Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Legend of the static arcade screen

Posted by ptcgaming on April 28, 2009

When you played games like "Galaxian," this is what you got: A single screen where all the action takes place. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

When you played games like "Galaxian," this is what you got: A single screen where all the action takes place. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

For those of you who didn’t grow up in the age of “Pac-Man” or the Atari 2600, the concept of all the action in a video game taking place on a single, static screen might sound strange. But if it weren’t for “Donkey Kong,” you might have never had “Super Mario Bros.” With no “Space Invaders,” “Galaxian” or “Asteroids,” you might have never had “Star Fox.” And without “Frogger” you might have never had, well, a dozen or more ports, copies or clones of “Frogger.”

Truth be told, many of the most famous (and even hardest) video games and franchises ever developed began as a game on a static screen. In “Donkey Kong,” you controlled Jumpman as he attempted to rescue the heroine from the giant ape’s clutches. Jumpman eventually became Mario, with a color palette swap his brother Luigi was born, and the rest is video game history.

“Pac-Man” was a staple in the 1980s, and anyone who watches “Seinfeld” reruns knows the importance of having the highest score in “Frogger.” (Just a side note: You couldn’t actually enter your initials on the high score list, and George’s score was way more than the actual “Frogger” world record.)

Sadly, I think that over the years these games have become less appreciated. High-end graphics, enhanced sound and universal controllers have put these games on the back burner. I do wish today’s gamer could experience the challenge of “Joust” or what Mario was like when he was just a plumber clearing out the sewers of New York City. I stayed up late many nights playing home console versions of static-screen staples such as “Space Invaders,” “Galaxian,”  “Donkey Kong Jr.” and “Centipede,” among others. And it was great, even without the 3D graphics and surround sound.

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