Weird and rare – Birthday Mania – Atari 2600
Dec13

Weird and rare – Birthday Mania – Atari 2600

I’ve decided to resurrect the ‘Weird and rare’ series after a long hiatus. And what better game to choose, than something that has only a handful of copies – approximately 10 officially released and a few given out to helpers according to the author? And one that is considered the holy grail of all the released Atari 2600 games. It was also the last remaining released game for which there was no dump, meaning the original ROM was not available. What follows is information on the subject, kindly supplied to me by William Cortez III (Trevgauntlet): Back in 1984, a programmer named Anthony Tokar, developed a game Birthday Mania. He is now in his 70s and is experiencing health issues. He decided to make the game because he loved Atari and wanted to make one of his own as a token of appreciation for the console. So he found a book on how to program the 6502 chip, he doesn’t remember what he used and it took him several months to make it. The only form of advertisement he used was the Newark Star-Ledger, or the Sunday Star Ledger, he doesn’t remember the days but it was sometime after the game was registered after August 13, 1984. This was his only game and sold between 10-15 copies. The manual was a tri-folded piece of paper. Source: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/204909-birthday-mania-unwrapped/page-1 The saga of this recently rediscovered rarity is ongoing with the rights to the game being kindly given to a member of the Atari Age forums by Mr. Tokar – as long as any proceeds made from sales go to charity. Hopefully soon there will be reproduction cartridges available –  watch this space. In the meantime check out Trevgauntlet’s Birthday Mania game play footage below and for more information on the topic, click the Atari Age link...

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Weird and Rare – Private Eye – Atari 2600
Mar20

Weird and Rare – Private Eye – Atari 2600

  What’s it all about? After looking through the ‘instructions’ (pictured below) I was left thinking that this game would be a complicated maze-type affair with lots of clues to piece together to get to my goal. Instead I was surprised to find an unusual type of arcade racer, where you have to guide your very well drawn sleuth-in-car around town collecting a few objects and taking them to certain buildings – all against the clock. The car is no ordinary car either, it can jump over obstacles strategically placed to take points from you and slow your progress. The jumping action also allows you to collect objects from the windows of buildings as you pass. Unfortunately for you, there are also things being hurled from windows, random birds, rats, oil puddles and falling masonry to contend with, all of which take your points away. One other interesting point about this game is that like most Activision titles, it also had it’s own patch. When originally released and you got to level 3 (verified with a photo) you could send off for the Activision ‘Super Sleuth’ patch which, because the game is fairly rare and the difficulty level was so high, is now one of the rarer ones to find. What’s it like to play? Graphically, they don’t get much better than this on the 2600, the main character is well drawn and animated, the ‘town’ is large and varied. The area you play in is made up of many, many screens (sometimes be reminiscent of other more famous games) and remembering where you are and where you need to go once something is collected can be difficult. This is where the game gets frustrating beyond belief. Trying to remember how many screens you went right before you turned left while the counter is running only to find that you are actually lost, you just ran over a puddle of oil reducing your score to zero and the items you so painstakingly collected now count for nothing made me want to personally take this cartridge to the nearest active volcano and throw it in. I had plane tickets booked and everything. In summary A great looking title, with an interesting concept let down by too steep a learning curve. everything is out to take points off you and even when you think you have it licked, you still need to find your way back and often can’t. I know this is how the gameplay is meant to be to be but in this instance it is just too hard, with way too much trial and error to be fun....

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