Andrew Newton on the titles that were proving a hit with gamers back in May 1981…
The May of 1981 was a great one for football fans, there was the the 100th FA Cup final which at first ended in a draw between Manchester City and Spurs and then a week later a win for Spurs. The month also saw Liverpool win the European Cup for the third time against Real Madrid. It was perhaps this football fervour that was the reason behind so little being around this month on the videogaming scene (at the time, videogames still played second fiddle to many other hobbies and interests and there were never any instances of people peeing in empty bottles due to gaming addiction). Despite a quiet period there were still some games that were gaining interest among their fan bases….
Warlords – Atari 2600
“Once long ago in a distant land lived a king named Frederick…..” So begun the story for Warlords in the instruction book (all games came with instructions back in the day and the majority had storylines). Old king Fred then had four lads who did nothing but squabble so he sent them away to a land where all they did was quarrel and it is here where players jump into the role as one of the titular Warlords.
Up to 4 players take control of the lords in their ‘L’ shaped castles in each corner of the screen and will need to protect their castle with a moving shield while also attempting to destroy their opponents. Fireballs (or cannonballs) bounce around the screen and players musty use the shields to deflect the ball from hitting the walls but if they miss it then it takes a chunk out of the castle and eventually leaves the lord prone. Once a player gets killed then another fireball joins the fray.
There’s been a fair few ports and remakes over the years with the game making an appearance on the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS in it’s original form, then a new version arriving on both Playstation and Xbox consoles in 2012. Surprisingly, there was also a Commodore 64 clone made in 2011 called Space Lords.
747 Flight – Acorn Atom
Liverpool developer, Bug Byte, released 747 Flight on the Acorn Atom putting gamers in control of the iconic Jumbo Jet as it comes in to land at Heathrow Airport. In this accurate simulation, players had to bring the plane into land safely by taking into account all manner of technical measurements such as airspeed, rate of descent, altitude, flaps etc, all of which are displayed on the technical instruments on screen.
Providing you remembered to lower the undercarriage (something I often forgot to do in flight sims) the runway would appear on screen and the plane would glide gradually to a stop. The computer would then award the players a score and the chance to play again, if your landing wasn’t a good one and everyone died in a fireball then you needed more practice.
According to issue 4 of Computer & Video Games 747 Flight was actually developed by a Jumbo Jet pilot, which probably explained why it was such a realistic simulation given the hardware.
Defender – Arcade
Defender is a horizontal scrolling shoot-’em-up by Williams Electronics that had players racing back and forth across the surface of an unnamed planet shooting down waves of aliens as they attempt to kidnap humans from the surface. As players flew across the surface they would have to shoot down the aliens and catch the humans before they hit the ground and died, however if the alien manage to completely abduct the human then the entire planet would explode and the screen be populated by mutants who would have to be destroyed for the planet to be restored.
Players would be kitted out with a state-of-the-art ship that was equipped with three ‘Smart Bombs’, the ultimate in enemy destroying super weapons, and ‘Hyperspace’ ability that would allow players to warp to a new location on the planet, although using this option didn’t necessarily mean the location warped to would be safer.
Defender became the best selling arcade machine for Williams Electronics selling tens of thousands of units and raking in over a billion dollars. This success led to many clones and remakes over the years including Gauntlet on the Acorn Electron which changed all humans to energy canisters and Invasion of the Body Snatchas! on the ZX Spectrum. Many years later the Atari Jaguar received Defender 2000 and in 2002 a 3D version was made for the Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2.
The video below by the wonderful Steve Benway shows what Defender was like in all its glory, although he’s playing the game on Mame.
Well that’s five months of the year gone now, I don’t know where it’s going (answers on a postcard to…..). Hopefully these few games bring back some memories and we’d love to hear them on our social media pages. Btw, if you are that Jumbo Jet pilot please say hi!
Thanks as always to the brilliant Steve Benway for letting us use his video in this article. If you’ve not subscribed then please do, he’s well worth a watch.
Until next month, cheerio.