At Game On!

atari joystick

Yesterday we went to the famous and highly anticipated Game On exhibition at the Science Museum. We spent like two hours and something playing frantically with all sorts of systems, from old coin-ups to newer consoles; at the end my hands hurt like when I spent hours and hours playing videogames some years ago.

Vectrex

I was pretty moved by seeing a real working Vectrex, offering us Space Wars. The only ones I had seen to date were advertised in old comicbooks when I was a child. They featured smiling children playing cool space games and I felt curious about that weird machine which had a not pixel but vectorial approach to graphics, but it didn't manage to sell too much in Spain, so the only info I had heard of it lately was what one could find when digging in the videogames history and the emulation world (because there was a time in which I could spend hours reading about arcade machines, their chipsets, specifications, architecture, etc).

DEC PDP-1

There was also a DEC PDP-1 but unfortunately it wasn't working, which dissapointed me somehow. But maybe it was one of those computers which needed a whole power station for themselves, so that's why it was off.

Although I had studied the internals of the PDP range of computers it still managed to surprise me with its extremely retro design; I can't decide which item did I like more, whether the hexagonal screen box, the incorporated typewriter or the dozens of bit status leds in one side.

I would have loved to see it working :-)

Pong

Pong wasn't executed in a real machine. In fact, it was ran in MAME and projected onto a big wall but hey! it looked impressive!

Once we got used to the weird controls (one button for moving the paddle upwards and another one for moving it downwards, press both to release the ball) we managed to give a little exhibition of brilliant gameplay and horrible clumsiness at the same time (specially thanks to me).

Centipede

There we went with one of my favourite classics. I'll never forget the sound of the falling ufo's! I never played the Atari version, and they had an original working coin-up there! But there was also a guy in his thirties-fourties so moved by the game that he even pleaded us to let him play "just one more time", and we felt so moved by it that we just let him enjoy it as much as he wanted. He looked so happy!

... and everything!

After that we entered an altered gamer status where we played at almost every game machine which was free and even queued a bit for the most interesting ones.

It was the first time I played with an Atari Jaguar. Its keypad (with numerical keys) really surprised me, and the cartridge it had, Tempest 2000, wasn't less strange indeed. I couldn't manage to get oriented in the game and thus lose miserably! But the effects and general design of the game were quite nice, I liked the transitions and the background details. Very demoscene-ish, to a certain extent.

There were also glorious Amiga's playing Lemmings (but somebody had stolen the mouse ball! bloody bastard!!), Atari's 2600 playing Freeway and Pitfall - with the original mighty Atari joysticks. There was also a Commodore 64 which almost fell over our feet (the tray was somehow feeble and the screws were not very well tightened), I think I hadn't been that horrified since a semaphore fell over me! I also tried to play Metroid Prime (in a Nintendo gamecube), since I'm superfan of Metroid since playing the Metroid NES version. The graphics were SUPERCOOL, I loved when Samus converts into a ball, and the funky lightning which it leaves behind when moving. But I didn't manage to open a single door and was stuck in a weird corridor so I just left it there and switched to Outrun.

I think it was also the first time I played with an XBox in my whole life, to be honest, and although the graphics were cool, the game (whose name I can't remember, it consisted in a race in London's streets) wasn't very playable. I enjoyed a way more Outrun 2004 but I can't remember the name of the system in which it was executed.

There was of course a computer with The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island merchandise (like a six heads monkey keyring), and obviously we couldn't resist Street Fighter in the SuperNES. mr.doob remembers perfectly all the combos (whereas I don't) and defeated me like 4 or 5 times, no matter how hard I tried to press the sequence of buttons in the right order. This one made me feel the imperious need of getting a couple of joypads for our computers and asking for a second chance! Mwhaha!

It was also funny to see again real Atari Lynx (god, it was big, and in 1991 it looked small!), original Gameboy, Game Gear, and lots more of later consoles and what was more funny, lots of 1980's LCD screen handheld machines, like the Donkey Kong or Space Invaders one. And a Simon!

Non hardware stuff

Although it may not seem like that, there was also background information being shown in every area, including some trivia, designs for the games, like character drafts, game plannings, scripts, etc. And lots of old magazines, like the first number of Spectrum Magazine.

There was a little area dedicated to the games audio but that one was a bit weak, consisting basically in a couple of headphones connected to a cd player with games music - which turned to be mainly chiptunes! so it didn't surprise me too much.

Conclussion

Is it worth? Well you can play almost all the games in your home for free with the help of emulators, but it's not like playing the real machines. I personally enjoyed it a lot, specially with the retro systems, and it somehow has managed to wake up my gaming side again :D

But there was a missing game in the show:

Digger!

digger

Nothing that a bit of googling can't solve though: there's a page dedicated to digger! The guy behind the page has even started a remake of the game and he offers the original retro version and the new version. He's making it open sourced (GPL'ed) and there's even a Mac version! Unfortunately the new versions do not have sound yet which is a pity :-(

Funny note: I wasn't going to write about the visit until mr.doob did it, but he told me he wasn't going to do it and even challenged me to write this and recognize publicly that I lost in all the games except at Space Wars in the Vectrex.

So yes, I LOST MISERABLY AT EVERY SINGLE GAME EXCEPTING SPACE WARS

AND I'LL HAVE MY REVENGE!!! :-P