For your approval, a list of some of our favorite"sleepers", or games that received little attention in their time butpacked hours of fun into our systems:
D.J. Boy by Kaneko (for the Genesis) - Amidst the swarm of shooters for this system, this little surprise seemed to be invisible on the shelves. That's because the packaging was terrible - no screen pictures on the box, and a sadly inadequate description of the game. The truth be told, however, this is one dynamite game. If you can imagine Double Dragon on rollerskates, that's what you've got here. Only better. D.J. Boy has hysterical end bosses (a fat mother throwing pies and flying kicks, a conceited bodybuilder, exploding clowns, and much more) and graphics that will knock you out. The action is
Quick Step by Imagic (for the Atari 2600) - One of the lesser-known Imagic carts, what sets this apart from other Q*Bert clones is that it's a better game. The basic premise is to control either a squirrel or a kangaroo, and attempt to hop along trampolines, changing them to your color. While you are doing that, the opponent is doing the same. As the trampolines scroll off the screen, you get points for any remaining in your color. If you scroll off the screen, you're dead. With it's charming graphics and unpredictable playfield (the trampolines occasionally branch off into narrow passages or dead ends!) Quick Step incorporates fast-thinking strategy with a simple concept. One complaint, however, when your character dies, he is sometimes placed in an impossible position, causing an undeserved death. In spite of this setback, gamers would enjoy hours of fun with this one.
Frankenstein's Monster by Data Age (for Atari 2600) - Data Age is a company known for producing very simple games of a rather low quality for the Atari 2600. However, if most of their releases were as inspired as Frankenstein's Monster (their final game), this company may have survived the huge videogame shakedown of 1984. In this action game, the player has to travel across Frankenstein's Castle to retreive blocks used in building a wall around the monster. Along the way are various hazards: spiders, bats, trapdoors, an acid pit, disappearing floors, etc. to reach the blocks and get back. The graphics, although sub-par even by Atari standards, are excellent compared to all of the other Data Age releases. This cart was truly a change of pace from the pattern most of their releases followed: very low-quality ripoffs of better games already available for the system.
Utopia by Mattel (for Intellivision) - In the early 80's, it was very rare to find unique strategy games on the homefront. Mattel really broke ground with this game, which was undeniably modeled after the popular computer game Emperor. The object is to be the better ruler, with two players simultaneously controlling their own continent. You have many options: do you play peacefully, and try to win by out-ruling the opponent, or aggressively, by smashing his fishing boats and sending rebels to destroy his land? Simple but adequate graphics and some very unique sound effects (the rainfall effect is one of the best for this system) combined with challenging gameplay puts Utopia in a class all its own.
Laser Gates by Imagic (for Atari 2600) - In this very addictive shooter, your goal is to seek and destroy a detonator while flying through a side-scrolling cavern. Along the way, one must blast away or avoid flashing, moving, or fixed forcefields, radar mortars, homing missiles, bats, and other weird creatures. Pick up energy pods to replenish your waning energy. After 10,000 points your shields are returned to full capacity. A third on-screen indicator displays the amount of time you have to find the next detonator. If any one of these indicators run down to zero your game is over.
Polaris by Tigervision (for Atari 2600) - A brilliant air-sea shooter which incorporates a touch of strategy. In this multi-screen game, you control a sub on a mission to destroy enemy planes and subs. On the first screen, bombers drop depth charges from above while enemy subs prowl beneath the surface. Occasionally a destroyer will sail across the screen, dropping more depth charges. After the high-level bombers are destroyed, a dive bomber will swoop down and unload guided torpedoes. The third wave challenges you to navigate undersea channels complete with drifting mines.
Cratermaze by NEC (for Turbografx-16) - Why this maze-chase game didn't catch on I'll never understand! Loaded with different mazes and multiple skill levels, this sharp-looking card should have been a big hit for both young and old. Considering the fact that maze games like Ms. Pac-man are still being converted for the new systems (like the Lynx and Genesis), this one adds a fresh new look and feel.
Wing War by Imagic (for ColecoVision) - In this rather unusual game, you control a black dragon trying to extend its lineage as well as grabbing a few crystals for points along the way. The game "feels" like the Atari classic, Joust, but with dozens of screens, detailed backgrounds, and several different enemies. The strongest feature of the game is its non-linear gameplay: you can go right for the points, or you can try to build up a super-powerful dragon and search for eggs (providing extra lives). There is no background music, and one extremely persistent enemy (the Griffin) tends to spoil the game at higher point values. Overall, this is an original and addictive game to play.
Parlour Games by Sega (for the Sega Master System) - You have to appreciate the attention to options given to this little classic. Contained within this 1 meg cart are Billiards, Darts, and World Bingo. Billiards contains four different games, as does darts, and each game allows up to four players to get in on the action. The darts game is the strongest of the three, with crisp graphics and easy-to-learn play mechanics. The game I never figured I'd enjoy, World Bingo, actually turned out to be the most addictive. It's like the old classic, except that you can rotate sections of the card, and depending on the size of your bet, certain advantages can be earned prior to the first number being called. The billiards game offers a good challenge, especially since you can choose the computer's skill level. If you happen upon Parlour Games on the discount rack in a toy store or find it at a garage sale, snatch it up - you wouldn't want to miss it.
Piece O' Cake by US Games (for Atari 2600) - Among the series of non-shooters released by US Games during the early 80's, Piece O' Cake rates among one of the most enjoyable 2600 carts. In this amusing game, one must control a baker who constructs cake as it moves along a conveyor belt. Before you know it, the pace reaches a frantic state, and you'll feel like you're trapped in an "I Love Lucy" episode. The baker appears comical as does the concept of this cart. The paddle controller provides smooth gameplay for this fast-paced challenge. Piece O' Cake is definitely one of the best carts for this system, and can certainly be considered a classic!
Armor..Attack by GCE (for the Vectrex) - Perfectly translated from the coin-op of the same name, this action-packed cart provides crisp vector graphics and a relentless computer opponent. You will find yourself actually employing a strategy in this game of survival. The overlay is slick-looking, the sound effects are dynamite (especially the helicopter that zips around the screen), and the challenge builds slowly but logically. Your fingers will be numb after a few games of this one!. If you are fortunate enough to own this classic system, you'll want to track down a copy of Armor..Attack.
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