Review by Roloff de Jeu
there’s such a thing as Robo-mythology, one storyline that keeps coming
up is that of the inner-robot. However well a robot is made and mimics a
human, it will never be a human. From A.I.’s
David to D.A.R.Y.L.L. and from
the silly Short Circuit’s
Johnny 5 to the gentler T-1000 in Terminator
2 as well as the many robots of Isaac Asimov’s stories (including Star Trek: The Movie, for which he wrote the screenplay), robots
have shared their intimate, tragic feelings with us.
only Atari managed to truly put us as close to the inner-robot as
ever-yet. Also known as “one of the most impressive failures in arcade
history”, I, Robot hit the parlors in 1983.
cabinet design stood out from all other arcades. Atari used a design that
was similar to that of FireFox
and the dedicated Major Havoc cabinet.
The 19” horizontally positioned color CRT monitor was enclosed in a
square box, which was supported by a sleek base / pedestal. The game was
the first to feature a unique trigger-joystick, the patented Halo-effect
joystick. With this joystick, the player controlled another first: the
point-of-view. This was not just a gimmick, but actually a feature that
you needed to successfully play the game. With alternating angles came of
course the most important achievement of this arcade: it was the first to
feature fully shaded polygon graphics.
aim of the game is not too complex. You control a sexless, neutered “interface
robot #1984”, and have to destroy the Evil Eye that’s watching you, by
removing it’s protective shield. You do this by gliding over the red
parts of maze / platforms you balance on. Other than that you jump around
and shoot various obstacles on your way to the next level. One of these
next levels is outer space, through which you fly and shoot more polygons
and such. In all there’s 99 levels to advance through, but finishing
certain levels allows you to skip a few.
Spielberg would have been a true robo-connoisseur, he would have named A.I.’s
Rouge City “Doodle City” (well, okay, that wouldn’t have made much
sense), after the oddest feature to hit the arcade for the first time. For
the price of two lives and a credit, players could doodle around for 3
minutes and paint with the game’s sprites, in 3D space, no less!
the game was given the wrong finger by players, and was highly unpopular,
only played by geeks and robo-lovers. Legend has it that only 1,000
coin-ups were made (actually retrofitted FireFox cabinets), and that of
these only 500 were sold. The rest was shipped off to Japan. It’s more
likely though that a run of 1,500 machines was done.
you want to see I, Robot in action, check the out-takes on the DVD of The Goonies, where it’s located in a convenience store.
If you like robots, and are somehow not familiar with Asimov’s
work, I, Robot, his first short-robot-story collection, is a great
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