Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Video Game #8: Cyclone (1988)
“We have a winner!”
Considering how many quarters I dropped in pinball machines over the decades, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one. This is no token appearance, however; this game earned its place on this list. Pinball, once a reigning symbol of juvenile delinquency, was dethroned as king of the arcade when video came along in the 1970s. Thanks to a revival lead by a handful of designers at Williams Electronics, the pinball game came roaring back in the late ’80s with digital interfaces and elaborate Rube Goldberg-like structures in titles like Bad Cats, Pin*Bot and Comet.
Williams’ follow up to Comet, Cyclone, was that rare sequel that’s better than the original. The roller coaster/carnival-themed game was so popular and so widely distributed — and so well constructed — you can still find working machines in many places today, the digital voice of its carnival barker announcer calling out insults as patrons pass by.
Friday, February 22nd, 2013
Video Game #15: Xevious (1982)
In retrospect, this is just a really good scrolling shooter where you (again) shoot down hordes of invading aliens intent on conquering Earth. (This seemed to happen a lot in the early ’80s.)
At the time however…
Xevious came out at the very peak of the first great wave of video games — Atari even produced TV commercials announcing its arrival (unheard of at the time) — and incorporated every lesson Japanese and American companies had learned up until then about what made a successful and addictive arcade game. It was fun, challenging, rewarded successful hand/eye coordination, and its oversized cabinet came with booming speakers that bathed the player in an array of mesmerizing, cascading sound.
Xevious also introduced a number of concepts — such the idea of defeating a “big boss” to win the game — that have been thoroughly incorporated into other game designs over the last 30 years.
What I remember most though is the strange joy my brother and I felt whenever we walked into the Space Port (the arcade at the Colonial Park Mall) and didn’t see anyone playing Xevious. The game was hugely popular when it first came out, and for the longest time you had to queue up to play. It was in the prime spot at the front of the arcade entrance, and you would hover about hitting lesser games, trying not blow your precious horde of quarters on something you really didn’t want to play while waiting your turn. So if, after riding your bike all the way out to the mall, you turned the corner into Space Port and saw the machine was free, you knew it was going to be a really good day.
Speaking of free, you can apparently now play Xevious here online — no quarter, and no queueing, needed.