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ATARI 2600 Hall of Shame: VOLUME ONE
liquorhead - 05/01/00

Long before Playstation, Nintendo, and Dreamcasts plugged into the brains of America's video game zombies, a long forgotten company named Atari wowed the world with one of the most successful and long living systems of all time, The Atari 2600. With primitive blocky graphics, basic colors, and single button joystick controllers, the games were the personification of simplicity.

Starting with games like Night Driver, Combat, Space Invaders, and Basketball, Atari 2600 soon grew to offer hundreds of cartridges, giving it one of the more extensive game libraries of all time.

Through the "Golden Years" of 1979-1984, Atari really came out with some bizarre ones. Particularly fun were their attempts at licensing properties to cash in. Some were quite successful and fun to play, like Superman which let you role play an adventure as Clark Kent, run to a phone booth and change into your costume, and throw Lex Luthor and his crew in jail while avoiding pesky Kryptonite sattelites.

Atari also was able to creatively translate some of the more popular arcade games like Space Invaders, Missle Command, and Asteroids, in very fun and playable versions that sold quite well.

Ahh...but that's not the focus of this article. No, this is a look at some of Atari's more bizarre attempts to broaden their video game audience. You can't really fault them for trying, but the system limitations of the Atari 2600 made some of these games a lost cause from the get go.

Recognize the guy in the middle? That's supposed to be Mr. T! This is a rare glimpse at an A-Team Prototype cartridge that was never released to the public. I've played the emulated version and believe me, they made the right decision. I pity the fool that programmed this one (HAH HAH!)

"By the power of Grayskull! THIS GAME SUCKS! Mattel took advantage of their He-Man license, and made this crappy Atari game. As He-Man, you fly around some sort of space ship and shoot at stuff. I can't play it well enough to get to Skeletor yet, though, perhaps we'll encounter him another day.

Parker Brothers also tried their hand at making a few Atari games with this GI JOE: COBRA STRIKE game. Cobra decides to take out the Joes with a giant robotic snake (A cobra, nonetheless) that shoots lasers from his mouth. If brought one of those to Nam, who knows how different the world would be today?

This one is just too bizarre to define. CHASE THE CHUCKWAGON was based on those fun dog food commercials where a dog chases a chuckwagon around the kitchen. WHEEEE!

$10 if you can actually see that this is supposed to be a DUKES OF HAZZARD game. If you look really hard, you can see Boss Hogg at the top of the screen bringing his fat ass for a shot at Daisy Duke.

The most terrifying space movie of all time is finally translated into... a cheap knockoff of Pac-Man. UGH! Some of these games had a nice box and label, but aside from being called ALIEN, you'd never know it had anything to do with the movie from getting a look at this game.

Speaking of scary movies made in to Atari Games, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was actually released in limited quantities, as one of the first violent home games ever. It even had a feature where you could play with blood or no blood (for you violent conscious parents). Dig the crazy wheelchair icon flying at you that's supposed to represent that crippled guy that died in the first film.

From the same company that brought you Chainsaw came HALLOWEEN. Notable for the crude Halloween theme song that starts when you play it, the laughable effects include blood spurting out your headless neck as you run around like a chicken after Michael Meyers kills you.

Here's a bizarre one that Coke was going to sell or give away during the famous cola wars of the 80s, called COKE WINS! This revamped version of Space Invaders was about as lame as the New Coke recipe.

Pornographic videogames seemed like a good idea, until you actually tried to show sexual activies using Atari's building block graphics. In this wacky game, called BEAT 'EM AND EAT 'EM, you control nude women who run back and forth and (no lie) have to swallow loads of jism the goofy lad on the top of the screen squirts down at you. I think Larry Flynt was the only guy who actually bought this game.

Well, that's all for now. If you'd like to play one of these great games, do a search on an emulator program called "Stella". Luckily, the ROM files for these classic games are available too, so they're easy to play and "enjoy" yourself (and only take up about 5-10K of memory each).