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is it 1978 yet?




Breakout, Atari VCS, 1978


Okay, a chronogamer has to always be thinking about the relative future (though technically, we're always thinking about the past.) which is why I haven't been writing lately. Mostly I've been letting go of the past (goodbye Odyssey games! It was fun! Um, sometimes!) so that I can afford to play the games to come. Oh, I also bought a brickwall on ebay and I've been slamming my head against it for about two weeks. Wait, did I say brickwall? I meant a Sony PVM 2530 monitor. It works great and all, for S-video/composite at least, no complaints there. I spent too much money on what I thought would be a simple RGB solution and it failed. Miserably. icon_sad.gif I'm not defeated, yet, and in the effort to solve this problem I've learned to solder! (badly, but effectively) Heck, even if I am defeated, the S-Video on the Playstation/Dreamcast/Saturn/SNES are worth the price of the monitor itself. (wait, scratch the SNES. Mine just died. Before it died, it had looked great in S-video. It was playing Chrono Trigger at the time, a game it had loved . . . )


So, we're in 1978 now, playing the Atari VCS.


Let me first say that one of the cool things about the Atari VCS in its early days, was the fact that it could play games that played like arcade games. Case in point, the first game we played from 1978: Breakout. (I didn't plan this but this game actually mixes in nicely with the "brickwall" metaphor I used above. Wow! My subconscious writes all my subtext for me and I like what it did this time.)


Breakout is simple. Wall of bricks. You have a ball and a paddle. Bounce the ball off of the paddle to destroy the bricks. When you knock a hole through the brick wall, it becomes possible to send the ball through the hole and it will bounce around on the other side of the wall, taking out multiple bricks for you in one shot. This increases your score faster and a higher score makes a happier player. You want the ball to breakout.


This quiet little concept is the root of an addictive game. In fact, Breakout is the first game I've ever heard my wife ask me if she could play again. Yay! (Gateway game, perhaps? Hmm?).The Atari VCS cart has four variations of Breakout that can support up to four players in various modes of sequential and cooperative play. In addition to regular Breakout (the basis of which is described above) there is a version called Invisible Breakout (you can't see the wall unless you hit it with the ball) this is "okay". There's also "Breakthrough", where the bricks seem to have the consitancy of a light merangue pie. Your ball sails straight through all the rows, destroying every brick it touches and is deflected by none. This version lacks a certain feeling of destruction necessary for this kind of game. Maybe it's just me.


Ow. I think I just had a carpul tunnel cramp. This has nothing to do with what I'm writing but I'm typing exactly what is on my mind, and there it was.


Another version of Breakout on the cart could be called "control freak" Breakout and allows you to control, to some degree, the horizontal movement of your ball. This lets you hit the right bricks to "breakout" sooner.


My favorite is plain ol' vanilla Breakout. Let it be known, that Breakout stops after you knock down the second wall! If you achieve this feat, then it's time to switch the difficulty to A and do it all over again with a smaller paddle. I forget what the "finished" score it, but my high is 735. I think the ceiling is like 764. I was so close! Jeez!


Everyone in our house likes Breakout, even my three-going-on-four year old. (she likes it because player 1's paddle is pink.)


Normally, I post these entries around the same time on Digital Press, but I just can't seem to access that site as well as I used to. Bummer.


Okay, next entry I'll talk about Basketball. This time, I mean it.


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I also like vanilla the best. I was terrible at Breakthrough. At least in the emulator, the ball gets ultra-fast as soon as it hits the bricks for the first time, making it nearly impossible to hit it again - at least using the keyboard.


Anyway, it's a classic, so I enjoyed playing it again. I don't think I had ever played the original Atari 2600 version, only clones and ports.


EDIT: I played better with the mouse, but still I think I sucked at it. Never cleared the thing. Not that I tried for that long, anyway.

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