Oh how bountiful is the overflowing goodness that is the list of arcade machines that start with the letter F that I remember playing!
Flying Shark, Frogger, Final lap, Final Fight, Fire Shark…ok so with the exception of Frogger maybe not household names but these are some of the games that I played a lot of. I bloody love vertical scrolling shooters and games like Flying Shark still float my boat to this day. You don’t really get a lot of games like that now, and to be fair its hard to improve of some of those that came out in the eighties such as Xevious and terra Cresta…to this day they remain perfect to me.
Pretty sure most folk remember frogger. Do you remember how hard it was though? Such was its bastardry that your 3 lives could be gone in less that 30 seconds. I kid you not. It may have good memories but just you try to play it today. You’ll realise how hard it was. Cross the road and you think youre doing great, then onto the logs, thinking yeah I got this.
No you don’t, ok. You don’t got this. You don’t got shit. Frogger got your 20 cent piece and you are going to be feeding it more if you want any sort of reward. Frogger was unforgiving and brutal, and don’t you let nostalgia tell you otherwise!
The cupboard is somewhat bare, and populated with games that I have memories of, good memories, but hardly games that made me steal coins from my mums purse and sneak off to the shop to play.
In many ways they sum up quite nicely those games which were just always about, not the top draw ones, but the space fillers. You could always get a go on them because most kids were keeping the hard earned coins for the ones they really loved.
Elevator Action was ok I guess…up and down you went, evading what seemed to be spies of some sort, probably Russian – it was the eighties after all – in search of stuff behind red doors. That was kind of it. Sometimes lights went out, and other times it would slow down and the agents sped up if you took too long.
Actually it was pretty shit. Not that I didn’t play it a lot though – I still did.
Exerion was in the same mould really. Fly along, shoot things, explode. The machine was everywhere, so you played it. Felt like it was a predecessor to GYRUS, and had this slow cumbersome side to side that left you feeling ridiculously exposed, but an ok distraction on the way home from school I guess!
I put enduro rider in because I remember you sat on a bike and actually had to pull up on the handle bars to effect a jump as you went through the track. We used to play it at Fotis Cafe, but it didn’t last long as I remember it was always out of order. I think, perhaps, because it took a right hammering from kids piling onto it. I do remember mailing a jump though and it felt bloody amazing…Funny what sticks with you isn’t it because I can barely remember the kids being born…
Oh this is very much about the Double D’s! There are no weird stories, no shenanigans, just the joy of…actually no wait. Let us start with the nearly rans, and maybe a wee smattering of shenanigans, because they are absolute corkers indeed.
You have to start with Donkey King, right? I first played this in 1982 inDurban in South Africa. We had moved from the UK in the December and soon after went down to Durban for 3 weeks. I remember the smell of the hotel to this day whenever I smell a plastic beach ball, and I recall as clear as day having these little pop cycle motor bike toys you pulled a rip cord on and fired them down the hotel hallways. It was also the first time I had a Samosa. Oh and I got my first Album – Eye of the Tiger, because it was the year Rocky 3 came out with Mr T! Funny what you remember isn’t it…
And sweet baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph I remember Donkey Kong in the hotel foyer! Everyone knows it I know, but what a game. It was so bloody hard though, do you remember how hard? And of course it gave us our first introduction to Mario. Pacman, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong – it is up there in the pantheon of greats and rightly so.
I was pretty shit at it mind, but that did not matter. It was a bloody work of art and persists as a thing of beauty to this day! I played it again this morning and yup, I am still as rubbish as ever and completely panic when those oil barrels come careering after me!
A ore significant game for me though is this beauty, Dig Dig. It was just always around and even now I can hear the theme music in my head. The thing about it was that when you started you could achieve something. You would inflate enemies or drop rocks on their heads and you felt like Billy Big Bollocks. You felt like you could conquer it. And then it just got faster and faster, with no other real change in dynamics and you were well and truly screwed. the music sped up to and it filled you with a pure terror as you knew you were finished.
But oh baby there is a reigning champ that cannot be defeated in the D category. The Double D. The game that I played for so long with my mates Granville and Mouse, a game that was just there down at the Palm Tree shops for what felt like forever.
It was clumsy and brutal, and I wasn’t great but I just loved it. Kicking, elbowing and crowbar face smashing my way across the screen after school every day was such a joy.
Like a lot of the games I love, I think it was just the right game at the right time. It isn’t that special for many reasons, but it was to me and my god those brutal whip wielding bitches in purple were packing some ass in those jump suits!
Games have been, and continue to be, a big part of my life.
Atari, Xbox, Nintendo, Playstation, Civilization, Oddworld…oh the things that spring to mind that could fill endless blogs, and for almost as far back as I can recall there has been something pinging away as a soundtrack to my life.
In the early days that soundtrack was a blissful 8-Bit, and so, for the next 26 posts, I am going to explore an A-Z of those early games that I continue to play today, and the memories that accompany them.
I have the pleasure of owning an arcade machine, and inside it sits a rather old laptop. And on that laptop sit about 4000 games, stretching back nearly 50 years.
Ready for A?
Well without a doubt the game that stood out for me was ALTERED BEAST! It was a side scrolling monster horror kinda vibe with a Greek god thing going on, and you played a loin cloth wearing chap who would transform to a variety of curious overpowered creatures as you punch and kick your way through the levels. It was almost impossible to defeat as you progressed through the levels, unless of course you pumped in coin after coin…
What makes this so special though was where and when I played it. I grew up in South Africa you seem, and I played it on a trip with my friend’s family to Sun City. Sun City was this entertainment and holiday paradise set up to allow international acts to bypass the international restrictions associated with anti apartheid bans. Or that is how I remember it, I don’t plan on doing too much research here, we all know how the truth can spoil a good story.
I remember it like it was yesterday, me and Granville pumping in 20cent coins and pressing ‘continue’ in an attempt to progress further and further. The levels became more and more ludicrous, the enemies more difficult, and by the time we realised we were never going to defeat the game the money had ran out. But god what a glorious failure it seemed at the time. Nearly 40 years later I remember it more clearly than the birth of my kids. Seriously…
A notable mention must also go to Amidar, which I played in Durban in 1982 at the age of 11 on our first holiday down to the coast. It was hard, despite seemingly simple demands of moving your character over a series of lines to enclose squares to clear the level. Again, such insanely vivid memories still from 4 decades ago, and the smell of beach ball plastic still reminds me of that holiday. Take a kid from Hull to Africa and show him the Indian Ocean and those kind of things stick with you forever. I still find it impossible to this day, and when I pressed start earlier today so many memories came flooding back.
Oh and god this one…it very nearly won top slot. It was a close call.
The endless hours me, Granville and Mouse spent playing this at Fotis Cafe in Secunda. The TV show was out at the time, remember that? Stringfellow Hawk (Jan Michal Vincent) tearing up the skies and defeating all manner of Foe in his helicopter. So very badass. And at the end of the show Stringfellow Hawk would often be seen playing the strings of his cello on the edge of a lake as a Hawk flew by. I kid you fucking not. Literally stringfellow hawk being a fellow playing strings to a hawk.
Oh and don’t forget Afterburner. But Ill shut up now. But you remember it right?
And I know I didn’t mention Asteroids. It deserves a place right? Well not with me. It is a game I found so difficult that even no I cannot bring myself to play it. From the off you know you are doomed, and I could never get into it because it offered me no hope at all. So I simply declined to allow it to tempt me, because it was better than me. I know that.