Journey Escape

Atari 2600

Review by Scott Bertulli

Data Age


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This review won first place in our "Silly Review Contest", July 2002.

A Lifetime Original Presentation:
No Escape - My Life With Journey Escape for the Atari 2600

As told by Scott Bertulli


With a twinkle in his eye, Journey Escape entered my world!

I can recall the morning we met more clearly than the last occasion I downed a bottle of cheap White Zinfandel. It was a warm Sunday morning during the summer of '98. My blouse clung to my bosom in the humid air as I weaved through the maze of flea market tables littered with weathered magazines and used toiletries. Just as I had resolved to give up for the day, my senses were overcome. It wasn't the sweet smell of the tired old vendor that tickled my nose hairs like a steel garden rake... it was the sight of a lone Atari 2600 cartridge resting proudly upon a pedestal of Neil Diamond 8 tracks. His name was Journey Escape. I was intrigued.

His angled features and silver label were nothing like I'd ever seen before. In a world of square Atari cartridges, he was a Picasso, and he was calling to me. While I held his tiny body in my hands, he promised me a life of love and joy if I would only take him home with me on this morning. Aroused by the thoughts filling my head, I quickly plunked down a crisp green leaf of George Washington salad (that's one American dollar) and rushed to my car.

Once home, I wasted no time in firmly inserting JE, as I was now affectionately calling him, into the slot of my 2600. Upon power on, I was instantly hypnotized by the vast starry sky that sprawled out before me. Even without a handy instruction manual, my objectives were clear - rescue the greatest band of all time from walking hearts and inconveniently placed fences. The task before me seemed too daunting for my tastes, but JE's warm, encouraging grin urged me to press on. I began to navigate each member of the band in turn through the obstacle course laid out ahead of us. The terrain was fierce and time was certainly not on our side. As the seconds ticked away, our concert proceeds trickled away as well. This would be fine if the band was merely pissing the money away on drugs and hookers, however, this endeavour was about survival, not excess. Money had gotten very tight by time the fourth member of the band had successfully boarded the escape saucer. As I wiped the perspiration from my brow and clentched the joystick in my clammy palm, frontman Steve Perry began the final leg of the journey. If he could only perform as well as his bandmates had during their respective runs, then freedom and riches would be ours. Little did I know that Steve had other plans in mind...

I remained optimistic even after the bright-eyed Perry had crashed into his third straight fence at full speed. I cheered him on - "Don't stop believing, Steve!" Despite the support of both myself and his awaiting bandmates, Steve would not successfully reach the escape craft on this day. Feeling betrayed, I scolded him. "You mother! You always ruin things for the band, man! You're the reason there is no more Journey. All you ever cared about was your solo career, you selfish, pretty bastard!" With tears in my eyes, I yanked the game from the cartridge slot and tossed it into a box of other disappointing games underneath my bed. The love and joy, the house up on the hill, all the promises that JE made had been shattered. I vowed never to play with him again.

Even when already in the spotlight, Steve Perry continues to think only of saving himself

A few nights later, while sitting sleeplessly in my bed as I had for many nights before, I heard a foreign sound in the room. At first I decided that it was the rain dancing upon the rooftop, but after further inspection, I realized that the sound was too sweet to be the rain. It was singing - from the box underneath my bed. I pressed my ear to the small, cardboard container and listened carefully. It was JE, crooning all of Journey's greatest hits, just for me! Obvious selections included Faithfully and Open Arms, yet JE did not limit his serenade, as he even belted out Steve Perry solo hits such as Oh Sherrie. While my name is not Sherrie, I was still touched very deeply by his painful ballads. I knew he meant to keep the promises he made, and provide for us the life only fantasized of in dreams and television commercials. Perhaps my receptiveness to his pleas was a direct result of childhood abandonment issues, but I felt truly loved and appreciated for the first time that I could remember - I had to allow him to live with me outside of the box.

Once we were reunited, JE and I spent most of our gaming time together. I was beginning to tolerate the digital Steve Perry's lousy attitude and JE continued to encourage my efforts in rescuing the band. It seemed that things would always be peaches and roses for us... that is until one frigid evening in October. JE had left in a rush again with his drinking buddies - those uncouth Mythicon games - leaving me alone again for the night. I decided that I might as well try to occupy myself, so I invited my old friend Asteroids out for a few games. I must have rolled his score over four times by the time JE returned... in very rough shape. He saw me with Asteroids and immediately tore him from the cartridge slot. I tried to reason with him - "We were just sharing a game, nothing more! Don't be so upset, he's only a friend!" JE refused to listen, and instead dragged the helpless Asteroids outside. I never saw him again.

That poor bastard Asteroids never saw the screwdriver coming...

Things with JE around haven't been the same since that fateful night. I'm no longer allowed to go to the flea market, as he's convinced I'll find another game there to replace him. He forced me to sell the rest of my Atari games to support his crack and licorice habits. We don't even play to rescue Journey anymore. Instead, he just sits on the couch watching football and mocking my new hair style or the fat flaps under my arms while I cook his bacon in the kitchen. Sometimes while he's out of the house, I'll look back upon the days that I commanded rock and roll greatness in a quest to escape legions of fans and money-hungry record executives. JE had so much potential, but he threw it all away on greed, lust, and violence. I don't think there's any possible way to salvage our relationship now...

These days, just looking at Journey Escape makes me long for the better days before we met, when games like Asteroids and Kaboom were still significant parts of my life. Perhaps one day, things will develop into that fairy tale I once dreamed of on that tender, summer morning. I guess I should consider the profound words spoken to me at the onset of this entire ordeal - Don't Stop Believin'. I won't, wise Steve Perry, I won't.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:27 PM