In 1978, gas prices surged, Kool-Aid became the official drink of Jonestown, and the untimely death of Keith Moon caused a nation to long for a simpler time, when XXX-strength whiskey cost three cents and arguments were settled with a nice, civilized, uncomplicated gunfight. The programmers at Atari, who always had one hand on a joystick and the other on the pulse of America, responded with Gunslinger.
Gameplay: The desert is silent. Two cowboy-ish blocks of color face off against each other, separated only by a lone cactus. The left player crouches and fires! A bullet-shaped block races across the screen and finds its mark! The right player reels from the impactand sits down. He's losing by one point, but he's got a trick up his sleeve: Just as they do in real life, bullets bounce off the sky, so the left player had better stay frosty. Don't have any friends? Hone your skills in target-practice mode while plotting your future as a "lone gunman."
Could be mistaken for: Combat, if you squint really hard, or Megamania, if you're high.
Kids today might not like it because: While the game is dedicated to blasting an opponent's guts out at close range, there's not a whole lot of blood. (And for "not a whole lot," substitute "none.") But that cactus sort of looks like a sex toy! How about that? Ha!
Kids today might like it because: You can get strapped and cap some fools, sucka! Enjoy all the fun of shooting things without the annoying guilt that occasionally accompanies wanton acts of needless violence. And that cactus sort of looks like a sex toy! How about that? Ha!
Enduring contribution to gaming history: Essentially Grand Theft Auto III without the carjackings, Gunslinger now looks a full two decades ahead of its time.
Thanks to Atariage.com for the graphic, and for reprinting the unintentionally hilarious game manual, which cheerfully reminds us that "the left player uses the left controller, and the right player uses the right controller." Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton is the author of Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot. He denies that he married his wife just because she still has a working Atari 2600 from 1977. Wil Wheaton maintains a web presence at wilwheaton.net.