Museum and Museum 2F
Museum and Museum 2F
One of my favorite video game memories is the Activision classic Kaboom! For the Atari 2600. Back in the days when the simple appeal of repetitive, point-driven games could hold your interest for hours on end, this was the top shelf for a pre-teen like myself.
Current younger players may have some exposure to the game either through various Activision collections on current or newer consoles or through Atari 2600 emulators, but there is a big difference between these versions and the original. That would be the controls.
Back on the Atari 2600 days, there were different controls for the system and each game required you to use it correctly. The vast majority used either the tried and true joystick or the Atari Paddle controllers. With today's generation of consoles, there is no acceptable approach for the paddle controller. A simple box with a round spinning wheel that gave you "stop-on-a-dime" precision for games that required them. The closest thing you could experience today would be an arcade trackball. Kaboom! was the ultimate paddle control game. It was the one who carried them out.
It was a simple concept. There was a villain on top of a wall that dropped bombs and you were a bundle of water buckets at the bottom of the wall. You had to catch the bombs when they were released. If you missed one: KABOOM! You started with three buckets stacked and every time you missed a bomb you would drop a bucket. When you missed three in total, the game was over.
My older brother and I would literally spend hours on this game every night. The instruction manual (a pretty hefty one for such a simple game) talked about a special event that we were obsessed with unlocking.
If you could reach the incredible score of 10,000 points, the villain, in recognition of your incredible achievement, would honor you with some mysterious gesture.
My brother and I downed this game for a long time to get there. Then there was no internet, so you couldn't buy the game, run home and jump online to find out all the information you needed or wanted about it. Your "community" game was the other kids in your fifth grade who also had an Atari or who became your black enemy because they had the Intellivision console. My older brother was in his 20s, so his playing environment back then was his old high school friends that he still grew up with.
Kaboom! gameplay became an art form. There were eight levels. With each level of progress, the villain swept back and forth across the wall, stripping the bombs at a higher speed.
Like all repetition-based games, you can boil down the first 5 or 6 levels to an art form that is only missing when you become too self-indulgent. Levels 7 and 8 were the wild cards. To reach 10,000 you have to cycle through all 8 levels and continue on the crazy pace 8 over and over until you drop. The last two levels were so fast and chaotic that it was almost impossible to nail down a pattern that gave you a continued success rate of 90 plus percent.
There were many tricks. Every thousand points you would get an extra bucket if you were down to less than three. Each time you missed a bomb, the game would return and start you at the previous level speed. The perfect strategy if you had all three buckets was to deliberately miss the last bomb that would put you under the next 1000-point bonus so you can go back and rack up any points you can by repeating the previous level knowing you would selecting the third bucket is backed up with the first boom's catch of the next wave at a slower rate.
On the odd numbered levels, the villain would clear the bombs close to each other back and forth across the wall in a fairly simple pattern. At even levels, he would spread the bomb drops farther apart and throw in some erratic movement on the right side of the wall.
Although accurate, the paddle controls also showed some pull. One of the controls was just a little better than the other and my brother and I would always have to call dibs on the "good". One of them had some jerky movement as you moved the buckets across the screen. In some places you can remove your fingers and buckets. Sometimes you would hit that spot at a bad moment and even if the effect was minimal it could make your buckets jerk off where you needed to cause you to miss.
All of these factors were part of our intensive study of the game. And for a short time it was a big part of our night life. I don't know how many hours, days, weeks, months my brother and I put into the game, but we started to take a rather defiant attitude about it after a while of talking like "it's impossible. The 10,000-point barrier can't be reached . "
We had spent so much time wondering what the hell the mysterious 10,000-point reward might be that we had built it up to be just about anything up to and including the gaming cassette that jumped out of the console and gave you hand jobs in place . The smart money was on my brother's speculation that the villain would "tip the hat" to you. Hi, with Atari 2600 graphics, a hat tip was a pretty reasonable expectation!
It all came one night one night. I thundered through level 8 again and again approaching 10,000. Finally, I was down to my last water bucket. Almost there! Almost. And then, at 9,998 points, I missed the next bomb. Game Over.
It was the bubble bursts and we both lost taste for the game. We had both had enough.
We played Atari after that, though Kaboom! was just a temporary joke and we went on with our gaming lives. This would have been around 1983.
The story takes up about 12 years later in the mid-1990s. My brother was married and had two children at this time. I was married but had none of my sons yet. I unpacked an old junk in my modest apartment and came across my old Atari 2600. It still worked fine, but the TV / GAME conversion box didn't work, so I literally took the metal end of the cord that went into the switch box and duct taped it on the metal TV antenna and set the TV to channel 3. Do not let people who acted as a charm back in the channel 3 days of non-cable TV sets. Crystal clear image as long as you did not encounter it.
In all cases. Older. Married. University graduate. Full time job. It was time again Kaboom!
All the time eating it when I was younger. Man, no way I'd whip my skills back into shape, but it was worth a shot.
It took about 90 minutes. I don't know what has changed all these years later. Night after night. Week by week. Neither I nor my brother could break the 10,000 barrier. Then I played for 90 minutes and beat it without touching it for a dozen years.
Now before I finish this story, let me say that if you play this game in one of these collections, it's just not the same with a keyboard, XBOX controls or a Game Boy. It is NOT ALWAYS without paddle controls.
In any case, at 10,000 points, the villain smiles briefly. Usually he had a simple "V" on his face that was his mouth wrinkled. At 10,000, "V" frowns up and down in a smile.
What a shit.