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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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.

27Jul/1720

The Lever

intra system trust issues 1

A recent addition to the indie sub-basement was an unassuming title called Intra System: Trust Issues (Smoke Some Frogs, 2017). Now I’m not here to announce this is some remarkable sleeper hit, something that deserves to be a major headliner.

What I can tell you is that it’s pay-what-you-want and peculiar enough to hold my interest. It’s a souped-up branching narrative adventure with voice acting. It has you direct a stranger through a series of rooms which may or may not be death traps. It has an interesting twist which I’d like to talk about in terms of narrative game design.

I’m going to be talking spoilers. If you want to have a dabble first, it only takes about 15-30 minutes to get through the whole thing although you may choose to replay.

For everyone else, read on.

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28Jun/178

Free to Prey

prey_coral

I find a secret route into an area that was locked down. Unusually, this feels exhilarating as I’m still not familiar with the game’s signposts. There’s a genuine sense of discovery. Can this last? Perhaps I am just enjoying a longer than usual honeymoon period, where the lack of education about the game’s design imbues it with mystery and surprise?

Of course, I consider backtracking. I’m not exactly running with a powerful character and perhaps this is not the route I’m supposed to take. There's an office ahead; I want to at least see where this leads. Ah, a few corrupted operators. Annoying but not difficult to dispatch.

I'm inside a small maintenance crawlspace and the only other exit to the office is blocked with boxes. Corrupted operators continue to stream through the open windows, so I refuse to enter the office until it's safe. God, how many more of these? Suddenly

WHOMP

all the boxes jolt forward as if something is trying to get in. I assume it’s just another operator. And again,

WHOMP

Boxes go flying and-- what… what the hell is that trying to get in? It’s as big as the door! I put up a good fight but The Thing From Beyond the Door kills me. Reload, it kills me again. I reload again. And again and again.

Just as I’m on the verge of throwing in the towel, I spy a window on the opposite side of the office. I sprint across and throw myself through it - and fall a few metres to the floor below.

I hold, staring up at the window with the gloo gun in hand. I wait.

Moments pass and it seems I am safe for now. But where has this one-way trip taken me? There’s only one thing to do: keep quicksaving and carry on.

This is Prey (Arkane Studios, 2017). Backtracking is for wimps.

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11May/179

Side by Side: Crawl

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 7 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly are the real monsters in the unique multiplayer dungeon crawl, Crawl!

  • We recorded this two years ago when it was topical and on early access, so well done Joel for the fast turnaround
  • Crawl is fun, albeit a little complicated - party game for the right crowd
  • Although can be played with 2 human players, we suspect it is better with at least 3

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

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.