Thursday, April 1, 2010

Unreleased: Shaun Cassidy's Teeny Bopper

Back in the late 1970's, Shaun Cassidy was the hottest male pop star, television actor and locker pinup around.  So it's no surprise that K-Tel's Xonox label licensed his name and sort-of-likeness for an Atari 2600 videogame, slated for release in the summer of 1983.

Shaun Cassidy's Teeny Bopper was finished but never released, mostly due to bad timing -- Cassidy's last pop hit was released in 1980, his Hardy Boys television series wrapped up that same year, and Data Age's Journey Escape was already on the market and not doing particularly well.  The game was planned as a girl-friendly counterpart to Chuck Norris Superkicks for one of Xonox's odd "double-ender" cartridges, but was replaced at the last minute with Artillery Duel.  The game was believed lost for many years, until a prototype ROM recently surfaced at an Ohio record collectors' auction. 

If anything, the game was too realistic, seemingly inspired by Cassidy's real life as opposed to his celebrity image.  The actor/singer married in 1979, which may explain why the gameplay was similar to whack-a-mole, with a mallet-wielding Cassidy fending off the advances of his adoring teen-aged fans as they rose, zombie-like, from holes in the ground:

Points were earned for every broken heart, with the game speeding up as play progressed.  Higher difficulty levels forced Cassidy to dodge critical brickbats dropped from above; a rumored Parker Stevenson sprite is nowhere to be seen in the final build.  The game also features background music, a rarity on the 2600; unfortunately, it's an annoying one-note rendition of the chorus from Cassidy's first pop hit, a cover of Da Doo Ron Ron, played ad nauseam on a short loop.

It's possible that a Shaun Cassidy game could have been a hit if it had come to market when the 2600 was also young and entrancing.  But the hardware could muster only a faint, muddy likeness of Cassidy's bucktoothed grin, feathered hairdo, and caterpillar eyebrows, and by the time the idea came to fruition, pop culture had moved on.

It's a pity, really; almost like a sad April Fool's joke.

Don't you think?

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