It’s On Like Donkey Kong!

Cough!  Hack!  Er, pardon the dust... and don't forget to blow in the cartridges.

Cough! Hack! Er, pardon the dust… and don’t forget to blow in the cartridges.

The Nintendo Entertainment System was the greatest video gaming console ever made.  Sure, that might technically be an opinion of mine, but in reality it’s a fact.  Keep your flashback fridayPlaystations, your XBoxes, and whatever the hell else they spit out these days with titles that look nothing like video games are supposed to look.  They wouldn’t even be around to cause Black Friday stampedes were it not for the fact that the NES made home gaming a viable industry back in the late 80’s.

But the NES was not my first love in the home console market.  There were predecessors to the NES that created a mini home gaming boom in the early 80’s… most notably the Atari 2600 which seemingly every cool kid from the 80’s had except for me…

squirrel corner

Or maybe I just wasn’t as cool as I thought I was…

No, the gaming console my family had was actually the Cadillac of the original home gaming era… and by Cadillac, I don’t just mean the top of the line, but the console itself was fucking HUGE and weighed about half a ton.  Check it out up there in my intro picture… that’s none other than the one and only ColecoVision!  Let’s talk about this forgotten player in the video gaming industry for today’s Flashback Friday.

Play video games, and make a call... all from the same controller!

Play video games, and make a call… all from the same controller!

As you can see from the box the console was contained in, the ColecoVision was marketed as “The Arcade Quality Video Gaming System” when it was released in 1982.  The Atari 2600 had already swept the nation since its debut in 1977, offering people a chance to play their favorite arcade games from the comfort of their living room without having to fork out a roll full of quarters.  However, comparing the Atari graphics to the graphics of a stand up arcade video game was like comparing my artwork to paintings by the Renaissance masters… the results were barely passable, and ultimately looked like shit.

the birth of mbrs

I think I have just been insulted…

See for yourself the difference between what playing Donkey Kong, the classic game included along with every ColoecoVision ever sold, looked like on the Atari 2600 vs. the ColecoVision:

Left:  Mario fights the Gingerbread Man on the Atari. Right: This looks much better, but Pauline seems to have swallowed her hat.

Left: Mario fights the Gingerbread Man on the Atari.
Right: This looks much better on Coleco, but Pauline seems to have swallowed her hat.

The ColecoVision graphics were much more detailed, fluid, and faithful to the original… even if you could destroy barrels with the hammer while your back was turned away from them.. something that would have resulted in this had you been playing the arcade version:

Luigi stands to inherit a fortune now!

Luigi stands to inherit a fortune now!

While the graphics may have been state of the art for the time period, the controllers for the Coleco were unnecessarily unwieldy compared to the more simplistic Atari joystick…

We couldn't decide if we wanted to make a video game controller, or a cell phone prototype.

We couldn’t decide if we wanted to make a video game controller, or a cell phone prototype.

That numerical keypad that made the Coleco controller about 3 times as large as it needed to be must have been put there for some cool reason, right?  Well, hold on to your Pac Man T-shirts, folks, because this thrilling intro screen was your one and only opportunity each game to have any reason to even touch the number pad:

Press 9 to talk to a real, live psychic.

Press 9 to talk to a real, live psychic.

That was it… the whole reason the numerical keypad even existed on that controller was so you could select the number of players and difficulty level.  Weren’t cursors invented before 1982?  Could I have not just moved a little icon up and down the menu with the joystick and pushed the button?  Just more proof that in the early days of the electronic gaming industry, it was more about how complicated advanced you could make things rather than applying the KISS principle.  No wonder the home video game market fell in the toilet by 1984…

Mommy, do I hafta press the # key to flush?

Mommy, do I hafta press the # key to flush?

So what cool games did me and my sisters have for our ColecoVision back in the day?  Well, besides the already included Donkey Kong, we had it’s sequel Donkey Kong, Jr.!

Who knew Mario was into whips and chains?

Who knew Mario was into whips and chains?

Then there was Subroc,  a battle game where you could fight strange, repetitive alien craft in the water or in the sea just by moving a little crosshairs up and down.  Or if you were smart, you could just keep moving to the right or left and never have to shoot at anything until the final boss…

The final boss.... a giant flying Franklin Stove...

The final boss…. a giant flying Franklin Stove…

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain to any of you how to play the game Frogger.  All you had to do was get your frogs into the little cubbyholes at the end of the obstacle course, and not get flattened by cars, bitten by snakes, eaten by otters, or drowned by dickhead diving turtles who knew you were controlling the only five frogs in the world who had no idea how to swim.

Also not shown, the razor sharp barbed wire just off the right edge of the screen that kept your frogs from copying Pac Man.

Also not shown, the razor sharp barbed wire just off the right edge of the screen that kept your frogs from copying Pac Man.

Popeye was another arcade classic from the 80’s based on the well loved animated series.  As stupid as Bluto/Brutus was in the cartoons, with his brain replaced by dumbass video game AI, he seems to aimlessly wander around hoping to run into Popeye and send the sailor to his death with just a single touch.

Hey Wimpy... could you get off your fat hamburger eating ass and give me a hand here?

Hey Wimpy… could you get off your fat hamburger eating ass and give me a hand here?

Q*Bert was just a really cruel game, especially when that green haired motherfucker with the shades would drop down and undo all the squares you had just changed.  This was even worse in the later levels when how the squares changed colors began to get complicated enough to need a class on differential equations to even figure out how to beat a screen.  If there was a more frustrating, piece of shit video game than Q*Bert ever invented, I have never played it.

Just go ahead and jump off the pyramid, Q*Bert.... your life isn't worth living anyway...

Just go ahead and jump off the pyramid, Q*Bert…. your life isn’t worth living anyway…

Carnival was a shooting gallery game that was decent fun to play, until the first time you took too long to beat a screen and an endless parade of ducks would start generating on the screen, making you waste all your bullets.

Whew!  No squirrels!

Whew! No squirrels!

Smurfs: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle was the most mind-numbing video game I ever owned on any console.  Hell, I had Anticipation for the NES which was a fucking board game you played on your Nintendo, and it wasn’t as lame and ignorant as this game was.  You had to keep rescuing Smurfette from Gargamel’s clutches over and over and over and over again… going over the same crummy screens that were designed by a three year old over and over and over again.  Once you figured out how to do a double jump, you had completely mastered this game, and could only lose if you were either completely stoned or the cat knocked your 20 pound cell phone controller out of your hand while a spider was crawling towards you…

Oh shit... here comes another set of blue balls.

Oh shit… here comes another set of blue balls.

The last game we had was Squish ‘Em Sam….. FINALLY!  This game was awesome!  You climbed to the top of the building, stomping on an ever increasing menagerie of odd shaped pixellated things, while avoiding all kinds of objects being tossed down on you from above probably by an evil squirrel.  The sound effects in this game are totally awesome and corny!  Check out this YouTube video of someone playing Squish Em Sam and getting to Level 10…

Despite ColecoVision’s advanced design and ability to be used as a sandbag, it enjoyed only a brief moment in the sun due to the impending crash of the home gaming market around 1984… and would be long buried under the rubble of Betamaxes and Greatest American Hero posters in the closet by the time Nintendo revived the market in 1986.  But we here at The Nest would like to salute this one of a kind gaming system that practically brought the arcade into our living rooms, and gave us a chance to rescue fair maidens, giant apes, skinny beanpoles, unlucky frogs, and Smurfettes whenever we felt up to the challenge.  Thank you Coleco for all of the fun games, memories, and useless controller parts.  It’s almost enough to forgive you for introducing these dreaded things around the same time…

The picture that accompanies "ass ugly" in the dictionary.

The picture that accompanies “ass ugly” in the dictionary.

About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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28 Responses to It’s On Like Donkey Kong!

  1. 1jaded1 says:

    Ha! Another great memory. I don’t game anymore, but I remember constantly playing on the Intellevision. So much fun, it was.

  2. merbear74 says:

    I never played Q-bert as a kid, either. I never had Colecovision…just an Atari 2600 and then Nintendo. We did have Popeye though. Great post, Gargamel!

  3. PigLove says:

    OMP (Oh my pig!) Mommy and daddy play Frogger, Donkey Kong, Qbert and all of the GREATS – They love them. Says there is nothing like the originals and no one can take their place – EVAH! Now that evil Squash Cabbage Doll – snorts. You should ask mommy what she did with hers WHICH SHE DIDN’T WANT TO BEGIN WITH – snorts. She will *never* live that one down. XOXO – Bacon

    • I hope it was something truly evil. All of my squirrel sisters had one… I really wanted to take the bald one’s head off and use it as a baseball!

      • PigLove says:

        Well it’s like this. Mommy was what you call a tomboy growing up. She had five older brothers. To her, having fun was ball games, cowboys and Indians and climbing trees – no dolls. Her mother got her this hideous Cabbage Patch Doll that she absolutely hated. She did what she liked to do. She played cowboys and Indians with it 🙂 She tied it to a tree in her backyard and set it on fire. It was a good time held by all.. Except her mother – snorts. Evil enough for you? XOXO – Bacon 🐷

  4. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Add PacMan, Haunted House and Combat and that was our video game library. We did have an Atari though, with the “regular/expert” switch on the back.

    I loved Qbert, but I was also good at it.

    I hated the Popeye game, and that spider level music in The Smurfs.

  5. C.K. Hope says:

    I had Atari, my parents got it in the hopes of keeping me out of the arcades. Silly parents! 😉

  6. I continue to be in awe of the evolution of the graphics. If we can go from squish em to skyrim in 20 years, what will the next 20 years bring?

  7. Her Majesty says:

    Nice post, but I see nothing there that would have tempted me to swap my Space Invaders and my Pac Man. And by tempted, I mean pried from my cold, dead hands….ha!

    That Popeye one looks familiar, though. I remember that whiny, useless bitch Olive Oyl just pacing back and forth. For some reason, the name Hamburger Stand comes to mind, maybe they had different names for different systems?

    Funny coincidence, my bro was here this weekend and we were reminiscing about Mario 3 and how he’d get all of the mushrooms because I was always forced to be Luigi….

    • Popeye was on just about every classic gaming format, so it was probably on Atari too… Along with that #@&(* Q*Bert, they were the only two games I had on both Coleco and NES. at least until I swapped out Q*Bert with someone else for a better game…

      Luigi rules, and he has been in the shadow of that attention whore Mario for too long now! I was always Luigi when me and the sisters played Mario 3, and I still got more than my fair share of power ups and P-wings!

  8. draliman says:

    I don’t remember the console we had but I remember it had on of those backwards-forwards pong games and a racing game. Then at last came the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and my life was complete!
    Ah, Jet Pac 🙂

  9. ksbeth says:

    i have a clear memory of snapping off the joy stick when playing ‘pong’ the first time i had the opportunity. apparently i was a bit overexcited. a bit symbolic perhaps ?

  10. Dylan Dailey says:

    Yeah, I had Coleco-Vision. Good times….

  11. My cousin had a system like this when I was a kid. Maybe it was the Coleco because I definitely remember the Smurf game

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