I’m totally going to give away my age now.
Discussing ‘first computer game consoles’ recently, I had cause to remember fondly our old Atari. This was the first game console we ever had in my house, and it was very exciting. Circumstantial evidence suggests that I would have been somewhere between five and seven years old when this technological advance occurred.
Looking this up now on the internet, I believe that we had the Atari 8-bit 65XE model. It lived on our dining table, a huge beast with a green screen. It was played with a joystick (or keyboard) and games came on cassette. Upon inserting the cassette, you would usually have to type in some coding and then wait for the game to ‘load’. This would take some time, during which I would generally eat my tea or go outside and roller-skate for half an hour or so.
I very vaguely remembered games called ‘Leaper’, ‘Cloak of Death’ and ‘Up, Up And Away!’. I was great at Leaper, much as I would later be at Tetris – a very complex and hi-tech game that looked like this:
The other two I played less because they required more complex coding and took much longer to load. Playing Cloak of Death – a haunted house game in which you could type in commands in order to solve puzzles – was a big treat (even though it was quite advanced and pretty much beyond me at that age).
In reading up on these, I discovered another game that I had forgotten entirely: Savage Pond, which seems to have become a bit of a gaming classic. Apparently it came on a double cassette free with the computer, along with ‘Up, Up And Away!’ (in which you are a hot air balloon avoiding birds, aeroplanes, lightning and the like, naturally), Cloak of Death and Quest for Eternity (a familiar name, but I think the game must have been truly beyond me as I have no recollection of playing it).
In Savage Pond, you are a tadpole – which might sound innocuous but does indeed become pretty savage when you have to start avoiding jellyfish and, um, nuclear waste.
Brilliantly, there is footage of the gameplay on YouTube. Have a look at this, and thus be unsurprised at how enthusiastic we all were when the Gameboy and Sega Master System were released…