Thursday, June 9, 2011

At Random: Showdown in 2100 A.D. (1979)

Back to the Odyssey^2 this week, with Showdown in 2100 A.D., Magnavox's take on the popular two-cowboys-shooting-at-each-other genre.  Pioneered by Taito with the coin-op Western Gun, these games worked well in the early days of video gaming -- even simple, blocky graphics were capable of evoking a suitably western atmosphere.  Of course, videogames were still officially eschewing violence at the time this game was released, so the cover art and official manual take pains to inform us that these are actually android gunfighters, so no actual bloodshed is involved.  Officially, anyway.

Unlike some of the earliest Odyssey^2 carts, Showdown in 2100 A.D. even supports AI and exhibition (CPU vs. CPU) play.  The animated cowboy graphics are original for this game, and well-animated, with a certain John Wayne swagger.  Of course, this is still a 2K cartridge, so instead of cacti or tumbleweeds, the randomly-generated playfields use the Odyssey^2's built-in graphics ROM to populate the landscape with what appear to be miniature evergreens, giving the game a bit of a Showdown at the Miniature Golf Course vibe:

Each gunfighter starts with six bullets in his or her revolver, and can reload by touching a tree of a matching color.  And bullets ricochet off of the scenery, enabling bank shots and other tricky surprise maneuvers against an unwary opponent.  It's even possible for both cowboys robots to kill each other at the same time:

But there isn't much to the gameplay beyond the simple one-on-one shooting action -- this is essentially Combat with cowboys.  There are no moving obstacles, like the stagecoach in Atari's Outlaw for the 2600, and no play variations to speak of.  Back in the day, this kind of experience was worth $25-$35 at retail.  But technology and game design have both improved by leaps and bounds since this type of game was the state of the art.  After we've had our fill of lead and dust, it's probably time to play something a little deeper than Showdown in 2100 A.D. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember that sometimes the "bullet" could get caught in an endless ricochet between two trees. It could be amusing for a bit, especially back then.