Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

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Mappy is a video game designed by Namco and released in 1983.  Mappy is a side scrolling platform game featuring ‘Mappy’ the police mouse.  In Mappy, cat burglars have hidden stolen loot in their mansion and Mappy must maneuver around and recover the stolen items, while avoiding contact with the cats.

Mappy will score points for each item recovered as follows:

  • Tape player-100 points
  • Television-200 points
  • Computer-300 points
  • Painting-400 points
  • Safe-500 points

Mappy can also score points when bouncing on the trampolines, hitting a cat with a door, microwaving a cat, and retrieving a stolen item when Goro (the boss cat) is hiding behind it.  One some levels, bells will appear that can be dropped on cats for more bonus points.  Mappy can’t be harmed by the cats when bouncing on the trampoline or in the shafts of the mansion.  If Mappy jumps on a trampoline when it is red (unless there is a lower level to catch Mappy), or is touched by a cat on any of the mansion floors, he will lose a life.

Levels 3, 7, 11, and 15 are bonus rounds where Mappy must pop balloons for bonus points.  After round 15, the game loops back to the beginning.

Based on the NAMCO Super Pac-man board, the arcade unit used two Motorola 6809 CPUs with a Namco 8 channel PSG for sound.  In the U.S., Mappy was distributed by Bally-Midway and came in both upright and cocktail cabinet versions.

Mappy was ported to the Famicon (NES) in Japan, but not to any Atari systems until now.


Mappy Arcade Version

Mappy for the Atari 2600…

Mappy is the latest release from Champ Games, released by AtariAge at the 2018 Portland Retro Game Expo (PRGE).  Programmed by John Champeau, with sprites by Nathan Strum, and music by Michael Haas, Mappy is an amazing game for the Atari 2600.  John also credits Darrell Spice, Jr. for the music driver and Thomas Jentzsch for code optimization and improving the logo.

Taking full advantage of CDF (the latest incarnation of DPC/DPC+) and the Melody board (designed by Fred Quimby), Mappy delivers a near arcade level experience on the Atari 2600.  Comparing John’s 2600 port to the arcade version, shows an amazing level of fidelity to the original.  Just like the original, the music is almost constant.  Only a few Atari games like Pitfall II, Stay Frosty 2, and, now, Mappy have this much music in them.

In addition to offering three levels of difficultly (that can be selected from the main menu), John takes advantage of the difficulty switches to offer random locations of loot and reduced object flicker.  He also uses the color/BW switch to allow for pause/resume of the game.  Finally, Mappy can take advantage of the Atarivox to save high scores.

Mappy comes from AtariAge with a full color box, manual, and poster.  The box and cartridge art are the work of Nathan Strum who also did a fantastic job on the manual.  The twelve page manual is printed on glossy paper and includes four pages of a Mappy comic book.


Mappy for the Atari 2600

Overall Thoughts…

It probably seems like I am usually positive about the things I write about on this blog.  That’s probably a fair point as I have a tendency to write about things that I like.  This time it is a little different as I was not at all familiar with Mappy.

In fact, until last week, I hadn’t even played Mappy.  A friend showed me how the game was played on the AtariAge demo unit at PRGE and I bought a copy from AtariAge.  Turns out that I have one of the Jack’s Pacific Namco ‘Plug ‘n’ Play’ units that has Mappy on it.  In the past week, I have played Mappy on both my Atari 2600 and on my Namco unit.  Sometimes you don’t know what you are missing; Mappy is a great game and a lot of fun to play!

At PRGE, I had the opportunity to talk with John and his brother Paul.  Although John is rightfully proud of his work on Mappy, he made it a point to talk about the team effort by Mike, Nathan, Thomas, and others that was needed to make Mappy for the Atari 2600 a reality.

Like many of John’s recent releases, you have to keep reminding yourself that you are playing a 2600 game.  Mappy should be available for purchase in the AtariAge store next month.  This is one game that should be on every Atari 2600 owner’s wish list!


Wild for Mappy!

@Atarigame guy

P.S.  Mappy plays great on Atari 7800 units as well!



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Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2018…

Last weekend I was able to attend the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) in Portland Oregon.  For those of you who are not aware of this show, it has grown to be one of the largest shows in the country.  As they normally do, they had a large Retrocade area set up where you could play any number of arcade games or games on home consoles.  This year, the Retrocade area opened on Friday at noon and was extremely popular.

The largest area of the show is reserved for exhibitors.  These varied from vendors selling all kinds of retro game items to vendors selling new games for retro systems to vendors with announcements for new retro game systems.


Exhibitor Area at PRGE 2018

I had a change to support AtariAge with show preparations and I worked the booth for a few hours on Saturday.


AtariAge Booth at PRGE 2018 (with Al, Fred, & Matt in the background)

One of best things at the PRGE is the panels and speakers that they are able to attract.  I was able to attend a session with Atari and Activision developers.


Dan and Gary Kitchen, David Crane, and John Champeau discuss the development of Mappy

A couple of new retro game systems were announced.  CollectorVision announced a Kickstarter Campaign for their new FPGA based ColecoVision compatible system.


CollectorVision Phoenix

Also, Intellivision Entertainment announced plans to release a new console that will have ‘Re-imagined’ Intellivision games built in.


Intellivision Amico due 10-10-20

One of the best things about PRGE for me is the release of new games for retro systems.  AtariAge had several new 2600, 5200, 7800 and Jaguar games released at PRGE this year.


New Atari games from AtariAge

AtariAge had a number of Atari systems set up to demonstrate existing, new, and work in progress games.


7800 Demo Games

The absolute highlight of PRGE for me was the chance to meet and talk with legacy programmers like David Crane and Dan and Gary Kitchen as wells as folks that make new Atari games possible like Al Yaruso of AtariAge and Fred Quimby who designed the Melody board.  It was also a blast to talk with John Champeau and his brother Paul about the development of Mappy and Champ Games upcoming game Wizard of War Arcade for the Atari 2600.


John and Paul Champeau with Champ Games upcoming Wizard of War Arcade

If you ever get the chance to be in Portland in late October, make sure that you carve out some time to attend the PRGE!


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Scramble for the Atari 5200…

This is the third time that I have written about Scramble.  All the way back in 2012, I wrote about Bob DeCrescenzo’s 7800 version and, then, just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about John Champeau’s 2600 version.  Imagine my surprise when I found out that a 5200 version had recently been developed.  To save you having to look up my previous blogs, here is my info on the arcade version:

‘Scramble is a video game developed by Konami in 1981 and distributed in the United States by Stern.  It is a side scrolling ‘shoot ‘em up’ with outstanding graphics and game play.  In Scramble, you control an aircraft with the goal of getting as far into the Scramble system as possible.  In addition to controlling the movements of the aircraft, you must also use your guns and bombs to destroy rockets, UFO’s, and fuel tanks.  You must keep an eye on your own fuel and destroy a fuel tank to increase your fuel level.

In Scramble the terrain is constantly changing, and you must fight your way through six stages:

  • Stage 1: Launching rockets
  • Stage 2: UFO’s
  • Stage 3: Meteors
  • Stage 4: Launching rockets from tall buildings
  • Stage 5: Mazes
  • Stage 6: Base

The Scramble arcade units were powered by two Z80 CPU’s and two AY-3-8910 sound generators.  It was ported to the Commodore 64, Vic 20, and Vectrex, but not to any Atari systems.  Scramble was succeeded by ‘Super Cobra’ which was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems.’

Thanks to Paul Lay, it is now possible to play Scramble on the Atari 5200.  At this stage, you can download it to play on a 5200 emulator or on real hardware via an Atarimax cart.

Paul had worked on the graphics for Scramble a while back but didn’t really get started on programming it until the beginning of this year.  For the most part Paul worked on it, quietly, by himself, but, then, Harvey Kong Tin (long time Atari graphics artist) pitched in and helped with the graphics.

Paul’s Scramble 5200 is extremely well done, plays like the arcade, and includes all six arcade levels.   Paul takes advantage of the 5200’s keyboard controller to allow several options as follows:

  • Difficulty (normal or easy)
  • Tunnels (wide or narrow)
  • Ship size (normal or small)
  • Rockets (normal or fast)
  • Auto Fire (off, fast, or slow)
  • Trigger 1 (missiles or both)
  • Lives (3, 4, or 5)
  • Scroll (normal or fast)

One area where Paul’s Scramble shines is with the sound.  Unlike TIA sound on 2600 and 7800, Scramble for the 5200 takes advantage of the 5200’s pokey chip.   The Defender inspired ship explosions do differ from the arcade version, but are a blast (pun intended)!  Also, the stage and score are at the bottom of the screen versus the top in the arcade version.


Scramble 5200 Stage 2

Scramble 5200 is addictive and takes a lot of practice.   I have played for hours and have only made it to level 6 once.  The game options, that Paul has programmed in, make it easy to get started and work your way up in difficulty.

Scramble 5200 would have been a massive hit back in the day and would have helped the 5200 live up to its billing as the ‘Super System’.  Scramble for the 2600 and 7800 systems are awesome, must have games for those systems, but Scramble 5200 is as close to the arcade as you are going to get, unless you go and buy yourself an authentic arcade unit.


Scramble 5200 Stage 5

Let’s hope Paul authorizes a cart/manual/box release for Scramble 5200.  Not only do I highly recommend this game, I want to be the first in line to order a copy!!!



Refurbishing Old Carts…

When I got back into gaming a few years ago, I started with the Atari 7800 and collected mostly 7800 carts.  Lately, I have had the desire to re-build my Atari 2600 collection.  Back in the early eighties, I had a number of Activision games and always enjoyed their colorful boxes and cartridges.  Unfortunately, the labels on Activision carts typically develop ‘anti-plaque’ and most haven’t held up well.  In fact, even if you can find a ‘new in the box’ Activision game, the cart label will typically not look very good.


Not so wild for an old Activision label!

With multiple multi-carts available for the 2600, collecting carts is more about having something cool to look at, more so than any kind of necessity.  Given the condition of most Activision cart labels, this really wasn’t all that appealing…until recently.  Last week, I obtained some replacement Activision labels from Phil Boland (pboland on AtariAge) and replaced the labels on several of my carts.

This is a great project, even for someone new to the hobby.  I started by using a hair dryer to slightly warm up the glue and loosen the cart label, being careful not to get the cart too warm.  With a little heat, most labels will come off easily, but I did have one come off in small pieces.  I then used a wet wipe and a paper towel with a little rubbing alcohol to remove the remaining glue residue from the cart shell.


An open Activision cart

While the label was off, I carefully opened the cart and cleaned the circuit board and the inside of the cart shell.  To clean the inside of the cart, I used a Q-tip and a little more rubbing alcohol.  Then I reassembled the cart, being careful not to tighten the screws too much.  Remembering that the 35+ year old plastic could be brittle, I didn’t want damage the cart shell.  Now all that was left to do, was apply the new label.  I took my time to make sure that the label was aligned correctly and started from one end and bent it around the corner of the shell.

Phil’s labels stick really well and look great.  Now my Activision carts look awesome and as colorful as they were back in the eighties.  They should be good for another twenty years!!!


Wild for new cart labels!


P.S.  Please note that Phil’s labels are perfect, just poor lighting in the last photo

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The Portland Retro Gaming Expo…

In October, I had the opportunity to attend the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) in Portland Oregon.  This year the expo was held downtown at the Oregon Expo Center.  The expo center is a huge facility and can host multiple events at the same time.  In fact, I almost attended a used book show that was also being hosted by the Expo Center at the same time by mistake!

I wasn’t  sure what to expect as this was the first retro game show that I had attended.   This show was well organized and had an estimated attendance of 4000.  Part of the 60,000 square foot area was called the ‘Super Arcade’ and numerous vintage arcade machines that were available to be played.  About two thirds of the floor space was available for vendors.  It seemed to me that the vast majority of the of items for sale were for the NES and SNES with only a small amount of Atari items.

One booth where there was plenty of Atari games to be had was the AtariAge booth.  I had volunteered to help out with the booth which game me the opportunity to meet a number of folks from the AtariAge forum.  AtariAge released four new games at the PRGE, including Space Rocks, Frenzy, Ixion, and Seaweed Assault.  Darrell Spice, the designer of Space Rocks was on hand and signed carts for anyone who asked.

Games at the AtariAge booth

Games at the AtariAge booth

My favorite Atari system is the 7800 as it has great graphics (for an 8-bit system) and plays most 2600 games.  What surprised me at the show was the passion for the Atari 2600.  Perhaps this is because so many were sold (over 30 million) that virtually everyone had or had a friend that had one.  Despite the improved games and graphics on the 7800, the 2600 is still the king of Atari 8-bit game systems!

Prototype XM with Bentley Bear for the 7800

Prototype XM with Bentley Bear for the 7800

Another aspect of the PRGE are the workshops.  I was able to attend a couple of these and it was really cool to see and hear from Atari veterans (gods?) like David Crane (Pitfall), Bob Smith (Moonsweeper), and Gary Kitchen (Donkey Kong).   The stories that they are able to tell about the early days at Atari, Activision, and Imagic are really amazing!

If you are a retro game fan and are able to make it to Portland, a visit to the PRGE is a must see.  The PRGE is usually held in late September or early October.  For more information, click here.

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Tempest is a 1981 arcade game developed by Atari.  Dave Theurer, a senior programmer at Atari, was trying to develop a 3D game similar to Space Invaders, but ran into a whole host of problems.  Supposedly, Dave had a dream about monsters coming out of a hole in the ground, which gave him the idea for what became Tempest.  The technology used in the Tempest arcade systems included Atari’s (then new) QuadraScan color vector generator, a 6502 CPU, and two Pokey chips for sound and I/O.

The QuadraScan technology allowed Dave to generate 3D ‘tubes’ that form the ‘playing field’ for Tempest.  The goal of the game is to use your ‘Zapper’ to shoot as many enemies and last as long as possible.  The enemies, which appear at different levels, include:

  • Flippers-the most common, appear at level one
  • Flipper tankers-which split into two flippers when hit, appear at level three
  • Spikers-they built green spike that can kill you when you warp to a new level, appear at level four
  • Fuseballs-who zip up and down the channels, appear at level eleven
  • Fuseball tankers- which split into two fuseballs when hit, appear at level thirty-three
  • Pulsars-who electrify the channels, appear at level seventeen
  • Pulsar tankers- which split into two pulsars when hit, appear at level forty-one

There are a total of 99 levels in Tempest, with the first sixteen having unique geometric shapes.  They then repeat, with varied color schemes and increasing difficulty, as the game advances.  In additional to an unlimited supply of ammunition for your ‘Zapper’, you also get a ‘Super Zapper’ which can be used twice in each level.  The first time that the Super Zapper is used, it will destroy all enemies on the playing field.  The second time, it only destroys one, random, enemy.  When all enemies are destroyed, you will ‘warp’ through to the next level.  Tempest is also one of the first arcade games to let your pick your starting level.

Tempest was a monster hit for the Atari coin-op division and it was ported to many platforms of the day including the BBC Micro, the ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST.  Ports were also planned and partially developed for the Atari 2600 and 5200 game consoles, but, until recently, were never released.

Tempest at Funspot

Tempest at Funspot

2600 Version…

Carla Meninsky developed the 2600 version which was planned to be released in 1983, but was never finished.  The 2600 version plays with a similar concept to the arcade version, but the graphics are crude and the playing field is two dimensional.  In her 2600 port, Carla did manage to include four enemies:  Flippers, Flipper Tankers, Pulsars, and Fuseballs.  Tempest was included as one of the games on the Flashback 4 (November 2012), so now it has been ‘officially’ released.  I wanted to like the 2600 version of Tempest, but, honestly, it is pretty horrible.  Graphics and 2D playing field aside, the control and collision detection are terrible.  In fairness to Carla (who also programmed Warlords…an awesome 2600 game), she never had the chance to finish Tempest for 2600 and I am not sure why AtGames included it on the FB4.  You can read more about the 2600 version of Tempest here.

Another Tempest like game, 3D Genesis, was developed for the 2600 by Videosoft.  Although practically complete, it too was not released until recently.  Videosoft managed to create a better, if not perfect, 3D effect on the 2600.  If you have a 2600 and like Tempest, you should take a look at 3D Genesis here.

5200 Version…

Keithen Hayenga, who programmed RealSports Baseball for the 5200, volunteered to develop the 5200 version of Tempest.  Keithen worked closely with Dave Theurer and was able to use some of the same code as Dave had used on the arcade version.  This was possible, since the 5200 also has a 6502 CPU and a Pokey chip for sound and I/O.  This would make the sound and play of the 5200 version nearly the same as the arcade.  Since the arcade units used vector graphics, there was only so much of the code that Keithen could use as the 5200 needed bit mapped graphics.  Like the 2600 version, the 5200 version of Tempest was planned for release in 1983 and is featured as ‘coming soon’ in most of Atari’s advertising and catalogs in 1983.  A 5200 (and 2600) Tempest box was shown in the 1984 movie ‘Cloak and Dagger’.  Like most software projects, the development of Tempest ran behind schedule and came to a stop when Warner sold Atari in 1984 and let go most of the game programmers.

For years, there was speculation, but no copy or prototype of Tempest for the 5200 surfaced until 1999.  That copy was a version that was approximately fifty percent complete and attempts were made to finish the game, but with only limited success.  Ken Van Mersbergen made the effort to track down Keithen in 2002 and they located a more advanced copy of the Tempest source code.  Ken and Dennis Debro worked on the game, but never quite had the time to finish it.  George Reese is credited with somehow sparking Keithen to contact Ken about finishing Tempest.  With the efforts of Ken, Dennis, and Keithen, after nearly thirty years, a finished version of Tempest for the Atari 5200 SuperSystem was made available for sale by AtariAge at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in September 2012.  Of course the story doesn’t end there.  Shortly after the expo, bugs were discovered in the Trak-ball control of the game, so back went the programmers to fix the bugs.  Finally, in the past week, Tempest has been released with a beautiful reproduction box, a twelve page manual (in full color), and a cool cart label.  The manual (which has had a life of its own), includes three pages on the history of the game.

Tempest for the 5200 does not disappoint.  Other than not being able to render vector graphics, the SuperSystem demonstrates its ability to be a ‘personal arcade system’ and Tempest rocks on the 5200.  Since the sounds and game tables are the same as the arcade version, it is hard to imagine how it could get any better.  Control with the 5200’s analog joystick is solid and, although I prefer the joystick, it also plays well with the Trak-ball.  I did find that in later rounds, you have really work to avoid the spikes when using the joystick.  This is definitely easier to do with the Trak-ball.  All of the arcade levels and features are present, including the ability to pick your starting level.  There is really not much else that can be said other than it is nearly arcade perfect!

A huge thank you needs to go out to Keithen, Ken, and Dennis for their programming work to finally bring this arcade classic home.  Thanks also to Michael Kosaka for his graphics work and to George Reese and David Exton for their work on the box, manual, and label for this game.  Finally, a big thanks to Al Yarusso for all that he does at AtariAge and for his work to program, solder, and assemble all of the Tempest carts.  At best, a few hundred (or maybe a thousand) copies of Tempest will be sold, so there is no big money being made here.  In an era of overpaid celebrities and sports stars, it is really nice to see people do something to make other people’s lives more enjoyable.

If you have a 5200, get over to AtariAge and order yourself a copy of this classic game.  It may have taken thirty years to be completed, but you should not wait another minute to get your copy!

Wild for Tempest!

Wild for Tempest!

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Atari Flashback 2, a review…

The Atari Flashback 2 is the system that Curt had in mind when he approached Atari about the Flashback concept.  In 2004, not enough time was available for development, so Curt went with the ‘NES on a chip’ design for the Flashback 1.  When he was done with the Flashback 1, he returned to development of what is now known as the Flashback 2.

With plenty of time for development, Curt designed a custom chip to produce an ‘Atari 2600 on a chip’.  Curt also included provisions on the motherboard for adding a cartridge slot.  A modified Flashback 2 can play most games designed for the 2600.  Taking a page from the Atari playbook, the name for the FB 2 project was ‘Michelle’ for Curt’s wife.  Her name is printed on the FB 2 motherboards.

The Flashback 2 looks like a small Atari 2600 and has two joysticks that are compatible with the original 2600 and, also, supports the use of original Atari paddle controllers.

Forty two games are included on the FB 2:

Arcade Favorites:  Arcade Asteroids, Arcade Pong, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, and Space Dual.

Adventure Territory:  Adventure, Adventure II, Haunted House, Return to Haunted House, Secret Quest Wizard

Space Station:  Caverns of Mars, Quadrun, Saboteur, Space War, Yars’ Return, Yars’ Revenge

Skill and Action:  3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Aquaventure, Atari Climber, Combat, Combat 2, Dodge ‘Em, Fatal Run, Frog Pond, Hangman, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Pitfall!, Radar Lock, River Raid, Save Mary, Video Checkers, and Video Chess

Paddle Games:  Super Breakout and Warlords (hidden from the main menu)

The hidden paddle games can be reached by pushing the joystick as follows:  up 1 time, down 9 times, up 7 times, down 2 times (for 1972, the year Atari released Pong)

There are a few cool things about the Atari FB 2:

  • since it is a ‘2600 on a chip’, the games work just like they did on the original hardware
  • supports the use of original Atari joysticks and paddle controllers
  • a cartridge port can be added (takes electronic knowledge)
  • includes hacks and homebrews (Asteroids, Atari Climber, and Return to Haunted House)
  • includes some exclusive games (Asteroids Deluxe, Lunar Lander, and Yars’ Return)
  • includes some previously unreleased games (Combat 2, Frog Pond, and Save Mary)
  • includes two Activision games (Pitfall and River Raid)

There also a couple of things to be aware of:

  • If you add a cartridge port, it does not support all 2600 games (due to some missing bankswitching and opcode capabilities)
  • the joystck ports are on the back of the unit, similar to the original 2600
  • It does not work with all TV’s

The FB 2 is an amazing console.  Although the last production run was in 2009 (with the Flashback 2+), they are still relatively easy to find second hand.  I paid about $20 for my FB 2, but consider it a bargain if you can find one for under $30.  With 42 games and a set of compatible joysticks, it is really a steal.  The only thing to be aware of is that it doesn’t work well with some ‘modern’ TV’s.  It worked great on my non HD TV, but some games did not display correctly on my Vizio HD TV.

At this point I have tested and written about all four Flashback units.  If you are looking for some Atari retro game fun, you can really not go wrong with either the FB 2, 3, or 4.  Due to it’s excellent emulation, 75 games, HD TV compatibility, and wireless controllers, I give a slight edge to the FB 4.  If you want to play games as Atari originally intended, then I highly recommend the FB 2!