I love Yars’ Revenge.
It’s my favorite 2600 game, no question about it. Sure, Demon Attack was great, and Pitfall is a classic, but if I had to choose one Atari game to hold above all others, it would have to be Yars’ Revenge.
I played the hell out of this game as a kid, emulated it like crazy in the 90s, and even bought it legit again (on Microsoft Game Room no less) a few years back so I could rock it on my Xbox 360.
I love this game.
So I am totally stoked that I own it on vinyl.
The Devil vs. Bill Gates.
That’s the best way to sum up The Dungeonmaster, an ultra low-budget 1983 schlockfest from Charles Band’s Empire Pictures. A mainstay of video stores throughout the 80s, the out-of-print film is now on Netflix (on a transfer that looks like it was dubbed from a VHS tape) allowing new generations to discover and finally learn the answer to the question, “Can you defeat the devil with DOS?”
It’s easy to forget, but when Blade Runner was first released in cinemas in 1982, the film was both a commercial and critical dud. It wasn’t until the Director’s Cut was released to theaters ten years later that many began to turn around on the film and see it for the sci-fi classic that it is now considered to be.
However, one point that was never in contention even during the harshest critiques of the film was its score. Composed by Vangelis, who also brought us the iconic Chariots of Fire theme, it was instantly lauded as sensational, and even earned itself several award nominations. Oddly enough though, an official soundtrack was never released during the film’s original run. Instead all fans got was an album of “orchestral interpretations,” something that was not at all representative of Vangelis’ haunting, mostly synthesized, score. It would take over 10 years for the actual soundtrack to see the light of day. But by the time it was released in 1994, LPs were at an absolute nadir in terms of sales, so it was only given a CD release.
Now, over 30 years since the film’s original release, the original soundtrack has been released properly on vinyl, thanks to re-issue label Audio Fidelity. And while I wouldn’t say it’s been worth the wait, fans who were holding out all these years for a vinyl copy of the film’s iconic score probably will not be disappointed.
Even before I dropped the needle on the Asteroids record, I knew that the album’s creators probably had to stretch a bit to come up with an original story that could fill 20+ minutes. Asteroids has no plot. You shoot rocks. That’s it. Not much to go on there. Not surprisingly, the story they created for the Asteroids record ended up being pretty threadbare, but when you consider their source material, it’s amazing they were able to piece anything together at all.
So I was a little more excited when I found out that the same label, Kid Stuff, also put out a “soundtrack” album to Missile Command. Because, while you may not know it, that game is actually about something. Mainly, that game is about World War III.
You aren’t shooting down random missiles in Missile Command, you’re shooting down ICBMs. And the cities aren’t no-name metropolises from another word; they’re California cities Eureka, San Francisco, San Luis Obsipo, Santa Barbarage, Los Angeles and San Diego.
You can’t beat most games from that era, but in Missile Command that actually means something. No matter what you do, no matter how good you are, no matter how many extra lives you earm, eventually you’re going to lose in Missile Command. The missiles will fall. The world will end. Everyone will die. That is what Missile Command is about.
And then someone at Kid Stuff saw the game and said, “let’s turn that into a children’s record!”
Needless to say, changes had to be made.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Astralwerks, the American electronic music label responsible for bringing acts like Air, Fatboy Slim, The Future Sound of London and The Chemical Brothers to the states. Astralwerks was a major force behind America’s embrace of “electronica” in the mid-90s, and while the label’s relevance has diminished a bit since then, they’re still a dominant presence in the electronic music scene, with releases by artists like Empire of the Sun, David Guetta and NERVO tearing up dance charts today.
In celebration of their anniversary, Astralwerks put out a special limited edition Record Store Day release, a 20 flexi-disc box set, featuring 20 tracks by 20 different artists who supposedly best represent the label’s diverse sound (including their occasional forays into rock and folk music). It’s a very odd, and sadly disappointing release, one that fails to properly represent the label’s rich legacy while at the same time incredibly unpractical to play and unpleasing to look at.
Asteroids was released in arcades in 1979, and has gone on to be one of the most enduring examples of the golden age of arcade games. Although most would probably find it boring today due to its simplistic gameplay and lack of variety, at the time the game’s innovative control scheme (no joystick, just buttons) and momentum-based movement were revolutionary and helped arcade operators rack in quarters by the bucketload. Just two years later, the game made it on the Atari 2600 home console, and kids around the country were playing the game in the comfort of their own home, blasting rocks and competing against each other for the highest score (myself included).
In the years since, the game has been ported and converted to nearly every gaming platform in existence. You can play it on your phone, on the Xbox, the PS3, the PC, you name it.
But did you know that you can play it on your turntable?
Presenting Asteroids, the album. A 1983 release by Kid Stuff Records.