TURN TO CHANNEL 3: The simple, but addictive frenzy of ‘Kaboom!’ for Atari 2600
Recently, I had a conversation with some fellow gamer friends about the games and systems that shaped our childhood, and one of the stories I always tell is about how my family wasn’t the first one on the block with a Nintendo Entertainment System console, and that the games we played, and the system we owned, were all based on the choices of my father, so I grew up on the Atari 2600 console.
A “Heavy Sixer,” as coined by collectors now, it was the first run of the system to make it out of the Atari factories in the Silicon Valley of California in the late 1970s. While I fondly remember playing “Bowling” for the first time with my father, it wasn’t the first game to really catch my eye. No, it was the subject of today’s Turn to Channel 3, a title made by Activision, the very first third-party developer of video games in the history of the industry – “Kaboom!”
Let us delve back into an era where it wasn’t about cut scenes or big-budget graphics, but about simplicity and overall entertainment value. I’ve polished up the wood grain and fired up the Atari 2600. Let’s play “Kaboom!”
“Kaboom!” (Atari 2600)
As is the case with a lot of games developed during this time, there wasn’t much hardware to work with as it related to sound, but the little that’s there is enough to create an iconic sound for all of those who grew up playing this title. You have the initial fizzle of the bombs, the sound a bomb makes should it end up getting put out, and then last, but certainly not least, there is the crack of a string of bombs exploding. For a lot of modern gamers, this may not seem like enough, but for those of us who grew up with the Atari 2600, it was more than enough.
Again, “Kaboom!” is not one of those titles that’s built on strong graphics, but instead, those graphics have created an image, a memory, in the minds of those who grew up with the title. You have your jailhouse escapee tossing the bombs as they fall to the bottom of the screen, and then there’s what appears to be kiddie pools that are used to put out the bombs. A lot of early video games had gamers relying on their imaginations to decide just what it was they were looking at, but Activision did a great job of creating something that, while not totally appealing to the eye, was done in just the right way that you knew, for the most part, what it was.
“Kaboom!” may very well have been the first of those games on home consoles where you’d tell someone in your family who asked you to come to dinner, “Just one more game,” because it really is an addictive game that pulls you in despite being very simplistic in nature. You start off with so many pools, and every time you let a bomb fall to the ground and explode, you lose a pool, gaining points for each bomb you put out. This is a game of beating high scores, whether it’s your own or that of a competitive friend.
While not quite on the level of “Frogger” and “Pitfall” in Atari popularity, “Kaboom!” is a game that definitely belongs in your collection and is among the more underrated titles on the Atari 2600. One last important note: This game requires the use of the Atari paddle controllers, not the standard joystick, so keep that in mind should you be thinking about purchasing and playing this title.
Join us next time on Turn to Channel 3, where we talk about some of those titles you may have wanted under your own Christmas tree all those years ago!
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