WYSICRAP – The Tandy WP-2

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WYSICRAP – The Tandy WP-2 Back when we had to start the car by hand, walk 4 miles to school uphill…both ways and the milkman was still blamed for kids that didn’t quite look like mom “or” dad, computers sat on a desk. Portability meant fitting in a backpack (first baby Macs) or, in the case of early laptops something that weighed about nine or ten pounds. So, as a young college student in the early 90’s the only options you had for taking notes was a pen and paper and any typed assignments required you either owned your own computer or hunkered down in one of the campus computer labs and made damn sure you didn’t forget your box o’ disks. Then one day while flipping through a circular for Radio Shack I saw an ad for the Tandy WP-2 Word Processor.  I immediately thought “dude, you HAVE to have this!”. It was on sale and I believe if memory serves it was $199. It had a full keyboard, 32K of memory with an expansion slot for extra memory, a monochrome LCD screen that displayed about 9-10 lines of text at a time and full word processing capability including spell checker and a dictionary. It also had parallel and serial ports. In sum, for the time if you needed a small, light, full-featured word processor that was no larger than a standard textbook this was pretty much your only option. So, I got one.  Here she is: The first time I took it to class I remember all the weird looks from classmates and my professors. Everyone wanted to know what the hell it was and where I got it. The budding inner geek in me (I say budding becuase it would be a few more years before I achieved full geekhood) was like, “oh yeah, this is cool!”. I used it for the last year and a half plus I was in school. It fit neatly in my bookbag and I didn’t have to rely on messy notebooks and spirals coming unspiraled and every day I could dump all my notes on to my home desktop so they were neat and searchable. I really dug that thing. The WP-2 was a truly unique device for its time. Fast-forward some 20 years later and laptops are as common as pencils and as cheap...
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Achievement Unlocked: Activision’s Real-Life Reward System...

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Achievement Unlocked: Activision’s Real-Life Reward System After a posting I made on facebook, I felt the sudden drive to make a blog review about Activision’s real-life rewards for their Atari, Coleco and Intellivision games. Adam and I have gushed about how Activision was the best third-party developer for Atari back in the day, numerous times already; this is justified on so many levels. One of the elements that stood them out amongst the others was the fact they provided physical badges (patches) for gamers that would reach a preset milestone with their games. Taking a screenshot (perhaps with a trusty Polaroid camera) of said Achievement and sending it in would grant you a congratulatory letter with badge! Here are some examples: Chopper Command: Chopper Commando Patch – 10,000 points         Enduro: Roadbusters Patch – Survive 5 game days       Kaboom: Activision Bucket Brigade patch – 3,000 points         Pitfall!: Explorers Club Patch – 20,000 points       Tennis: Tennis Patch (that’s original) – Win one set vs. computer   If you’ve ever played this game you know how difficult the computer is.  Which is why there’s no surprise they offered a Patch for this.     From what I can tell these weren’t all that difficult to get. If you enjoyed the game and played it religiously, you were most likely good enough to achieve Activision gaming glory! This is something I feel is missing today; that strong developer/player connection. It was all about providing quality service and producing lasting products for people of all ages to enjoy. This would be almost impossible to do today; video games make so much money, you would most likely have to pay for the reward and prove that you didn’t hack the game or Photoshop the image. Digital achievements like the ones on Xbox or PlayStation is good enough for players today, though Activision (not only being the pioneer) went one step beyond its successors and offered a physical reward for their players to proudly sport on their attire, showing off their gaming skills and giving them ultimate bragging rights amongst friends and family! Have a Atari achievement you would like to share? Go ahead in the comments. Here is a link to all the known patches Thanks, AtariAge! I want my patch,...
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Journey Escape : Atari 2600 : Retro Review...

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Journey Escape : Atari 2600 : Retro Review Journey Escape, for the Atari 2600, was released in 1982. Andy why not? Journey’s popularity was peaking with the video game revolution, it was sure to have an audience. I can find no evidence on the actual sales, but a used cartridge seems easily available today, I have to assume quite a few copies were put into the market. As a Journey fan, I enjoyed the game as a kid and I still had fun testing the game again for this retro-review. Not an overly complex game, your object is to guide each individual band member to the “escape” vehicle after a concert performance. As the screen scrolls vertically, you maneuver the current character past the onslaught of photographers, love crazed fans, asshole record label people, etc.  You can speed up by pressing up, but that means everything comes after you faster.  You also move left and right to dodge the obstacles. The obstacles slow you down and you have a limited time to reach the vehicle.  The levels increasingly get harder as you complete guiding all members, finally ending with Steve Perry. Once complete you have a final score at the end, and the games over.  Score is done in dollars, and running into obstacles slow you down and drain your cash. The game still has appeal, I thought it was pretty entertaining to go through it again.  And I won on the first try.  Is it that easy, or am I that good? Speaking of Journey, this has me reminising about the old stand up arcade game released a year later.  This time you guide each band member through a unique, and very fun, level or mini-game. After each level is completed, you then get to the pay off stage. The arcade machine begins to jam, at a loud volume, a recording of Separate Ways. As the music starts, the band is on stage and you play the security bouncer moving side to side trying to keep fans from rushing the stage. The longer you can keep them from doing this, the longer the song keeps playing.  Very cool, it was a fun game from my recollection. HippoBytes ratings: RetroReview Score: 7 of 10 Still fun today: It’s worth a couple plays Rarity:...
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Raiders of the Lost Ark : Atari 2600 : RetroReview...

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Raiders of the Lost Ark : Atari 2600 : RetroReview Indiana Jones made his video game debut in Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600,  released in 1982. Wow, what can I say. I played the hell out of this game when I was in 4th grade. And I solved it often. If you asked me 30 years ago, I would have rated this game a 10. It was my favorite game. I tried playing it again after putting it down for decades. I remembered how to do most of the necessary steps, but I did run into a road block, unlike Adventure. I have to ponder, how much time did i spend on this as a kid? The game is not intuitive nor is there anything apparent  on what to do next. We played and solved it by a large network of players sharing information.  No internet.  However, today, I did use the internet to remind me of a couple things. So we take on our favorite hero, Indiana Jones, and we start in a market. Using both joysticks (one to control Indy, on to control your inventory), you navigate Indiana Jones through many screens collecting items and trying to figure out what to do with them. There is not many things that relate to the movie at all… It’s really just a weird game of trial and error. But why was it so intriguing 30 years ago? It was the first of its kind on many levels, and that made this game very intriguing.  It was one of first role playing games (RPG), where Adventure could be a an earlier one and I believe Intellivision did have a Dungeons and Dragons game. It was the first game, that i know of, where you actually have a controllable inventory of 6 items. Ultimately, I didn’t have the time or patients to solve this again today.  The grappling hook, that you use to move among the mesa map, and the using the parachute to slide under a tree just pissed me off too often to give it more than 30 minutes of my time.  As a 9 year old without internet or any other type of electronic entertainment, we had all the time in the world. If I was able to save my game, I would have gone through the game.  But having to start all...
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The Castlevania Adventure: Game Boy: RetroReview...

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The Castlevania Adventure: Game Boy: RetroReview Though I like Castlevania, I haven’t played many games in the series; this would be the third I’ve finished. Like many other Game Boy games this was made to be pretty straight forward, it isn’t difficult to figure out the objective or the controls for that matter, its the execution that provides the challenge. Your main character, Christopher Belmont, is a whip-cracking, 16th century bad-ass that has a terrible habit of dragging his feet. As a result of the slow movement, the physics require a bit of getting used to; it can be quite difficult to dodge attacks and execute jumping puzzles without dropping like a stone in the proverbial pit. Yet again, this is among the wide assortment of classic platforming games that requires repetitive play in order to progress through. You need to memorize enemy attacks, locations of hidden items, jumping patterns, etc.. in order to survive to the end. Whip upgrades are a must at all times, taking damage will downgrade you making it that much more of a pain to continue on; even though there is only 4 levels, by the third is it absolutely necessary to keep it powered up, as your standard wet noodle won’t get the job done. I want to say it is a short game, but after spending so much time “practicing”, I had probably spent less time doing a second play-through of Metal Gear Rising than overall progress on just trying to beat this once. Don’t get me wrong this is a good game, I enjoyed it! However if you are the type of player that will turn the power off if you aren’t doing that well right away, this isn’t a game for you; again, requires time and patience to succeed. HippoBytes ratings: RetroReview Score: 7.5 of 10 Still fun today: Sure Rarity:...
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The Game Preserve – Your Houston Video Game Arcade...

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The Game Preserve – Your Houston Video Game Arcade Not since I was a kid have I had so much fun in a video arcade. There’s not much to talk about when it comes to Houston. No mountains, no hills, and the closest beach is… well, not what you see in pictures of paradise. I often struggle with telling visitors what to do while they are here. However, there are many gems nestled around the city. I found one particular gem that I am glad is in the city in which I live. I visited The Game Preserve, located in northwest Houston, this past weekend. It’s filled with classic stand up video arcade games, skee ball, and pinball machines from many generations. I felt like a kid, giddy as I pushed the two-player button as I was transported back to the 10 year old I once was. This time, the second player, was my wife – that didn’t grow up with arcades next to the local TG&Y. The best part, she was having just as much fun as I was. What makes The Game Preserve so special? This is the best part. The Game Preserve is not a business with a business plan and a loan from a bank. Its a well organized warehouse of classic games. The warehouse was necessary because a group of friends, and collectors, had the machines crowding their own living rooms and garages of their own home. They had to get storage. Acquiring the space is not cheap and requires maintenance. So how could this group of guys help pay for their space? They open it up to members. For a very reasonable membership price, including one-day trial memberships, The Game Preserve is open to you, as long as you like, and all the games are set on free-play. A not-for-profit organization, no quarters required. There are also many member benefits, such as guest passes, and even the opportunity to have the place for the night for you and your friends. My wife and I spent HOURS there, and time flew as the scores racked up on the skee ball machine, free balls where handed out in pinball, and I destroyed the Death Star multiple times. BYOB is welcome as long as you are responsible. And there is plenty of music on the free-play jukebox. The Game Preserve...
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Dark Cavern : Atari 2600 : RetroReview...

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Dark Cavern : Atari 2600 : RetroReview Dark Cavern, for the Atari 2600, was released in 1982. I recently picked this up from a local retrogaming shop here in Houston. I find it tons of fun to pick up many titles for about 3 bucks – what do you have to lose? And you get to build your collection relatively cheaply. The title, Dark Cavern, intrigued me. Hoping for another Adventure type game, I was utterly disappointed. I know I have to set my expectations lower based on a lot of the Atari 2600 games that came out during the time – it was quantity to the corporations, not quality – and Atari being a main offender of this at the time. Make games quick and sell them for a lot. People caught on and it ultimately caused the home video game console crash of the mid-80’s. Dark Cavern is not a lot of fun. You are perpetually stuck on one screen, or maze, controlling a guy with a gun. Things (blobs and such) move around the maze that can stun you if you hit them, but you can also use your limited ammo to shoot them. You have the opportunity to collect more ammo. The main goal is to avoid the shooting robots  amongst the other things in the cavern. If you shoot them, they still are able to shoot you too until they disappear and another one comes. Dark cavern is quickly monotonous. It seems to be a rip-off of Wizard of Wor – which I remember being better game (though its been a lifetime) although I didn’t like it too much either. HippoBytes ratings: RetroReview Score: 4 of 10 Still fun today: No Rarity:...
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Lock ‘N’ Chase : Atari 2600 : RetroReview...

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Lock ‘N’ Chase : Atari 2600 : RetroReview Lock ‘N’ Chase, released in 1982, is obviously a Pac-Man rip off. You are a robber moving around a maze collecting  gold bars (or dots in Pac-Man). You even have opportunities for more points by other objects appearing, in lieu of Pac-Man’s fruit. Instead of four ghosts, you have cops coming to beat yo’ ass. Now there are no power-pills to chomp to turn the approaching enemy into an edible item, instead you are armed with the ability to slam doors to keep the police from jacking you up. The doors are only on the horizontal too, so you often don’t get intended results when you do slam the door. Other than that, Lock ‘N’ Chase is just a Pac-Man variation that gets old rather quickly. Pac-Man was novelty when it came it. It had intriguing colors, graphics, and even addicting sounds. Years later, Lock ‘N’ Chase didn’t really accomplish any of this, given it was on a limited platform. The point being, its a poor rip-off on a platform that doesn’t allow too-too much. The screens don’t chance and nothing new is ever introduced.  It’s just severely mediocre. RetroReview Score: 5 of 10 Still fun today: Not really… maybe for 2 minutes. Rarity:...
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M*A*S*H : Atari 2600 : RetroReview

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M*A*S*H : Atari 2600 : RetroReview M*A*S*H, for the Atari 2600, was released in 1983. It’s a pretty cool game base off the popular TV show and released by 20th Century Fox. I am not going to go into detail about how you are Hawkeye and everything, this is purely about the game. You are a medic helicopter who’s mission is to pick up wounded soldiers and bring them back to your camp. For some reason, annoying trees get in the way of your helicopter as you traverse the map. There is also enemy fire coming from the bottom of the screen and if you are shot, you crash to the bottom and are rushed off by another medic unit to start again. This slows you down. And speed is very important because you are put in competition of an agressive AI helicopter and you have to save more than him. The first to 999 points wins. If you fall behind a little bit, don’t worry.  You will have a chance to make up some points when you go into the operating room. Like a digital version of Operation, you are tasked to remove bullets from a wounded soldier as quick as possible without risky accuracy. Touch the sides, and you toast the dude and you’re back to the copters. Well, even if you do well, you’re back to the copters after X amount of time. The more bullets you can remove, the more points you accumulate. There are a few game options too that give the game a bit more longevity.  Best, you can play two player which offers fun, fast-paced, competition.  You can also opt to play the game with out enemy fire, or just go right to the operating table. There is also a weird option where you are able to catch falling soldiers from an airplane. It’s reminiscent Kaboom but with competition and trees in the way. I really like this game. It has everything a good classic game needs; fun two player, quality controllability, the right amount of difficulty, and scene changes.  But most of all, I like it has an end goal and not another game that just goes on forever to get high-score. If theres no goal, other than points, I lose interest pretty quick. HippoBytes ratings: RetroReview Score: 8 of 10 Still fun today: Yes, especially with the two...
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Gamers Lingo 101 – Today’s Generation...

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Gamers Lingo 101 – Today’s Generation Not a typical HippoBytes retro-article, I wanted to do this because I find it fascinating the difference between two generations of gamers, me and my 14 year old son, Drew. Drew got me caught up on today’s gaming terminology. Where I called, “Next game!” in my day, he is in an online world of millions and millions of simultaneous players. As I play some of the games with him, I found the lingo of this generation of gamers to be quite humorous.  [Warning, if you watch the videos, some of the gamers commentary is deserving of a good whoopin’ by their mommas] Trolls – trolling Trolls are basically online bullies. But they have the advantage of hiding behind the virtual walls of the internet, so no one can see what they truly are.  Their purpose is to provoke you and make you mad, but in the end they are just an annoyance.  Fight a troll by not reacting to them. Griefers A griefer is a type of troll that joins your world to deliberately irritate and wreck what you have created. Commonly found in Minecraft. Rage During this research, I have come to learn that gamers have foul mouths. But when you have a rager, you get a trucker, sailor, and oilfield all in one.  Imagine, you’re on a 23 kill streak – 24 kills to get a M.O.A.B. (you like get to nuke the place) – excited to get that final 24th kill, someone kills you. Explicits. Rage is obviously when someone can no longer becomes competent of controlling their own anger and they just let loose.  See here: Rage Quit I love this one.  Rage quitting is when you get so mad, you abruptly leave a game.  You can quit, but during extreme rage, you just hit the power button… or throw the controller.  And I hope it’s not your $150 one with all the mods. Extreme Rage This is typically when you should have rage quit but didn’t.  The level of rage increases into family insults usually directed at the opposing players mother. Noob – n00b A noob is simply a new (hence the “noo” portion of the word – “new-b”) or unexperienced player.  Unlike a troll, they inadvertently piss you off because they are not up to your level of game play and knowledge. They typically mess...
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Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion : Sega Genesis : RetroReview...

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Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion : Sega Genesis : RetroReview Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion. I worked at Software, Etc. in 1990 when this game first came out. I recently traded in my NES for a new 16-bit Sega Genesis. I skipped getting the Turbo Grafx 16 because I knew it was only two 8-bit processors and not a true 16-bit processor. Though Bonk was a pretty fun game. I was hesitant to try this title because I was never a big Disney fan and the theme actually portrayed the title as a bit childish.  I was a senior in high school, and Mickey Mouse? It didn’t add up. But I was a sales person for the store and I read positive reviews of the game in the trade magazines, so I decided to give it a try. To this very day, this game comes down to one of my all time favorites. I told my wife I wanted a classic Sega Genesis for Christmas and this was the first game that came to mind. Now I loved Sonic when he became the mascot for the Genesis, as Mario was for the Nintendo, but this game was special.  For the time, the graphics were impressive and the story was actually intriguing. But what made this game was the game-play itself – the usability, the playability. It was responsive, intuitive, and handled with ease. This was well ahead of anything else out at its time, and I liked the control better than the 3 Super Mario Brothers that proceeded it. Like Super Mario Brothers, this was a platform style game where you controlled the character along the ledges of each scene avoiding dangers, hunting for secrets, defeating enemies, and ultimately getting to the end – while collecting everything you could find along the way. If I had a chance to remake a game today, I would choose this game.  I would only enhance the graphics, keep the game-play, and add a save feature.  Most of all, I would add two-player to the game.  Sharing the experience with someone else enhances any game. I also think if they took the Mickey Mouse out of this game and added a unique character, video game history could have been made.  Crash, Mario, Spyro, Gex, Sonic, whatever – this would have put a stake in the ground...
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Text Based Adventure Games – A Lost Art...

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Text Based Adventure Games – A Lost Art You are standing on a trail. The grass has almost hidden what is left from lack of use. Tall trees block the sun on your left and to the right you see a green hill that leads down to a running brook. A limb hangs by a sign that reads, “Townstead North”. You see a small boulder that looks as if it was recently moved from it’s orignal spot. :push boulder You are not strong enough to move by yourself. :get limb You snap a strong limb from the tree :use limb – – – – Perhaps not the best writing off the top of my head, but this was the essence of the text based adventure games that were abundant in the early days of home computers. Like reading a good book, your imagination unfolded as you read the context and pondered your next step. It was a mystery, a puzzle, and offered so much satisfaction each time you figured out what to do next (typically consisting of a basic two word command – a verb and a noun). We were not very picky when it came to the plot or story line at the time, as long as there were steps to solve. The puzzle to be solved made up for any lack of writing or storyline. But when you did have a great plot, good writing, and challenging puzzles, there was nothing better. A true interactive novel you controlled and solved along with the main character you were playing. I discovered my first text based adventure games on the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer 2. They would come in the form of a tape cassette and I would use a tape recorder to load the data. The tape player would actually “play” the electronic data sounds and the computer would interpret it digitally. During this era, peaking through the mid 80’s, Infocom was the “Activision” of text based games. They released a ton of titles and usually provided a great story and experience. I probably played 25 different games – a few that stand out were Zork and SeaStalker. And then something magic happened. I soon upgraded to a Commodore 64 and learned to navigate the pre-webs using a 300 baud modem (see previous entry on 1987 file sharing). Like free apps in the...
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