Category Archives: Video Games

Art of Atari – Bringing the Action Home Again

Art of Atari is a fantastic retrospective of the iconic company’s colorful design history. Written by Tim Lapetino, with a forward by Ernest Cline and an afterword by Robert V. Conte, Art of Atari primarily examines the artistic illustrations behind some of the company’s most famous games and consoles.

Growing up in the early 80’s, one of my first experiences with home video games was at my cousin’s house. I remember playing Combat on the Atari 2600 for hours on end. Even though the graphics were crude, the label art on the cartridge box was astonishing, especially to a kid with an overactive imagination. No longer was I just seeing pixelated squares on the screen – to me those were the very same tanks and planes that I saw on the illustration.

“The box artwork was an essential part of the the ritual of escape you experienced each time you played an Atari game. In a player’s mind, the artwork on the label would be forever linked to the digital artifact inside.”

-From the forward by Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One.

Atari understood that a good illustration would really sell the game. The box art was your gateway into the game world. Look at the cover art of Asteroids for example – there’s a swarm of asteroids closing in on your ship. You’re desperately trying to stay alive. The art tells a story – will you survive the never ending assault? You’ll have to play the game to find out.

As I was reading the book, I realized that while I was familiar with many of Atari’s illustrations, I actually had no idea who the artists were. The author presents many of Atari’s greatest artists here, such as George Opperman, Cliff Spohn, Steve Hendricks, Susan Jaekel, Warren Chang, Terry Hoff, Evelyn Seto, and more. Each artist has a chapter devoted to them, where they talk about their history with Atari and how they came up with their designs.

I was surprised to learn that many of the artists did not actually play the games they did the art for. Often, a programmer would describe their game to the artist, and then the artist would come up with their own concept for what they understood the game to be. The artists were given a lot of freedom to express their ideas of what they thought the game world would be like. Many of them painted their friends and work associates into their designs.In some cases, several of the artists went out and even purchased Star Wars models and ‘kit-bashed’ them together to create new designs. I always wondered why the ship in the Defender art looked like a Star Destroyer. Now I know.

Art of Atari is 350 pages of pure nostalgia for anyone who grew up playing games in the early 1980’s. It is a wonderful collection of Atari’s visual history throughout the years. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in retro games. It is an essential part of the history of video gaming.

Have you played Atari today?

Evil Dead in Videogame

So it looks like Ash will be a character in a new Family Guy mobile game (source).  But this is hardly the first time we’ve seen Ash starring in a video game.

It all started in 1984 if you can believe that. This was in a time before most major consoles, so the game was instead played on Commodore 64. I don’t recommend playing it as it will forever taint your opinion of Evil Dead, but you can at least watch this guy play it.

Ash took some time off after that and didn’t reappear officially until 2000 with Evil Dead: Hail to the King for PlayStation.

Many games use Ash as inspiration for the characters, notably Doom, but it’s good to see the real Ash back in the game.

Review: Garfield Kart (Nintendo 3DS)

I was hoping this game was going to be a Mario Kart clone, well it kinda is because of the racing and all but other than that Garfield Kart is a bad game in general. The controls are loose and clunky and needed to be tighten up. There are only sixteen tracks and they all are about the same. On the plus side you do have a cast of characters from the Garfield universe like Jon, Liz, Arlene and even Pooky. 

The music in the game is repetitive and gets old fast and the power ups don’t work half the time because if you don’t read the digital manual you won’t know what they do. For example, lasagna will make you go faster and a spring will make you jump a few feet ahead.

I dropped thirty bones on this game and after three hours of game play I have beaten every challenge and there isn’t any online multiplayer to keep me coming back. Don’t even bother dropping cash on Garfield Kart, get Mario Kart instead.