC) and the premise and objective were to control a diver who was collecting gold from the sea baed, and get him back to his boat and avoid the sharks (who were maneaters, of course). Here is a screenshot of the game that I found on KLOV;


Shark (US Billiards 1975)

Turning the whole shark craze on its head, this Arcade effort puts you in as the shark, trying to avoid nets and traps as you attempt to get to the swimmer before they reach the shore(!). It’s another one that isn’t available on emulation (like Shark Jaws), and again it is simplistic gameplay with basic graphics (see below) and probably wouldn’t keep the average gamers attention for more than a minute today.

Blue Shark (Bally Midway 1978)

Like the forerunner of these games, Killer Shark, Blue Shark had a gun mounted arcade cabinet and it was another plain and simple shooting game. Get the shark with your gun, but don’t hit the humans who are diving around them. You also get to kill numerous other aquatic life (octopus etc) for no particular reason, which is all well and good when you are hang around arcades as a kid in the Seventies, but you probably couldn’t get away with it now, as it would, I expect, be classed as a game that encourages the destruction of the Environment and sentient beings. Nowadays you get games where you get to kill real looking people or ‘real’ looking zombies or the perennial aliens instead. The game is fairly basic (but less so than the others discussed so far), but with more graphical subtlety and involved gameplay.

There was also Shark Attack, released in 1981 by GPi (Game Plan inc), that had you playing the shark (just like the earlier game by US Billiards, Shark) and you had to eat the arcade sharks favourite snack – the diver. This time though, the diver can strike back as some of them have harpoon guns! Also, this game was in colour! However, on my emulation of Shark Attack, it is dated as 1980, and made by Pacific Novelty. Game Plan must have distributed it. Here is a screenshot of it;

LINKS!!!

Killer Shark

http://bavatuesdays.com/killer-shark-1972/ – the best blog I have come across in a while. Nice entry on Killer Shark.

http://www.yourprops.com/view_item.php?movie_prop=14799 – Killer Shark cabinet photos and screenshot.

http://www.daemonkeep.com/killershark.html – At DaemonKeep games, they have a repro of the game for download;

http://marvin3m.com/arcade/shark.htm – Cabinet shots, flyer info, a look at the innards of the cabinet…

http://www.pingeek.com/killer/killer.htm – If you want the schematics of Killer Shark, this is the place for you.

KLOV has a basic entry for Killer Shark, nothing more.

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Maneater

http://www.i-mockery.com/minimocks/50arcadecabinets/arcade3.php – i-mockery lists the 50 greatest Arcade cabinets, with Maneater listed very near the top.

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=8611 – KLOV entry

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Shark Jaws

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=979 – Shark Jaws flyers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark_Jaws Wiki entry for Shark Jaws


http://www.retroland.com/pages/retropedia/arcade/item/1403/
– RetroLand entry for Shark Jaws

http://www.armchairarcade.com/aamain/print.php?article.103 – A History of the early years of Atari has information on Shark Jaws


http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=shark-jaws&page=detail&id=3395
– ArcadeHistory entry for the game.

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Shark

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=9507
– KLOV entry for Shark

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=2611 – Shark flyer

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Blue Shark


http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=139
– Blue Shark arcade flyer


http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=139
– International Arcade Museum entry for Blue Shark by Midway

http://www.coinop.org/g.aspx/100549/Blue_Shark.html – Blue Shark entry at coinop.org

http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=blue-shark&page=detail&id=298 – Entry at ArcadeHistory

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Shark Attack

http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=9508 – KLOV entry for Shark Attack

http://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=thumbs&db=videodb&id=1737 – Arcade flyer for Shark Attack

http://arcadeflyers.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=1762&image=2 – More arcade flyer action for Shark Attack

Unseen 64 – detailing the development hell of videogames


Just came across this fantastic website;

http://www.unseen64.net/

that details the changes that videogames undergo before they get to market, if they get to market. It has a great search engine, so say I want to check out Resident Evil, I get all kinds of returns, like Resident Evil 1.5 for the PS1 (see the screenshot above) and the beta for Resident Evil 4, which looked stunning. This site is inspired and fascinating and anyone with even a passing interest in gaming needs to go and check the site out. If you don’t, you’ll never understand the thrill of finding out about the game adaptation of Waterworld for the Sega Saturn that never came to fruition;

or the best title of a game I have heard in a long time – I give you ‘Wet Corpse’, another cancelled Saturn game;

LINKS!!

http://www.unseen64.net

tomsgames.com article on the ‘best games never published’

http://www.compuguy1088.eu.org/2006/06/best-games-never-published.html

Dan Dare and the Mystery of the Money Men (1981)

In prog 206 of the British science fiction weekly 2000AD (dated 4th of April, 1981) there was a curious news item that made an appearance just above an advert for ‘Tiger and Speed’ comic;

Well, I knew the following – that in 1975, Elton John released the album ‘Rock of the Westies’, and this included the track ‘Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)’. I also knew that in 1979, David Bowie referenced Dan Dare in his song ‘DJ(song)’, taken from the ‘Lodger’ album. What I didn’t have was any information on the proposed TV series and its subsequent collapse. However, all has been made clear in an excellent article at downthetubes.net;

http://www.downthetubes.net/features/comics_characters/dan_dare/the_lost_dan_dare.html

where you get a detailed account of what happened, including fascinating trivia such as James Fox was set to play Dan Dare, and Phil Redmond was mooted as the writer of the show. It all makes perfect sense with hindsight, and would have probably been brilliant, regardless of the technical / special effects budget constraints on TV at the time (when relatively cheap CGI was still a long way off).

A series did eventually make it to television in the early noughties, and was broadcast by Five in the UK. It lasted for one series. This was a CGI re imagining, and the return of Captain Scarlet a few years later also went the same way, but lasted for 2 series. Here is the trailer for the Dan Dare series;

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Futuresport of the past part II – Death Race 2000 (1975)

Directed by Paul Bartel, Produced by Roger Corman, ‘Death Race 2000’ is the finest future sport film bar none. Released the same year as Rollerball, the film maps out a broken down United States of America exists under Martial Law where what is left of society thrills to bloody, deadly violence masquerading as entertainment. Playing out like a hyper violent version of ‘Wacky Races‘, the film documents the Transcontinental Road Race, and the competitors who race in it, with the main character being ‘Frankenstein’ played by David Carradine. Here the marvellous Japanese Theatrical poster prominently features Sylvester Stallone, who plays Frankensteins main rival ‘Machine Gun’ Joe Viterbo;

The film is full of action, fast customised cars, black humour, over the top violence and political commentary – what more can you ask for? It is about 10 times better than Rollerball, which is waaayy too slow and dull. This is the movie about future sport, with the Schwarzenegger actioner ‘The Running Man‘ coming a respectable second.

Here is the trailer;

Links!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Race_2000


IMDB entry for Death Race 2000

Rotten Tomatoes rates it

They tried to make a videogame out of this? In 1976??

Paul WS Anderson has done a remake with Jason Statham (so draw your own conclusions)

Futuresport of the Past Part I – Speedball 2 (1990)

Quite probably the finest example of futuresport in videogame history, Speedball 2 is also one of the greatest games on any of the formats it graced (Amiga, Atari ST, Sega Megadrive amongst others). A cross between handball, ice hockey and basketball, with full body contact absolutely allowed, the game pace was never less than frenetic, the tension and excitement always ramped up.

The game rules were simple – you took control of the Speedball team ‘Brutal Deluxe’ as they began a new season in the second (of two) leagues. With 8 teams in the both divisions, the objective is simple – to win as many games as possible to go up into the first division, and while you are at it, build up your playing squad with money earned from playing the game. When you are in the first division, you do the same again, crushing your opponents to top the league and keep earning the cash to build strengthen your existing squad or bring in new additions.

Game play is simple to pick up, and this is a big part of the success of ‘Speedball 2’. You basically start with one of your players in the centre of the arena waiting for the small metal ball to shoot up from the centre of the pitch. From there, you need to get the ball before the other team does, and if not, get it off them before they create a scoring chance. You can charge up field, knocking opponents off their feet (or getting knocked off yours, depending on your physical stature and prowess) and try and score by throwing the ball past the goalkeeper into the goal, is a fairly big hole in the wall. A favourite tactic of mine is to throw the ball at the keeper and then charge him, knocking the ball from him and then scoring. That way you knacker the goalie while getting the points. That’s the way ‘Speedball 2’ draws you in – it is not just about winning the game, it is about playing the game. By playing the game, I mean using all the tactics and tricks available to you – so that means trying to wreak as much damage to the other side as possible, and using all the power-ups, coins and armour that litter the playing field.

Once you get up to the first division, the game gets really tough, with the likes of Fatal Justice and Super Nashwan being a real challenge to even the most experienced player. You get a maximum of 2 seasons in the game, which is a shame, and the only real downside to a brilliant package.

Speedball 2 is one of the finest examples of videogaming – it is simple to pick up, but incredibly difficult to master, but the learning curve is never too steep. Maddeningly addictive thanks to the many options of play (Cup, League, Management etc) the game is still highly enjoyable now. It even made the transition to the Game Boy Advance in 2000, and even works well on that platform.

Finally, sit back and enjoy the match as Brutal Deluxe take on one of the weaker sides in the league – Revolver, courtesy of youtube.

Links!

Not only does the mobygames site have a great overview of the game, it also handily reprints some of the reviews of the game at the time of its release – see here

An appraisal of all the teams competing in Speedball 2 at SuperNashwan

Wiki FAQ for Speedball 2 on the Sega Megadrive

Speedball 2 Wikipedia entry