Friday, July 13, 2007

It's here!

My book, Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984: A Complete Reference Guide, is now available through To order a copy, or to simply read about the book, click on the following link:

Excerpts from

Sample Atari 2600 game entry:

Publisher: Atari. Developer: Atari.
Non-Scrolling Shooter, 1 or 2 players (alternating). 1981.

Wisely steering clear of trying to mimic the look of the vector graphics found in their own 1979 arcade classic, Atari rendered the 2600 version of Asteroids in unabashedly obvious raster graphics. The space rocks flicker when too many appear onscreen, and they don’t change direction or speed when shot, but they are colorful. And, like the 2600 rendition of Space Invaders, Asteroids has lots of extra features not found in its coin-op cousin, including shields, modes of play that dispense with the satellites and UFOs, the ability to flip the ship 180 degrees, and more. The game doesn’t handle as smoothly as the original, and the ship can only belt out two shots at a time (as opposed to four), but Atari did a decent job of incorporating the five-button coin-op control scheme into the one-button 2600 joystick.

Sample Intellivision game entry:

Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man
Publisher: Mattel Electronics
Developer: Mattel Electronics
Side-Scrolling Shooter/Action, 1 player. 1983.

Based on the popular 1980s cartoon, Masters of the Universe is one of the best looking and sounding games for the Intellivision. The theme song is dead-on, the characters and the vehicle are nicely drawn and animated, and the mountains and Castle Grayskull are beautiful. Regrettably, the action is only average. The player, as He-Man, hops aboard his Wind Raider and flies mostly to the right, shooting lasers at fireballs and dropping bombs on Skeletor, who runs along the ground. The ship is stuck moving up and down in the middle of the screen, and the fireballs don’t make for very interesting targets. Fuel is a factor, but there’s no way to gain more. Once He-Man has made it 30 “miles,” it’s on to the next three screens, each of which has players running from left to right, avoiding (or blocking with a shield) a screen full of lightning balls and power-bolts. Then, there’s a swordfight with Skeletor, but it’s only an animation, not a player-controlled battle.

Sample ColecoVision game entry:

Publisher: Imagic. Developer: Imagic.
Action/Adventure, 1 or 2 players (alternating). 1983.

Dragonfire for the ColecoVision is a significant upgrade over the already impressive Atari 2600 and Intellivision versions of the game. Just about everything, from the castle to the dragon to the backgrounds, has been embellished with enhanced graphical detail. Surprisingly, however, the ornate treasures that glimmered so beautifully on the 2600 are now flat and monochromatic. Gameplay remains about the same. In the first screen, players guide the prince over a castle bridge while ducking under and jumping over fireballs. During the second stage, the prince must dodge dragon fire while running around gathering treasures. Like the Intellivision game, this rendition features the addition of an archer positioned on a tower, shooting arrows at the valiant prince as he runs across the bridge. Later levels add a ColecoVision-exclusive troll to the treasure room.


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