Death Got PHAT 004: Super November

Uploaded by misguidedmediallc on 12.12.2011

November is a beautiful month.
It's the heart of autumn.
Trees readying themselves for a long winter nap treat the rest of us to a
magnificent display,
a fireworks show of crimson and orange and gold.
Fallen leaves skitter and swirl down lonely streets and across backyards.
A smell of cider and bonfires hangs in the air, and the sudden chill, the sudden
bite gives it extra spice.
The world seems to hold its breath for a moment, and then to heave a long sigh. .. sad but
contented. Resigned.
At peace.
For me, far more than New Years this is a time to reflect.
It's a time to admit my shortcomings, but also to forgive myself, and think of
little ways I can improve.
It's a time to step back from the hustle and stress of day-to-day life, and
remember what's really important.
And it's a time to meet with my probation officer and reassure her that
I'm no longer interested in setting fire to rodeo clowns.
Most of all, it's a time to count my blessings.
The season of Thanksgiving.
For this November episode there are two thing specifically I'd like to give
thanks for.
The first is video games.
I love video games.
Almost every day I spend several hours either playing them, or reading about
them, or thinking about them, or talking about them, or making videos
about them.
I'm passionate about games. I have been for as long as i can remember, and I suspect I
always will be.
The second thing i want to give thanks for is comic books.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence I collected as many as I could, from
reprints of the awesome Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories drawn by Carl
to Marvel and DC superhero comics, to issues of Mad Magazine and weird offbeat
comic books.
I also loved drawing my own.
I spent most of my time in school creating comic strips instead of doing
my school work.
Nowadays, I don't have as much free time or disposable income to invest in them.
But I still enjoy drawing the occasional strip, or picking up a graphic novel, or
dipping into the wealth of independent comics available online.
Comics are awesome.
Which brings me to the premise of this episode.
Since my first exposure to video games was the Atari 2600,
and my first exposure to comic books was superhero comics,
today I'm going to combine these early influences.
Here's a review of Superman for the Atari 2600.
Superman for the 2600 released in 1978.
It's noteworthy in that it was one of the first games ever to include a pause
feature, activated via the select switch on the console.
Another novel aspect of the game is that you can't die.
This makes sense, since Superman is almost invincible.
But it's also very clever game design.
You're given several objectives to complete, and put on a timer that just
keeps counting up until you win.
To excel at the game, you want to post as low a time as possible.
But anyone can beat it. It's simultaneously accessible and hardcore. . . kind of like
Kirby's Epic Yarn, only this was back in 1978.
Pretty impressive.
You start the game as Clark Kent on his way to the Daily Planet.
But before he gets there. . . on snap!
Lex Luthor and his goons have blown up the Metropolis Memorial Bridge.
This looks like a job for the Man of Steel.
Metropolis is depicted as a series of screens, with each screen representing a
city block.
Your job is to recover the pieces of the bridge and to put Lex Luthor and his
henchmen in jail.
Luther and his goons can't harm you,
but the evil genius has released three kryptonite satellites which chase you
through the city.
To speed up your search, and help you avoid the satellites, you can use your
x-ray vision to scan adjacent screens.
Once discovered,
pieces of the bridge have to be reassembled. And captured criminals have
to be taken to jail.
You can tackle these objectives in any order you like,
but whatever you're doing the satellites will pursue you.
Avoid them at all costs because if you collide with one you'll lose the ability
to fly and lift heavy objects.
To regain these powers, you'll have to find Lois Lane.
I guess she can somehow magically negate the effects of kryptonite?
Whatever. It isn't much dumber than some of the stuff that made it into the
Problem is, she's a hard lady to get a hold of.
She wanders all over the city.
You do retain your x-ray vision in your weakened state, which makes the search a
bit easier. But it's still a hassle.
Unless you get lucky and bump into her right away, it will complete screw your
chances of posting a good time.
The instruction manual advises you to drop Lois off at the Daily Planet early
in the game, so you'll know where to find her if you need her.
But in my experience, she wanders away from there too.
You're better off just taking things a little slower, and not running into any
satellites in the first place.
Besides the satellites, there's a helicopter the flies around picking up
and depositing objects and people at random.
It fills much the same role as the bat in Adventure.
Occasionally it will do something helpful, like bringing a missing piece of the
bridge to you,
or carrying away a satellite. But most of the time, it's a nuisance. It crashes
satellites in you.
It carries off Lois Lane when you need her.
It even steals pieces of the bridge that you've already put back in place.
It's a real shame the game doesn't let you use your powers to put that damn
whirlygig where it belongs.
Once you complete your objectives, your final task is to turn back into Clark
Kent and hurry to the Daily Planet to make your report.
This game can be pretty disorienting, especially the first time you play it.
With all the multicolored buildings and flashing crap, you'll wonder if Superman
dropped some super acid back in that phone booth.
When I first played this as a kid, I had no idea what the hell was going on.
I strongly advise reading the instructions.
There's also a two-player co-op mode.
Pretty cool for a 2600 game, huh?
Actually, no. No it's not.
I going to let the manual explain how it doesn't work.
The player using the left joystick controller will have priority over the
left and right movement of Superman,
while the players using the right controller will have priority over
the up and down movement of Superman.
Have you ever
heard a worse idea for a co-op mode?
It's like two people trying to simultaneously drive the same car, or
put on the same pair of pants.
It's ridiculous.
It's so dumb I'm not even going to try it.
Oh yes I am.
Yup. It sucks.
This is the kind of thing that happens when some dickhead publishing executive
goes to the developers at the last possible second and says
ć·»eah, this is a nice game, but we want you to add a two-player mode to it.
Our research shows this will sell better if it has a two-player mode.
You get crap.
Those complaints aside, this game is okay,
especially considering that it was published back in 1978.
The graphics and sound are adequate. The control is decent. The satellites, and
helicopter, and trying to find Lois will drive you up the wall, but that's part
of the fun. And it is fun; definitely worth a play.
I'm giving it one thumb up out of five.
Of the many 2600 games published, I only know of two that were
based on comic books, the other being Spiderman.
There were some based on newspaper strips, and some based on IPs that got the comic
book treatment eventually.
But I believe these two were the only ones based on franchises that started
as comic books.
I plan to review Spiderman in a future installment.
But if anyone knows of any others that I've overlooked, drop me a comment,
cause I'd love to try those too.
In the meantime, that's the episode. Happy Autumn,
Happy November, and Happy Thanksgiving.