Monday, May 12, 2008

Day 71: Scrapyard Dog

The Atari 7800, which finished a distant third behind the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System, could be an untapped well of lost video game classics. Or, based on what I've seen of it so far, it could be a vast reservoir of garbage thrown at an unsuspecting public as Atari desperately tried to stay relevant.

Fittingly, Scrapyard Dog is garbage. It tries to borrow from the success of Super Mario Bros. in much the same way Captain Marvel tried to borrow from the success of Superman. But while Captain Marvel had a goofy charm that made it a classic in its own right, Scrapyard Dog has a guy with a big nose trying to rescue his dog. Yup, Mario got a princess, this loser got a dog.

Nothing about Scrapyard Dog made me want to keep playing it. It pales in comparison to either of the marquee franchises for the NES and SMS. The graphics are simple and unremarkable. The game play is derivative and indistinguishable. Everything about this game says "My parents got me an Atari instead of a Nintendo and I'm going to hate them forever" in much the same way that pile of unwatchable videocassettes said "My parents got Beta instead of VHS" just a few years earlier.

Sometimes a video game system fails because of bad marketing or poor distribution. And sometimes a video game system fails because its entire library of games was made by a couple of guys in the catering department with a four year old copy of How to Program Video Games In Your Spare Time. The Atari 7800 actually falls into both categories.

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