Sunday, July 3, 2011

Selling Spider-Man for the 2600

This ad ran in magazines and comic books back in 1982 to promote Parker Brothers' officially licensed Spider-Man cartridge for the Atari 2600.  Unlike a lot of video game ads that were all about the theme and provided few details, this one gives the reader a pretty clear idea about the gameplay, right down to mocked-up screenshots (complete with graph paper lines between the pixels):

The game was designed by Laura Nikolich, one of just a few female designers active at the time, and it holds up pretty well today -- there's a lot of tension involved in working Spidey up the tower, and the game is technically impressive on the 2600, with vertical scrolling synchronizing sprites with the background, and dynamic drawing of Spidey's web.

My internet research also turned up something I hadn't known about -- I've seen the same one-page ad in comic books, but an expanded 2-page version also ran, with a few differences from the shorter version:

There are two additional panels -- one depicts more of Spidey's climbing action, dividing his voiceover across two panels, and there's an additional panel where Spider-Man reacts to the high voltage beams ("Holy Hannah!") that are only implied by the text of the one-page version.  This version also lists the game as "COMING SOON!" where the magazine version assumes it's already available.

Was it "more action than even Spider-Man can handle?!?!?"  Well, given that there's no way to actually beat the Green Goblin -- in the grand vintage game tradition, it just keeps getting more difficult -- I guess the answer has to be yes.  It certainly provided enough action for lots of video gamers, and this early official Marvel Comics game adaptation set the bar pretty high; simple and primitive as it is, it would be quite a while before Activision's Spider-Man 3-D game did the wall-crawler better.

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