LGR – Joust VGA – DOS PC Game Review

[electronic music] [typing] 1982 was a golden year for arcade games with titles like Q*bert, Dig Dug,
Pole Position and Robotron: 2084 snatching innumerable credits
from gamers’ pockets worldwide. But also that year, you had a game which
changed the face of arcade gaming forever… by changing it to the
face of a freaking ostrich. This game was none other than Joust, developed by a team led by John Newcomer, and released in arcade cabinet
form by Williams Electronics. It wasn’t just a typical combat flight game. No, Joust had simultaneous
two-player co-op gameplay along with some unique
personality and character. You played a knight riding, of all things, an ostrich, and you went around battling other knights, lava trolls and frigging pterodactyls. What else do you need to know? You don’t! I am unsure which recreational supplements
went into coming up with this bizarre concept, but I approve, because Joust was, is
and always will be fricking awesome. With it being a success, it was expectedly ported
to a slew of home consoles and computers, and one of those was the
IBM PC port by Atarisoft in 1983. It was a pretty bare-bones port with four-color
CGA graphics and PC speaker sound effects, but it got the gist of the
game across surprisingly well. It’s got all the ostrich-flying, enemy-stomping,
egg-collecting greatness of the arcade game. It just happens to play a bit more clunkily and look and sound a lot worse. Totally expected for an
early PC arcade conversion, but still, it is was a somewhat
pale imitation of the original. Which brings us to the
main event for this review: Joust VGA. Released as shareware and
designed by Dave Sharpless, with graphics by Ron Sharpless, in 1990. And, yes, that’s the same Dave Sharpless
who also made Jumpman Lives! for Apogee Software the following year. This is one of those gams that
I got from my uncle Mark as a kid and, for some reason, ended up
playing the absolute crap out of it. As you could see here,
this game is quite the improvement over the CGA affair from
Atarisoft seven years prior. In terms of both graphics and
gameplay, it looks way better and plays far smoother than
that original PC conversion. But the sound effects are still
delegated to the PC speaker. Just remember that it’s a 1990
shareware game, so that can be forgiven. The goal of the game is
exactly the same, though: don’t die. Dying is accomplished by death, so avoid this if at all possible. And death is accomplished by
either falling into the pit of lava or getting killed off by
another ostrich-riding jouster, or fluttering baddie of some kind. Basically, what you want to do is flap around and avoid getting hit above your lance. No euphemisms there,
just don’t get bopped on the head. If you do, you’ll die. Likewise, if you pounce on top of your
enemies above their lance, they’ll die. And turn into…an egg. Which can then be collected for points,
and presumably a late brunch. Could be worse, though. I mean, imagine killing a
knight and having him turn into a fetus and placenta. I think that would get
a bit messy, though, and would likely be a
tad upsetting to some, but, hey, if any enterprising
programmer wants to steal that idea and create Placenta Joust, you have my full blessing. Anyway, Joust VGA follows this
basic idea throughout the game, with the expected increase in difficulty in survival waves, egg waves and
the dreaded pterodactyl waves, just like in the game it’s based on. However, there are some key differences
between this and the arcade original, and even from the 1983 IBM version. For one thing, the game runs a bit faster, and your ostrich is a bit
more twitchy to fly around and quicker to fall victim to gravity. This results in Joust VGA
being a bit more difficult to play and get a grip on than Joust
or even Joust for the PC. It’s not a bad change exactly, but it does take some getting used to, especially if you’re familiar with the others. There are also a bunch of subtle variations
on when and where the enemies pop up, how they move around
and how tough they are. You could think of Joust VGA
as more of a loving tribute than a direct port, in the sense that it feels like the
designer made this from memory, instead of sitting down with a PC,
an arcade machine and pages of source code. But, yeah, it’s a shareware
game released through various online bulletin
board systems for free, so what can you really say? And the registration was even pretty fair, being just $10 to unlock the full game, which included the two-player co-op mode. Kind of a shame that
*this* was locked out, but I never really cared.
I don’t have friends. I mean, I kinda do now. I just didn’t have any back then that
wanted to play with me, anyways. Frick, I probably still don’t and… and now I have a sad. Slightly depressing thoughts aside,
I would totally recommend Joust VGA, because just like jerkin’
the gerkin, it’s fun and free. And it’s got armored men riding birds and turning each other into embryonic
vessels using medieval weaponry, and that’s a steadfast win in my book. [MIDI music plays to the end]