Retro-Gaming with Coleco

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The Donkey Kong duo and Frogger

Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr.
Who knew an Italian plumber could be so much trouble?



Donkey Kong was an overnight sensation, and was the first game to feature both objects that needed to be jumped over and to offer different playing levels.  The hero in the game was simply known as "Jumpman", although the trademark red and blue hat and overalls and mustache were present.  This now-famous outfit was actually due to graphics limitations rather than any stylistic view.  The hat was placed on Jumpman's head to hide his hair, which did not have enough pixels to be animated properly.  Overalls were colored blue to differentiate them from his red sleeves and a mustache was added to help users distinguish where his nose ended and his mouth began.  Jumpman had to jump or smash barrels as he climbed up girders to save his girl from the clutches of Donkey Kong.  Like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong got his name in another odd twist; his creators wanted a stubborn kind of monkey as the nemesis of the game.  "Kong" sounded fitting, but a quick look in the dictionary brought up "ass or donkey" for stubborn, and thus was born "Donkey Kong".  The handheld version kept the basic layout, but it's simplistic graphics lost a bit of the arcade game's charm.  The sounds were also god-awful; it sounded more like the game was breaking than playing.  Being one of the only ways to play DK at home in 1981, however, it quickly found its way under many Christmas trees and remains one of the more common units out there.



Donkey Kong's first sequel, Donkey Kong Jr., turned the tables on us.  Mario, who had just earned his moniker after Nintendo of America's president took his name from their landlord, was now holding Donkey Kong prisoner.  It was now up to the player, playing as DK's son, Junior, to rescue the big ape.  Gameplay was entirely different from the original, as Junior needed to climb vines and chains to unlock Donkey Kong's cage, while avoiding Snapjaws and other assorted creatures.  The tabletop version of Donkey Kong, Jr. was also completely different from previous games, using a color LCD screen that needed to be lit by an external light source.  Unlike the VFD-based games, DK Jr. could not be played in the dark, although it could serve as a alarm clock.  DK Jr. also sported perhaps the best graphics and gameplay of the lot.  Unfortunately, this would be the last system that Coleco would produce (1981-1983).

The original "hip-hopper"



Frogger, like many other games, seems to have such a simple premise; get the frog from one side of the screen to the other.  The thing is, there are various obstacles in his way including cars, snakes, diving turtles, etc.  Highly successful in Japan in 1981, Sega brought Frogger to the states in 1982, and it has enjoyed mass recognition and popularity since then.  The simple gameplay was brought to the household by Coleco soon after it hit the arcades, and while the idea was the same, the limited colors and lack of variety made this version less fun to play.  Another one of the series that can be found in many attics and trunks of thirty-somethings.

Tags:  Gaming, eco, Gamin, retro, AM

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