Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oddities: Tax Avoiders

It's April 15th in the US, the day when annual income tax filing is due.  So it's a good time to look back at an odd Atari 2600 game from a tiny publisher -- Tax Avoiders, written by Darrel Wagner for Dunhill Electronics and published in 1982.  The same developer also produced the Atari 2600 Porky's cartridge for 20th Century Fox, which explains certain similarities -- the player character sprite is almost exactly the same, and the "falling" sound effect is identical.

The object of the game is fairly complicated by 2600 standards -- the player must collect dollar signs and avoid red tape (the snakey-looking things) until the end of the quarter, as the calendar ticks off like a timer in the lower left-hand corner (it reads January 6th in this screenshot):

When the end of the quarter arrives, play switches instantly to a secondary screen, where the player must avoid or touch another character sprite that constantly changes color while chasing him around the screen.  If the sprite is black when the player runs into it, it's an IRS Agent and the player loses half of his money.  If pink, it's a Certified Public Accountant who takes $1000 and provides a briefcase that can be used to shelter income.  If green, it's an Investment Advisor, who provides the maximum possible tax-sheltered investment briefcase.  The investment icons appear in the bottom center -- in this screenshot, I have touched the Solar Power investment, and apparently been given a television set for my trouble:

I don't see myself playing long enough to reach the maximum score of one million dollars, but Tax Avoiders is not a bad game -- there's some interesting complexity to it, and the player sprite is nicely animated.  It's just another of the many reasonably solid Atari 2600 cartridges that got lost in the shuffle as the market was flooded, triggering the massive industry crash of the mid-1980's.

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