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Demons To Diamonds

Long before the Atari 2600 unsuccessfully tried to duplicate arcade classics like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, its programmers created wonderful little games that engaged imaginations as much as hand/eye coordination. Demons To Diamonds took things one step further and put real life into its 8-bit graphics with a cool little story in the instruction manual, which set the game at a carnival, and included a churlish demon who told players, "So come on, reach for your laser, exercise your trigger finger on us. Put us through our paces and we'll dazzle you with demonic tricks!" Players knew right away that they were in for a good time.

Gameplay: Using your paddle controller, you move your little laser gun back and forth across the top of the screen. Your opponent does the same at the bottom of the screen. You can fire your laser with—wait for it—the fire button. The longer you hold your button down, the farther your gun will shoot, just like at summer camp.

Once the demons appear in the space between you, the game gets crazy: If you shoot a demon of your own color, it turns into a diamond. Whoever shoots the diamond first will score, just like in high school. But if you shoot a demon that isn't your color, it turns into a skull and start shooting at both of you. Sneaky players quickly learn that if they create a skull close to their opponent, they'll build a significant advantage, just like on Wall Street. Of course, if a skull shoots you, you'll die. Just like in real life, man.

Could be mistaken for: Air-Sea Battle, a bike ride with Albert Hoffman

Kids today might not like it because: After years of online gaming, playing with a person who is sitting the same room frightens and confuses them.

Kids today might like it because: The manual tells them, "Although DEMONS TO DIAMONDS was primarily designed for children in the 6 to 12 age range, we find that people of all ages enjoy this engaging game." Don't argue, just do what the manual says and nobody will get hurt.

Enduring contribution to gaming history: Demons To Diamonds, like Breakout and Circus Atari before it, made paddle controllers a must-have accessory for serious Atari 2600 gamers.


Wil Wheaton weighs the same as a duck.