Playing video games has always been tagged as being a rather solitary pastime, even when you consider the ubiquity of online gaming today. Sure, you might be in a shooter with 24 other people, but you don’t see them and probably have never met them IRL, and communication is generally on the level of potty-mouthed trash talk over a tinny mic. In my youth I played a lot with friends in front of my C64 (see: M.U.L.E.), but when I tally up all of the game time, statistically speaking I was by myself playing video games.
Now, collecting retro video games might seem to demand a certain amount of face time with other like-minded traders, looking to score deals and complete collections. However, with the advent of eBay and other online venues for classic game purchasing and trading, it’s possible you could pursue your hobby sequestered at home with your only connection to the outside world being a furtive peek through the curtains at your local UPS guy delivering your latest acquisition.
Rocky was a low budget film from 1976, about a local Philadelphia boxer named Rocky Balboa getting a shot at the heavyweight championship. It went toe to toe with heavy-hitters like All the President’s Men, Network and Taxi Driver at the 1977 Academy Awards, and walked off with the Best Picture prize, along with Best Director for John G. Avildsen. The immense success of the movie put a young Sylvester Stallone on the map, and was followed up by no less than five sequels, along with numerous video game adaptations.
We deal here with Rocky Super-Action Boxing for the ColecoVision. It actually covered the ground of the third Rocky film, with the titular hero going up against Clubber Lang, played with verve by Mr. T. As indicated by the game’s long name, it was made for use with Coleco’s complicated Super Action Controllers, which themselves bear resemblance to boxing gloves. There’s no motion-detection though… players control body movements with the large joystick on top of the controller, and throw and block punches with the four finger buttons.
The gameplay is pretty good as far as boxing games of the era go. There’s three horizontal “lanes” which the players can move up and down in, and their position vs. the other boxer regulates whether punches register and can be blocked. This adds a bit of strategy as the pugilists jockey for the superior positioning. The game also offers a surprising amount of variety with the settings: you can play against the computer as either Rocky or Clubber with the CPU taking up the role of the other boxer with adjustable skill levels, and there is even a one-on-one mode where two humans can face each other in the ring. Typically from the ColecoVision, the graphics are also a standout. Everything is colourful and clear, and the boxers are rendered quite well. We even get a referee wandering around the ring, keeping an eye on the proceedings. A player can really get into the role of Rocky Balboa and end up jabbing the air while holding the fancy Super Action Controllers.
Should I say it? Yes I should. It’s a knockout. Even Mickey would be proud, ya bum!
Here are the rest of the Oscar Week articles on TDE:
I’m fairly certain that heading into the Christmas season, a lot of kids in 1983 were lying under their blankets at night with a flashlight, pouring over the video game section of that year’s Sears Wishbook. Crammed full of every important video game of the era, it was a cornucopia of gaming goodness. It also has a tinge of doom with all the price slashing, a herald of the collapsing market that would lay waste to the video game landscape the following year.
In the Cortex today is a page from the 1983 Sears Wishbook, featuring what was considered a great, shining hope for the continuation of the industry, Coleco’s 3rd-gen powerhouse ColecoVision. Sadly, the great “arcade in your home” system sank with the rest of them in the great video game crash. A page of history, forever turned:
Here’s my path through gaming history. It most likely started with me and my sister in the lobby of a motel my family was staying at on vacation one year, probably in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. They had a sit-down PONG machine, and we spent a lot of time batting that little white dot back and forth. On another Florida vacation, I remember being at the heels of my mother, shopping at a grocery store that almost certainly Winn Dixie. I saw a tall machine with a big scope standing off to the side, with an apple box conveniently placed so little ones could reach. This was, of course, Sea Wolf. I drifted over to climb up and peer into the scope, and after hitting a few buttons on the console to my surprise the game started up; someone had left a credit in it. Sweeping left and right with the scope, I did my best to sink ships while avoiding the floating mines, trying to line up a shot on that pesky, speedy PT boat.
One day in the back seat of the car one fall, thumbing through the real Christmas bible, aka the Sears Wish Book, I saw the Atari VCS. And all those games! “Mom, can I have this for Christmas?”, I asked. The answer was unexpected. Instead of a “Heck no!”, I got a “maybe”. My parents had to drive a couple of hours to over the border, and pay 400 bucks for it, but I got an Atari under the tree that year.
A couple of years later I sold it at a huge loss for a ColecoVision, the epiphany of which I describe in this article on the site, here. Then I migrated to computer gaming, selling the Coleco at another big loss to buy a Commodore Vic-20. It would be over 20 years until I tried console gaming again. Next, of course, came the C-64. Then I got an Amiga 500. The Amiga was an amazing computer, which I will talk about in an article coming soon. Then an Amiga 600, and as Commodore and the Amiga regrettably went bust, I went dormant for awhile, until picking up a Pentium II somewhere along the line, then moved up the rank building ever-increasingly faster PCs.
Big things, small packages
I finally broke my console exile with the Wii… I was fascinated by the control scheme. From there, I picked up a PS3 and fell in with a great group of gamers over at The Beautiful Peoples Club, an organization for gamers over 30. These days, if I do gaming on the computer it’s with the sorry selection available for my 27″ iMac, although with Steam now supporting the Mac things have gotten better on that front. But still, mostly Team Fortress 2.
So that’s my long, strange trip. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to take a run through a holodeck someday.