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Moldy Oldies: Adventure (Atari 2600)

On 03/18/2019 at 12:58 AM by SanAndreas

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I recently got the Atari Flashback Classics for the Switch. This is a complete compilation of all three volumes of Atari Flashback Classics that were released on the PS4 and Xbone, all on one tiny, bad-tasting cartridge. Most of the 2600's library doesn't hold up too well, other than a few games like Yars' Revenge, which is still my favorite, and a lot of the more memorable Atari games are missing because they were licensed from Namco, Taito, Nintendo, and SNK, among others, as well as the fact that there are no Activision games. No Solaris, either (grrrr). They did include a few of the Intellivision games that Mattel ported to the 2600 (you could spot these games because they were basically Intellivision cartridges attaced to a 2600 cartridge slot adapter). But still, I like the classics, though my overwhelming choices are Centipede, Millipede, and Crystal Castles (a game I may write about next time.)

One of these classics was called Adventure. It was one of the first action-adventure fantasy games made for a home console (Magnavox and Bally had their own entries in this market).

In Adventure, your object is to find the Holy Grail in the black castle and return it to the yellow castle, all the while avoiding being eaten by dragons or robbed by a bat.

Adventure was ambitious for its time. But the little square that represented you was certainly no Link, nor were the blocky dragons - named Yorgle, Grundle, and Rhindle - anywhere on the level of Ganon, Gleeok, Aquamentus, or even a common Octorok. Your square hero could only carry one item at a time, whether it was a sword, a bridge (that would allow you to pass through walls), a key, or the Holy Grail. The action button simply picked up or dropped items with a typical Atari 2600 sound effect. There was no Legend of Zelda Overture or anything like that playing in the background. If a dragon showed up, you either killed it by bumping into it while holding the sword, or you got eaten. The game did give the dragons enough AI for them to run away if you were holding the sword. In the higher levels, there was also this maze covered with orange fog that cleared up in a radius around you.

When you found the Holy Grail and got it back to the yellow castle, you were treated to the walls flashing different colors and exploding noises which I assume were supposed to be fireworks. Not even a "Thanks Square, you're the hero of the Gray Line Kingdom."

It was known for a famous Easter egg: Atari, in an effort to control its IP to an absolute degree, didn't allow its programmers to get credit for their games. This led to several top Atari programmers leaving to form the first third-party game company in history, Activision (ironically, Activision ultimately turned out to be no better than Atari as it got more corporate over the 80s). So the designer, Warren Robinett, hid a room in the game that would display his name. This sneaked out in the first production run of Adventure. Atari subsequently removed it once they found out about it.

So there you have it: one of the first console fantasy adventure games in existence. It was a rather larval, embryonic adventure game and it's mind-blowing that we went from that to the awesome Legend of Zelda in the space of six years. But it's an odd curiosity worth checking out at least once.



Super Step Contributing Writer

03/18/2019 at 02:14 AM

It was the first video game Easter egg, wasn't it? Or at least that's what EGM told me. 

Cary Woodham

03/18/2019 at 05:14 AM

I know that Adventure is very signifcant in the history of video games.  Heck, there's even an exhibit about it at the National Videogame Musuem near my house (grr).  But I've never been able to get into that game myself.  

Speaking of Crystal Castles, I just reviewed a book by the guy who helped made that game!  Link is below.  Also, when I was writing for The Dallas Morning News, I reviewed a game called Gubble that was made by the same guy and plays just like Crystal Castles.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/18/2019 at 10:21 AM

Goddamn I love Solaris so much. I would freaking kill some fool to play that game again. 


03/19/2019 at 11:10 PM

I think I attempted the achievement for Adventure on Xbox One. You had to beat the game in some super short amount of time, I believe. I forget if I got it or not. I did, at least, beat it again in that collection. I hate the bat that takes your stuff. 

I want to start a band called "Square Avatar". 

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