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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: My Nostalgia Trip Games - Ep19 Atari 8-bit part 2

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We start the second Atari 8-bit list with a game I already recorded a Let's Play video

of sometime during last year: Spelunker. It's one of the rare games that I actually played

on a real Atari back in the day, and as such, one of only two left-overs from the previous

list. And if you saw my Let's Play video of this game, you can tell that it's one of those

games that kind of REQUIRES a lot of revisiting, if you're wanting to become or remain being

good at it.

Spelunker was one of the first platforming games to have a massive...

well, a relatively massive map, and in its original form,

a rarity in being one that was pretty much handdrawn from start to finish.

Our protagonistcan only jump a certain length and cannot move in mid-air, so it's a very early platformer

in that sense. But the environment is built around that consideration,

so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

There are only a couple of types of enemies to mention - the reappearing ghost

and the rather vast number of bats, but the further down you proceed into the mines, the

more often the ghost will reappear. There are a number of items you can pick up, such

as dynamite, flares, energy items, extra lives, keys and whatnot, but as I learned the hard

way during the making of that Let's Play video, you have to strategize when to pick up items,

as they all act as checkpoints to where you will respawn after dying.

This is definitely a game that has left an impression on modern independent game developers,

and continues to hook new gamers in for good reasons. If you're not familiar with Spelunker

yet, and want to get into it, I have to be clear: stay clear of the NES version, and

only play either the original - which is this one - or some direct port of it. If you want

some clarification on that, you can find a comparison of Spelunker from my blog, and

a link for the comparison is below in the video description.

Here's an Atari-exclusive arcade-action game from English Software: Captain Sticky's Gold

by Steven Riding. At first, it looks like a Frogger-variant, since your job is to get

across the field of moving things - which in this case are fishes and other nautical

creatures - to grab a gold item that moves around along the pipeline with three pick-up

points. But here, you can shoot the fishes and other such things, which is a nice deviation

from the form. Speaking of which, the fishes and such also change their direction every

ten seconds or so. You also have an oxygen meter to keep an eye on, which can be replenished

by surfacing on aboard the ship, which is a nice additional element. You're also inconvenienced

by bombs getting dropped from helicopters and other singular annoyances for each level,

which can, for example, eat up some of your oxygen or kill you instantly.

Captain Sticky's Gold is an enjoyable, if a bit steeply toughening game, and well worth

having in your Atari collection. Too bad it didn't get the originally planned sequels,

but a game by Tim Ferris called Cosmic Tunnels claims to be the fourth game in the Captain Sticky

saga. Whatever the truth is, that's another story, which we might get into in a later episode.

Montezuma's Revenge has been mentioned before in My Nostalgia Trip Games, actually as the

very first game in the Commodore 64 series. But I will have to mention it again now, because

when I finally got to experience more Atari 8-bit games through emulation, I found out

about the original prototype, which differs from the commercially released version quite

a bit.

Of course, being a prototype, it's obviously unfinished, so it's impossible to beat. But

the surprise is, whereas the commercial release makes you go through increasingly large sections

of the pyramid as clearly defined levels, the prototype only has one large map, which

ends in a special room where you have a confrontation with King Montezuma himself. Unfortunately,

he cannot be defeated.

Perhaps more interestingly, the proto-Montezuma feels more like a puzzle or strategy game,

in which you need to really figure out the best way to use and obtain keys, and use the

other items when absolutely necessary. Because Parker Brothers figured that a 16K cartridge

release would have broader marketing potential and limit piracy, they dropped the 48K prototype

and left Robert Jaeger, the programmer, to make it more compact. Happily, the prototype

still exists, but I have to admit, I would rather play a fully working version of this

than the squeezed release that it had. Either way, Montezuma's Revenge is as great on the

Atari, if not better, than on the C64.

One of the best shooting games to ever grace the 8-bit Atari computers is Archer Maclean's

Dropzone. It's basically Defender on steroids, but there's an added objective of picking

up little blue things close to the ground level, which the game refers to as "men",

and bring them to home base, before they get blown to smithereens by all sorts of alien

enemies. As such, it's nothing particularly interesting, but the speed of the game is

mind-blowing, particularly for its age, and the gameplay is extremely fine-tuned.

I actually don't have this game as an original on the Atari, but I do have an original tape

on the Commodore 64, which actually says "UK Gold" instead of US Gold, making this the

only game to have that logo on the cover - mind you, the Atari version has the regular US

Gold logo on it. Anyway, I made a comparison of Dropzone about five years ago, which basically

confirms the popular opinion, that the game is best played on an Atari, but as I said

back then: Dropzone is highly recommendable to any shooter fan, but gamers with low reaction

times will find it difficult to enjoy. But it's definitely worth checking out, and it's

a great nostalgia trip game for quick blasts, if you're into this sort of a thing.

The last one for today is famous for having tape loading music, which was definitely an

oddity on the Atari computers. The game in question, the Lone Raider, had a dual-audio

tape, in which the other channel - assumedly the right one - played the data while the

other one, probably left, played music; so unlike tape loaders on the C64, the music

was actually recorded onto the tape, instead of programmed in as a part of the loader sequence

itself. But I'm still lacking a working Atari cassette drive, hence the emulated loading

experience approximation, and obviously, I'm loading this game from an SD-card reader.

As a game, the Lone Raider isn't anything particularly special, although it has a structure

and a storyline that makes it a bit more interesting than your other run-of-the-mill Pac-Man variants

and other space-themed action games. You start off by teleporting yourself onto the alien

planet, where you first must fend off enemies to gain access to the Pac-Manish segment,

which you must get through in order to get into the heart of the planet, destroy the

core and return to surface. Repeat indefinitely.

Sure, it practically reeks of 1983, but as it is,

it's one of the more fun and interesting Atari-exclusives, and it's a regular part

of my Atari Nostalgia Trips, even without the tape.

The Description of My Nostalgia Trip Games - Ep19 Atari 8-bit part 2