Telepathy is one of two known prototype games that were developed for Atari's failed Mindlink controller. The Mindlink was a headband that player wore on his head and plugged into the joystick port. The idea was that the Mindlink's sensors would pick up any facial movements or muscle twitches the player would make. Atari actually said that the Mindlink read the player's thoughts (sure it did...). The problem was that the Mindlink didn't work very well in initial test runs, and even when it did work players would complain of headaches and dizziness from twitching their face all day. After disappointing test results, the Mindlink controller was wisely canceled.
Telepathy was actually developed as a demo to show what kind games the Mindlink could do. This "demo" is made up of seven different action screens held together by a loose "mine" theme. Thankfully Telepathy is playable without the Mindlink controller (unlike Bionic Breakthrough) by pressing the joystick button. It's unknown if Atari was thinking of releasing Telepathy sans Mindlink or if the joystick code was put in the game for playtesting purposes.
Unlike most games of the time, Telepathy has a demo mode which will run through all the screens if the game is left untouched. Interestingly you can control the player in the demo using the joystick, it's unknown if this was intentional or just a bug. The game starts off with a really cool sign which descends from the top of the screen telling you which mine your on. After that you're whisked off to the first screen.
This is the oddest screen in the whole game, because it doesn't seem to fit the theme of the rest of the screens. You control a large white man with antennas sticking out of his head. You must guide the man over the glowing triangles as he walks along the plain. The glowing triangles appear in a weaving line (like a trail of bread crumbs) and will eventually lead to a large hole in the ground. Each glowing triangle is initially worth 5 points, but each successive triangle you collect is worth an addition 5 points (5, 10, 15, 20, etc.). If you miss a triangle the point value starts back over at 5. The controls on this level are a bit strange, as the man will always want to move to the far left side of the screen. You must struggle to keep him moving on the proper path, collecting triangles as he goes. As you get to the higher mines the amount of triangles and the speed at which you walk increase. The pattern of the triangles will also become more twisted and harder to follow. Once you reach the hole at the end of the path you are taken to the spider screen.
This is the first level in the mine itself. Your guy is now a small Indiana Jones looking character instead of the large man with the antennas. Your character looks so much like Indiana Jones in fact that some people initially speculated that this prototype was really Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (this was before the names on the EPROM's were known). The goal of this level is to run past the spiders and get to the hole at the bottom of the screen before the timer runs out. If you get hit by one of the spiders, you start over at the top of the screen and lose a life. The spiders are fast and hard to avoid because they bounce around the screen, but you can always find a safe zone at the edges of each ledge. You can either run (your normal mode of transportation) or walk by holding down the fire button. Walking allows you to move more accurately, but since it's speed that counts you'll want to run to the exit. You have 15 seconds to complete this level, but since the timer counts in tenths of a second it starts at 1500. From here on every time you complete a level you'll get 100 points for each second left on timer. In the higher mines the spiders are faster and move more erratically.
This level starts to appear beginning in mine 2. The board structure is very similar to the spider level, but instead of avoiding spiders you need to avoid moving elevator platforms. If your man happens to bump into a moving platform he'll be thrown back a bit, but if he steps onto one he'll be transported back to the top of the elevator. Since time is short anything that keeps you from getting to the screen is bad, even if it's not deadly. For some reason the holes in the ledges have been replaced by white hatches, but they function the same way. In later mines the speed of the elevators increases dramatically.
This level begins to appear starting in mine 3. You must carefully maneuver you man as he falls from ledge to ledge, avoiding the fireballs being shot from the sides of the mine. The fireballs move with blinding speed, and with your slow rate of decent there is almost time to avoid them. You can tell where the fireballs are about come from by looking for the red glow around the rocks on the sides of the screen. The best strategy for this level is to land on each ledge and wait for the next fireball to launch before continuing. In later mines the ledges begin to move making things even more difficult.
This level starts to appear from mine 4 onward. At first glance the level appears to be empty, but suddenly large mashers will quickly descend and retract from the ceiling. Timing is crucial on this level as the mashers are very fast and are invisible until they descend from the ceiling. As always, your goal is to reach the bottom of the screen before the timer runs out.
This level is rather simple. After your man falls down the shaft you can either walk over to the left and save the stranded miner (ala HERO), or exit to the right and forget the miner. Grabbing the miner doesn't seem to do anything, but since this is the goal of the game it would be dumb not to. If you choose to rescue the miner you can levitate out of the hole by pushing against the wall. There are large boulders which fall down from the top of the shaft, but they're slow so they don't pose much of a threat (although the speed does increase with each mine).
This is always the last level in each mine. On this level you must move your man through the gaps in the river walls while avoiding the deadly piranha. The controls are similar to the Plain level as you man will constantly move to the left unless you keep pushing the joystick to the right. Your man will automatically move through the gaps in the river when he is in front of them, but since the level is constantly scrolling forward this is a good thing. If you get bumped off the bottom of the screen or touch a piranha your man will be killed and you'll have to start the level over. The higher the mine level, the faster the fish and scrolling become. If you complete this level you will be transported to the next mine.
It's unknown if Atari actually ever planned to turn Telepathy into a commercial game, but as it stands it's one hell of a demo. It's hard to believe that these mini-games would work well with the hard to use Mindlink controller, as they require pin point precision, constant movement, and other things that the Mindlink didn't do well. They do however work quite well with the joystick, which may be why that code was added. So fire up the emulator and enjoy Telepathy, the best game that never was.