Kaboom! [1981] |Atari VCS|

I discussed in my review of the 1970s that Activision was the first third-party developer in video gaming. They took advantage of their new-found license to make games by producing a slew of titles for the Atari VCS, some of which were even good. OK, that’s a little harsh. Compared to the standard fair Activision’s games were better than average–well, most of them. Some games were still shovelware–I’m looking at you, Barnstorming!

Activision did develop a few outstanding games, the earliest of which was Kaboom!. Kaboom! is an arcade-style game with frenetic action, just like most other games of the time. In this game you have to stop a robber from dropping bombs onto the street below. You are given three buckets of water to move around. If a bomb hits the ground, one of the buckets of water disappears and catching bombs after that becomes just a little harder. It’s a brilliantly cruel means of rewarding good work, because if you do well the game will be easy. If you mess up the game will just make itself more difficult. Mwahahaha!

For whatever reason my emulator is borked and the reaction time is laggy. I wish I could use a real Atari VCS but mine is broken, so this will have to do. I guess it adds another layer of challenge to be delayed, and it also makes the video shorter. Lucky you. If you want to see a high score video, watch this instead.


Activision’s Crackpots took an opposite approach, with the protagonists standing on the roof of a building to drop flowerpots on invading spiders. Because of the spiders’ often unpredictable approach success would just as often rely on luck, and it’s all but forgotten today whereas Kaboom! is still looked back upon fondly. The gameplay mechanic of “catch the falling objects” was soon copied by several other games like the nebulous Eggomania in which the player must use a hat to catch eggs dropped by a chicken. After the round the player may then throw the eggs at the chicken for bonus points (so thank goodness you saved those eggs. You couldn’t break them otherwise). I’m relieved that I don’t live in a world where such a game doesn’t exist. The world absolutely needed Eggomania. And you needed to know about it. You’re welcome.

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