Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

22Sep/172

Atari Video Computer Soul, Part Two

I've been revisiting the games on my old Atari VCS. The first part was posted a couple of weeks ago.

atari-cartridge-boxes-2

The Atari VCS had a few alternative controllers: paddles, driving controllers and keyboard controllers.

The paddle controllers were based on potentiometers, effectively giant knobs that players turned between two extremes. The driving controllers looked identical to paddles except you could keep turning them without end and they were bundled with the one game they were needed for, Indy 500.

The keyboard controllers offered a matrix of buttons; they were used for just a handful of games including an educational Basic Programming, but the return on investment for the customer was low and these controllers died off early. The keyboard controllers were resurrected as a “touch pad” bundled with the VCS release of Star Raiders in 1982.

As a child, I wanted everything. We had paddles and driving controllers but never did get to experience the keyboard controller. I doubt we missed out. Good call, parents.

I’m not sure there’s much fun in emulating a paddle controller with modern hardware, so I was pleased to discover, buried amongst my VCS memorabilia, a set of working third-party paddle controllers I’d picked up in the early 90s.

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14Sep/1718

On Omegaland

omegaland-talos-principle

In the trailer, Omegaland (Jonas & Verena Kyratzes, 2017) looks like nothing special. Well, it looks like a nothing special Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985) clone. But knowing the Kyratzes back catalogue, what the trailer didn’t say intrigued me more. It didn’t say why you should play this game. It didn’t say what it did different. It did nothing to really encourage you play it.

And, as you might expect in our postindieapocalyptic landscape, it didn’t really do big business and I don’t think I’ve seen it garner any attention on gaming websites. It’s difficult to share: uh, look, here’s a trailer from the acclaimed Kyratzes stable! It shows a brilliantly derivative game! More derivative than any other derivative game has gone before!

Oh of course there’s more to Omegaland than a Super Mario clone. It feels a bit Pippin Barr, but really long. A bit too long.

It’s not earth-shattering and you’re not missing out on the Mona Lisa of Games. But what are you missing? Why did I struggle with it? And why do I think the ending was the best bit?

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7Sep/177

Atari Video Computer Soul, Part One

This is an appendix to the Where We Came From series, suggested by Eversion developer @zarawesome.

atari-cartridge-boxes-1

In the beginning, there was the arcade.

In the arcade, you would find a platoon of brash, noisy cabinets, screaming over each other and pleading for your silver. They were more seductive than the penny fountains, one-armed bandits and claw machines, these coin-hungry bastards that understood addiction all too well. Sometimes it was better to find a forgotten machine alone in a café, with less competition from the environment; it could be what it was intended to be.

But the expense of an arcade lifestyle meant a console was destined to find a place in our homes and become our first videogame soul. For most, this was the Atari Video Computer System, known today as the Atari 2600. In 1980 my parents bought one and it was always referred to as "the Atari" until we sold virtually all our cartridges two years later to fund the purchase of an Atari 800 home computer. Then it became forever known as the VCS. I still think of it as the VCS.

We moved house recently and one of the boxes pulled out of storage contained the VCS. It wasn’t the original woodgrain VCS from my childhood but the later cheap-looking version, sometimes dubbed the Atari 2600 Jr., produced when Atari thought slapping their shitty silver branding on a thin plastic slate was the epitome of cool. This was a machine I'd bought in my student days when I wanted to recapture those past, ancient glories.

I decided to put the VCS through its paces again and see if the games were still fun - and what my children would make of them. In an era of Minecraft and Angry Birds, could square blocks still entrance? And would the machine even turn on?

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30Aug/1735

Grade F

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It was Jason Statham that did it.

Until his appearance, I hadn’t realised how much it fucking bothered me. But don’t people fucking swear all the time? I’m not some motherfucking prude, I can swear when the fucking mood takes me. And oh boy, does it. Now it wasn’t because Spy was a film about gals and I can’t stand fucking women swearing. It was every fuck in the movie, especially Jason Statham. As if inserting the word “fuck” into a sentence would autofuckingmagically make it hilarious.

It succeeded in making the dialogue sound like it was written by a fucking kid who has a hard-on for profanity because it sounds real, man, fucking real.

Oh, hello, videogames.

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Filed under: Longform 35 Comments
25Aug/179

Discussion: A Tale of Two Crunches

joel-working-on-sunday-in-2000

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the August edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

15Aug/175

Side by Side: Abyss Odyssey

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 10 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly descend into the dark co-operative depths of Abyss Odyssey!

  • This is a single player game first and foremost, the co-op mode is bolted on
  • Abyss Odyssey a roguelike adventure with fighting sections that Gregg likens to Smash Brothers
  • When Gregg played single-player after we made this video, he really enjoyed the game
  • The soundtrack is amazing

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Thanks for sticking with us for series two. Side by Side returns for a third series next month!

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

14Aug/176

At the Table of Bonbon

bonbon-fireplace

So there's this new release called Bonbon (Aetheric Games, 2017), a horror vignette set in, well, possibly my own British childhood. It's less than an hour of your time although you will have spend £1.50 or $2 to get your mitts on it.

It shows plenty more restraint than what most videogames mean by "horror" but there's one scene in particular which is a terrifying joy.

Now Bonbon is all about the unknown so, if you are spoiled, you won't really be able to get as much out of it. Please only read on if you've played or have no intention to pick it up.

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8Aug/170

Side by Side: Gang Beasts

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 9 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly beat the living daylights out of each other in Gang Beasts!

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

1Aug/174

Side by Side: Vomit Crabs

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 8 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly walk sideways and vomit on each other in the ohmygodmyeyes crab vs crab contest, Vomit Crabs!

  • This isn't suitable for children as the madlibs at the bottom of the screen sometimes contain swear words
  • Deliberately awkward controls
  • The game is as mad as you can want it to be
  • We suspect it's better with three or four players

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

31Jul/1713

Discussion: Past Unmade

martian-chronicles

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the July edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.