Welcome to Gaming in the Nixon Years, the column that gives you the low down on all the hottest arcade games of the late sixties and early seventies. Why review games exclusively from that period? Because we're crazy. Crazy about having fun! And - allegedly - crazy in the general sense. The arcade manager says we can only play the games in the basement after we broke Virtua Fighter 4 by spilling grape juice on it.

This week, we review a game about shooting cats, offer our two cents on sports sims, and go on a virtual helicopter ride. But first, grab your motorcycle helmet, because we're about to accelerate into the high-octane world of Hill Climb.

Hill Climb


Hill Climb is a game about outdoor motorcycling. In it, you control a motorcycle climbing a hill. Squeeze the throttle to accelerate and steer using the handlebars. The arcade machine is about 6 feet tall. It takes quarters, which have an acrid metallic taste if you eat them.

The game has two rounds. Complete them quickly enough and you get a third round on a blacklit course. The blacklight graphics are fantastic. Don't be surprised if the first time you see them, your eyes pop out of their sockets and roll around on the floor in a lurid kaleidoscopic orgy. We wish more games employed blacklights. Imagine, for instance, if every time you won at Halo a blacklight snapped on, lighting up the word "Winner" on a special shirt that came with the game and blacklight. It might be a little expensive, but we're sure most gamers would be willing to shell out a few extra dollars for such innovative technology.

The difficulty level in Hill Climb is just right. Expert gamers should have no problem beating it without cheat codes. But if you want to cheat anyway, here's how. Remove the glass panel from the machine and slide down the bar on the rear of the bike. This lowers its center of gravity, reducing its chances of popping a wheelie and slowing down. The arcade manager might see you cheating and call your mom. When he picks up the phone, start crying and tug on his shirt with the following motions: down, left, left, down, down.

Hill Climb is one of the best games ever made. Our sole suggestion for improvement is an intro cinematic and backstory. Some people might say that a biking game doesn't need a story, but come on! Easy Rider had one and that was a thing on a screen involving biking. Bottom line, Hill Climb is one wild ride not to be missed.

ControlB
DifficultyA
DesignA
Grounded by MomC


Haunted House

Prepare for stomach-kerning terror with Midway's Haunted House. No, that isn't a typo. We just thought the kerning on the logo was a little off. Forgive us for the die-gression, but if you're a professional developer and can't use proper kerning in your title, heads should roll, no pun intended - or should we say inten-dead!

So what about the game itself? Well, let's put it this way: if we were offered the choice between playing this game and spending one night in a haunted room full of Todd McFarlane action figures, we'd definitely choose the latter. This game is a light bulb, folks. We can't put it any simpler than that. Not only are the controls awkward and the gameplay repetitive, but the designers have apparently never been to a haunted house in their lives. Just look at the three main enemies: witches, grave robbers and green cats. Wait a second - green? And what kind of a d-list monster choice is a grave robber? Also, the witches ride their brooms vertically like pogo sticks, while anyone who's seen a real witch knows that they ride them horizontally. This kind of unrealistic garbage is what's wrong with most haunted house simulators on the market today. Shame on you, Midway! As punishment, we think the developers of this game should be forced to watch Todd McFarlane's Spawn - one of the scariest films ever made - to show them how horror-themed games should be done.

ControlC
DifficultyC
DesignD
Made us think of Todd McFarlaneB
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