Sunday, August 4, 2013

VC 1001, Space Jockey, & VC 1002, Sneak n' Peek!

This episode is the first regarding U.S. Games, featuring the passable Space Jockey and the absolutely horrible Sneak n' Peek. The less said the better. There's some nice emails and an audio submission from Earl Green. Next week I'll be trying to talk about Basic Programming and Pong- er, Video Olympics by Atari. Upcoming games include Skiing and Bridge by Activision, Breakout and Home Run by Atari, Encounter at L5 and Warplock by Data Age, and Tac-Scan and Sub Scan by Sega. If you have any stories regarding these games, or anything about the Atari 2600, you can send them Thanks for listening!

Pertinent Links
Article about U.S. Games purchase by Quaker Oats (PDF download)
Now You're Playing With Podcast
Retro Gaming Roundup Podcast
You Don't Know Flack Podcast
The Escape Pod podcast at the Log Book
Genesis Gems Podcast

1 comment:

  1. I didn't get my audio segment submitted in time, so here's what I would have said...

    Some might think that a video game based on hide-and-seek is a dumb idea, but I disagree. Sneak N Peek was great because you could do things that you totally couldn't do in real-life, like hiding in the carpeting or crawling under a concrete step leading up to your house, which was, by the way, my favorite hiding spot.

    At the time, it felt like a pretty big game world to explore. Sure, it was just four locations, but they felt like actual places, and we spent a great deal of time just poking around, looking for possible spots in which to hide your blocky naked self. I think these might have been listed in the manual, but we didn't read that thing, what a killjoy. As such, it was always a surprise to find a new hiding spot in an inexplicable location. In a wall? Awesome. Under a window? Why not?

    I remember just standing outside the virtual house, watching the wafting smoke from the chimney as the moon rose in the background. Surely this, THIS was the pinnacle of realism in video games. Not taking into account your own blocky naked self standing awkwardly outside. I used to wish I could check out the spaceous back yard, or see other houses in the neighborhood.

    My brother and I played this game for an unreasonably long time, as we did most Atari 2600 games, and we eventually developed strategies like walking all over the house before coming back in the very first room and hiding behind the couch. The longer the music plays, the farther away you must be, right?

    My younger sister didn't employ these kinds of mind games when she played, and my brother and I knew all the hiding places so well that we could pretty reliably find her based on how long the music played. She didn't play too often after that.

    We had a lot of fun with this game, and it's of a genre that seems sadly under-represented in later gaming generations.

    Space Jockey holds a special place in my Atari history book by being the first game we got for our 2600, aside from the Combat pack-in. Well, maybe that's not true, Empire Strikes Back might come before. But I guess since I didn't submit anything for THAT podcast, we'll say Space Jockey was our second game ever. I liked Combat, it was, or so I thought, the Only Game I would Ever Need. But Space Jockey was a whole different animal, colorful and quick, and that alone made it pretty addicting.

    We had a TV where, when you turn it off after using it for too long, a white, flickering dot would remain in the center of the screen for several minutes. The first time I remember seeing that phosphor phantom was after playing Space Jockey for hours on end the first day or two that we got it, mostly just picking off the hot air baloons, because they don't shoot back. I might have been a bit cautious back then, not wanting to break my cool-looking UFO thing.

    My brother and I maintained a high score sheet for our Atari games. It was all high-tech and stuff, the form having been created on our dad's computer, printed out in 9-pin dot matrix glory, and stored in a three-ring binder. On most of the games, my older brother held the high score. Looking up Space Jockey, though, I see that the high score was set by yours truly, 12,485 points on game variation 5. The date on this score was March 31st, 1990, at which point I was hopefully shooting more than just baloons.

    Finally, I remember that the name of this game rather confused my young mind, because I kept wondering when the guys on the horses would start shooting trees and houses and stuff.