|One of the great injustices of the classic era of video games is that a great number of classics were not worthy of spawning sequels. Many which were produced were based on arcade conversions. This issue’s column addresses true sequels, not clones or cheap imitations which dominate the classic library. |
First, some of the good stuff. Based upon the cult role-playing game, Mattel’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for the Intellivision proved to be an intriguing translation. The success of this semi-role-playing game resulted in AD&D: Treasure of Tarmin, which offers more spells, monster slaying and three dimensional tunnel exploration. Starpath’s Dragonstomper involves three stages: gather gold and slay monsters in the opressed countryside; purchase magical items; and traverse a booby-trapped tunnel and slay the guardian dragon. Sword of Saros, which was only available through a mail-order offer, borrowed many of the sprites from Dragonstomper! Combat takes place in confined rooms or mazes. Atari’s Swordquest series was a dud from the beginning, but that didn’t stop Atari from nearly finishing the set. The three installments: Earthworld, Fireworld, and Waterworld, each involve matching the correct combination of objects in bare rooms to obtain clues, with very little else to distinguish between them. A relatively hyped-up contest ended up as a farce, as the grand prize was never awarded. Pitfall! was a stuning, ground-breaking achievement on the 2600 but Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns was even better. An expanded playfield along with additional perils pushed the 2600 to its limits.
The forever popular arcade game Pac-Man and had three classic home conversions. In this case, however, Pac-Man is a total dud that didn’t capture the essence of the coin-op. Yet Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man closely resemble their arcade counterparts and received a warm reception from players and reviewers alike. ColecoVision’s original pack-in Donkey Kong launched the system crisp graphics and superb replications of three of the arcade’s four screens. An extremely inferior version appears on both the 2600 and Intellivision units. Donkey Kong Jr, however, succeeded on all systems. ColecoVision Frogger (by Parker Bros.) also became a game player’s favorite. On the 2600, Frogger was produced by two different companies. Parker Bros’ version is the blockier of the two, while Starpath’s “official” Frogger utilizes smaller graphics and tinnier sounds but captures the look of the arcade. The sequel, Frogger II: Threedeep! provides multiple screens and an increased challenge but is lacking in the “fun” department.
One of the most basic games, Breakout, was later converted into an enhanced game called Super Breakout. Rotating rows of bricks, special power-ups, and extra balls are the features added (as well as a really impressive sound palette). Attempting to feed upon the film’s success, Activision’s Ghostbusters recreated several scenes from the movie. Drive around the city while avoiding the slime. Capture ghosts in random buildings and eventually you’ll encounter the Sta-puft Marshmallow Man. Ghostbusters II by Salu thankfully never appeared on the U.S. market. Frustrating control is this game’s most apparent flaw. An accelerated difficulty level complicates attempts to control your man as he swings down a shaft. Ben Hogue’s Miner 2049’er I and II, released by Tigervision for the Atari 2600 offer the same exact gameplay, sounds, and graphics (the screens are different) across the two titles. This game appeared on just about every platform available at the time, including PC’s. Not surprisingly, a sequel was made, but only for the Atari 5200, called Bounty Bob Strikes Back.
The Intellivision version of Burgertime was followed by an uncommon but equally satisfying game called Diner. A surreal identification with food is the motif in both. In these games, your chef is being chased by the very ingredients of his own profession.
Perhaps the most sought after sequels are 2600’s Mr. Do’s Castle and Q*Bert’s Qubes. These have been in very short supply in the U.S. while the original versions of each are very common. Salu’s Ghostbusters II was released in Europe as the 2600 gasped its last here in the U.S. and it too is very hard to find. As mentioned earlier, Sword of Saros was only available through mail order, and although copies are flying all around the collector’s circuit, the original tape is tough to locate. The 5200 title Bounty Bob Strikes Back was a rare gem until Best Electronics discovered a large shipment a few years ago. Following closely behind on the list of not-easy-to-come-by sequels are Frogger II, Diner, and River Raid II. They’re in limited quantities but not impossible to find.
With few exceptions, the sequel is much harder to obtain than the original. The first release also provides more satisfying gameplay in most of these titles.
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