Sunday, August 22, 2010

Excerpt from Growing Up 8-Bit

Here is the excerpt about Yars Revenge, one of the best games I played when I was younger.  This should give you an idea of how each game is presented in the book and what the general writing is like.  Hopefully this will entice you to pick up the book through Amazon as noted in the post below this one.  Without further procrastinating, here is the excerpt:

Yars Revenge (Gaming Milestone)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Systems Played: Atari 2600
Released: 1981

If you’ve never played Yars Revenge, can I suggest trying to find a 2600 and a copy of this game?  Hours upon hours of my early life was spent with this game on the 2600.  My grade school friends and I used to get together on weekends and just play this game, handing the controller between us.  I was young when this game came out, so I can honestly say I don’t think I knew the story behind the game until I recently looked on Wikipedia.  I remember seeing the comic book that came with the game, but heck that I remember what the story was.  Basically these two alien races are fighting each other over the fact that one destroyed a Yars world and they’re seeking revenge.

It is interesting to note that the game was designed by Howard Scott Warshaw, who went on to create the horrendous E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial game.  In Warshaw’s defense, he did only have five weeks to create the game, but it can certainly be pointed out that the massive money loss for Atari on E.T. started the snowball of Atari going belly up.

Yars Revenge was the best selling original game on the 2600 and that title is certainly deserved.  You play an insect that can shoot a pellet from his mouth.  At about a third into the screen vertically is a neutral zone of static where you can’t be killed by either the roaming/homing single shot or when the cannon on the right turns into a swirl.  Your task is to take out the shield around the cannon by shooting or touching/eating the shield so it gradually disappears.  The key thing with eating the shield is that it helps you build a missile on the left side of the screen that you will then use to take out the cannon either in its static form or if you’re lucky when in the swirl mode.

The trick of course was when firing the missile to line up correctly and hit the cannon.  To exasperate this, on some stages there was a full rectangle shield that the cannon was in and you’d have to shoot/eat it down enough to get a missile shot to the cannon or await its change into the swirl.  As you went on and your points got higher the color of the shield changes and the cannon changes to swirl mode more often and at the higher levels gets a heat seeking power added to it that makes the neutral zone even more important to you since you are faster than the swirl, but watch out!  This game was highly addicting and even the simple sounds fit right in with the rest of the game.  For those interested, there are several videos on YouTube showing the game off.  The way I explain it probably sounds strange, but once you see it in action and remember that it is from 1981 it will blow your mind.