Well, I haven’t exactly been looking forward to this. Have you even heard of a video game console called the Arcadia 2001? There isn’t much to say about it, other than:
- rushed, badly programmed rip-off games
- dead-on-arrival for U.S. release
- terrible graphics and even worse sound
- Emerson got sued by Atari for making clones of arcade games without permission
From what I’ve read, this thing went straight to the clearance bins when it came out. Ouch! Now that’s some hardcore crappy merchandise. The system’s controllers were also like the Intellivision and the ColecoVision. They were the bastard offspring of a telephone and a joystick.
Being the retro-gaming emulator junkie that I am, I tried to play a few of these games. The only way I could get any of them to work for the longest time was on the MESS emulator. The experience was less than sub-par. Even when loading the ROM, MESS would warn me that the system wasn’t fully supported and that I would probably experience errors.
But as I was getting games together for these reviews, I found that someone has made a better standalone Arcadia 2001 emulator. It’s called WinArcadia, and if you want to experience some prime low-quality console gaming, give it a try. I must admit that as far as features and usability go, it’s one of the nicest emulators I’ve seen. Still, the game library for the Arcadia 2001 ranges from terrible to mediocre, so there’s not a lot to be gained by adding those games to your library.
There are (at least) two racing games for this console.
Auto Race (1982)
This game is basically “Auto Racing” for the Intellivision, only with shittier graphics and shittier sound. But it would be unfair to leave the comparison at that. This game copies “Auto Racing” for everything, right down to the automatic acceleration. So that’s two games I’ve seen that in, and one’s a rip-off of the other. But “Auto Race” also adds an element. You have to deal with people running in front of your car as you race along your track. And you can’t hit them.
Above you see the options screen, which is actually easier to deal with than the Intellivision original.
And here we have the glorious ultra-realistic graphical display! Your racing car is purple, as are most racing cars in no version of reality ever. You can sort of see buildings, and by the colour scheme, I’m guessing they are all McDonald’s locations. I fucking hate McDonald’s, btw. Don’t eat that crap, it’s bad for you.
You can also see… I guess… bushes? And spectators. And then there’s this really big goof who runs like a total fucking gimp. Do you see him? He’s half-way into the road in the screenshot above. And he’s jaywalking – jayrunning actually – right into your path.
At least he turns red when you smash into him, giving you the satisfaction of knowing you have crushed not just his hopes and dreams, but his ribs and maybe his skull too.
But when you start again from after a crash (you get infinite cars I think), the same running dude runs out to meet your car again! Either that or it’s his brother from Albania shouting in a thick accent “YOU KEEL MY BROUTHAR!!!”
You can keep smashing into these guys because they keep appearing. Yes, it’s Grand Theft Auto before Grand Theft Auto was even a glint in the eyes of game developers.
One good thing that I can actually say about this game is that the car handles much better than the one in “Auto Racing”. At least the programmers of this game improved that aspect. The steering mechanism is exactly the same as the first released version of “Auto Racing”. Left steers left and right steers right no matter which way the car is facing on the screen.
And as you can see I successfully finished 1 lap, and I didn’t run over the screaming Albanian. I couldn’t make out what he was shouting, but it was something about “glory” and “Hoxha”.
This is a view of the next “track”, which is a little more challenging. I also upped the speed, though the difference is barely noticeable. The track has some narrow passages that must be navigated, and this one is right at the beginning, so it is particularly tricky to get through.
Another fine lap. Is there anything that me and the Fuchsia Funkmobile can’t do?
Here’s another look at that options screen. Two player mode puts a white car on the screen for a simultaneous race. I couldn’t really test this out, but it looks like it might be fun, as long as you can find a deaf friend to play with.
This is one of the better games for the Arcadia 2001, but it’s still pretty lousy. The comparisons to “Auto Racing” on the Intellivision can’t be avoided. Honestly, I’d rather play neither, but if I had to choose one, I’d still choose the Intellivision game because the graphics and sound on this one are just too horrid. If you feel that you can put up with the garish colours and harsh sounds, and are intrigued by the thought of running down Albanian jaywalkers GTA-style, then give this game a try.
Route 16 (1983)
This game is a little different. It’s a port of an arcade game, and from what I can tell, a licensed one. I don’t think I’ve seen a game quite like it, but I’ve seen elements of this game in other games. Let me just mention those games first.
When I first loaded up the ROM, I saw a black background and a blocky yellow maze. My car was bright purple (what is it with the Arcadia 2001 and purple cars?) and there were three other cars chasing me.
Well ho-hum. It looked like another Pac-Man clone. Pac-Man was kind of a popular game, and there were many clones, rip-offs, homages and bastardizations of it released in its wake. I encountered several of these while I was considering games to review for Video Carnage. And since I don’t like Pac-Man very much, I chose to avoid them.
But “Route 16” isn’t really one of these clones. It’s got the Pac-Man DNA, but it also borrows heavily from a game called “Venture“. These screenshots are from the Atari 2600 version.
“Venture” features two different views. Above shows the zoomed-out view, and your controllable character is the little purple dot near the bottom in the middle. Once you navigate him into one of those rooms, you switch to a zoomed-in view which looks like this:
Your playable character is now bigger. He’s also considerably happier by the looks of things.
“Route 16” uses this same method of switching between zoomed-in and zoomed-out views. It seems to be one of the more “professionally” made games for this console.
An actual title screen! With legitimate copyright info that attributes an actual license to an actual entity! This must have been after Atari’s lawsuit.
Here’s where you start. Those three cyan cars are chasing you, and if they crash into you, you lose one of your five cars. Lose all five and it’s game over. The dollar signs are the whole reason for being in this yellow maze of pixels. You need to get all the dollar signs, just like real life. The question mark is a mystery item, though every time I’ve gotten one it’s turned into a skull and I’ve lost a car.
When you exit a zoomed-in room, you get to see this view. There are 16 different rooms, or caverns, or whatever you want to call them.
Entering these can be tricky too because the game is quite fast paced. These early video game consoles might seem primitive to us, but they were capable of fast action, and this game is a good example of this.
And as you can see, I wasn’t fast enough. This is one of the reasons why I don’t like Pac-Man style maze games. I’m rather bad at them.
Sometimes your pursuers take a while to get caught up with you, but sometimes you don’t really have much of a choice in where to go next.
And you can crash into them in the zoomed-out view too.
After losing all five cars, that’s the end.
This was one of the games that I couldn’t play at all when I tried to play it with the MESS emulator. Since I found WinArcadia, I’m glad to report that I can play it, and it’s actually one of the best games made for the Arcadia 2001. It’s pretty fun, and though it’s not startlingly original, it does combine some familiar video game elements in a unique way. I might actually come back and play this game a few more times.