Not wanting to dive directly into this endeavor, in hopes of prolonging the thrill that much longer to build anticipation, I started with a game that I only vaguely remembered (as though my memory of any 8-bit Atari game is anything other than vague).
Alternate Reality. I don’t remember a single thing about where I got it, what the packaging looked like, or how far I got in it. I can’t believe I got very far, though, with my memory of it being as sketchy as it is.
As I fired it up in Altirra and swapped the endless disks, one thing stood out in my memory–the opening theme. I don’t remember a lot of the graphics or text, but definitely that 8-bit music stuck out–I could even predict the notes it was going to play. So that was interesting–a song somewhere in my head that I otherwise would never have accessed again–an interesting (if unexpected) first result of this thought experiment.
I think I remember one of my old friends playing this, or maybe his dad. M.B., let’s call him, for the sake of not attaching an unwanted search engine reference to his real name that future employers and family members may stumble upon. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about him in the weeks to come…
Anyway, as I progress to the first playable moments in this game and am quickly killed and have to start the whole disk swapping process over again, I am reminded why we don’t play games like this anymore. Who has the patience for this?
After a couple of times of this, I finally get smart and execute a “save state” as the game begins. This is like bookmarking that point in time so that if I die again or want to restart, I can load the saved state and go exactly back to where I was.
So finally, I am able to walk around this alternate reality. For some reason, the left and right arrows don’t seem to work, so all I can do is go forward and back. After running away from a few randomly generated encounters (I’ve found that in my default state of owning no weapons, I am almost guaranteed to lose a fight), I make my way to the Best Bargain Store. Who doesn’t appear to sell weapons, and everything else is more money than I own, so…
Back to fiddling with the controls. It looks like maybe J and L on the keyboard turn left and right. This gets me a little further, but I still keep getting attacked, killed, and restoring my saved state file. I can’t even imagine how anyone played this game without an emulator.
Now when I enter a shop, it just says “Leaving” right away, and I never go in. I’m content with quitting this game–I don’t think I ever made it much further than I have here today, so I don’t think I’ll be missing anything if I just throw my hands up and move on to the next one. I think this made a good beginning point–it whetted my appetite for more early gaming memories, although it didn’t really spark any tangential memories from my childhood.