The only thing better than Spider-Man and video games is Spider-Man playing video games.
Atari was once THE name in video games. The Atari 2600 released 6 years before Nintendo’s NES and essentially owned the home console market. Even back then when video games were in their infancy, there was no shortage of movie tie-ins and brand endorsements (step aside Pepsiman).
E.T. may be the most infamous Atari 2600 game of all time, given the strange and mysterious circumstances surrounding it, but today we’d like to talk about an even more fascinating game: Parker Brothers’ 1982 Atari classic Spider-Man.
Spider-Man on the Atari was both the first game to feature Spider-Man and the first game ever made for a Marvel superhero. The game was essentially a Donkey Kong clone, but it used Spidey’s web-slinging as an interesting mechanic to scale the building. Enemies could cut the web and make Spider-Man fall, but touching enemies would capture then, replenishing some of Spidey’s web reserve. The objective was to work your way up the building to disarm bombs planted by the Green Goblin. If you made it to the top, Green Goblin would plant a super bomb that needed to be defused before the fuse ran out. The game only had one level, but winning would change certain aspects on the next attempt, such as more enemies or a faster Green Goblin.
The trailer for the game is an incredible moment in gaming history that has thankfully been preserved on Youtube:
It’s more than just the 4:3 cloudy image and Halloween store quality-costumes that make this such a special video. The juxtaposition between the action-packed dialogue and the actual gameplay is just so delightful. It’s fun to look at how far we’ve come, and the way Goblin says “YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF FLUID” makes me smile. Not to mention the wild gesturing Spidey does when he says “IS THIS MORE ACTION THAN EVEN SPIDER-MAN CAN HANDLE!?” as Green Golbin inexplicably throws himself off the roof. It’s campy and ridiculous, but it’s just as sincere and compelling as ads for modern games.
As the release of the new Atari CVS (hopefully) draws near, it would be great to see Atari update and contextualize these memories. There was a time when Atari owned the hearts of gamers around the world, and these kinds of ads are the best way to help us remember.
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