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Avalanche - The Atari Times


Not a bad idea, but you're better off playing the "upgrade"
by Darryl Brundage

January 15, 2007
This was one of Atari's earlier and very obscure (especially nowadays) coin-ops, and you'll find out why.

Back in the early days of arcade games, without a lot of memory or much power or anything, most of the first offerings to arcades were pretty simple, and Avalanche is no exception. Unfortunately Atari screwed it up by making it too difficult, which is probably why it wasn't exactly a big hit.

Here's a game that sort of falls into the Breakout-type category, yet it's kind of a "reverse" of Breakout at the same time (kind of like Bedlam being a "reverse Tempest" of the Vectrex, due to your ship being in the middle and shooting outward at ships that are heading your way). You have several paddles on the screen, all stacked on top of each other (but they're all controlled at the same time) and you must catch an avalanche of rocks raining down towards the bottom of the screen.

This is the most orderly "avalanche" I've ever seen, as the rocks (mostly) come down in a mannerly order; catching one on any of the several paddles will cause it to magically disappear (maybe to be warped to the future game of Dig Dug for further use to squash the Pookas and such with).

Unfortunately you'll start losing paddles as time progresses (and not by missing a rock, the game's just programmed that way), more and more rocks start falling (and speeding up in the process) and your paddles and the blasted rocks will start getting smaller, so they get harder and harder to catch, which you'll start losing turns then (where's Pac-Man to clean up the mess at the bottom of the screen when you need him? Oh that's right, he hadn't been created yet).

In spite of playing this game several dozen times, I was never able to clear one single screen...however, I was playing it on MAME, which it's difficult to control a jittery set of paddles when you don't have the original dial controller from the arcade game (which Super Breakout was also very difficult to play as well using the keyboard). It's probably possible to clear a screen on the arcade game (but I don't have one around, as I don't believe I ever saw this game before in my entire life) but I imagine it would still be pretty difficult to do. So I can't really give an accurate rating on how the controls respond. The graphics weren't bad for back then, though, plus there's a really neat sound effect of a build-up of an avalanche that gets increasingly louder the further you get into a screen, which is equivalent to the "Space Invaders pulse" that quickens with the fewer invaders that are left, sure to make you screw up in panic and lose a turn (it's a psychological thing).

One interesting note, though: there was a much better "update" to this game that was released later. Do you know what it is? Think about it: what is it that makes this gameplay seem a bit...familiar? Activision was originally going to port this obscure game to the 2600, but there was some technical problem to duplicating the playfield to the console. So they changed the gameplay a bit, making it way more hectic (yet still more fun than this) and replacing a wall of rock with a certain "Mad Bomber". Yep, that's how Kaboom! was created, showing Atari how it SHOULD have been done all along.

This wasn't a bad game though, it was just too hard (I would probably give it a slightly higher rating if I was playing the original with the way better controls, but this will have to do for now). It could have been better, more fun, and had longer lasting gameplay, as it IS a bit addicting (until not being able to clear one single screen starts getting old). But you're still better off playing Kaboom! instead.


(c) Atari

Here it is, the original Kaboom!
There are rocks dropping on my head!
The paddle gets smaller and smaller.
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 75%
Gameplay Score: 75%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 70%

Reader Comments for Avalanche

Controls by Gregory D. George on 2007-01-15 21:27:07
Playing it with MAME wasn't too bad once you set the sensitivity of the mouse. Strangely, my first game was all jittery and then I think I moved the joystick and the mouse was nice and smooth after that. Just takes some tweaking I think.
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