AT&T divides into 22 separate companies; The Weather Channel airs for the first time; and three-quarters of a million protest nuclear weapons in New York's Central Park while rocking and rolling to Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Linda Rondstat, and James Taylor.
It was 1982, the year of Rio, H2O, 1999, Steppin' Out and Thriller. It was also an excellent year for video games with the classics Robotron: 2084, Joust, Q*bert and Mr. Do all being released to arcades. If you were living back in the day it is likely you are already familiar with these popular favorites. If not, then get prepared for a blast with fast action fun from the past, and all delivered within the convenience of Internet Explorer on your PC. (Requires the automatic downloading of an arcade emulator Xtra that does not support Macs, nor does it run in Firefox.)
First up is Joust, a game designed by John Newcomer and introduced to the arcades by Williams Electronics. The medieval jousting game is played as a knight donning a lance and mounting a flying ostrich(!) to engage in battle against waves of computer controlled enemies, or even against a friend.
In Joust, battles occur by collision with the higher lance winning the bout. By winning a joust against the computer, an egg will be left behind; grab it to score points, or catch it in midair for even more pointage. Collisions with lances at exactly the same level will cause both players to bounce backward and away from each other, so continue jousting until all enemies are cleared or a player is eliminated.
Controls are very simple to pick-up and require two hands: one to control horizontal movement left and right, and the other to press the "flap" button repeatedly to make the bird fly. A joystick was used in the original arcade version for horizontal movement, and this Web version also supports a USB gamepad if one is connected. I used a Logitech Dual Action controller with excellent results. If you don't have a gamepad, no worries; the keyboard is all you really need to have a great time with this game.
And then there is the blast back into the retro future of Robotron: 2084, a frenetically paced action arcade shooter designed by Eugene Jarvis and produced by Williams Electronics. It was the very first video game to feature two joysticks for control: one was used to move the player character around on the screen, and the other controlled the direction of the laser shots fired at enemies.
Robotron transports you to a time in which all humans are endangered by the robots of their own creation, and enlists you for a rescue mission to save the last human family from extinction. Use your infinite laser power to dismiss wave after wave of the relentless robots of increasing number bent on your destruction. Save the other humanoids by simply touching them for huge point gains. You will need lightning fast coordination and reflexes to survive very long in this game of run amok automatons and brutal high-speed gameplay.
Like Joust, Robotron also supports the use of a gamepad analog stick for the game's joystick control of movement. Unfortunately, the other hand must use the keyboard for firing the laser and may take some getting used to. For example, pressing two keys simultaneously to fire, either by design or by mistake, will fire in neither direction. Alternatively, the keyboard may be used for both hands with this game.
Whether you prefer the intensity of play from the future or the more chivalrous battle of a duel, these early video game classics continue to offer addictive and highly enjoyable game play that has withstood the test of time. Now available to play within the convenience of a browser, these retro classics are yours to play free thanks to a licensing agreement between Midway and Macromedia to demonstrate the power of Shockwave for the Web. The arcade emulator applet that drives these games was developed by Digital Eclipse Software.
Update: Unfortunately, these games are no longer available to play free in your browser. :(