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Relive the Spider-Man Atari 2600 game, and all its two-dimensional, bottom-to-top, frustrating wonderment

March 21, 2013


Spider-Man was the first video game for a Marvel Comics character, and it occupied a prime spot my old Atari 2600 cartridge line-up, right alongside Asteroids, Combat, the bewildering Raiders of the Lost Ark and the ghastly E.T. debacle. It was great having the web-slinger under your control, but the limitations of early 1980s gaming meant that he was shorn of all powers but his webs (which, this not being the modern Raimi interpretation of the character, wasn’t a power at all), and was thus made little more than a becostumed George of the Jungle. The object of the game was to scale a yellow skyscraper (Follow the yellow brick building…), and avoid letting your web-lines fall on windows (either they were open or Atari 2600 webs couldn’t stick to glass) and henchmen that could interrupt your progress. The meter that measured your web reserves was like a countdown to doom because, most crushing of all, if it went down to nothing, Spider-Man would plummet to his doom on the sidewalk below. He’d splat right onto the ground, his limbs raised to the mocking heavens like one of his flattened arachnid cousins.

Relive some of the gameplay, complete with Spider-Death:

At the top of the building lurked the Green Goblin, and it’s hard to put into words the icy fear that would grip five-year old me when he’d appear, moving from side to side and presenting a challenge that infantile reflexes and motor control could never hope to match. And if you were lucky enough to get past him and defuse the bomb he guarded? You got to do it all over again on a differently colored structure, with things moving a bit faster as the rounds advanced. In short, like every Atari game, things got repetitive, and the game was inevitably shunted to the side. What kid wants to kill Spider-Man on a regular basis?

And the print ad? Not much to comment on, other than the Jazzy John Romita stylings lacking the in-your-face nightmare fuel of the TV commercial, with its cackling live-action Goblin — GAH KILL HIM:

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