Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cover to Cover: Activision Atari 2600 1989 Catalog (pp. 2-3)

We're paging through Activision's catalog for the Atari 2600 -- circa 1989, at the tail end of the long-running platform's lifespan.  Not too shabby for a machine released in 1977!

Page 2 presents some more Activision classics, and another new game:

Chopper Command borrowed a bit from Defender, but played well and looked great on the 2600.  Robot Tank was Activision's take on Battlezone, beating Atari's own official cartridge to market.  And Kaboom! was a classic fast-paced paddle game that managed to make almost everyone forget it was inspired by Atari's Avalanche coin-op; adding a mad bomber and a sense of humor left the original concept looking bare and boring.

The big news on this page, of course, was Commando, an adaptation of Capcom's coin-op hit for the 2600 (again, also a game available on the competing NES.)  The graphics suffered in translation, and it was almost impossible to toss off a grenade using a joystick and single fire button.  But it was a reasonable translation that pushed the hardware quite a bit; visually it always reminded my of Imagic's Riddle of the Sphinx, but there's a lot more action on offer here.

Page 3 gives the most prominent spot to a longtime Activision favorite, and also pushes some acquired Imagic properties:

There's not much to say about Pitfall! -- it was and is a classic game, and none of the later sequels and remakes have managed to capture its simple charm.  Activision kept the brand name but repackaged Imagic's titles for cost reduction purposes -- no more silver boxes, and the labels were reduced to simple blue backgrounds with white text.  But keeping Moonsweeper, Demon Attack and Atlantis on the market was a fine idea.  Imagic was really the only other third-party 2600 publisher that gave Activision serious competition, and these games, acquired by its rival during the crash era, have continued to show up in recent Activision packages.

Next weekend, we'll wrap up the remaining 4 pages of this late-era Atari 2600 artifact.

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