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: