Monday, April 1, 2013

Retroulette #34: Adventure

The very best thing about games in the Classic Age of gaming are the straight-to-the-point titles. You could name a game Racing, because there was no confusion yet as to which racing game you're talking about. Racing is the one where you race. If you wanted to play a baseball game, you got Baseball, and if you wanted your child to hate you, you got E.T.

Or you could just hit them. Whatever is fastest.

Imagine the same principle applied to today's games. Halo is Alien Shooter, Call of Duty is Foreigner Shooter, Bioshock is Pretentious Shooter, and Katamari Damacy is Acid Trip.

Today's game is Adventure for the Atari 2600, and it is the game where you go on an adventure.

As you can see below, the graphics hold up to today's standards pretty well.

The character model is rendered beautifully, the courtyard is bustling with activity, the tessellation on the castle walls is nothing short of stunning, and the mustard yellow really makes the rest of the palette pop. And all this with minimal screen tearing and frame drops. The 2600 was clearly brought back to 1977 by a Time Cop.

So, the game has you playing the role of Sir Blockus the Square [citation needed]  on a quest to...who knows. Brilliantly, the game forgoes a sweeping, emotional intro cutscene to instead place you right into the action. Before you are two options: walk down the path leading out of the castle courtyard, or walk over to that strangely key-shaped item. Already the game presents more heavy choices than all of the Mass Effect series. I decide to pick up the key, because I am choosing to play this character as Chaotic Neutral.

Like Zelda, a small victory chime plays when you pick up an item. Rather than the iconic dun-dun-dun-DUN of Zelda however, Adventure keeps it low key with a simple BLOOP.

It is here the major plot twist of the game is revealed. Sir Blockus is an X-Men character, and he uses his telekinesis to carry items through the world without ever touching them. He is probably an ancestor of Charles Xavier (his lack of hair is quite telling), but the game never explicitly says, because it is more subtle in its storytelling. Don't tell, don't show is Adventure's philosophy, and it leaves you guessing long after the credits don't roll.

After looting the courtyard of all its one treasures and attempting many times to enter the castle to no effect, I decide to begin the adventure proper. While the game lacks a map of any kind, the levels are designed in a way that makes it easy to navigate. I head south to unknown dangers.

Here is where the game stops holding your hand. Upon leaving the castle walls, you are left to fend for yourself in an overgrown forest. Like Skyrim, you are essentially given license to go anywhere. My keen videogame senses tell me to go to the right of the screen, so I head East.

Blast! Our first barrier. A vast wall (similar to the one featured in the Game of Thrones TV show, or the Song of Ice and Fire books if you are cool) blocks our path. No worries, we will surely find items to scale it soon. I head South to unknown-er dangers.


Our first foe, a massive chicken snake, appears. It blinks in and out of existence like a pixelated Vin Diesel and charges straight toward me. Luckily, the beast's intelligence is also similar to Vin Diesel and he is fooled by running around him in a circle. I steal his black key in exchange for my yellow one and make a quick escape.

That reminds me, Pitch Black was a badass movie.

Unfortunately, that chicken bastard can follow you to the next screen. And the next, and so forth.


Exiting the dense forest to the West leads to-


Son of a bitch! Adventure is not messing around anymore. We all know that wall is unclimbable at the moment, so a quick escape to the top of the screen is crucial.

As you can see, chicken serpents are an early ancestor of the X-Men character Kitty Pryde.

This is where the game starts to drag. The first act is all fun and excitement. Off on a grand adventure exploring forests and walls. Then a thrilling escape from a chicken snake. Then, in an attempt to pad the game's length, it tasks you with navigating a labyrinth. What this means is, you walk down a path until you hit a dead end, then turn around wonder if you already went that way because everything looks the same. In the interest of brevity, I'll skip my many failures.

Imagine this, but repeatedly.

Eventually, I manage to find a new item! It is a....

Shit. What is this?

It looks like a bridge of sorts, and it amuses me greatly to see Sir Blockus carrying a bridge through a maze. I don't know what its purpose is, but it better be awesome, because I dropped my dope-ass key for it.

More maze action follows.

Print this out, and you can play Adventure anywhere!

Eventually, I manage to make my way here:

Goddammit, bridge.

More maze action, but I can't find that black key again, so I go exploring elsewhere. I remember that I left the yellow key with the first Snachkin, so I grab that. Then, because I realized that I was a dumbass from the very beginning, I take the yellow key to the yellow castle.

Inside the castle's treasure vault lies a single item, an arrow that points to your character. You'll recognize that as tremendously unhelpful, but it has another feature. Similar to a sword, this marker arrow will vanquish foes upon contact.

Now I can search for the black key without fear. After more maze time I find it and then after more maze time I find the black castle.

Inside is the Giant Horseshoe of Unexplained Use. Heading further into the castle we find another Snachkin, but this one has treasure! Naturally I obliterate him and claim my prize.

I take my crude Chicago Bulls logo to the yellow castle and it flashes many colors and plays a little jingle, then freezes or some shit. So, I won or something.

I have nothing to say. This represents the experience pretty accurately.

Today's fantasy adventures could learn a lot from this game. Though half of the loot is ultimately worthless, this is a deep, thought provoking tale filled with ambiguous morality and engaging combat.


  1. This game makes Skyrim look like a poorly coded emulator!

    Kudos on having the patience to beat those labyrinths - I would have given up in about a minute. :)

  2. I had an Atari block with like twenty games on it a few years ago and this was there. I don't remember if I ever beat it but it was definitely my favorite on that block.

  3. The cover wasn't a lie, it was a suggestion for your imagination. Kind of like when I played Maze Craze I always pretended that I was Barny Miller chasing Gallagher:

    1. Gorilla Watching From Atop CourthouseApril 6, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      This is why I don't take reviewers seriously, between that, and the fact that he was probably getting paid by devs and marketing teams.