Saturday, September 18, 2010

Spectral Associates' Quality Rip-Offs

It was common practice in the early days of gaming for publishers to "borrow" home computer game ideas from the arcade; Sierra On-Line produced a game called Cannonball Blitz that was Donkey Kong in all but name and graphics, for instance.  But few were quite as blatant about it as TRS-80 Color Computer publisher Spectral Associates, as evidenced in the company's 1985 holiday season catalog:

The Spectral Associates games approximated their inspirations fairly well given the capabilities of the CoCo, and as a customer back in the day I was rarely disappointed.  But nobody would have mistaken Pengon for anything but a Pengo rip-off, or Lunar Rover Patrol for something other than Moon Patrol.  And just in case you haven't visited an arcade, or imagine Ms. Gobbler to be something less than wholesome, the Spectral Associates catalog helpfully identifies the illegitimate source of each and every bit of stolen intellectual property.

It's telling that when Tandy picked up Spectral's Color Meteoroids as an official Radio Shack cartridge release, the name was changed to Microbes, with the manual's backstory (though not the gameplay) changed to describe a spaceship microscopic germ fighter shooting asteroids microbes that split into smaller rocks single-celled organisms, while dodging UFOs hostile antibodies.

And calling a game a "Spectral Original," when it's obviously a clone of Taito's Electric YoYo and/or Midway's Solar Fox, then selling it using the name of an unrelated Activision game, Beam Rider, is a bit much even by these standards.

But that's how the industry rolled back in the day.

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