The Brunching Shuttlecocks Ratings

You're a dot. You have an arrow, which is actually a sword, which you use to kill what appear to be giant ducks. Giant, at least, compared to you, but you're a dot, so it's hard to figure scale. This is what passed for epic on the 2600. Aside from the arrow/duck thing, you also have to avoid a bat and collect keys to get into a castle to find the magic chalice. Playing this game today, one of the odd things is the lack of theme music. Any self-respecting fantasy adventure these days has mind-numbingly repetitive theme music. Except for the occasional beep, Adventure takes place in grim silence, like a low-res German Realist film. B+

It's no coincidence, I think, that video games started to really take off when they could be played solo. The first couple of games, like Pong, were two-player affairs. But really, people who actually have friends and a social life are the wrong demographic to target. Once they started to aim for the losers-with-disposable-income set, the quarters started to flow freely. Breakout, then, is basically solitaire Pong. You're not breaking out of anything; you're staying in one place, pretending to destroy the walls that hold you in, only to give up the freedom you've painstakingly won for another set of walls, preferring a Sisyphian pseudo-challenge to true social and emotional evolution. Sad metaphor, pretty neat game. C+

This was the great Atari 2600 betrayal. The hype surrounding this release was tremendous, fueled of course by the huge success of the arcade game. And when the cartridge was finally released, sliding it into the game console was like slipping a stiletto into your own back. The game was pitiful. Pac-Man was shaped like a video Wheat Thin, and instead of making cheerful munching sounds, he honked. The ghosts were blocky and flickery, and the colorful fruit had been replaced by a square "vitamin." Pathetic. D-

This may have been the biggest success of the whole drawn-out 2600 saga, as evidenced by the fact that survived its humble beginnings and lead to Pitfall II, Super Pitfall, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, Pitfall 3-D, Pit-Tris, Pitfall Kombat, Pitfall in Pink: Barbie's Jungle Shopping Quest, and the short-lived "Pitfall!" Saturday morning cartoon show (1984-85). Not bad for a game where the high point is standing on alligator noses. Certainly this was head and fedora above most of what else was being offered at the time, and it was kind of fun, but it didn't really have a big ending. You just collected all the treasures and it was over. No accolades, no drawn-out credit sequences, just no more game. B-

The first of about four hundred billion video games starring the Man of Steel, this took a lot of liberties with the Superman mythos. For instance, Superman was bald, and looked and sounded like a large wasp. Also, Kryptonite could, inexplicably, be counteracted by a kiss from Lois Lane, who was only too willing to supply the needed antidote and would keep on necking with you interminably if you picked her up. This was a basic low-key gather-some-things-and-avoid-other-things game of the sort that was mildly popular before computer resolution was high enough to accurately render arterial spray, but I liked it. B

This is the game they handed out with the 2600, and it was pretty tedious, It provided three challenges: shoot dots at each other in biplanes, shoot dots at each other in tanks, and shoot dots at each other in jets. Still, you've got to give them credit for being the only home video game to date with an instruction manual that incorporates the phrase "Invisible Tank Pong." D

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