LucasArts’ recent announcement that it’s revisiting its classic Monkey Island series – which, if you believe the press release, marks “just the start of LucasArts’ new mission to revitalize its deep portfolio of beloved gaming franchises” – sent me digging through the mental version of my Commodore 64 floppy disk bin and the plastic case where we kept our Atari cartridges. My quest: To revisit some of my favorites and figure out the ones I’d most like to see brought back to life in a way that retains their classic feel but would also translate into fun and compelling new games I’d like to share with my kid.
(And before you ask: Yes, there would have been 10 on this list, except that it turns out Epyx’ Impossible Mission – one of my top candidates – has already made the jump to the present. I don’t think any of the others have. Yet.)
9. Yars’ Revenge (Atari, 1981) – Hey, if Guybrush Threepwood can make a comeback, why not the Yars? Despite being basically a one-screen, one-goal game for the original Atari 2600 Yars’ Revenge felt like much more, partly because it came with a backstory about planetary annihilation, vengenace, Zorlon Cannons and Qotiles. Instead of turning to comic books and audio dramas to flesh out the Yars’ quest, why not work all that material into a sprawling reimagination? Remember Razak IV!
8. Racing Destruction Set (Electronic Arts, 1985) – Head-to-head split-screen racing. Too ordinary? Try it with Mercury’s gravity and Lunar Rovers, then. Or cover the track in sheets of ice. Or crank up some hills to rattle send your monster truck silly. Today’s systems could easily make the Racing part of this game as fun as the Destruction part was.
7. Swordquest series (Atari, 1982-1983) – Drop the cheesy “win-a-real-gold-sword” part. Package the four-world aspect into one epic adventure. Keep the mythology-inspired themes and the puzzles but ditch the clues hidden in comic book panels. Also, finish the thing this time: I never even saw Waterworld, and nobody saw Airworld.
6. Raid Over Moscow (Access Software, 1985) – Okay, so the Cold War scenario would need a rewrite, but for challenge and variety within the confines of the game, you could do worse than this one: Zaxxon-style attack sequence, sharpshooting screens, and a final showdown that tests reflexes and a bit of thinking. Don’t panic: It’s only nuclear holocaust if you fail.
5. Agent USA (Scholastic, 1984) – “There’s a train to catch, a nation to save, and a lot of thinking to do!” The packaging tagline gives away that this was created as an educational game, but we still had fun sending our Agent all over the country by train and avoiding the virus spread by the Fuzzbomb while trying to combat it by planting energy crystals. Catchy theme music, too.
4. Bruce Lee (Datasoft, 1984) – Leaping kicks. The Ninja. The Green Yamo. Collecting lanterns, climbing walls and dodging electrified floors. Twenty enigmatic and sometimes complex rooms of this game were not nearly enough.
3. The Great American Cross-Country Road Race (Activision, 1985) – More than a race, this choose-your-own-route game was an obsession. It took my brothers and me a really long time to finally knock All-American Al from his perch atop the list of the fastest times across the nation, but seeing “Lamborgini Lyle” (my ’80s-appropriate racer name) up there in first place was totally worth all the frustrating times the cops caught me doing 150 mph outside St. Louis.
2. Full Throttle (LucasArts, 1995) – Yes, there have been several unsuccessful attempts at sequels to this fantastic but too-short game, but I’m really hoping revisiting Ben’s adventure is on the Lucas crew’s To Do list, because this one is a near-perfect mix of puzzle-solving and some arcade-style fighting that would seem to make it a great fit for consoles. (Sadly, Ben’s signature voice, provided by Roy Conrad, was silenced by his death in 2002.)
1. Archon: The Light and the Dark (Electronic Arts, 1983) – Hands-down my favorite two-player computer game ever. The planning ahead of chess meets role-playing-style match-up strategy meets thumb-numbing shoot-em-fast, shoot-em-first combat. Golems and Elementals and Valkyrie and Trolls and Djinn and the horrific possibility of a Phoenix-vs.-Shapeshifter “who’ll quit the futility first” battle. Sequels and ports have been around for years, proving you don’t need to mess with a good thing, and there is simply no good reason why my daughter and I shouldn’t be able to sit down and play this on our console. And don’t give me that “Power points are proof against magic” stuff.