Groundhog Day is here, and I can’t think of a more appropriate way to observe that revered occasion than to take a look at one of the many games involving hogs on the Atari 2600: Pigs in Space. To summarize, three pigs voyage through the stars aboard the spaceship Swinetrek, boldly doing nothing of particular importance. The game itself is somewhat unusual in that it’s effectively three very different games in one, and each game had a different programmer.
The summer after 6th Grade was especially adventurous. I spent every day with my best friend Jon who lived across the lake from me. We stayed up late all summer long playing video games and making public access shows and game reviews on my video camera. At the start of summer I fell head over heels for a girl named Lauren from school. Lauren was cute, with long dark hair and intensely deep eyes. At the same time this was happening, my best friend Jon had also fallen for the love of his life, a redheaded girl named Cecilia who rode his bus. At twelve years old all we could think about were Lauren and Cecilia, and they became the topic of many epic conversations had that summer. Our days were spent at the pool, playing California Games and talking about girls.
California Games and the Atari Lynx arrived at the end of the ’80s in this crazy moment when beach culture was immensely popular. Movies, TV shows and music gravitated to sunny settings, surfboards, and gnarly neon colors. Saved By The Bell’s “Bayside High”, those bodacious bros Bill & Ted (who coincidentally have an Atari Lynx game of their own) and even the Golden Girls, all contributed to popularizing beach culture during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Atari Lynx proved to be different. It was robust, advanced, smart and edgy. It had better graphics, better sound, a backlit screen, it was in color, and it threw the low expectations of groupthink back in the face of the followers. It was rebellious. When I became aware of the Lynx and how impressive it was, I set out on a mission to get one in time for summer. On weekends I would go to Sears or Toys ‘Я’ Us and just stare at the Lynx behind showcase glass.
This is the first of a four-part anthology chronicling my lifetime of adventures with California Games and the Atari Lynx. It’s being published in four chapters over the course of the Summer. I hope you will enjoy this first chapter, a review of the game. California Games was released with the Lynx as its pack-in title in September, 1989. It features four different “extreme games” that can be selected from the title screen – BMX, Surfing, Halfpipe and Footbag – each with a fast-paced arcade feel, allowing just 1 minute and 30 seconds to swing tricks and successfully finish with a new high score.
Lost Ark Video Games is steeped in arcade culture with a really cool vibe all it’s own. Walls overflow with old Game Boys, Retron consoles, and used cartridges for Atari, Nintendo, and Sega systems, but there’s a lot of stuff at Lost Ark that you wouldn’t normally find. The store has a feel best described as “retro-otaku.” As you walk further into the store, you see that Lost Ark also has a retro arcade that includes classic arcade games, pinball machines, and one of the largest collections of Japanese candy cab import games in the United States. General admission to the arcade is usually $5, and all coin-op machines are on free-play.