There were enough "Invasion from the Top of the Screen" games to
choke a junior high school, but Space Invaders had one thing that
few others did: it got faster. As you killed off the low-res
interplanetary menace, the remaining would-be conquerors, fueled
by revenge and freed-up CPU cycles, would steadily increase
in speed, until one last Invader would be zipping across your screen
like a Yorkie on crystal meth. And if you managed to shoot him down,
the whole swarm would return, but closer. Yay paranoia! B+
The real tragedy of Pac-Man, aside from a sequel addiction that
made the Friday the Thirteenth movies seem restrained, was that
the key to the game was not skill, reflexes, or even intelligence,
but rather memorization. The video games section of Waldenbooks was
filled with books that told you the exact moves to make at the exact
time, making mastery of Pac-Man only faintly more impressive than
memorizing the first hundred digits of pi. C-
Before video game makers figured out that what you really want to
do is beat up on guys with names like "Goro," they were busy turning
some of the most unpleasant aspects of modern life into video
games. Witness Night Driver, which was an uncanny simulation of
driving a car at night when you can't see anything. Whoo! Coming
soon: Night Driver II, which adds a simulation of an overheating
radiator and an eight-year-old throwing up in the back seat. D+
Frankly, I'm a little tired of everyone's favorite digital Italian.
I think it was "Mario Teaches Typing" that did it for me. But back
when Mario was a bit player and video game names were routinely
poorly translated from the Japanese, there was a little story of
a jumping guy, a blonde, and a giant ape with an inexplicably
interminable supply of barrels. This was great! The music was great!
The sound effects were great! That one level (out of, like, four) with
the conveyor belts and the pies was great! We were pathetic then, and
we didn't even care. A-
If we ever meet up with an alien civilization, I'm betting they won't have
Tetris, which will work to our advantage:
"We have come to share the secrets
of fusion, interstellar tachyon drives, and matter transfer. What do you
have to offer us?"
"Um, ultimate Frisbee, microwave popcorn, and, um, Tetris."
"Hmm. Tell us of this 'Tetris.'"
"Here, give it a try."
Six months later everyone on their planet will be staying up till
four in the morning mumbling "All I need is a straight one. Just one."
and we'll have infested the cosmos like fire ants. B
Look. Table tennis is not that interesting of a game. TV is not that
interesting of a medium. I can't imagine why combining the two was
such a hit, but hey, it was the early seventies, when corduroy was king.
I bought an ancient Pong game at a thrift store a while back, rushed it
home, hooked it up, and within seconds I was bored. So I played
"Sewer Blaster Kombat 64" instead, which was also boring, but at
least it was colorful. D+