atari game dragon key

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Allow me to tell you about one of the best games on the Atari. Adventure was that Atari game with the dragon and key and stuff. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are in for a treat.

Atari was not known for making great games for its own console. In fact, most of them sucked. Graphics were terrible, gameplay was terrible, etc. Adventure did have terrible graphics, but something was different about the gameplay that you pick up on right away. The entire game had multiple areas and wasn’t condensed to the size of a television screen. You play as a character that could carry an inventory. That inventory consisted of only one item, but it was still pretty cool for its time. There were locked doors that needed keys, dragons that needed to be slayed, and rivers that needed a bridge in order to cross them. It was an adventure!

Adventure Gameplay

The Atari had a switch to change game modes. In the case of this game, it meant having easy, medium, and hard. Easy mode was a mode for children where you were almost guaranteed to win. There was hardily any threat. I think there was one slow dragon that you could easily keep your distance from. It was straightforward. You begin the game in front of the yellow castle. You need to find a glowing trophy in another castle, and bring it back to the yellow castle. Game over.

The other game modes were harder. Much harder. Why, you ask? Because they introduced an annoying bat character. This bat would fly all over the map and pick up an inventory item. When it finds another one, it drops the one it was carrying and picks up the new one it spotted. So when a dragon is chasing you, and you cannot find where you left the sword, it is because that gosh darn bat stole it. The same goes for the keys, or anything else you need. Sometimes it would take the item right out of your hands as you are carrying it.

adventure atari 2600

One of the items you could carry is a bridge, as strange as it sounds. The bridge would allow you to go through walls, allowing you to get through barriers. So what would happen when the bat would discover the bridge you put down? That’s right: it’ll steal it, making you trapped somewhere. And what did it drop in its place? The sword. It dropped the sword in the center of the darn wall, making it impossible to reach. In order to remedy this, the game had a magnet you could hold, and it would bring other items close to you.

If a dragon ate you, you could simply hit the reset switch and begin back at the yellow castle, and your progress will still be intact. Oh, except for one little detail: the dragons you slayed? They’re back alive.

I cannot emphasize enough about the dragon. It brings terror to your soul, and makes your heart jump when you see it chasing you. When its mouth opens, you scramble around and try to escape its clutches before you end up trapped in its stomach. If you aren’t fast enough, you literally see yourself trapped inside of it, effectively making you lose the game. When this happens, there’s a moment of denial. Did that really just happen? Am I really trapped forever and have to reset the game?

The First RPG

Well not the first-first, but the first RPG in my book. I’m sure someone programmed a text-based one earlier or something, but who gives a crap about that? In this game, I am a knight that carries a sword and fights dragons. And by knight, I meant a square, and by sword, I meant an arrow. Because like I had said, the graphics were bad.

The other thing was that it was a multiroom or screen game in a fashion that today may be called “open world”. You have the state to explore different landscapes, areas and rooms to see what is there. Granted, you had to use your imagination a lot. But just the fact that you had that freedom was light-years away from other games at the time. Later games like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and E.T. also contained these exploring elements where you could move to different areas. Doing so feels like an interactive movie, where you are part of the action. As you moved from screen to screen, you discovered something new and had to guess what to do in that area.

The First Easter Egg

An Easter Egg is a hidden treat in a game. It is something that is not necessary to find, but if you do find it, you feel special. Now, again, I’m sure this was not the first game to have an Easter Egg hidden in it, but I’m not one to get hooked up on semantics. As far as I’m concerned, it was.

easter egg video game

If I remember the story correctly, Atari programmers at the time were not given credit for their work. Which kind of makes sense, when you think about it. When someone builds your house, is there a plaque on the side of your house that says who built it? No, of course not, because you just bought their services. Well Atari games were the same way. Adventure was created by Warren Robinett. So what did he do? He hid the words in the game “created by Warren Robinett”.

To find the hidden words was kind of ridiculous. In game modes 2 or 3, there is a “dark” castle, which is a maze as well, and you cannot see everything that is around you. In this maze is an enclosed area that you can only access using the bridge. And inside of this is a tiny square, which is the same color as the floor, that you need to bring back to the area where you began the game. So you need to find a tiny square that you cannot see because it’s the same color as the floor, and it’s inside a room with no door, and you cannot see the room because it’s dark.

Should I Play Adventure?

Heck yeah, you should play Adventure! Atari 2600 had some bad games, but this Atari game with dragons and keys is great. A boat-load of copies of this game were made, so it’s easy to find. (affiliate link) There were several different labels on the cartridges, but it was still the same game.

The problem would not be finding the game, but would be finding an Atari 2600 to play it on. The good news is that you can buy an Atari Flashback 2, which is just a reproduction Atari with games built into it. And what is one of those games that are included? Yes, Adventure! It’s also hardware based (unlike the later iterations) plus if you open it, you’ll find markings on the circuit board that’ll allow you to modify it to take real cartridges.

There’s also the Retron 77 console, which allows you to play the cartridges no problem. One of its benefits is that it allows HDMI output, allowing you to see games for the first time with pixel-perfect precision. If you are finicky about playing on original hardware, there’s an RCA composite modification for the original Atari 2600 console that’ll help you play the games with a more modern connection to your television. Although the mod chip necessary for this is easy to find, the changes you need to make to the inside of the device are a bit overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with soldering. Plus, accidentally destroying something is a bit heartbreaking, especially with something as old and irreplaceable as this.